L'Œil et l'Esprit Quotes

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L'Œil et l'Esprit L'Œil et l'Esprit by Maurice Merleau-Ponty
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L'Œil et l'Esprit Quotes Showing 1-19 of 19
“Science manipulates things and gives up living in them. It makes its own limited models of things; operating upon these indices or variables to effect whatever transformations are permitted by their definition, it comes face to face with the real world only at rare intervals. Science is and always will be that admirably active, ingenious, and bold way of thinking whose fundamental bias is to treat everything as though it were an object-in-general - as though it meant nothing to us and yet was predestined for our own use.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it is one of them. It is caught in the fabric of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But because it sees and moves itself, it holds things in a circle around itself. Things are an annex or prolongation of my body; they are incrusted in its flesh, they are part of its full definition; the world is made of the very stuff of the body. These reversals, these antinomies, are different ways of saying that vision is caught or is made in the middle of things, where something visible undertakes to see, becomes visible for itself and through the vision of all things, where the indivision of the sensing and the sensed persists, like the original fluid within the crystal.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“The word 'image' is in bad repute because we have thoughtlessly believed that a drawing was a tracing, a copy, a second thing, and that the mental image was such a drawing, belonging among our private bric-a-brac. But if in fact it is nothing of the kind, then neither the drawing nor the picture belongs to the in-itself any more than the image does. They are the inside of the outside and the outside of the inside, which the duplicity of sensing makes possible and without which we would never understand the quasi-presence and imminent visibility which make up the whole problem of the imaginary. The picture, the actor's mimicry--these are not extras that I borrow from the real world in order to aim across them at prosaic things in their absence. The imaginary is much nearer to and much farther away from the actual. It is nearer because it is the diagram of the life of the actual in my body, its pulp and carnal obverse exposed to view for the first time...And the imaginary is much further away from the actual because the picture is an analogue only according to the body; because it does not offer to the mind an occasion to rethink the constitutive relations of things, but rather it offers to the gaze traces of the vision of the inside, in order that the gaze may espouse them; it offers to vision that which clothes vision internally, the imaginary texture of the real.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“O que constitui um enigma é a sua ligação, é o que está entre elas – é o facto de eu ver as coisas no seu devido lugar, precisamente porque elas se eclipsam umas às outras –, é o serem rivais perante o meu olhar, precisamente porque cada uma está no seu lugar.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, O olho e o espírito
“The enigma is that my body simultaneously sees and is seen. That which looks at all things can also look at itself and recognize, in what it sees, the "other side" of its power of looking. It sees itself seeing; it touches itself touching; it is visible and sensitive for itself. It is not a self through transparence, like thought, which only thinks its object by assimilating it, by constituting it, by transforming it into thought. It is a self through confusion, narcissism, through inherence of the one who sees in that which he sees, and through inherence of sensing in the sensed—a self, therefore, that is caught up in things, that has a front and a back, a past and a future. This initial paradox cannot but produce others,”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“Since things and my body are made of the same stuff, vision must somehow take place in them; their
manifest visibility must be repeated in the body by a secret visibility. "Nature is on the inside," says Cézanne. Quality, light, color, depth, which are there before us, are there only because they awaken an echo in our body and because the body welcomes them.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“The animals painted on the walls of Lascaux are not there in the same way as the fissures and limestone formations. But they are not elsewhere. Pushed forward here, held back there, held up by the wall's mass they use so adroitly, they spread around the wall without ever breaking from their elusive moorings in it. I would be at great pains to say where is the painting I am looking at. For I do not look at it as I do at a thing; I do not fix it in its place. My gaze wanders in it as in the halos of Being. It is more accurate to say that I see according to it, or with it, than that I see it.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“Our fleshly eyes are already much more than receptors for light rays, colors, and lines. They are computers of the world, which have the gift of the
visible as it was once said that the inspired man had the gift of tongues. Of course this gift is earned by exercise; it is not in a few months, or in solitude, that a painter comes into full possession of his vision... The eye sees the world, sees what inadequacies keep the world from being a painting, sees what keeps a painting from being itself, sees—on the palette—the colors awaited by the painting, and sees, once it is done, the painting that answers to all these inadequacies just as it sees the paintings of others as other answers to other inadequacies...The eye is an instrument that moves itself, a means which invents its own ends; it is that which has been moved by
some impact of the world, which it then restores to the visible through the offices of an agile hand.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“Painting...gives visible existence to what profane vision believes to be invisible; thanks to it we do not need a "muscular sense" in order to possess the voluminosity of the world. This voracious vision, reaching beyond the "visual givens," opens upon a texture of Being of which the discrete sensorial messages are only the punctuations or the caesurae. The eye lives in this texture as a man lives in his house.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“Rien n'est jamais acquis. En "travaillant" l'un de ses bien-aimés problèmes, fût-ce celui du velours ou de la laine, le vrai peintre bouleverse à son insu les données de tous les autres. Même quand elle a l'air d'être partielle, sa recherche est toujours totale. Au moment où il vient d'acquérir un certain savoir-faire, il s'aperçoit qu'il a ouvert un autre champ où tout ce qu'il a pu exprimer auparavant est à redire autrement. De sorte que ce qu'il a trouvé, il ne l'a pas encore, c'est encore à chercher, la trouvaille est ce qui appelle d'autres recherches. L'idée d'une peinture universelle, d'une totalisation de la peinture, d'une peinture toute réalisée est dépourvue de sens. Durerait-il des millions d'années encore, le monde, pour les peintres, s'il en reste, sera encore à peindre, il finira sans avoir été achevé.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“It is the mountain itself which from out there makes itself seen by the painter; it is the mountain that he interrogates with his gaze. What exactly does he ask of it? To unveil the means, visible and not otherwise, by which it makes itself a mountain before our eyes.
Light, lighting, shadows, reflections, color, all the objects of his quest are not altogether real objects; like ghosts, they have only visual existence. In fact they exist only at the threshold of profane vision; they are not seen by everyone. The painter's gaze asks them what they do to suddenly cause something to be and to be this thing, what they do to
compose this worldly talisman and to make us see the visible.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“The painter lives in fascination. The actions most proper to him—those gestures, those paths which he alone can trace and which will be revelations to others (because the others do not lack what he
lacks or in the same way)—to him they seem to emanate from the things themselves, like the patterns of the constellations. Inevitably the roles between him and the visible are reversed. That
is why so many painters have said that things look at them...It becomes impossible to distinguish between
what sees and what is seen, what paints and what is painted.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“More completely than lights, shadows, and reflections, the mirror image anticipates, within things, the labor of vision...The mirror appears because I am seeing-visible, because there is a reflexivity of the sensible; the mirror translates and reproduces that reflexivity. My outside completes itself in and through the sensible. Everything I have that is most secret goes into this visage, this face, this flat and closed entity about which my reflection in the water has already made me puzzle...

Artists have often mused upon mirrors because...they recognize...the metamorphosis of seeing and seen which defines both our flesh and the
painter's vocation. This explains why they have so often liked to draw themselves in the act of painting (they still do—witness Matisse's drawings), adding to what they saw then, what things saw of them. It is as
if they were claiming that there is a total or absolute vision, outside of which there is nothing and which closes itself over them.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“Art is not construction, artifice, meticulous relationship to a space and a worldnexisting outside. It is truly the "inarticulate cry,* as Hermes Trismegistus said, "which seemed to be the voice of the light." And once it is present it awakens powers dormant in ordinary vision, a secret of pre-existence. When through the water's thickness I see the
tiling at the bottom of a pool, I do not see it despite the water and the reflections there; I see it through them and because of them. If there were no distortions, no ripples of sunlight, if it were without this flesh that I saw the geometry of the tiles, then I would cease to see it as it is and where it is—which is to say, beyond any identical, specific place. I cannot say that the water itself—the aqueous power, the sirupy and shimmering element—is in space; all this is not somewhere else either, but it is not in the pool. It inhabits it, it materializes itself there, yet it is not contained there; and if I raise my eyes toward the screen of cypresses where the web of reflections is playing, I cannot gainsay the fact that the water visits it, too, or at least sends into it, upon it, its
active and living essence. This internal animation, this radiation of the visible is what the painter seeks under the name of depth, of space, of color.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“Anyone who thinks about the matter finds it astonishing that very often a good painter can also make good drawings or good sculpture. Since neither the means of expression nor the creative gestures are comparable, this fact is proof that there is a system of equivalences, a Logos of lines, of lighting, of colors, of reliefs, of masses—a conceptless presentation of universal Being.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“Bergson...was on the threshold of that gripping discovery, already familiar to the painters, that there are no lines visible in themselves, that neither the contour of the apple nor the border between
field and meadow is in this place or that, that they are always on the near or the far side of the point we look at. They are always between or behind whatever we fix our eyes upon; they are indicated, implicated, and even very imperiously demanded by the things, but they themselves are not things. They were supposed to circumscribe the apple or the
meadow, but the apple and the meadow "form themselves" from themselves, and come into the visible as if they had come from a pre-spatial world behind the scenes.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“All flesh, and even that of the world, radiates beyond itself.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“We must take literally what vision teaches us: namely, that through it we come in contact with the sun and the stars, that we are everywhere all at once,
and that even our power to imagine ourselves elsewhere—"I am in Petersburg in my bed, in Paris, my eyes see the sun"—or to intend real beings wherever they are, borrows from vision and employs
means we owe to it. Vision alone makes us learn that beings that are different, "exterior," foreign to one another, are yet absolutely together, are "simultaneity"; this is a mystery psychologists handle the way a child handles explosives. Robert Delaunay says succinctly, "The railroad track is the image of succession which comes closest to the parallel: the parity of the rails." The rails converge and do not converge; they converge in order to remain equidistant down below. The world is in accordance with my perspective in order to be independent of
me, is for me in order to be without me, and to be the world. The "visual quale" gives me, and alone gives me, the presence of what is not me, of what is simply and fully. It does so because, like texture, it is the concretion of a universal visibility, of a unique space which separates and reunites, which sustains every cohesion (and even that of past and future, since there would be no such cohesion if they were
not essentially relevant to the same space). Every visual something, as individual as it is, functions also as a dimension, because it gives itself as the result of a dehiscence of Being. What this ultimately means is
that the proper essence of the visible is to have a layer of invisibility in the strict sense, which it makes present as a certain absence...There is that which reaches the eye directly, the frontal properties of the visible; but there is also that which reaches it from below—the profound postural latency where the body raises itself to see—and that which reaches vision from above like the phenomena of flight, of swimming, of movement, where it participates no longer in the heaviness of origins but in free accomplishments. Through it, then, the painter touches the two extremities. In the immemorial depth of the visible, something moved, caught fire, and engulfed his body; everything he paints is in answer to this incitement, and his hand is "nothing but the instrument of a distant will." Vision encounters, as at a crossroads, all the aspects of
Being...

There is no break at all in this circuit; it is impossible to say that nature ends here and that man or expression starts here. It is, therefore, mute Being which itself comes to show forth its own meaning. Herein lies the reason why the dilemma between figurative and nonfigurative art is badly posed; it is true and uncontradictory that no grape was ever
what it is in the most figurative painting and that no painting, no matter how abstract, can get away from Being, that even Caravaggio's grape is the grape itself. This precession of what is upon what one
sees and makes seen, of what one sees and makes seen upon what is—this is vision itself.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“If we cannot establish a hierarchy of civilizations or speak of progress—neither in painting nor in anything else that matters—it is not because some fate holds us back; it is, rather, because the very
first painting in some sense went to the farthest reach of the future. If no painting comes to be the painting, if no work is ever absolutely completed and done with, still each creation changes, alters, enlight-
ens, deepens, confirms, exalts, re-creates, or creates in advance all the others. If creations are not a possession, it is not only that, like all things, they pass away; it is also that they have almost all their life still before them.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit