How does one begin? (how do I begin)
It is a combing through of knots, then one begins with a knot, ;
what comes before speech
It is a platitude in the teaching of drawing that the heart of the matter lies in the specific process of looking. A line, an area of tone, is not really important because it records what you have seen, but because of what it will lead you on to see. (Berger p.3)
Drawing certainly is connected to looking. It involves agreements between the eye, the stylus, the object and the page. But at the point of contact between the stylus and the page you have a kind of blindness; a blindness that emanates outwards and has implications also for the object and the eye and everything else involved in drawing. The pencil moves forward blindly—if it were a camera it would see black and be too close up to see its lines;
The I-beam cursor beats on the screen as I write: a stuttering I, the beating assertion and reassertion of the first person singular position in which I write, I… I… I…, surfing the breaking edge of the text as it proceeds. And when I write by hand, and most of all when I draw, it’s the nib that locates me on the page, my homunculus proxy, holding my place in the argument as it inches forward onto new ground. As it inches forward, the singular eye of the stylus is pressed down against the page. Pressed down against the page its eye is full up, filled to blindness with the sight of the ground up close.
There is something blind about the way the pencil moves in the act of drawing. It feels its way along the ground,
There is something blind about the way the pencil moves in Memoirs of the Blind, where the drawing chalk becomes the “staff of the blind”, feeling its way along the ground. It feels its way along the ground, according to Derrida, because as drawing begins the object falls out of sight, obliterated by the look that looks to draw. Derrida dramatizes this in a personal account: “it is as if, just as I was about to draw, I no longer saw the thing. For it immediately flees, drops out of sight, and almost nothing of it remains […]. As long as it remains in front of me, the thing defies me, producing, as if by emanation, an invisibility that it reserves for me […]. It blinds me while making me attend the pitiful spectacle.” (ibid.: 37.) Blind both to the form that precedes it and the form that follows it, the only perspective available at the point of contact between stylus and page becomes the immediate present tense of its “originary, pathbreaking moment” a moment “concerned only with the present time of its unfolding existence” and hence aperspective. Derrida vividly imagines the aperspective of the graphic act as the “hand of the blind [that] ventures forth alone or disconnected, in a poorly delimited space; it feels its way, it gropes, it caresses as much as it inscribes”.
I do not know what I’m drawing when I draw. The object may be poised before me ready to observe, and the objective may be to transfer its likeness onto the page, but before I move the chalk there is nothing on the page at all. What I’m drawing is deposited by the chalk as I edge it forward against the resistance of the paper, a white track that seems to illuminate its own path as it comes into being—or rather, that deposits chalky illumination as it goes, cast into relief against the black of the page. What I’m drawing comes to light by being drawn. -
What I’m drawing comes to light by being drawn: by mining the black of the page to open a seam of .. -
Berger, J. (2007). Life Drawing. In: Savage, J., ed. Berger on Drawing. London: Occasional Press.