It is the Without
You know you have to do it again tomorrow – Not as far though, I can’t do as far again – Yes you can, you will. You must – I walked for hours and I didn’t find it today. I don’t see why I will find it tomorrow– It can only come from a pure outside. You must still go on. You can. Putting one foot in front of the other is child’s play – I can’t go on. Ok ok ok. I’ll go on – You won’t regret it. You will be happy despite, not because of the discomfort – This is absurdity – You know very well that absurdity is the only way to go about finding truth– Don’t be ridiculous. The truth is always something owed, not found – You owe me the truth in walking. You owe it to yourself to walk – I owe you nothing. You return what you take, you receive what you return. You give it to yourself – I give what to myself? – Pleasure – Perhaps. I suppose it’s all about pleasure. About thinking pure pleasure, the being-pleasure of pleasure. And then how do I translate that, tell me. How? – You can always try to translate. Inscribe the legend. Mark the feeling. Really though, it is unassimilable. A mediation, an expression. It is always effigy and fiction. A point of view – Well, yes, there are only ever points of view – But how to express the circle and the abyss through which you’ve journeyed, the places deprived of place that you’ve been. The places your feet have carried your mind. After your body feels like it’s exploded. After you’ve felt the surfeits of fatigue that have made your thoughts wander. After you have folded your soul over and over and over and picked apart your feelings, realised that love arrives and dies in all disguises, felt the ache in your legs from putting one foot in front of the other outside on these sublime, terrifying, beautiful, untranslatable walks – I don’t know how. I haven’t found the answers to any of my questions on these walks – You will never find answers until you divest yourself of ownership. You’re on the right track. As long as you are walking you’re not owning. You think, “this is beautiful” without needing to own it – Have I the right to say what is beautiful? And first of all the right to ask myself that? – You should always question your right to something. (Do I have a right to pick that flower?) But you should also know that beauty is never seen, neither in totality nor outside it. You must walk out and experience it. Touch it, push it, press it, press against it, seek contact, exert a pressure at the frontier of feeling, where there is the promise of meeting a freedom head-on as an outer limit of the self. Perhaps you will find something beautiful. Perhaps not. It’s worth the risk. It’s worth all those hours of walking if you find yourself admiring the wildflower to the point of regretting its potential absence from nature. I suspect you will bring out your camera and give it a frame. You will try to translate it. You will try to own it. You will freeze it in time. You will photograph the butterflies sitting on a pile of dung, a black snail on its slimy march, a decaying building, those grey clouds here and here and here and the sun there and oh, it’s just gone. But also you will realise that the infinite cannot be bordered. You can put a fence around it and say you own it but ultimately it owns itself. It owes you nothing. At the barely crossed edge of a limiting line, everything will flower at the edge. You notice when you sit under a tree by the path and rest. There is always an overflow, an edge that you fear, as you gaze over the precipice with your tummy pressed against the warm rocks. The imagination is afraid of losing itself in the abyss and you step back, breathless from the violence it has done to the senses. The limit does not exist – I know this I know this I know this but how will I be able to convey this all? All this vastness. This terror. This peace. This ambivalence of colour. This free and full and pure and unfettered energy. This loss. This outside that crushes me, throws me down while elevating me at the same time, since I can take it in view without taking it in my hand, without comprehending it, and since I can see it without seeing it completely. I can’t translate it. A concept can be too big for presentation. – Almost too big. You must work against imitation, and instead by analogy. In so many paintings the viewer can sense the seated body, doubled up, stooped, shrivelled in on itself. You must walk and make paintings that contain no explanation owed to anyone, that are thought borne of movement. You must produce not the walk but the feeling of the walk. Its pastness is its truth – the painting, no longer nature, is history. That’s all. Stop fretting about the truth and what is lost in translation. Stop fretting about answers. You walk, then you translate. Your feet are the cipher writing on the surface of nature. You step and leave a trace. You mark and then from that mark you make marks. Then you will find something. Not answers, but something. We always betray the earth. We destroy the things we love the most. By walking you’re just apologising to it. In the end it’s a conversation between yourself and the earth. That’s all it is.
Frédéric Gros. A Philosophy of Walking. Translated by John Howe. London & New York: Verso, 2014.
Jacques Derrida. The Truth in Painting. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Ian Mcleod. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1987.