Friday, June 5, 2009

It's A Friday Thing: This Is Not A Pain(t)hing - Oh, No!

Fig. 1. Hiraki Sawa - Going Places Sitting Down (video still), 2004

'Psychologists - and more especially philosophers - pay little attention to the play of miniature frequently introduced into fairytales. In the eyes of the psychologist, the writer is merely amusing himself when he creates houses that can be set on a pea. But this is a basic absurdity that places the tale on a level with the merest fantasy. And fantasy precludes the writer from entering, really, into the domain of the fantastic. Indeed he himself, when he develops his facile inventions, often quite ponderously, would appear not to believe in a psychological reality that corresponds to these miniature features. He lacks that little particle of dream which could be handed on from writer to reader. To make others believe, we must believe ourselves. Is it worthwhile, then, for a philosopher to raise a phenomenological problem with regard to these literary "miniatures", these objects that are so easily made smaller through literary means? Is it possible for the conscious - of both writer and reader - to play a sincere role in the very origin of images of this kind?

Yet we are obliged to grant these images a certain objectivity, from the mere fact that they both attract and interest many dreamers. One might say that these houses in miniature are false objects that possess a true psychological objectivity. Here the process of imagination is typical, and poses a problem that must be distinguished from the general problem of geometrical similarities. The geometrician sees exactly the same thing in two similar figures, drawn to different scales. The plan of a house drawn on a reduced scale implies none of the problems that are inherent to a philosophy of the imagination. There is even no need to consider it from the general standpoint of representation, although it would be important, from this standpoint, to study the phenomenology of similarity. Our study should be specified as belonging definitely under the imagination.

Everything will be clear, for instance, if, in order to enter into the domain where we imagine, we are forced to cross the threshold of absurdity, as in the case of [Bean Treasure] , Charles Nodier's hero, who gets into a fairy's coach the size of a bean. In fact, he gets into it with six "litrons" of beans on his shoulder. There is thus a contradiction in numbers as well as in the size of the space involved. Six thousand beans fit into one. And the same thing is true when Michael - who is oversize - finds himself, to his great surprise, in the house of the [Beggar Fairy], which is hidden under a tuft of grass. But he feels at home there, and settles down. Happy at being in a small place, he realises an experience of topohilia; that is, once inside the miniature house, he sees its vast number of rooms; from the interior he discovers interior beauty. Here we have an inversion of perspective, which is either fleeting or captivating, according to the talent of the narrator, or the reader's capacity for dream. Nodier, who was often too eager to be "agreeable", and too much amused to give full reign to his imagination, allows certain badly camouflaged rationalisations to subsist. In order to explain psychologically this entry into the tiny house, he recalls the little cardboard houses that children play with. In other words, the tiny things we imagine simply take us back to childhood, to familiarity with toys and the reality of toys.

But the imagination deserves better than that. In point of fact, imagination in miniature is natural imagination which appears at all ages in the daydreams of born dreamers. Indeed, the element of amusement must be removed, if we are to find its true psychological roots.

. . .

Representation becomes nothing but a body of expressions with which to communicate our own images to others. In line with a philosophy that accepts the imagination as a basic faculty, one could say, in the manner of Schopenhauer: "The world is my imagination." The cleverer I am at miniaturising the world, the better I possess it. But in doing this, it must be understood that values become condensed and enriched in miniature. Platonic dialectics of large and small do not suffice for us to become cognizant of the dynamic virtues of miniature thinking. One must go beyond logic in order to experience what is large in what is small.'

Gaston Bachelard