“Marion Pascali’s Bruised Whites: Beauty and the Simplicity of Dying – Again” by Maria Margaroni

Marion Pascali’s Bruised Whites: Beauty and the Simplicity of Dying – Again

Maria Margaroni – University of Cyprus

            Marion Pascali’s exhibited work is an explosive multiverse of possibilities, woven together (patiently, meticulously) out of the muffled violence of a space that rises and tears up the canvas like a wave, folds close like a mourning gown or a shroud, erupts as a block of ice or a soulless sun, takes on the shape of a rose bruised by cold weather or the inert density of a body contorted by pain. This space extends and attracts every form of life in the paintings. It is a web-like trap that receives and absorbs Being like a womb. The signifier for this all-consuming womb in Pascali’s paintings is a textured, layered white, the color of what the visual artist calls “slow death”.

            In an essay dedicated to Jean Paulhan, Maurice Blanchot draws a distinction between “the ease of dying” and death as the experience of the impossible par excellence. Blanchot tells us that the ease of dying is what “hides us from death,” what “makes us neglect or forget to die” (310). It helps us avoid the temptation of death, death’s undeniable, irresistible attraction (304). This ease of dying, then, is a form of vigilance over death (311), a ruse to combat what we can only acknowledge as the thought of a scandal: “dying – impossibility – is easy” (316). In the same way, the slow death Marion Pascali sets in motion in her art is a duplicitous gesture that suspends and cancels out the scandal by re-enacting it, thus holding the impossible hostage to repetition, subjecting the singular to the playful deferral of the series.

Though a suspension of the death sentence, Blanchot’s “easy dying” is, nevertheless, a relationship to the discontinuity of being, an encounter with the impossible possibility of (our own) absence. As such, it changes our experience of life because it teaches us “all that is strange in the way we normally call life” (304). This is precisely why for Blanchot “illness” is one of the names given to the ease of dying, this uncanny relation to death that recovers (the promise of) life. In Marion Pascali’s recent work this dialectic between death and life, illness and recovery is played out as a necessity, in other words, as the indispensable crossing that is the groundless ground of human existence. It is at the site of this crossing, I argue, a crossing across the interval of death, that one can trace the distinctness, the beauty of Pascali’s artworks.

            “Can one say that the relationship to death supports or subtends, as the string does the bow, the curve of the rise and fall of life?,” Jacques Lacan asks in his commentary on Antigone (294). Like Blanchot, Lacan is concerned about the experience of “a death lived by anticipation, a death that crosses over into the sphere of life” (248). Again, like Blanchot, Lacan posits what he calls “second death” at the heart of the development of speaking subjectivity, for it is through this limit experience that the mortal human comes face to face with his/her fundamental lack of being (298). Interestingly, “second death” as the radical indifference of a death-in-life is, according to Lacan, what produces the phenomenon of the beautiful. Beauty, for Lacan, is precisely this radical indifference that erupts “in a blinding flash,” revealing to the spectator “the site of man’s relationship to his own death” (295). As such, beauty is inextricable from a play of and with pain, a suffering that is interminable because it is a suffering outside temporality and history. The death-suspending suffering experienced at the contemplation of the beautiful is, indeed, one lived – yet, it is lived outside life, in spite of life, in excess of life. It is a form of sur-vivre: survival at the limit between the initial and the final indetermination (Blanchot 305); survival as a radical reservation of difference, a surplus life lived as stasis.

            Stasis constitutes an important element of the visual and conceptual lexicon employed in Marion Pascali’s work. It is aesthetically translated through the solid abstraction of the white forms that dominate the paintings. Though textured and layered, wrinkled by lines that throw into relief the atemporal temporality of suffering (patience as the duration and endurance of stasis), these forms are simple. They are simple because they are the index for what is already given to us as death-bound beings, that which is a life-gift and yet remains difficult to grasp and ambiguous to the gaze: “Simplicity”, Blanchot tells us, “is only simple within the duplicity” of its medium (303). As we have seen, in Pascali’s paintings this duplicity coincides with the uncanny gesture of representing the unrepresentable, seducing the unique and impossible event into the realm of the double. This, Blanchot argues, is the only way simplicity can “point to itself.” It is “when it is doubled that it becomes simplified” (304). What we witness in Pascali’s paintings, then, is no less than the radiant, the blinding simplicity of dying – again and again.

            And it is here, in this doubling, that the interval of indifferent stasis, the void of suffering becomes a bridge, in other words, a crossable divide (Blanchot 308); a renewed encounter with the world; a reclamation of presence in all its concrete shapes and shades, in the vibrancy and diversity of its colors, in its radical metamorphic potentiality. Beauty, Marion Pascali suggests, is not the serene, pleasurable contemplation of an object divorced from its function and purpose. Beauty for her involves some of the terror and suffering that philosopher Immanuel Kant associates with the sublime. This is why her artworks address not the spectator’s appreciating gaze but his/her body which, despite its destiny of slow death, remains what Pascali insists is a hungry body; that is, a human mortal body, boundlessly receptive, desiring and desirable, infinitely bruised and unspeakably beautiful.

Works Cited

Blanchot, Maurice. “The Ease of Dying.” In The Blanchot Reader. Ed. Michael Holland. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995. 300-316.

Lacan, Jacques. “The Essence of Tragedy: A Commentary on Sophocles’s Antigone.” In The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. 1959-1960: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book VII. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1999. 241-287.

Lacan, Jacques. “The Demand for Happiness and the Promise of Analysis.” In The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. 1959-1960: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book VII. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1999. 291-301.

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