We learn that the most terrible of things, the stuff likely to return in nightmares, might very well be this: to keep your eyes on the frame, only to realize (after the act, after the pleasure) that what had mattered all the way had happened outside the frame. To spend hours with your eyes fixated on the stage only to learn that the show was somewhere else; that what you watched was only a detour, a joke, an inexistent show. Painful, isn’t it? Downright embarrassing, one might say. But still.
|Source: Hippo Wallpapers|
The question we formulate as soon as we become aware of the risk is: how to avoid all this? How to stop this embarrassment from happening? But the question itself is greatly misguiding. At the end of the day, all there is for us to see is the frame. The work of art is presented to us on that stage, through those actions. There’s nothing else but the stage. It’s what we’ve paid for, so it’s what we’re getting.
Don’t kill the messenger!
To watch, to read, to contemplate – these things need to be considered as if. Always as if. As if there were a show on stage that could be taken literally. (All writers want, ultimately, to be taken literally – otherwise why would they write? Why would they invest so much effort into the writing of letters?). As if there were such a show but knowing all the way (sensing!) that there’s never been any literal thing to behold. This is exactly like keeping your eyes within the frame but seeing only what's beyond it.
Every piece of text sends us away from itself, into the nebulous uncertainty of meaning. But the movement-out happens via the frame. In order to go beyond you need to start from being within.
We know too well that meaning is not on the page but somewhere else. It might be in us, readers. It might be in the encyclopedia of the world: in this world which, like a vast encyclopedia, contains everything that has ever been possible to write, everything that has ever carried a meaning.
The page is only a messenger. Then every time we have an account to settle with the page we must, at least, remember that the messenger must not be killed. The same goes for the stage, another materialization of the page. Or the painting surface, or the block of marble. There’s no meaning in them at all. Meaning occurs when a well-intended human individual starts filling them with his/her intentions.
A dormant stage, let’s say before the beginning of a play, is nothing but a wooden structure which might indicate a place where dramatic pieces are staged every now and then, but that would be all. The stage-in-itself can only have a repeatable meaning, one that is carried on from one play to the next and never changes. Change occurs only when an individual play is being acted out, when the frame is filled, when it becomes significant to look at the interior of the frame and ignore the rest.
The art of the stage is (no need to remind anyone) an art of illusions. Creative prestidigitation. But the success of these deceptions depends on the ability of the stage to channel attention, to make itself the object of some mystical adoration. Like an ideology, a stage makes us believe, although we know that what takes place on it isn’t true. In this case, looking outside of the stage is not recommended, unless we want to spoil the show.
The frame is a territory of forgetting
This means, simply, that the frame cannot be ignored. That it’s impossible to behave as though it did not matter. Because it matters greatly. The frame is where the spectacle of the work of art is set out to unfold. A work of art in itself can be called a work of art precisely because it can be delimited. Art is not existence, not disinterested existence. It is precisely the opposite of that, the counter-argument placed against the argument of what can be without signifying.
|Source: USC Institute for Creative Technologies|
Insofar as existence is without meaning, looking outside the frame of art is looking into the non-signifying immensity of existence. Not a very encouraging perspective for us, dwellers in signification, since reading outside the frame means reading outside of meaning. The only outcome of such reading-outside-the-frame must, therefore, be non-signification. The absurd, perhaps, although there’s still meaning in there. (The absurd is the meaning of non-meaning, but the non-signifiable transgresses even this minimalist meaning, insofar as it cannot even be postulated as potential.)
Writing, then, makes meaning. It draws a frame because the intensity of framelessness is not conceivable to the subject who has learnt to speak, who has learnt to use language in order to produce. In order to produce anything. There’s no way one could forget (as in the Christic kenosis) the presence of language, which is the most obvious production line of sense. The frame of language (which creates a territory within the world) is always there, with us. And this frame produces further frames. Every employment of language cuts through the world, takes a slice out of it and models a territory that is supposed to stand alone. Alone, as well as independent from the world.
There’s something artistic in being us
With this, we may turn the discussion towards a different sphere, where we might be able to touch on the issue of alterity. Here’s the gist of it. To be able to see outside the frame I need to be not-I. Insofar as I is a subject whose fundamental attribute is the capacity of articulating his/her own individuality, it is not an I that this problem needs to be formulated as, but a you: an externality. I am a you if I am capable of seeing myself from outside. And if I am, if I can have that insight that only the Other can have (because the Other belongs in the realm of objectivity, where things are said to be things-in-themselves) I can only address myself in the second person. Through this conversation between the I that’s not yet formulated and the he/she/it of pure objectivity, I can rise towards myself as an Other that can be addressed, that must be addressed.
So when I’m talking about externality and about frame, the model I am emulating is the one I have learnt from addressing my own frameness. If I address myself as a you I know instinctively that outside of this conversation, beyond the limits of this logos with myself, there is an objective expanse that includes the frame, that includes the self, that swallows up the I. From here, from this realisation, I can extrapolate so as to understand the art that surrounds me: the artistic nature of being-human. The world can only be experienced aesthetically, as a representation, as a ‘best guess’; and everything starts from here.
Then (to return to the question formulated in the beginning) why is it so terrible to look inside the frame when the show is somewhere else? Why is it embarrassing to look askance, when the show is always somewhere else? The problem is wrongly put, since there’s no way out for us, only a concentration towards the interior, an intensification of our artistic nature.