Thursday, February 14, 2008

I'm Going to Wave My Plastic Flag High

Miguel Leal writes, "For [Catherine] Malabou, the essence of plasticity resides in its dual substantive condition that designates that which is capable of giving but also of receiving form, or, to be more precise, in the 'double movement, contradictory and thus indissociable, of the emerging of and of the annihilation of the form,' thus taking its place in a between-two in which the very idea of creation is at play" (On Plasticity: Sound Cartographies). As I peek into various senses of the plastic I feel I should say again that I don't look to etymologies for originary meanings but rather for alternative meanings or perhaps varieties of a meaning in the anticipation that, if I am fortunate, a conflux of meanings or thoughts will emerge to stimulate further thought and discussion, even if it is only discussion amongst myselves. Today I seek to momentarily develop, to borrow a term from Dominique Païni (whom I just today learned about from Leal's essay) a plastic awareness of the plastic awareness, the latter of which I will identify with the imagination. The idea of the oscillation of the emergence and the annihilation of forms calls back to Nancy's thinking about the metamorphic force of the image and the rapport with the image. There is some cause for linking the idea of the plastic with the idea of the image. The word plastic comes from the Greek πλαστῐκός which means "fit for molding" and also, when said of persons, "gifted in sculpture." (I'm relying upon the Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott for the meaning of Greek words.) It is related to πλάσσω, which means "to form, to mold" and, in one of its senses, "to form an image of a thing in the mind, to imagine." (Mold, btw, comes to us by way of the French mouler which means "to hug the figure.") Another meaning of πλάσσω is "to mold or form by training or education." A πλάσμα is, among other things, an image or figure. The Greeks thus help us think of the image as something shaped and also, perhaps, shaping. What qualities must the sculpted possess in order to sculpt the sculptor? Leal touches on the idea of a thickness necessary for any plasticity. He says that "in order for matter to show its plasticity it is above all necessary to grant it thickness." The double movement of imagination hugs the figure and draws out the form, unfolding in a milieu the emotional thickness of Play-Doh or the temporal thickness of the plasmatic stream. It is perhaps utlimately the thickness of metaphor, which, in kindness to Leal, I will regard as a πλαστῐκή τεχνῶν.

What do we want matter to say to us? Does the giving and taking of shape happen outside of shape? Is a plastic awareness of plastic awareness necessary for plastic awareness in the first place? Would the plasticitiy of the plastic awareness of plastic awareness be metaplastic or hyperplastic? How far can we stretch plasticity? Is there a point to deformation, or is it all just a stretch? Is the give and take of shape essential to shape? Is formlessness capable of receiving form or might it be only give-and-take that formlessness gives-and-takes, never merely taking nor merely giving. Is the imaginatively gifted also the imaginatively taken? The imagination is necessarily always formless in one aspect, a form having been taken, even if we are unsure of the exact point in the exchange of forms at which imagination begins. To be imaginatively taken is to be absorbed in the exchange of forms, which for practical purposes means cultivating a plasticity with respect to the question of origins. One thing I think we want matter to say to us is that it isn't exhausted, that it's ready to play some more.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:16 PM.


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