One fine morning, Gregor Samsa, the character of the kafkian novella, finds himself the subject of a violent and incomprehensible mutation. It is the world reversed and yet this world somehow maintains itself in an unknown balance – its framework is in crisis. In this disrupted, unsure mapping of the absurd bordering with the rational, the continual collision between essence and appearance, affirmation and negation, the meaningful and the meaningless is playing itself out. The metamorphosis is irreversible, the conscience remains split, movements are locked within a compressed universe which the body could not possibly transgress.
Facing this deeply fissured state, the gaze becomes the nucleus of knowledge – the necessary tool to circumscribe reality. The enclosed space of four walls is where Gregor lies, (fore)feeling, recording, mapping out and analyzing from a single, fixed point the perpetual movement of the world, ultimately assisting at the dissolution of his existential framework in its entirety. He opposes, resists, awaits, accepts, fades away – following a regressive structure upon which only a sense of responsibility (social, moral) may exert some – limited – amount of control. His gradual submersion overlaps with the failure of the effort to know, in which the processing of the images from a flashing reality, unraveling on the retina, remains unadjusted to his own imaginarium. In these circumstances, Gregor tragically becomes a failing receptor and epistemologist. Perhaps his innocence (in front of the image) has been fatal? Perhaps his questions may not have been sufficiently acute? Perhaps the eye has not been sufficiently alert or effective? Perhaps… ?
An essentially liminal presence, Gregor Samsa illustrates the extreme image of a situation of transition (passage), operating in extenso as a possible model of understanding contemporaneity. The tensions, the contrasts and the inadvertencies of current experiences articulate conditions and intermediate spaces, in which dualities cohabit, paradoxically, along fragile border points, strips ambivalent par excellence, or – in other words – folds. This intermediary stylistic device, diagnosed by Gilles Deleuze as a fundamentally baroque mode of operating, translates into a state of emerging plurality – an oscillating temporal and spatial fabric, always unpredictable, always unstable. The constructive force of “the fold” is the one which ultimately determines the resolving of antinomies: through their incorporation, it enables their simultaneous annulling, reconciliation and their therapeutic treating. The inside and the outside, the enclosed and the open, the positive and the negative shall both contain and digest one other.
Inquiring upon the space of (re)action, which is delivered by the conflictual image of contemporaneity entails, in this light, a lucid, active positioning inside “the fold”. What about poor Gregor Samsa? How can we deal with the neuralgic points of reality? How do we drill into the same blind points of history?
The spaces of the samsian circuit as put forth are successively folding, un-folding and re-folding in ways that invite us to reflect upon a mapping of the framework-limit itself. Assuming search as an itinerary, a process, a flow or a state of transition, shapes a mental architecture, in which scientific perspective coexists with the solutions of the imaginarium, historical responsibility with the anchoring inside everydayness, and critical deconstruction with the lightness of humor. Above this entire assembly there is the hovering of the disruptive pulse belonging to some peculiar resonance box: a sound emitter (or shall we call it a laughter-machine?) – an anarchic and enigmatic, volatile but iridescent chain of immaterial actions and reactions. Beyond the sound, through one final pulsation stems out the “the fold of the image” as such: that dialectic of truth(authenticity) and fiction, which invites the viewer “to fold and unfold the image with care and to crease it so as to bring together those areas which by then had been ignoring one another, opening them wide.” (Georges Didi-Huberman).
Ioana Mandeal (b. 1986) is an art critic and curator with an educational background in European Cultural Studies and Art History and Theory in Bucharest and Visual Cultures and Curatorial Practices in Milan. Currently a PhD candidate at the National University of Arts in Bucharest, she focuses her research on the delicate interplay between museum strategies, institutional theory, visual studies and curatorial practices.