to perceive, in the darkness of the present

The ones who can call themselves contemporary are only those who do not allow themselves to be blinded by the lights of the century, and so manage to get a glimpse of the shadows in those lights, of their intimate obscurity. … The contemporary is the one whose eyes are struck by the beam of darkness that comes from his own time.

In the firmament that we observe at night, the starts shine brightly, surrounded by a thick darkness. Since the number of galaxies and luminous bodies in the universe is almost infinite, the darkness that we see in the sky is something that, according to scientists demands and explanation…In an expanding universe, the most remote galaxies move away from us at a speed so great that their light is never able to reach us. What we perceive as the darkness of the heavens is this light that, though traveling toward us, cannot reach us, since the galaxies form which the light originates move away from us greater than the speed of light.

To perceive, in the darkness of the present, this light that strives to reach us but cannot—this is what it means to be contemporary.

Agamben, Giorgio. What is an Apparatus, and other essays. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009. 45-6.

directly and thoroughly with the present

Strange, by the way, that when we survey this whole intellectual movement, Scribe appears as the only one to occupy himself directly and thoroughly with the present. Everyone else busies himself more with the past than with the powers and interests that set their own time in motion….

Meyer, Julius. Geschichte der modernen franzosischen Malerei (Leipzig, 1867), 415-16. in Benjamin, Walter The Arcades Project, trans Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999. 391.

words into things

Is thinking impossible without arbitrary signs? and—how far is the word ‘arbitrary’a misnomer? Are not words etc parts and germinations of the Plant? And what is the law of their Growth?—In something of this order I would endeavour to destroy the old antithesis of Words and Things, elevating as it were, words into Things, and living Things too.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge in
McCaffery, Steve and Jed Rasula, eds. Imagining Language: An Anthology. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998. 471.

autonomous worlds

If only people would understand that language and mathematical formulae are alike, in that they constitute their own autonomous worlds, sport with themselves, express nothing but themselves, and for that reason are so wonderfully expressive—for that reason they mirror the odd play of relations between things.

Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg (1772-1801))

Rasula, Jed and Steve McCaffery, eds. Imagining Language, an Anthology. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998. 502.

the lines in my hand

I spent my vacation practicing immobility. Sitting in a chair puts you into a void. A device for thinking about writing. Three months later I’d built up enough vertigo to justify a breath of fresh air. (I got up.) I’ll never write another line, I said to the Future. The lines in my hand will have to do. They’re already written down.

Marcel Broodthaers. Broodthaers. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, ed. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1988. 30.

the rustle of language forms a utopia

And language—can language rustle? Speech remains, it seems, condemned to stammering; writing, to silence and to the distinction of signs: in any case, there always remains too much meaning for language to fulfill a delectation appropriate to its substance. But what is impossible is not inconceivable: the rustle of language forms a utopia. Which utopia? That of a musk of meaning; in its utopic state, language would be enlarged, I should even say denatured to the point of forming a vast auditory fabric in which the semantic apparatus would be made unreal; the phonic, metric, vocal signifier would be deployed in all its sumptuosity, without a sign ever becoming detached from it (ever naturalising this pure layer of delectation), but also—and this is what is difficult—without meaning being brutally dismissed, dogmatically foreclosed, in short castrated. Rustling, entrusted to the signifier by an unprecedented movement unknown to our rational discourses, language would not thereby abandon a horizon of meaning: meaning, undivided, impenetrable, unnamable, would however be posited in the distance like a mirage, making the vocal exercise into a double landscape, furnished with a “background”; but instead of the music of the phonemes being the background of our messages (as happens in our poetry), meaning would now be the vanishing point of delectation. And just as, when attributed to the machine, the rustle is only the noise of an absence of noise, in the same way, shifted to language, it would be that meaning which reveals an exemption of meaning or—the same thing—that non-meaning which produces in the distance a meaning henceforth liberated from all the aggressions of which the sign, formed in the “sad and fierce history of men,” is the Pandora’s box.

This is a utopia, no doubt about it; but utopia is often what guides the investigations of the avant-garde.

Roland Barthes. The Rustle of Language. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1989. 77-78.

shine, as it were, like stars

The archive is first the law of what can be said, the system that governs the appearance of statements as unique events. But the archive is also that which determines that all these things said do not accumulate endlessly in an amorphous mass, nor are they inscribed in an unbroken linearity, nor do they disappear at the mercy of chance external accidents; but they are grouped together in distinct figures, composed together in accordance with multiple relations, maintained or blurred in accordance with specific regularities; that which determines that they do not withdraw at the same pace in time, but shine, as it were, like stars, some that seem close to us shining brightly from far off, while others that are in fact close to us are already growing pale.

Foucault, Michel. Archaeology of Knowledge. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge Classics, 2002. 145.

yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use

Thirty spokes share one hub. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have th use of the cart. Knead clay in order to make a vessel. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel. Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the room. Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.

Lao Tzu
Hughes, Patrick and George Brecht. Vicious Circles and Infinity: A Panoply of Paradoxes. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975. 66.

appreciable difference

Is writing an answer to why?
By reading do we know why?
Is there an appreciable difference between writing and reading?
Must I read forever and will my writing cease?

Bordowitz, Gregg. Volition. New York: Printed Matter, 2009. 141.

as though I wrote it myself

Must I read what I write? Must I read what others have written, and can I read what others have written as though I wrote it myself? Must I write what others have written, whether or not I’ve read the same lines before?

Bordowitz, Gregg. Volition. New York: Printed Matter, 2009. 60.