I have long felt confidence in the meaning of words. I had felt that I could be their master. But now that I've experienced them quite a bit… their meaning escapes me. Why? After all, the words were what I made them to mean, that is to say they carried the value that I put into them. When I used a word, it meant just what I chose it to mean: neither more nor less. But I could never figure out to what extent I was right. I wondered if the words could mean whatever I wanted them to mean -- especially if I could think they are really and actually meaning it. When you’re finished saying what you had to say, to what degree can you believe you’ve ever had control over what was said? And if it’s you, mistress, who is the mistress of words and their meanings?Monsieur fucked it up at the Stock Exchange, and committed suicide, but tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise, he really cracked this time. It’s a great deal to make one word mean. When I make a word do a lot of work like that, I always pay it extra.
We’ve learnt to work from binary bits: 0 / 1, right / wrong, man / woman, on / off, signifier / signified, buy / sell, horizontal / vertical, and so on. The mistress teaches us to remember the third one–the taboo and concealed metonymical other. Hidden in the background, sometimes exposed in the foreground–as a decoy, shifting expectations and giving another meaning to the usual oppositions and structures of choice. Opening dramatically the one/two to three–the dialectics of the master and the slave. Here of course the point is not that this surplus, this complementary element of meaning, tells the final decision or puts an end to the discussion. We’re in the triangle; the importance of being the mistress, the faraway meaning, is that it disturbs the ‘common sense’, takes upside down prejudices, breaks the dialectics, letting the synthesis remain unresolved. The final meaning wide open, so that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put any concept in its place again. Who’s keeping all her eggs in one basket? Tricks or treats?
"Nothing! Nothing! And I worked on this for ten years"
--Frenhofer cries out in "The Unknown Masterpiece".
Divine Terra is Lisa Jo's first show at The Green Gallery. The artist shows new oil paintings, an architectural element, and glazed ceramic works.
Frenhofer becomes double. He moves from the point of view of the artist to that of the spectator, from the interested promesse de bonheur to disinterested aesthetics. In this transition, the integrity of his work dissolves. For it is not only Frenhofer that becomes double, but his work as well; just as in some combinations of geometric ﬁgures, which, if observed for a long time, acquire a different arrangement, from which one cannot return to the previous one except by closing one's eyes, so his work alternately presents two sides that cannot be put back together into a unity.
The side that faces the artist is the living reality in which he reads his promise of happiness; but the other side, which faces the spectator, is an assemblage of lifeless elements that can only mirror itself in the aesthetic judgment's reﬂection of it.
This doubling between art as it is lived by the spectator, on the one hand, and art as it is lived by the artist on the other is indeed Terror, and thus the opposition between Terror and Rhetoric brings us back to the opposition between artists and spectators from which we started.
-- Giorgio Agamben
Lisa Jo (born 1983) lives and works in New York