Magazine article Artforum International

Heraklitos. (When Words Don't For)

Magazine article Artforum International

Heraklitos. (When Words Don't For)

Article excerpt

I was thinking about contradiction when September 11 came. Awake all night, struggling with contradiction, because I had to do a lecture on it the next day and lecturing is not easy for me. A lecture is not a conversation, you don't get to ask the other people in the room what they think until the end, you have to expose yourself first. I was sifting possible openings. Begin with Heraklitos, who likened reality to a "backsprung bow," that is, a system of oppositions bristling against itself unchangeably. Or start from Hegel and the doctrine of essences. For Hegel everything that has an essence is in a condition of "self-negation" -- that's how it's possible for us to distinguish between a thing and itself. Only God, said Hegel, has no essence. God is absolutely God all the way through. Or maybe talk about the gnostics with their crazed mythologies of cosmic contradiction working itself out through good and evil and cold perfect sex. "I am the Mother and am the Father and I copulate with myself," says the gn ostic deity Protennoia in a treatise of that name. Other gnostic theories replace this copulation with a single hot masculine error: "The world came about through a mistake, for he who created it wanted to create it imperishable and immortal: he fell short. …

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