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Barthes and the Lesson of Saenredam Author(s): Howard Caygill Reviewed work(s): Source: Diacritics, Vol. 32, No.

1, Rethinking Beauty (Spring, 2002), pp. 38-39+41-48 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1566360 . Accessed: 01/03/2013 10:11
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BARTHES LESSON
OF

AND

THE

SAENREDAM

CAYGILL HOWARD

ObversePlatonism In his late dialogueParmenides,Plato seems to be on the point of overturning main the achievementof his philosophy,the doctrineof ideas. The aged Parmenides disquietsthe young Socrates by asking if ideas apply not only to abstractionssuch as the just, the vile beautiful, and the good, but also to "hair,mud, dirt, or anythingelse particularly and worthless"[131A]. Socratesthinks not, but admitsbeing troubledby a doubt that forces him to retreat"for fear of falling into some abyss of nonsense and perishing." This hint of an obversePlatonismthathauntsthe doctrineof ideas sharesmuch with the later work of Barthes,which, qualifyinga life's work in semiotics, seems to turnaway from signs and the inquiry into their conditions of meaning to seek meaning in the smudgeandthe blemish.In his late essay on Cy Twombly,"TheWisdomof Art"(1979), he explicitly adopts the obverse Platonismthat so troubledSocrates as a principle of method: "Ideas (in the Platonic sense) are not shiny, metallic Figures in conceptual corsets, but somewhatshaky maculations,tenuousblemishes on a vague background" [180]. The clearallusionto the parableof the cave in Plato'sRepublic-with its contrast between the shadows on the wall and the bright light of the ideas-allows Barthes's work to be situatedwithin an obverse, dirty Platonism.He does not abandonthe Platonic searchfor ideas butreorientsits directionof inquiryfrom the realmof light to that of shadow,from the heavens to the cave. The position adoptedby Barthesbefore his death should not be understoodas a with light and the conditionsof intelligibilityto a senturnaway from a preoccupation sitivity to the shadowsin the nuancesof voice, tone, timbre,and texture.Such a developmentmight seem to be confirmedby the shift in Barthes'sinterestsfromthe immacuinteriorsof the Dutch seventeenth-century artlate, harshlylit geometricalarchitectural in ist Saenredam one of his first essays, "TheWorldas Object"(1953), to the informal works of Cy Twombly during the final years of his life. The church interiorsof the formerwould seem to exemplifythe idea as "shiny,metallicfigure,"while the paintings of the latterarecloser to maculationandblemish.Yetthe sensitivityto the vagueandthe indefinablethateludes meaningwhile remainingone of its conditionsof possibility was always present,even and especially in Barthes'sresponse to the mysterious works of Saenredam,which for all their immaculatesurfaceare themselves profoundlymarked and blemished. with Writing a The essay of 1953, contemporary Degree Zero,inaugurates number of trajectories thatrangebetween a concernwith the visual to the conditionsof artistic of practiceundercapitalism,even to a reorientation Platonism.Itself an astonishingly Dutch painting, the essay wide-rangingyet focused response to seventeenth-century as begins with a discussionof Saenredam an exceptionalmomentin Dutchpainting.Yet this moment is itself quickly identified as an inauguralmoment of a certain obverse

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artisticpractice-the evocation of the idea of truththroughreductionand negationSaenredam'sart is inauguralin that continuedthroughthe contemporaryavant-garde. in its refusalto participate the mythology of what would laterbe identifiedas a capitalist society and culture.The essay, ostensibly concernedwith Dutch painting,is also a reflectionon the possibilities of an aestheticsof resistancein a capitalistsociety and the limits within which avant-garde practiceis confined. Barthes'sreadingof Saenredam of and throughhim Dutch paintingis thus programmatic his readingsof the contempoand beyond this to the Platonic structureswhich still silently inhabit raryavant-garde, its aesthetictheory and practice.

An Aesthetic of Silence of In the opening paragraph "The World as Object,"Barthes introducesthe work of Saenredamas anticipating"a 'modem' aestheticof silence,"an anticipationthatis said to exceed even "thedislocationsof our contemporaries" [62]. This chronologicaldislocation of Saenredam'swork-placing it in advanceof the contemporary avant-gardeis but one of the many strangemovements that govern the place of Saenredamin this is essay. Saenredam identifiedas the negativetheologianof Dutchpainting,articulating "by antithesisthe natureof classical Dutch painting"[62]. However, this inversion is complex, for it situatesSaenredam'swork as the antithesisof an antithesis.In Barthes's reading, the "classical Dutch painting"inverted by Saenredamwas itself already an antithesis,one that"washedaway religion only to replaceit with man andhis empireof things. Where once the Virginpresidedover ranksof angels, man standsnow with his feet upon the thousandobjects of everyday life, triumphantly surrounded his funcby tions" [63]. Yet what is significantin Saenredam'snegation of the negation is not the returnto an originalposition' but the new space that is opened up by the double negation. The natureof this space will be evoked at the end of the essay, but at the outset it serves as a undefined source of contrastthroughwhich to analyze Dutch painting by means of the via negationis, or as the paintingof that which Saenredamdid not paint. The antitheticalarticulation the "nature classical Dutch painting"discovered of of Barthesin Saenredam'spaintingis not just a methodologicaldevice for the cultural by historian.This antitheticalpractice is prized as an artisticpractice, one which anticipates, even exceeds, that of the modem avant-garde.In many ways Barthesfinds the formal "dislocations"of the contemporaryavant-gardewanting when comparedwith the rigor of a Saenredam.This lends particularsignificance to Barthes'scharacterization of what and how he did and did not paint.Since Saenredampainted"neitherfaces nor objects,"these become the core of Barthes'sanalysis of classical Dutch painting, which he claims was obsessed with precisely these themes. Yet if neither faces nor objects what, then, was the subjectof Saenredam'spainting?Barthesgives a shortand long answer,but neitheris by any means unambiguous. Given thatthe openingpropositionof the essay is thatSaenredam as deservingof is literaryrenownas Vermeer,Barthes'sdescriptionof his theme-"vacant churchinteriice ors, reducedto the beige andinnocuousunctionof butterscotch cream"[62]-seems, with its blunt simile, parodically"literary." entirely so, since Bartheswill insist on Yet the sweetness of Saenredam's"sugary,stubbornsurfaces"in order to emphasize the
1. Schwartzand Bok, in Pieter Saenredam: The Painterand His Time, convincinglylocate Saenredam'searly work in a context of Catholic nostalgia-representing purged churchesas if However even these paintings betraya theyhad not sufferedthe iconoclasm of the Reformation. rigorousact of aesthetic selection, since not all thepurgeddetails, butnew ones added, locate the restoration. imaginaryof the paintings after a Counter-Reformation

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insidious characterof Saenredam'snegation. The Churchinteriorshe representsare, after all, the reductionto sweetness, to aesthetics, of a memory and a site of religious violence. The churches Saenredampainted,Barthescontinues, are bare surfaces, "exthat The lack panses of wood and whitewashedplaster." are "irremediably unpeopled." and ornamentsentails for Barthesmore than "themere destructionof an of occupants idol." Indeed, for him, "Neverhas nothingness been so confident"[62]. Saenredam's in paintingexceeds iconoclasm-whether as object of representation the strippedReformationchurchesor as an iconoclastic artisticpractice-since it is not a negationbut a double negation.The destructionof the idols and the depopulationof the churchesare themselves destroyedand silenced in his painting. The sweet serenity of Saenredam's"images"is determinedby a furthernegation, this time framedin terms of a resistanceto an "Italianoverpopulationof statues"and and the horrorvacui of otherDutch painters.His painting"of the absurd" achievement of a "privativestate of the subject"in the renderingof "thesemeaningless surfaces"is and for Barthes inauguratesa modem aesthetic of silence. startlinglycontemporary, Saenredam'spaintingis dedicatedto the absurd,thatis, is not investedin meaning,and is reductive in its pursuitof the privationof the subject, reducingviolent histories to carefully craftedaesthetic surfaces.All this makes it an art that standsin a double antithesis-not only to Italianreligious paintingbut also to the antithesisof thatpainting It in the practiceof his Dutchcontemporaries. is a resolutelyobversepracticethatdislocates the tracesof both divine and humansovereignty,an aestheticnegationof historical negationthatyields no Hegelian results. The painting of Saenredamcontinues to haunt the essay and the essays that followed it as a type of practicethat could not easily be situatedin terms of traditionor avant-garde.It announces anotheravant-gardedistinct from the oppositional version that dominatedmodernism.Saenredam'spracticedirectedagainst Dutch paintingand its world becomes exemplaryof a much wider aestheticresistanceto the modem epoch. What this refusal implies becomes apparentin the discussion of Dutch painting that follows, one thatis strictlyorganizedin termsof what Saenredamdid not paint-faces and objects. To anticipate,Saenredam's paintingfor Barthesdoes no less thanevacuate an entire orderof meaningfoundedin technology,humanism,and property. The world of classical Dutch painting,foundedin protestagainstthe claims of the transcendentheavenly realm, is a "universeof fabrication"[64]. In place of a world governed by vertical movementsbetween the earthlyand the transcendent-the entire is sacramental economy of medieval Catholicism-the "universeof fabrication" governedby the horizontalmovementsof exchange and commerce.This invertedworld is in turnfoundedupon a technologicalappropriation nature.Barthes'sargumentfrom of of to a characterization the epoch of the "universeof fabrication" its consequencesfor is the object and its mode of representation guided by the exception of Saenredam. The the focus in the first partis correspondingly "object"as the theme of Dutch paintingwhich then shifts in the situatedwithin the ontology of the "universeof fabrication," second part to the "face" as theme or the ethic of this universe. In the course of this movement between object and face, representation the gaze assume an ever more and prominentrole, pointing to a complicity between Dutch painting and its epoch that, once again, is refused by Saenredam. realm is describedby Barthesin terms of "huThe inversion of the transcendent of This appropriation two ashas manization"or the "gradualappropriation matter." consists in shaping andaccounting.The technologicalappropriation pects-technology matter:"All this is man's space; in it he measureshimself and deterspatio-temporal mines his humanity,startingfrom the memoryof his gestures:his chronosis coveredby functions,thereis no otherauthorityin his life but the one he imprintsupon the inertby

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it" shapingand manipulating [64]. The notion of the gesture, which will assume great of importancein Barthes'ssubsequentwork,here alreadypossesses the characteristic a corporealtechnology,an appropriative, repeatablemovementof the body in space and time. This movement is authoritative-it "imprints"2 itself upon matter,shaping it in termsof its definitionof utility.The authoritative of character the appropriative gesture consists in its claim to universality-it creates a universe in which the value of each memberis determinedby its contributionto that universe.The vertical orientationof the production,the body stooping to shape matter,is mythologically dissolved in the horizontalmovements of the apparently universalsystem of exchange, which sets the object into motion. The universalcharacterof the technological shaping and manipulationof matter enables and is enabled by a comprehensivesurvey and cataloguingof the world. Nafrom an elementalinfinity to the pleniture, or the "Dutchlandscape,"is "transformed tude of the registry office" [63]. The containmentof infinity in the register or catalogue-an importantaspect of the epochal inversion of transcendenceat issue hereachieves the paradoxicalfeat of combiningthe absence of horizoncharacteristic the of of naturewith the circumscribedcharacter the register. of technological appropriation This feat is achieved in two ways, first by the dissolution of the void between objects, which puts an end to the potentiallyinfinite division of an interval,and second by the dissolutionof the object into a function,which permitsthe performance a contained of In of permutations. both the objectis only significantas an instanceof value or infinity exchange-any other characteristicsare irrelevant,a surd to be factored out of their equation. The ontological implications of the technological and surveyed characterof the universeof fabricationare considerable.The object is now definedby its location with respect to use and other objects ratherthan its essence: "everywherethe object offers man its utilizedaspect, not its principialform"thereis no longer "a generic state of the states"[65]. The object is transformed from an essence object, but only circumstantial to an attribute,and these attributesin turn are in perpetualmotion. The object exists only insofar as it can be consumed or exchangedfor other objects. The context of exchange and use determinesthe movement of objects with respect to each other-they enter into a system of equivalencesdeterminedby humanvalue. This system, and the and object that embodies it, is at once infinite-"always open, exposed, accompanied" closed insofaras it is directedtowardconsumptionor the destructionof the object "as closed substance." Barthesconcludes with the ontological claim that "Theobject is by and largeconstitutedby this mobility"--one thatis equivocallyorientedwith respectto humanuse and otherobjects, but no longerpartakingof the verticalorientationtoward the divine or "idea"which governedthe essence of objects in premodern ontologies. of of The transformation the objectis accompaniedby a transformation art.Barthes touches upon the main subgenresof Dutch painting,situatingthem with respectto the Landscapeand marinepaintingare describedin termsof the "universeof fabrication." of the object. Their motifs-ships, sea, rivers, canals, roads, and paths-all mobility of concernthe location andtransport the object. Still life representsthe objectas "never andneverprivileged;it is merelythere,amongmanyothers,paintedbetweenone alone, in functionand another,participating the disorderof the movementswhich have picked it up, put it down-in a word, utilized" [64]. In all of these cases, the representation

2. Earlier in the essay the term "inscribe"serves thefunction of "imprint," thusmarkingan intensificationof the movement from the set of manual gestures that comprise writing to the incorporealtechnologicalgesture of printing.

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serves to "lubricate man's gaze amidhis domain"[64] or, in otherwords,to enable the smooth transport the gaze, which is itself now an object among objects. of The second half of the essay makes the transitionfrom the ontology to the ethics of the "universeof fabrication" means of reflectionupon the representation the face. of by It begins with a comparisonof the catalogue of objects in a Dutch still life with the "itemisingpower"of the Civil Code, anticipatingBarthes'sextension of the "universe of fabrication" into the Enlightenment his 1964 essay "ThePlates of the Encyclopein dia." Barthesmaintainsthat reading a Dutch still life is akin to auditing"the painting like an accountant" [67]. The trope of readingas inventoryis carriedover into the representationof humanfigures, beginningwith the transitional possibilityof representing humanfigures as objects. Barthesselects AvercampandAdriaanOstadeas examplestheirworks arean "anecdotal cataloguedividing andcombiningthe variouselements of a prehumanity"[67]. As objects, their human figures do not effect gestures, do not shape the world, but are beings intermediatebetween matterand humanshape. Yet even in this mode of representation is possible to locate an aestheticpractice it thatexceeds it. Barthessees AdriaanOstade'srepresentations peasants-largely proof duced for the pleasureof a patricianaudience-as presentingan intermediate between and face-"From the neck up, these peasantshave only a blob which has not yet object become a face" [68]. This "shiftingprehumanity" Avercamp'spaintingssurveyed that from aboveis here viewed obliquely andwith difficulty.Ostade'shumanobjectspursue a motion whose drunkentrajectory unpredictable difficultto traceor fix. In place is and of the well-regulatedtransport carefullyfabricatedand inventoriedobjects found in of the marine,landscape,and still life genres, these humanobjects are undefinedand errant:theirfaces areobverse,neithergazing nor open to the gaze of the other,"invariably slashedor blurredor somehowtwisted askew," theirmotion "reelsacrossspace like and so many objects endowed with an additionalpower of drunkennessor hilarity"[68]. Such blurring,distortion,and twisting of the figure is the mark of a radical aesthetic practice,one thatanticipatescertainmomentsof modernism.But it is remotefrom that of Saenredam,who, it may be remembered,was prized at the outset of the essay for now revealedto have been anticipated Ostade. exceeding the modernist"dislocation" by The blurredobject-facesof Ostade'speasantsdo not rise to the statusof "theperson" [67]. The link between "person" "face"is classically achievedby the figureof and the mask, a form of object-humanitythat Barthes goes on to explore in terms of the patrician"ultra-person"-thetermsof the series moving from "sub-"to "ultra-human," The featuresthe represenostensibly skippingover the "human." genre of guild portrait tationof the face as mask of personality,each face "treated units of one andthe same as horticulturalspecies, combining generic resemblance and individual identity" [69]. Explainingthese featuresby meansof a contrastwith socialist realism-these masksdo not representan abstractionand its qualities (the virility and tension of the militant of proletariat)-Barthes sees the patricianmask in termsof the sedimentation authority vested in the motion of the "universeof fabrication." masks these objects-"ultraAs humans"-become numen,mere gestures of authorityand command-but their commands do not so much set the universeinto motion as oversee it. At this point in the discussion the missing "human" term of the series pre/sub-/ ultra-human returns.The character the ultra-human of mask-the master'spuregesture of command-is distinguishedin terms of the gesture of commandthat oversees and ensures regularmotion (the patrician) and the one that inaugurates motion (the impeand rial), the two exemplifiedby Barthesin the Dutchguild portrait the representations of Napoleon.The patriciangestureof commandconsists in the appraisinggaze-ready to situateits object withinthe existing mobile universeof fabrication-while the imperial gesture of command consists in the raised hand that sets in motion the forces of

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history.Both patricianand imperialgesturesare distinguishedfrom the humangesture of the worker,"the gesture of the workman,homofaber, whose functionalmovement encompasseshim in searchof its own effect .. ." [71]. The gaze of the patricianmask neitherrises to commandnor stoops to laborbut is suspendedbetween the two, a postureexemplifiedfor Barthesin the cloth merchantrising from the table in Rembrandt's guild portrait.The patriciangaze abstractsboth productiveand political action-in a itself fromhistory-and for Barthesachieves an icon of arrest:"Inthis wordit abstracts content patricianworld, absolute masterof matterand evidently rid of God, perfectly and the gaze producesa strictlyhumaninterrogation proposesan infinitepostponement there is no of history"[72]. Since motion is intrinsicto the "universeof fabrication," need for the commandto set objects in motion-instead thereis the steadycontemplaand tion, inventory, chartingof a given, regularmotion.This suspensionof historyis the antithesisof religious art-the eternally arrestedgaze of the humanreplacing that of God-and is also the antithesisthatis invertedby Saenredam. In additionto Ostade'spracticewithin the marginsof the universeof fabrication, Barthes also discusses another great antimythological exception represented by scene" [70], inasmuchas David as an "aberrant Rembrandt. Barthescites Rembrandt's its subjectobscureshis gaze. In place of the replete gaze of the patriciansurveyor,the subjectis dislocated.The covering of the face shields it from the gaze of Rembrandt's of the other and narrowsits own field of vision. In this painting"foronce man is gaze endowedwith an adjectivalquality;he slips frombeing to having,rejoinsa humanityat of gripswith somethingelse" [70]. The movementis thusfromthe "ultra-humanity" the The idea patricianto the humangesturesof the worker,one in searchof its own effect. of an incompletehumanityin history-denied by the patricianportrait-is given a surprising retrospectiveand projective genealogy by Barthes. Rembrandt'sDavid is loPieta and some cated in a traditionthat stretchesbetween "a tearfulfifteenth-century Soviet imagery"[70]; in both, "an attributeis procombative Lenin of contemporary The attribute calls to be workedupon or workedthrough,provided, not an identity." viding a task ratherthana closed and completedidentity. should not be confused with that of The traditionevoked throughthe Rembrandt the avant-garde by inaugurated Saenredamat the outset of the essay-the aestheticsof of silence. The reorientation the gaze with respectto historicaltask achievedby painters and of the Pieta, Rembrandt, latersocialist realism-namely, the redemptionof historical suffering-is an antithesisof the patriciangaze, but one which restorescommandto The antithesisachieved a historicalsubject,be it church,chosen people, or proletariat. It Saenredampursues an entirely differenttrajectory. is resumed at the end of the by ThereBarthes and BarthesimpliesbetweenSaenredam Courbet. essay in theconstellation of of from the representation faces and objects to the representation a space-the turns space of Courbet'sAtelier-space thatfor Barthesis "emptiedof any gaze" barthatof the painter.The aesthetic gesture of "emptying"space is precisely that performedby whose reductionconsists in a gestureof aestheticallyemptyinga space that Saenredam, has been emptied by history.The task of this art is not to refill the space, but to lend depth to its emptiness, to vest the gaze neitherin objects nor faces, but in what made and thempossible,theirscene orhistory.In Barthes'swords,for bothSaenredam Courbet: "Depthis born only at the momentthe spectacle itself slowly turnsits shadow toward man andbegins to look at him" [73]. The modalityof emptyinga space andthen turning the emptinessout as a gaze exemplifies the practiceof Saenredam,and leaves his artas a question ratherthan a command to the viewer. Such a philosophical art, one that questions without providing answers, is approachedby Saenredamand Courbet,but also in Barthes'seyes by Brecht and Eisenstein and finally Twombly,and is named at the end of the essay as allegory.

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An Aesthetic of Bareness At the beginning of "Worldas Object,"Barthesobserved obscurely that Saenredam's "negation"or emptyingof the canvas "goes much furtherthanthe destructionof idols" [62]. The iconoclasticemptyingof churcheswas in some sense exceededby Saenredam's aesthetic negation.Saenredam'schurchesconstitutespecial objects in the object world of Dutch painting.Arrestedin time, their role as sites of vertical communicationbedismantledor tween the humanand the divine is abolishedand the liturgicalapparatus left incongruouslyobsolete. Their strikinganticipationof laterphotographic representations of obsolete factory spaces-scattered with discardedmachines-is developed by Barthes in his essay on the encyclopaedia.Yet the emptying of the space is even of more uncannythanthe simple representation clearedspaces andsurvivingfragments of liturgicalmachinery.In Saenredam's negationthe space itself becomes questionable, of both divine and humanpresence, a moment of arrestin the mobile world of empty objects or a hole in its seamless fabric. Saenredamimages the erasureby which iconoclasm "washedaway religion" [63]; his object is the hauntedspace that survives erasure.In this, his practice corresponds closely to that of Twombly,which is so often the presentationof an act of erasure.In both cases the presentationof an erasuretroublesthe space and invests it with a questioning gaze. Yet there would seem at first glance to be little correspondencebetween the methodof thetwo works,betweenSaenredam's architectural precisionandTwombly's "vague."Saenredam'smethod consisted in first surveyingthe sites and then producing This apparent accuratearchitectural drawings.3 homage to the Platonictraditionof the is drawingas the truthof the image, later reproducedin the painting,4 not quite what it seems. For Saenredamwould use his drawingsas materialto be manipulated juxtaand posed in the final image, which would present-to viewers familiar with the buildThe space in the paintingsdoes not directlyparings--often impossible permutations. ticipate in that of the drawingsbut is scrambledto produce an enigma. The work of Twombly-who, as Bartheswas fond of observing(perhapswith some degree of idenin tification), was a militarycryptographer an earlierlife-also scramblesa given spatial meaning,renderingits presencequestionable. The distinctionthatBartheselaboratesin "CyTwombly:Workson Paper" between thepaintingas product a producing complicated and is withrespectto Saenredam. Barthes introduceshis notion of Twombly's"producing" means of a contrastwith a diagram: by "Takean architect'sor an engineer's drawing,the diagramof a machine or of some building element; here it is not the drawing'smaterialitythat we see, but its meaning, in entirely independentof the technician'sperformance; shortwe see nothing if not a kind of intelligibility"[169]. The drawingaspiresto the conditionof Platonicidea, full and unparticipated intelligibility,andthe makingof its image is a separateact of participation.Twombly'swork is first of all a making, a drawingwhose materialityhas priority over its intelligibility; it is itself an act of production,not a blueprintfor one to follow. Yet Saenredam'sdrawings do not work in this way, not as blueprints,but as for matterfor arrangement, providinga space thatcalls for acts of drawing. Before furtherexploring the spaces of Saenredamand Twombly,a digressioninto Barthes's "aestheticof blankness"is in order.The phrase itself appearsin the 1964 of essay "ThePlates of the Encyclopaedia,"which is in manyways a continuation "The Worldas Object."Its continuitywith the earlieressay consists in its premise of a commercial-productive capitalisteconomy with implicationsfor both the ontology of the
3. For a full discussion of Saenredam'smethod,see Schwartzand Bok, ch. 6. 4. See Panofsky'sIdeafor a detailed discussion of this tradition.

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In object andits representation. the essay, Barthesinclines towardcelebratingthe obsolescence of the images of the Encyclopaedia,their correspondencewith the machine phase of capitalism.Like the Dutch world of objects,the worldof the Encyclopaediais both a census and a spectacle-the catalogueof the "objects"or "entiresphereof substances shaped by man" [219] and the spectacle of its making. In a phrase that also summarizesthe argumentof the earlieressay, "the object is the world's humansignature."In the lateressay, however,the process of the productionof objects-excluded in Dutch painting-is now the main theme. From this premise Barthesfollows a line of argumentthat eventuallycomplicates the readingof the Enlightenmentimage. The simplicity of Enlightenmenttechnology consists in its "relay" from substancevia machinesandinstruments object.The "twoto term space: the causal trajectorythat proceeds from substanceto object"calls for an or emptyingof the space of representation an "aestheticof bareness."In a descriptionof the Enlightenmentscene of productionthat lends itself immediatelyto Saenredam's churchspaces, Bartheswrites, "huge,empty,well-lighted rooms, in which man cohabits alone with his work:a space withoutparasites,walls bare,tables cleared;the simple, here, is nothing but the vital .. ." [221]. While Saenredam'sspaces-stripped of such as "parasites" God, priests, and liturgicalmachineryof image and sculpture-pose the question of what is now to fill them, the Enlightenmentspace seems to answer the question with productiveactivity.Its emphasis on the productivework of the hands is "in a close relationship" with, indeed supplements,"another'progressive'or bourgeois Dutch painting"[223]. Yet even the manufacturing iconography:seventeenth-century answerto the barenessof space itself generatesfurtherquestions. Barthesframeshis discussion of the interrogatory effect of the space of the Encyin termsof the distinctionbetween paradigmatic syntagmaticsignifying and clopaedia units. He divides the image of the plates between the two. The representation the of in its manytypes andaspectsoccupies the lower partof the plate andis organized object in terms of paradigmatic variation-these representations to approximate the architectural drawingor technical diagram-while the representation the scene of use, the of vignette, of the upper part of the plate shows the instrumentsin use in a productive space. The paradigmatic diagramof the lower part"involvesby definitionno secrecy" [225]-it occupies the space of ideas-while the "lively scene"of the vignette"charged with a disseminatedmeaning, always presentsitself like a little riddle; we must decipher it, locate in it the informativeunits" [226]. The vignette both "condenses"and "resists"meaning-the passage from the "radical language consisting of pure concepts"of the technicaldiagramof the lower partof the plateto the "langue"of the upper is accomplishedby means of "fiction"or "fictive truth"which "deliberatelyloses in intelligibility what it gains in experience" [227]. The participationbetween diagram and scene is thus both scrambled-the transmissionfrom the idea to the scene is not smooth-and reencoded.The loss of intelligibility in scramblingand the recoding in fictionconstitutesthe "cryptographic vocationof the image"[226]: an obversePlatonism thatdistortsandenrichesthe idea in its transmission, Platonismorientedtowardfutural a ratherthaneternallypast ideas. The distinctionbetween the diagram/product the performanceof a work proand posed in "Cy Twombly: Works on Paper"is already complicated in the practice of Saenredamas well as in the theoreticalreflections of the Encyclopaedia essay. The distinctionbetween idea and productis a diversionfrom the questionof what is to fill the emptiedspaces of representation. this point it is possible to take up the threadof At Saenredam's graffitithatrunsthroughout "CyTwombly:Workson Paper." paintingsof the "Nave of the Buurkerk, Utrecht,from Northto South"of 1644 and 1645 exemplify both the strippedinteriorsof the Reformation churchandthe introduction the liturgiof

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Yet cal machine of the word-the list of the Ten Commandments. they also introduce otherelements. In the 1644 image, the foregroundfeaturesthe scene of a child drawing graffition the wall-the foursons of Aymonridingthe horseBayard-underneathwhich, The child's graffiti drawn from a also written on the wall, is the artist's signature.5 medieval fiction respondsto the walls strippedof their medieval imagery,as does the markof witness constitutedby the artist'ssignature.The FortWorthversion leaves the has walls stripped,but with a space incised in the pillaron which Saenredam markedhis and date, and identifiedthe scene. The artistin both cases signals a reclamasignature tion of the strippedspace, for art,throughgraffiti. Barthesclarifies both Saenredam'sand Twombly'sacts of graffitiwith the explanationthat"whatconstitutesgraffitiis in fact neitherthe inscriptionnor its message but the the wall, the background, surface(the desktop);it is because the background exists fully, as an object that has already lived, that such writing always comes to it as an out enigmatic surplus:what is in excess, supernumerary, of place" [167]. The inscription of graffiti witnesses the lived life or the history of the backdrop,bringingit into the visibility by an act of disfigurement; strippedreformationsare shown to have been strippedby the gratuitousinscriptionson the now bare walls. Barthesgoes furtherby of examiningthe temporalityof the act of graffitithroughan analogywith the character Twombly'sinscription.He notes that"thepast tense of the strokecan also be defined as itsfuture"since the strokeis an open performance. Similarly,while the iconoclasts who strippedthe walls of the churcheswilled theiract of erasureto be eternal-the walls to remainforeverbare-the act of graffitideflates the violent erasureand reintroducesit into history.It scramblesthe meaningof the originalact andopens a futureof otheracts of inscription,whetherin the hands of the child or the aestheticrealm of painting.The meaning that would fix itself forever in the silent bareness of the violated churches finds itself providingthe perfectbackdropfor new acts of inscription. The obversePlatonismof this position, evidentin the scramblingof the transmitted meaningthatpretendsto hold eternally,in the dirtyingof the backdropfor the manifestation by history is confirmedin Barthes'spraise of chance in "The Wisdom of Art." The necessity for the participation meaningis undercutby the event of chance, posof sible even if "the work is the result of precise calculation"[181]. For the throw of the dice never takes place in eternalcircumstances;the page is never white. The throw or inscriptionembodies "aninitial decision and a terminalindetermination: throwing,I by know what I am doing, but I do not know what I am producing"[182]. The act reduces intelligibility-it is not simple transmissionor participation-but also enrichesexperience with its unpredictableoutcomes. The space that been emptied of its history not only gazes back, posing a question of what is to fill it, but also invites those acts of desireandfictionthatwouldfill it again,invitestheresumption its history.Saenredam's of are the paradigmof an allegoricalavant-garde recognizes the violent imchurches that position of meaning,but does not contest it with anotherimposition.The idea or meanbut ing is not madepresentby beingimposedorreimposed, is solicited.The via negationis of emptying and reduction turns into the via eminentiae of surplus and excess. Saenredam'simages of violated churches work in the same way as Twombly's canvases, those "bigMediterranean rooms, warmand luminous,with theirelements lost in them, rooms the mind seeks to populate"[183].

5. Children'sgraffitiin the proximityof his signatureis a repeatedfeature in Saenredam's painting [see list and discussion in Schwartzand Bok 200].

diacritics / spring 2002

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WORKSCITED Barthes,Roland. "Cy Twombly:Workson Paper."1979. Trans.RichardHoward.The Responsibilityof Forms.Berkeley:U of CaliforniaP, 1991. . "The Plates of the Encyclopaedia."1964. Trans. RichardHoward.A Roland BarthesReader. Ed. Susan Sontag. London:Vintage,2000. "TheWisdomof Art."1979.Trans.RichardHoward.TheResponsibility Forms. of -. Berkeley:U of CaliforniaP, 1991. A "TheWorldas Object."1953. Trans.RichardHoward. RolandBarthesReader. -. Ed. Susan Sontag. London:Vintage, 2000. Panofsky,Erwin.Idea: A Conceptin Art Theory.Trans.JosephJ. S. Peake. Columbia: U of South CarolinaP, 1968. Plato. Parmenides.Trans.H. N. Fowler.London:Loeb Library,1926. Schwartz,Gary, and MartenJan Bok. Pieter Saenredam:The Painter and His Time. London:Thames and Hudson, 1990.

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