Category Archives: English

Missing territories

I remain attached to all the cities and neighbourhoods in which I have lived, no matter how briefly. The need for sedentary attachment to the land (la terre), in the end, still conquers the eagerness for nomadism. Sometimes I picture myself at a specific moment and a specific location in my previous life, and the physicality of both the geographical place and of the senses (the light, the temperature, the smells, the textures, the design of the surrounding space) are very much present in shaping my memories.

I remember the late-night cycling into the thickening darkness of the narrow and perfectly straight roads of the Netherlands: the feeling that this was both the ultimate escape and the destination for my endless search of a place to belong, that infinity could somehow be reached merely by keeping the bike wheels turning.

In moving from places to places, from one (micro-)cultural world to another, one network of people to another, – in living in transition –, I feel like having drawn for my life an utterly individual trajectory that resists any attempt to ‘share’. I take no pleasure in this singularity. I used to think home is wherever you are with your loved ones. But what of my other homes, which are nothing more to them but strange names and forgettable stories? I happen to think that home is also nostalgia for a familiar elsewhere; it is longing for the all the places to which you were once attached, and from which you were parted. If so, then I might never be home.

Advertisements

some history of love

I.

love, still

I love you like a poem
metaphors, and
soft-spoken, and
hidden meanings, and
never
on
your
reading list.

II.

love, at last

I love you like a poem
metaphors, and
soft-spoken, and
hidden meanings,

but also like a novel
a history book
a research paper
a scientific mag, and
always
on our reading list.

III.

love, maybe

I love you like a poem
there’s nothing to say
about a poem
maybe you forget
it was once
on your reading list.

genealogy of a compote

here are the apples from which the compote we ate yesterday was made.
here is the tree from which fell these apples.
here is the soil from which grew this apple tree.
here is the garden of which this soil is a part.
here is the house of the lady to whom belongs this garden.
she was the one who made the compote and gave it to us.

and I, in search of nowhere,
found a story of somewhere.

Franche-Comté, summer 2018.

First breath after coma

“After all: who doesn’t wish to make a spectacle of his loneliness?”
(N. Krauss, The History of Love)

I have 18 songs by Explosions in the Sky on my playlist.

It was a friend in high school who introduced me to post-rock and ambient. On my 20th birthday, he sent me a piece composed by himself, called “lunatic experience”.

There was no story, nothing special between us. I remember us standing once on the balcony outside our classes, gazing over the courtyard and talking about things people like us talked about. I don’t know what “people like us” actually are like. I just know we’re alike.

When we went off to university, we caught up once or twice about our lives abroad. Stuff that mattered. Questions that kept us wonder. About our place in this world. And how to live without being crushed by it.

The last time we talked was one year ago. He told me about a Korean post-rock band that was opening a show in Tilburg. Although I didn’t know them, I immediately booked the ticket.

The rest was beyond words.

Now that I has mentioned the Tilburg show. It was only when I moved to the Netherlands that post-rock became my full-time companion. It fit perfectly into the kind of life that was offered to me there: open space, solitude, and freedom. It was the music for being alive. Even though I don’t really like the word “music”, since it fails to evoke the physical/corporal experience of sound.

Back then, I travelled around by train a lot. Especially in winter. The whole country was sunk in gray, which was the color of the sky, the air, and nature. I remember looking out the train window on a foggy day of March. As my vision blurred, I anticipated the end of my journey, pretending I was sitting on the train that would take me away from that land forever. And that was exactly how I would like to remember it. Those moments in transit, from nowhere to nowhere, the melancholic excitement of going somewhere while never reaching it, with Brian Eno and Explosions in the Sky enveloping it all.

The piece I listen to the most is “First Breath after Coma”.

That spring, I often forgot to breathe. I would hold my breath for a long time, and then when my dried lungs cried for air, it would feel like recovering from death all over again. It was the spring that saw a love blooming. Love took my breath away by too many sleepless nights. But, love also brought the first breath after coma.

Now and then when I listen to Explosions in the Sky, I see myself cycling along the canal and the empty fields on the outskirts of Tilburg. The memory was as fragile as what ties us to this life. And, within a blink of an eye, or perhaps less, I am reminded of all that has made me alive.

Gone girl

“What if you woke up one day to find out that I had completely disappeared? What would you do?”

As I asked my friend the question, I visioned the scenario in my head. Somehow, it thrilled me. By disappearing, I did not mean to hurt those who were left behind, or to provoke a search. Nor was it to run away from something. The message was not “Find me”. There was no message. Going missing just for the sake of it.

Then I realized that if we really wanted to vanish – to erase our existence, to fade into oblivion – we could totally do that. But we would need a strong motive that pushes us to that point of extremeness. Because, if not, then who would want to live in utter loneliness? To what extent can we endure an absolutely solitary life – with no occasional concession – or renounce to the need of company, and, ultimately, of existing in someone else’s eyes?

Anonymize this place

The performative aspect of map

Every place has a name on the map, i.e. an administrative identity imposed by a top-down process, and related to a historical narrative. This identity, recognized by all, is the public life of a place. Making a place anonymous does not mean disregarding history, but adding a personal dimension to one’s relationship to the geographical space. It’s about creating a private life for a place, which is unique and boundless. A place has multiple private lives, or interpretations. This process of interpretation decenters the “official” version of History whose legitimacy is only a social construct. It’s about histoires (stories, if you want) with a minuscule and in plural. Such is the beauty of the insignificant and the diverse.

– Work in progress –

Part of my project “De nulle part à nulle part : une méthodologie de la flânerie”

Wedding speech for my best friend

Introduction

Based on a case study of two young adults engaging in an ambiguous relationship with uncertain outcome, this study investigates how computer-mediated communication (CMC), and more specifically the exchange of private messages on Facebook, could encourage greater intimacy between two potential romantic partners. Conducted by request of one of the two subjects studied who has been suffering from a chronic lack of affection, this study seeks to help her to better infer the meaning of the verbal cues sent by the male subject.

First, I will carry out a close reading of private messages exchanged by the two informants during moments of heightened communication on Facebook (identified by the female subject). The concept of online self-disclosure, i.e. the disclosing of personal information, thoughts and feelings that are not easily shared in an offline context, will provide the main theoretical framework for my analysis. In interpreting these messages, I will take into account the offline events occurring on the same days, events that might be referred to in the text. Second, the textual analysis will be completed by interviews with the female subject on the perceived intimacy between her and the male subject, as well as her memoirs of their offline interactions.

The purpose of this study is not to predict relationship outcome based on the degree of self-disclosure, hence intimacy, but to assist the female subject in her own evaluation. Ultimately, it could perform a therapeutic function by offering the female subject a momentary distraction from her agony through an engaging, insightful and completely rubbish reading.

– Work in progress

Neverland

A love letter to Tilburg

This is the kind of song that you listen to on a summer night when you feel lonely and the road is yours. You see a stranger’s silhouette that you mistake for somebody you once knew. The warm yellow light from the street lamps and the windows is in a perfect contrast with the twilight sky. The moon is a faint spot of light brushed away by a thin veil of cloud. The sun lingers on top of the trees whose thick and dark canopy forms a rampart surrounding the sunflower field, above which the sky opens up like a canvas painted in an oneiric blue, the shade of blue that you’ve only seen in Magritte’s world. You chase the night. You keep going until it absorbs you and you can’t find the way back. Time stands still as the bicycle’s wheels turn around, and time is infinite. For a second, you wish that you were truly alone in this world: that there was no one to miss, and that you were one and whole in the uniqueness of your existence, just like a prime number.

This is happiness. I could very live like this until the rest of my life, but I’d probably die out of boredom and frustration. Which makes it a happiness, because it’s not meant to last. I only love this place because it’s not mine forever, and so it’s mine, in this present moment. Once I realize that, I feel liberated from the burden of anticipated nostalgia. Everything that I’m experiencing right now is precious. That dead trunk on the roadside. Those insects that hit my forehead, my glasses and my mouth, giving me violent kisses. The summer air that smells of smoke, animal’s excrements and fresh leaves. This timeless town untouched by the outside world. It will cease to exist as soon as I step on the train that will take me away from it forever. It will hibernate in a corner of my memory.

I’ve found where I belong in this world. I’ve always known the answer, but never quite understood it. Now I do. In my dreams, there’s only one place where I belong, but it doesn’t have a name, nor a shape. It takes on different shapes in real life, therefore, I must constantly move between places. Because dreams can be eternal in their own territory, but will vanish when hit by reality. I only belong to somewhere as long as it remains my dreamland. As long as it doesn’t last. As long as I don’t belong to it.

I listened to that song on a summer night many years ago, back in my hometown. I listen to it now, and it instantly brings me back to that night. Or rather, it brings that night here. The past and the present fuse together. I time travel. I am one. I am whole. I am here. I am alive. I am infinitely mine.

Expectation

What does it mean when we say that something is “beyond expectation” or “more than we expected”?

To expect: mid 16th cent. (in the sense ‘defer action, wait’): from Latin exspectare ‘look out for’, from ex- ‘out’ + spectare ‘to look’ (frequentative of specere ‘see’).

Expectation is centered on the future. The future is unknown and uncertain. Expectation reflects a psychological (existential?) need to make this future more manageable, i.e. the need to control.

“Beyond expectation”, in everyday language, indicate the quality of being great, excellent, exceptional, unique; more than what we thought would be the case. It is usually a positive evaluation. It is almost never applied to oneself, but always to somebody else’s performance or behavior. Because it is the Other that represents the unknown.

A surprise is something not expected, i.e. something outside the horizon of possibilities that one has envisioned. It is antonymous to normalcy, the norm. So when expectation is directed toward a person, it acts as a norm, an evaluation, a script to perform according to, thus linked to the idea of social norms, of accordance with a set of rules. What is expected means what is normal, i.e. conforming to a standard, typical, usual. It is also predictable: something known beforehand.

When we do not have sufficient clues about an other, we cannot put her in any existing category that structures our own interpersonal framework. Therefore, we cannot assign that person to any behavior or performance script. In other words, we do not have expectation about that person. “We do not know what we do not know”. However, as mentioned before, expectation characterizes a more general psychological pattern. It is fundamental to help human beings orient themselves in life. It is an inevitable attitude towards the future. Therefore, by conventions of language, we still say that someone is beyond expectation even though we do not have any expectation about that specific person. It should be simply interpreted as a compliment on that individual’s exceptionality.

There is a slightly different nuance of meaning in French: “beyond expectation” is translated as “dépasser les attentes (de quelqu’un)”. Expectation is waiting for something that might or is likely to come, but whose existence is not confirmed until its actual occurrence. Waiting has a taste of yearning in it, which is more sentimental. However, the idea remains the same: it implies a movement forward in time. In the end, it boils down to how human beings relate to everything that constitutes the Other, i.e. what is outside the present self, the unknown, be it the future or an immediate other reality.