Experiencing Soun-gui

Soun-gui Kim experiences time as matter and matter as time.
She experiences : meaning that she enters the thing and undertakes to go through it, thoroughly across. She undertakes to go altogether across the thing at hand, from edge to edge. These are variously defined : fore and aft, left and right, before and after, yesterday and tomorrow; from shore to shore, from wall to wall, from continent to continent, from East to West, North to South, the Orient to the Occident. Or else, they may be complex boundaries, interwoven with various of the aforementioned edges, limits or extremes, themselves divided and mingled from end to end, so that their own divides and crisscrossings must also be gone through, to the point of utter confusion. Or else it might be that there is in fact but one edge, running through all those limits, matching and merging all their delineations into one surface, something like a skin with intricate folds, simultaneously involved and unfolding into one another.
It is this very "simultaneously" which constitutes the material "time". Time is indeed made up of such twofold one-way journeys, back and forth comings and goings, as well as of goings never coming back but that keep going on and on into infinity; of self-involved goings, shaping themselves into a loop running to another kind of infinity. Time in its process is made up of progresses and lapses, pauses and starts, flows and sputters, jumps, modes, speeds and rhythms. In all these, it is Time, the one and only, ever and always the same. And yet that "same" is just the ceaseless moving and changing of all times at all times.

Thus, always a process : a passage, a portage, a trespassing, a route, a course, a motion. This is what has to be gone through. Experiencing always is a voyage through, through the very end, to the limit; this experiencing is a voyage through the voyage itself, through the raw material which is the voyage through time. Time is the voyage : how shall we go through it ? We should mould ourselves into it, matching it from end to end, which is exactly endless—or else, ending separately every moment. This is experiencing always.
"Always" really means "all the time". There is all the time a motion for the subject of experiencing. She is motion herself, she is nothing else, she has to merge herself with it. This is the only way she has of experiencing : nobody is experiencing by just standing there still, watching, as if in front of an object. One has to go through with experiencing, otherwise nothing is done.
(This is the reason why, as onlookers of Soun-gui's experiment or commentators, we should not just watch or talk or even think. We in turn have to go on experiencing her experiment, get on her voyage through, not knowing to which shores, or whether to any, bound. What is called "art" or "artistic practice" means first and foremost the enacting of an experimental material. Before being a matter of "esthetic judgement", of beauty, of the sublime or even just of form and sensitivity, it is a matter of experiencing : art articulates experiencing. We must allow it to articulate us, which also always involves disarticulation. We should remain flexible, even brittle : sense and truth should not be already in our speech. Speech should also be gone through and processed to other ends than speech. Besides, that's how "art" begins : by sending speech off. It is not explicated, just exhibited.)
Thus, experiencing is being the experiment: otherwise nothing will have been done (just represented, imagined, commented upon). Soun-gui Kim is the experiment being here dicussed under her name. Here, she is no individual: she is the person of her experiencing. Which is the reason why from now on we shall name her, Soun-gui Kim, "the experiment" : the experiment which is experiencing matter as time and time as matter.
Is this one and the same experiencing: matter as time and time as matter ? So, is this just one voyage through ? Just one subject ?
In a sense, it is. Matter as time is just what it is, its own substance or its own time. What we are talking about is the material proper of matter as time, in general. Are both matters the same ? (But could we imagine two distinct matters ? does not "matter" signify the oneness of the world, all the rest being just various voyages through ? immaterial voyages through matter ?)
Matter "in general" can exactly not constitute a general term or an abstraction, distinct from specific matters, since the materiality of matter lies in a determined specificity, in the unique substance of all things, thus of every particular thing, singularly experienced one by one. The toughness, resilience, stuff, texture, gravity, thickness, immanence of things as things, which implies it is every time such or such a thing, and none other. Because something which is not a thing is nothing, and if it is not such a thing, then it has to be another one.
Experiencing is also a thing, or nothing at all. And the words to speak it and the things are also things themselves, and the sense of these words are things, as well as their understanding or misunderstanding. So that understanding the experiment is also a thing : experiencing the understanding or misunderstanding which is the experiment. Indeed, the experiencing is not gone through to end up with what is commonly an "idea" or a "view of things". It is no doubt about "seeing" in a sense. But the view of things is itself a thing (whereas the "view" or "notion" philosophers and theorists mention would sometimes only be a non-thing's look on things, produced by a subject who would not undertake the actual voyage through the density of things, but would rather fly over them.) Seeing things is a thing involved in matter just like the voyage through matter. Involved: both trapped in matter's impenetrability and woven into all its threads, exuded from all its processes, oozing from all its runs. The experiment, or the voyage through is matter going through itself, from end to end: but in fact, that very thing is Time already.

So that, if the only matter there is is the one and only matter—"matter" meaning the oneness of the world and that any "other world" if there were one (but there is none, exactly) is still of this world, made of the same matter—the specificity of time as matter is necessarily part of the "general" matter (which has no existence as such). It's the part made up of matter's going through itself. It is the part of the reversing in which the density of matter is gone through itself by itself in all its parts. An immaterial reversal, an internal twisting of matter which is the making, the presenting of matter.
Then, this is no single particle, no atom. But in every atom (call it bead, bubble, mass, piece, shrap, thing) the way the atom of matter turns itself into matter and becomes matter. It is the way this piece is made : how it comes to be, how it comes into being. Not where it comes from (since it never comes from anywhere but the one and only matter), but how its own coming, happening, advent, is done, folded and unfolded in its singular event. This is time as matter : the time of the coming, how it comes to itself, how a matter is connected and folded unto itself, how it coalesces.
In a way, this would be matter as matter : its active substance. For if there was no time through which matter is folded and connected, made up and united, opened and put outside in (can we really imagine this ?), matter would not materialise ? It would remain outside of itself, sheer separate pieces, not even "pieces" really since there would only be their altogether sheer scattering without an end or a beginning. Then there would only be sheer simple space. But this space would not even be space : it would not serve as spacing between things, from one thing to another, it would not hold a single thing. It would not be the space of any end, not of any voyage. There would be no passage or portage. When you have space, that is when you have a thereness (things taking place and thus making space), when you have extension from one point to another, extending the width of a distance and sliding along that distance, then you have time. When you have space, you have time, and you cannot hold these two concepts as distinct.
Time is matter getting space. Time is the thing in the "to" of the phrase "from one point to another". This "to" means "all the way to": it means the voyage through, the passage from one point to another, from one end or one shore to another in each opening of matter. If there is a body—a grain of sand, a big rock—it goes from one end to the other of its own extension. Even if this passage goes quite fast, it takes time.
Time is what it takes to open and cross space, and space is what is opened to have all things happen (their advent is not however from some point behind space : they are the opening of space). Time is what will have to be taken to open space. It is what space takes from itself—from its own sheer immanence—to distance itself within itself and take place.
Time has to be taken for things to be. Time must always be taken : one billionth of a second or billions of light-years. Ten minutes' waiting or an eighteen hours' flight. A bufferfly's wings filckering or the three days it takes to thaw a block of ice. Each time, a suspension is needed, a "not yet" which will be succeeded by an "already here", never anticipated while one exists in its advent. This is no "future" and "past": these categories only have to do with time as already interpreted, as social and historical. What we are discussing here is a finer kind of time : the present time as it presents itself, always not yet and always already there. Time in its very slow flowing, as in an ice block's thawing, an unperceivable yet unremitting deformation, enacted as soon as ice is exposed in a space which is not ice : the setting into motion of difference, outside of which there is no distinction.
Time must be taken for things to present themselves as they are. Which also means (it is the same thing) for things to be experienced, gone through from one end to another, from their first to their last possibility. All things such as a country, its borders, its frontiers, its passes, its straits, its roadways and waterways, its hollows and excesses and levels, its islands and its clouds.

But where should time be taken from ? It is certainly with this question only that the experiencing of time as matter really begins.
Where should time be taken from, if nothing, no thing, is given before it ? "Before" time would be yet another time, that is, the same time already present. Before time, there is only the absence of any "before" and "after". You can go to no before or after to take time from.
Time is taken from nothing. It is nothing, made of nothing, it is "nothing" placed in the core of the thing to go from the thing to itself. It is "nothing" of presence at the core, or in the hollow of the fullness of the thing.
Which is why time as matter is no specific matter nor anything else but matter. It is just matter coming unto itself: matter until matter, the thing until the thing.
Time is taken from this nothing which until is.

"Until then/there", meaning until the other shore, the other end, the other country, the other extreme, and more generally the other fragment of thing needed to make up a thing. For instance: from the Orient until the West and back until the Orient, is what is needed to make up a world.
There is no such thing as first "the world", as if it were a big indefinite lump, self-centered and focused, immediately present to itself in itself by all its ends in contact with one another, no discontinuity there within the immanent mass, no places or directions either : for then you would have no "space" or "time", thus no reason for this dead (not even dead, just raw and thick) lump to exit itself and come unto "itself". There would be no reason for a world to be.
If there is a world, there is a reason. But it should not be pursued outside of this world : it is the arising of the world itself, its advent, the way the lump (thing, matter, what there is, as you may wish to call it) relates unto itself, goes until the end of itself, is stretched towards itself, the way all the atoms of a rock are stretched between one another towards the rock, until the end which is the rock, one rock, this one. Time and space make up the force stretching the world to itself : opening it, making it gape and hold. Rock, planet, galaxy or particles to the most insignificant connected states of quarks.
To put it briefly : "the world" is not an object. It is the subject of the experiment.
Every thing has its orient, and so its occident also as well as its "until" from one the other. Similarly, the world goes from a grain of sand all the way to the cosmos, and from there again to the village, and all the way to a lock of hair, and to this word I am now typing on my computer : time. Just another coming or going every time, another relation to myself, another connection, another voyage. The voyage in a sense is nothing. It is none of those things : it is the coming of the thing. It has to come, it has to happen, otherwise there is nothing. And it does happen : the world keeps opening. It did not begin "one day" : it is every day the infinite opening of time and space.

One should not mistake "It passes" and "It is happening".
"It passes" is the thing in time : it comes and goes, it is to come or past, it exits time or vanishes into it, still leaving time as it was, like a big soft empty shell. With things coming and going, you don't experience time.
"It is happening" is time itself. It is time within the thing itself : it happens is within, the subject, the self, the privacy of things. Time does not pass. It is still here. But it is passage. It is "happening". Its "always" is not immovable, its "here" is no place. Its continuance
(here, I mean here, in this very instant and in this very flying of the very instant it is happening in your very reading, the way sense happens in the portage from one letter to the next, from one word to the next, the way it happens it makes sense and that sense in turn makes sense in your head or elsewhere and thus it is also happening indefinitely in all directions at the same instant)
—it is the continuance of the nothing hollowed out and running itself over to become yet another nothing : a nothingness that keeps altering as it remains the nothingness it is. Thus its place is nowhere, meaning where every part, every piece of thing is altered and never is the same. But this nothingness stretched all the way to the other side of the thing is the force making the thing, the world, come and hold.
Not the thawing ice, not the falling drop, not the sound of the drop moving into my ear, not its vapor exhaled impalpably into the air, not the plane flying from Seoul to Paris, not the artist walking inside this plane, not the line drawn by the artist to represent her two-way flight as an eight-shaped loop that, if turned sideways, resembles the mathematical sign for infinity : it is just happening from one to the other, between one another, endlessly. What is itself, by itself, happening, that absolutely never stops happening : time, its own identity to itself a passing in itself from itself to itself. It passes itself, beyond itself constantly if you want, and still remains within itself. Its inside, what is is proper, is this infinite leaving itself. Its "itself" is nothing else but this always becoming other than itself. Its presence to itself, its substance or its conscience is its own renewed absence, stretched again towards itself. This is what is to be experienced, and this is why much art is here required, much artifice and pretense, much invention and installation, much manipulation, decomposition and interweaving, much turning on and setting off.
Such an absence-taut opening is the hollow which was opened up for all presences—sense as well, at the core of all presences. At the core or in the hollow of those presences, an opening of presence itself, there is time, some time, a spacing of time.
Rather than a lack, it is a surfeit of presence. It hollows out the space of self-outpouring in which every presence comes into presence and is presented.
For such is the secret of presence : it is not just present, it come into presence, it comes to presence, and thus comes to itself. What would just be here present, motionless, not coming from anywhere, going nowhere, that would not be : it would instantly crumble into dust. But presence is still coming, coming unto itself and happening to itself. It rises from its own bottom to its own surface and emerges towards other presences, bottoms: their eyes, ears and skins.
Thus you have pictures. Pictures are not primarily copies : they are first of all outbursts, explosions or outpourings of presence. They are presences that come fully loaded with the time of their own presentations : upsurging, taut and vibrant with the tension thanks to which they offer themselves to our view.
In this sense, pictures have nothing to do with beauty. They have to do with a tenseness of the gaze. A picture pulls the gaze tight, it draws it, it attracts it until its own coming unto it. The tenseness of a picture is time. In time, I move up to face what is coming, I go all the way to a thing itself just coming until itself. I am thus going until the coming of the thing. What is called "an artist's work," is the organizing of this experience.
In art, a picture is not a representation. It does not show something—the shape, figure and color of something—but it shows there is this thing. It shows the presence of the thing, its coming to presence. To say the truth, it is the picture that brings the thing's coming.
Soun-gui's picture is always one that comes and goes, and her video monitors sometimes are also frozen pictures of monitors that begin to melt away as soon as they appear on show. Such a picture does not "reproduce". Rather, what it does "reproduce" (namely, a singer, an astronaut, a frog, John Cage's head) is not at stake as it is "reproduced" (duplicated, imitated) but as it is produced: what is imitated by imitation is the novelty of the original. It does not "imitate" it, it re-produces it.

So that there is always something beginning, upsurging, in this picture. Which means there is a tenseness of time. There is an arising of the thing, (as there is an arising of the sun, or a sunrise). The thing is born out of the night, or rather it is night being born out of itself, tearing itself up, falling to pieces, shaping up its formlessness, lightening up its bottomless darkness (a glassy bottomless darkness, that of the video screen), slicing up its density into slivers and surfaces, splinters and folds.
Thus what comes into the picture, in one stroke (for every picture is in one stroke, line, shape, color, shadow and volume) is the unimaginable of presence : its time, the taut instant of its advent, its inauguration. That after no before anticipates. That now which never freezes, wholly mobilised by this tenseness, this offering of oneself to a possible view, i. e., to another movement of coming, to a mutual tenseness of the eye willing to imagine, to fill up with images, to leave behind the night of its crystalline.
Speech is always behind us and before us. If I talk, I presume I have already done so as well as all the indefinite run of words in this and all other languages, the whole linking and pulling of meanings. Whereas a scream, a song or a picture presume nothing and are linked to nothing.
Rather, they presume the bottomless pit or the darkness they come from and contain in themselves, filled with it to the point of running over.
As we reach this point, experiencing time as our time, as a contemporary experience, must come to terms with the absence of myths. In a myth, the primeval chaos or gloom is figured out by a song or a picture. Through this figuring out, the source is abstracted from its upspringing, removed from its rending up, pacified, laid to rest and offered in a motionless time that contents itself with telling the violent time of beginnings. But we are now left without a tale—we contemporaries of each other throughout the whole extension of this world, from East to West, unable any longer to make out which side or direction is which.
We are left without a tale, or else an infinite tale of the finite being has replaced the finite tale of the infinite being. But an infinite tale is no longer a tale.
We must receive the full shock of those times of beginnings, which are also those of the infinite end, those times no tale has ever reined in, figured nor represented. Soun-gui Kim once wrote: "We are born out of nothing and return to it every instant". This "we," is of us today, contemporaries of the world as it becomes the world {and no longer the earth or nature or the Creation or the cosmos). The slightest start is ever shaking us. This is the time for presence springing ahead of itself, a picture ever new, ever ready to fade out, nothing imaginary, quite the reverse, the inimaginable reality. This is the time for unheard, inaudible songs, and unimaginable images : the time for art to be without any reservation the technique of upsurging.
The origin is no longer the object of a question which gets its answer through a tale. The origin is a matter of experiencing, and an eternal return of the same. It is coming back to us every instant and we are coming back to it, the origin of the very instant and in the instant.
Soun-gui Kim is fond of telling a tale she heard when she was a child. On a trip, an old man has to go over the "three-year hill" : if ever you fall there, it means you only have three more years to live. The old man trips and falls. He laments his destiny. But a boy advises him to fall again and again, thus increasing each time by three years his life expectancy, and so on indefinitely.
Not the origin frozen from the beginning—like a block of ice kept away from all heat, or a fixed view removed from every gaze or a cybernetics program without any random element - nor the origin that dove recklessly into the flux of becoming. Not the eternal nor the ceaseless but something which is neither, or this skipping from one to the other, from one into the other : i. e., time itself, the tenseness of originary time. Death opening onto the eternal return of birth : the most difficult thought, an experiencing that goes all the way, no longer able to know itself or show itself as "experiencing". But "art" does not "talk" of anything else.
One of the following : either the origin is a given, already here, established and told—this rock for instance is a god, or his covering or his power—or else the origin is not a given. In which case, either the rock is still a rock—a mineral aggregate—or some inlet to the origin, and its own inlet into itself has to be looked for in the rock itself.
A whole technique of inletting is required here. Skills are needed to know how to broach a power, an elasticity, an electricity, a blow, a moisture of salt in the rock. Skills are needed to know how to make a piece of rock a piece of work.
To us, "work of art" does not mean a beautiful object, but rather a "thing switched on the power of an originary time". A thing which is open, divided from itself and from the given generally. A thing returned to what is not a state, but a surprise, a jump, an explosion. A thing worked on by an opening technique which brings back within her the upsurging of the origin. A technique of the eternal return of the inaugural time.
To tell the truth, this can no longer be called by us a "work of art". Not by chance has this phrase fallen out of the realm of art in its contemporary form (immediately connoting the merely decorative and the dictates of the market). We speak of an artist's "work" as if to signify indissolubly in one word the work of art and its working, the active continuance in the work of the technical skill that enables our access to the originary time. A "work of art" keeps being under work, or in labour. Ceaselessly, it lets itself be opened again, and spring out, just like a fountain recycling and pumping up its water to have it spurt again from its plugs or lips.
Thus, Soun-gui's experiment is also an experiencing of the voyage through art itself, through this singular apparatus we call "art" and its recent history ; a passage until the other side, where the "artist" no longer achieves "a work of art" but performs something else, still to be named by us, if it is to be named at all. Such an experiment which is that of contemporary art as a whole, is made by Soun-gui in her very own way, as an experiencing of fading out. Each time, her time is one of dissolution, disappearance, evading or erasing. Of an angle closing up or the aperture being shuttered, of a sliding to the side, off screen or into the digital decomposition deep into the monitor or deep into the picture itself. Maps are cast into deep shadows, photographs become blurred, screens melt down, noises die away, figures thin out and the frog jumps off.

Of course, it is impossible to bring back, or go back to, the origin : it is the very essence of impossibility. Death can only return you to a pre-natal locus by leading you into nothingness. But this only means that in the workings of art (in what is darkly agitated under this name so loaded down and downloaded, so downtrodden, so cast down with a whole heap of meanings), what is at issue is just a technique, or techniques, of acceding to the impossible.
But the impossible is not arrived at the way one would reach a place. First of all because it is the impossible, then because it is not somewhere, not even someplace else out of this world (since all places are in this world, all the way to the limits of all galaxies). It is where we are, here and now. The thing is to accede to the very own tenseness of the here and now.
Here and now, the very own tenseness of our time—our own tenseness, what stretches us and lifts us up, what sometimes frets us and exhausts us, or sometimes throbs our blood vessels almost to rupturing—is the tenseness of the infinite beyond measure. Nothing fixes this time under the spell of a definite rhythmical pattern. No gods, no heroes, no views of the world or of destiny have volunteered to effect its enactment and stylisation. On the contrary, that special style carrying us away is one removing all such figures. No form any longer affords us an a priorisheltering from the formlessness of the impossible, nor does it bring us any closer to it. It seems that nothing is at hand to tie up this time with a knot of sense.
But such is the very stuff of our experiencing this time. Such is our very territory; and a voyage through it demands that we go beyond every territory, compelling us to begin from that very same place where we thought we should end.

Univercity of Southern California

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