GREY IN GREY

 

was published in Archipelago, issue 4 "Melancholia". https://issuu.com/rowanpowell0/docs/archipelago_issue_4

Image: Archipelago.

GREY IN GREY

 

When my grandfather taught me how to swim he stood next to me and held my abdomen so I could move my arms and legs on the surface of the water mass without feeling the gravitation. Before I was able to swim, I had dreamt how my body was swimming. My arms and legs found a common rhythm and started to move forward calmly in transparent water.

 

As I was able to swim without my grandfather's support I spent many summer afternoons with a friend in the centre of the lake, trying to dive as long and as deep as possible. The deeper we got down the darker and colder turned the water and the more we felt the pressure on our ears and eyes. Whenever we got back to the surface we recharged our lungs floating on a voluminous inflatable mattress that started to smell plasticky in the heat of the glaring sun. We rested on the flat surface until we could not bear the light anymore. Then we went back down. Only when the sun was about to set we started to paddle back to the shore. Taking the first steps on firm ground made my head swim. Before leaving the shore, we deflated the air that had filled our giant mattress into the evening breeze.

 

When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.

 

I recently went to an exhibition, which encircled the issue of boundaries. Most of the pieces showed liquidity, waves or the sea. The exhibits conveyed a vertiginous feeling. Maybe it was a light form of naupathia. But I think that the opposite was the case. What caused my uneasiness was that the idea of water had become solid. – Some weeks later, I learned about Hegel's owl of Minerva, which only starts to move after dusk: “Only one word more concerning the desire to teach the world what it ought to be. For such a purpose philosophy at least always comes too late. Philosophy, as the thought of the world, does not appear until reality has completed its formative process, and made itself ready.” – As topical perspectives on water merge and turn into an image that seeks to reflect reality, it can only be known. It paints its grey in grey. Metaphor is always delayed.

 

Surrounded by what I regarded to be solidified water, I got impatient. As any kind of impatience, my eagerness rested on the idea of a time lag: The image of water was merely expressing something that had already crystallized. I could not see it as anything but a manifestation of an abstract thought related to a given process. Against the backdrop of the global flow of capital and increasing flexibility, mobility, precarity and porosity, the image of the liquid might still be able to reflect an analysis of this time. It is a sad, unnerving image though because it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known.

 

In order to gain some distance to my impatient perspective on the exhibits, I tried to focus on water for its own sake, asking myself how it would possibly reveal itself as l'eau pour l'eau. It would come into view as an element that existed long before humans could relate to it in mediated ways. Its potential to nurture or dehydrate plants, animals, and humans, carve out stone and let islands or even continents would leave an uncanny feeling.

 

With a more detached gaze, I returned to the image of water, to its solid shape in the mediated present. It stayed current but could not point beyond mere reflection. Perhaps, I thought, it belonged to the “cold stream” that Ernst Bloch identified as the unmasking of ideologies and the disenchantment of metaphysical illusion. The cold stream comprises the useful analysis of economic conditions and the resistance against ideological deception as implied in Marxist materialism. Yet, according to Bloch, there is a “warm stream” of Marxism as well, which refers to the hope that underlies all liberating intents, the goal towards which all disenchantments are undertaken.

 

When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.

© Johanna Maj Schmidt 2020