2015 was a slower year for Aphelis, with fewer posts published than in previous years. This is due mostly to the fact that my time and energy were invested in the completion of my dissertation. The final document was submitted in September of this year. The oral examination is set for January of 2016. Yet, and precisely for this reason, it was also the year when this blog came to be especially useful to me: more than half of my dissertation borrows directly from texts and ideas that were first published on this blog, or from drafts that were developed but not published.

Among the posts that were nonetheless published, here’s the traditional selection of some of them, along with a few lines of comments (for the previous yearly selections see 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010).

  • Bataille’s “unemployed negativity” as an opening with no issue (Feb. 28)

    This was a first attempt to tackle George Bataille’s idea of “inoperativity”, which is of significant importance in the work of both Jean-Luc Nancy and Giorgio Agamben. The idea was presented in a letter Bataille wrote to Alexandre Kojève, discussing Hegel’s philosophy. The most interesting thing I found while working on this is the fact that the idea of “unemployed negativity” does not represent a straightforward solution for Bataille. It is not an antidote for Hegel’s dialectic, but rather a problem: both an opening and an obstacle or, in Bataille’s own words, both an “open wound” and a “wall”.

  • Borges and the Simurgh: We are what we are looking for (Mar. 29)

    This post documents and discusses the Persian poem Mantiq al-tayr, which I first encountered while listening to an old episode of Jean Claude Ameisen excellent radio show Sur les épaules de Darwin (broadcasted on France Inter). The epic poem features a story about a congregations of birds in discord who embark in a long and arduous quest looking for their king, hoping that he would be able to bring back harmony and concord among them. As it is often the case with such allegories, the story can be read in many ways. In it, I discovered an opportunity to think about what “communication” can mean, aside from the usual dialogical model where parts (individuals) work to reach a consensual unity (society, community).

  • Jean-Luc Nancy on resurrection: love what escapes you (Apr. 6)

    This post discusses Jean-Luc Nancy’s analysis of John 20:17, when Jesus says to Marie Magdalene: “Touch me not” (“Noli me tangere” in Latin, “ΜΗ ΜΟΥ ΑΠΤΟΥ” in uncial Greek). It was mostly an opportunity to think further about a conception of love not subordinated to the idea of property. From this standpoint, love is neither about owning, nor about holding on to someone. “Love what escapes you”, writes Nancy, “Love the one who goes. Love that he goes.” Here too, it seems, we are not offered with a simple solution that could resolve all problems (let alone love problems), but with a challenging opening: the opening or the abyss created by the fleeting character of what we cherish the most.

  • Voiding the touch: on love and haptic mediation (Apr. 23)

    This post was an opportunity to put to work Jean-Luc Nancy’s ideas about “touching”, taking into account the unique treatment he offers on this topic. Examining the features offered by Apple’s new watch, I wondered what could be learned from this “Touch me not” while thinking about “touch notification” in particular, and “haptic mediation” in general. In doing so, I explored what Jacques Derrida wrote about “haptocentrism” or the privilege traditionally granted to touch. The essay gave me the opportunity to think of intimacy and communication as they relate to touch and presence, and to see how this dynamic is integrated to a market economy.

  • Editing film: directors looking at strips of celluloid (Oct. 22)

    This post started with a simple question. The image of French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard looking at a strip of celluloid film is well known, but I wanted to learn more about it: who had taken the photo, when was the portrait produced and in which context? The information was not so hard to find. In the process I came across a couple of other portraits, some just as iconic, other lesser known. The bulk of the effort consisted in documenting over a dozen of similar portraits depicting filmmakers while they examine strips of celluloid film, from Buster Keaton to Woody Allen. As filmmaking is more and more embracing digital technologies, those images document a way to shoot and edit movies that is disappearing. It also illustrates that what is lost in the process is not just a technology (or a medium), but also the skilled individuals capable of handling it: “a” given technology is always about people. As I am writing this, news circulates about problems “plaguing” the 70mm projection of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (see Variety, for example). It’s an excellent idea to preserve celluloid film. However, it should be clear by now that it won’t be possible if the knowledge and expertise necessary to put it to use – in production, post-production and exhibition – is left aside in the process. The training and knowledge this technology requires must be preserved just as well.

All the other posts published in 2015 can be accessed by browsing the archives of this blog. I still recommend using the “Randomize posts” link to discover this archive in a more pleasant way. Thanks again for reading and a Happy New Year to everyone.

“7 A.M. (New Year's Morning)” by László Moholy-Nagy, ca. 1930, gelatin silver print, 27.8 x 21.3 cm (10 15/16 x 8 3/8 in.).  Image retrieved from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number: 1987.1100.155.
“7 A.M. (New Year’s Morning)” by László Moholy-Nagy, ca. 1930, gelatin silver print, 27.8 x 21.3 cm (10 15/16 x 8 3/8 in.). Image retrieved from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number: 1987.1100.155.

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