One reason I have for keeping Lefebvre's Rhythmanalysis at arm's length is a feeling that rhythms, all rhythm, may be imaginary. Is keeping one's balance a work of the imagination? In a way. That's a sense I'm giving to the word imaginary, a sense which is not merely broad, but means something like "created by sentient existentialities, perhaps involving some kind of metamorphosis, or an involved projection of sentient energy into the forms of the world." Dance could be an image of rhythm. Alternatively I could say rhythm itself is essentially proprioceptive, and proprioceptive feelings are constituted if that helps get across my drift. (I'm not sure I really want to make that claim, restricting the genesis of rhythm to one sense, although it may be a doorway to understanding the essence of the phenomenon.) Here we're up before dawn in our philosophical understanding of rhythms. Is there an internal rhythmic concsiousness? Must we assume rhythm in order to analyze rhythms. If so, how do we choose which concepts to align with our concept of rhythm? Does it align with the real or the irreal, the objective or the subjective or, to deploy a meronym, the intersubjective? Is rhythm the meronym of the continuous and the discontinuous or does it exist by itself? If we align rhythm with physis (or kinesis, in a similar move), doesn't experience along with empirical data brought to our attention compel us to admit that rhythms are many, and that therefore our concept of rhythm can never be more than approximation of any phenomenon of rhythm, and may well be wide of the mark in many instances? Must we be able to step into and step out of rhythm in order to know that rhythm exists? I wouldn't rush to chalk up such an ability to having an idea of rhythm, but if it exists and must exist prior to any hermeneutics of rhythm it must be analyzed, elicited, interpreted, heard, played with or discussed in some fashion. Speaking of the image of rhythm is my attempt to do that.
I turn the floor over to Lefebvre, who asks us to distinguish between the present and presence. (Please note that his idea of the imaginary appears to be more in keeping with an idea of representation than mine is.)
Its name tells as much, but the meanings of words fade over time. The present offers itself in all innocence and cruelty: open, evident, here and there. It can wear a smile, or be tinged with melancholy, provoke tears. But this evidence is misleading, fabricated. It is an adulterated product that simulates presence as a forgery imitates a fact of nature, fruit, a flower, etc. A kind of (dissimulating) simulator of the present: the image!
If you take it for what it is (a paint-daubed or coloured scrap of paper), it falls short of its goal. If you take it for what it seeks to evoke, it accomplishes it. You have to 'have confidence' in the photo, painting, drawing. It has become a sort of social, also known as aesthetic (not moral), obligation that gives rise to abuse. But if you have the ability to take the flows and the streams (T.V., the press, etc.) as rhythms among others, you avoid the trap of the present that gives itself as presence and seeks the effects of presences. The latter are the facts of both nature and culture, at the same time sensible, affective and moral rather than imaginary.
Through a kind of magic, images change what they reach (and claim to reproduce) into things, and presence into simulacra, the present, the this. Do speech and exorcism exist? Yes. Nothing is more simple: a child could do it. Necessarily, a gesture suffices: to take images for what they are, simulacra, copies conforming to a standard, parodies of presence.
The rhythmanalyst will give an account of this relation between the present and presence: between their rhythms. A dialectical relation: neither incompatibility, nor identityneither exclusion nor inclusion. One calls the other, substitutes itself for this other. The present sometimes imitates (simulates) to the point of mistaking itself for presence: a portrait, a copy, a double, a facsimile, etc., but (a) presence survives and imposes itself by introducing a rhythm (a time). The act of rhythmanalysis [le geste rhythmanalytique] transforms everything into presences, including the present, grasped and perceived as such. The act [geste] does not imprison itself in the ideology of the thing. It perceives the thing in the proximity of the present, an instance of the present, just as the image is another instance. Thus the thing makes itself present but not presence. On the contrary, the act of rhythmanalysis integrates these thingsthis wall, this table, these treesin a dramatic becoming, in an ensemble full of meaning, transforming them no longer into diverse things, but into presences.
(pp. 22-23, Lefebvre's bold and italics)