(p) brendon wocke_derrida-textually onscreen

of 22 /22
Abstract Neither fiction, nor documentary or biography, the film D’ailleurs, Derrida by Safaa Fathy is a cinematographic exploration of the philosopher Jacques Derrida and of his environment. It is at once a philosophic seminar, an interview and an experi - ment in cinematographic deconstruction. Accompanied by the book Tourner les mots, the film is deeply undercut in its cinematographic nature by the textual content of the essays by Fathy and Derrida contained therein. The book problematises and, to a degree, calls the film into question, seeking to reframe it in purely textual terms. It is a question of what lies between the “actor” and the “author”, between the perfor- mativity of the text and the film and in the dialogue between Fathy and Derrida as it traverses both the film and the text. In this inter-artwork, everything plays on the words which animate the transfer between the paper and the screen. In the light of this exchange, let us consider the effect of the cinematographic and the textual play. Résumé Ni fiction, ni documentaire, ni biographie, le film de Safaa Fathy D’ailleurs, Derrida est une exploration cinématographique du philosophe Jacques Derrida et de son environnement. C’est un séminaire philosophique, un entretien et une ex- périence de la déconstruction cinématographique. Accompagné par un livre, Tour- ner les mots, le film est fortement troublé dans sa nature cinématographique par le contenu textuel des essais écrits par Fathy et Derrida. Le livre problématise et met partiellement le film en question, cherchant à le recadrer en termes purement tex- tuels. Il s’agit de se questionner sur ce qui se cache entre l’« acteur » et l’« auteur », entre la performativité du texte et du film et dans le dialogue entre Fathy et Derrida qui traverse les deux ouvrages. Dans cette œuvre intermédiale, tout se joue sur les mots qui animent le transfert entre l’encre et l’écran. Dans l’optique de cet échange, considérons donc l’effet du jeu, cinématographiquement et textuellement. Brendon WOCKE Derrida: Textually Onscreen To refer to this article: Brendon WOCKE, “Derrida: Textually Onscreen”, in: Interférences littéraires/Literaire interferenties, October 2013, 11, “L’encre et l’écran à l’ œuvre”, Karine ABADIE & Catherine CHARTRAND-LAPORTE (eds.), 93-112. http://www.interferenceslitteraires.be ISSN : 2031 - 2790

Upload: mondelos7705

Post on 17-Nov-2015




1 download

Embed Size (px)


Brendon Wocke_Derrida-Textually Onscreen


  • Abstract

    Neither fiction, nor documentary or biography, the film Dailleurs, Derrida by Safaa Fathy is a cinematographic exploration of the philosopher Jacques Derrida and of his environment. It is at once a philosophic seminar, an interview and an experi-ment in cinematographic deconstruction. Accompanied by the book Tourner les mots, the film is deeply undercut in its cinematographic nature by the textual content of the essays by Fathy and Derrida contained therein. The book problematises and, to a degree, calls the film into question, seeking to reframe it in purely textual terms. It is a question of what lies between the actor and the author, between the perfor-mativity of the text and the film and in the dialogue between Fathy and Derrida as it traverses both the film and the text. In this inter-artwork, everything plays on the words which animate the transfer between the paper and the screen. In the light of this exchange, let us consider the effect of the cinematographic and the textual play.


    Ni fiction, ni documentaire, ni biographie, le film de Safaa Fathy Dailleurs, Derrida est une exploration cinmatographique du philosophe Jacques Derrida et de son environnement. Cest un sminaire philosophique, un entretien et une ex-prience de la dconstruction cinmatographique. Accompagn par un livre, Tour-ner les mots, le film est fortement troubl dans sa nature cinmatographique par le contenu textuel des essais crits par Fathy et Derrida. Le livre problmatise et met partiellement le film en question, cherchant le recadrer en termes purement tex-tuels. Il sagit de se questionner sur ce qui se cache entre l acteur et l auteur , entre la performativit du texte et du film et dans le dialogue entre Fathy et Derrida qui traverse les deux ouvrages. Dans cette uvre intermdiale, tout se joue sur les mots qui animent le transfert entre lencre et lcran. Dans loptique de cet change, considrons donc leffet du jeu, cinmatographiquement et textuellement.

    Brendon WockeDerrida: Textually Onscreen

    To refer to this article: Brendon Wocke, Derrida: Textually Onscreen, in: Interfrences littraires/Literaire interferenties, October 2013, 11, Lencre et lcran l uvre, Karine AbAdie & Catherine chArtrAnd-LAporte (eds.), 93-112.

    http://www.interferenceslitteraires.be ISSN : 2031 - 2790

  • Genevive FAbry (UCL)Anke GiLLeir (KU Leuven)Gian Paolo Giudiccetti (UCL)Agns Guiderdoni (FNRS UCL)Ben de bruyn (FWO KU Leuven)Ortwin de GrAeF (ku Leuven)Jan hermAn (KULeuven)Marie hoLdsWorth (UCL)Guido LAtr (UCL)

    Nadia Lie (KU Leuven)Michel Lisse (FNRS UCL)Anneleen mAsscheLein (KU Leuven)Christophe meure (FNRS UCL)Reine meyLAerts (KU Leuven)Stphanie VAnAsten (FNRS UCL)Bart VAn den bosche (KU Leuven)Marc VAn VAeck (KU Leuven)Pieter VerstrAeten (KU Leuven)

    Olivier Ammour-mAyeur (Universit Sorbonne Nouvelle -Paris III & Universit Toulouse II Le Mirail)Ingo berensmeyer (Universitt Giessen)Lars bernAerts (Universiteit Gent & Vrije Universiteit Brussel) Faith binckes (Worcester College Oxford) Philiep bossier (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) Franca bruerA (Universit di Torino)lvaro cebALLos Viro (Universit de Lige)Christian cheLebourG (Universit de Lorraine Nancy II)Edoardo costAdurA (Friedrich Schiller Universitt Jena) Nicola creiGhton (Queens University Belfast)William M. decker (Oklahoma State University)Dirk deLAbAstitA (Facults Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix Namur)Michel deLViLLe (Universit de Lige)Csar dominGuez (Universidad de Santiago de Compostella & Kings College)

    Gillis dorLeijn (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) Ute heidmAnn (Universit de Lausanne)Klaus H. kieFer (Ludwig Maxilimians Universitt Mnchen)Michael koLhAuer (Universit de Savoie)Isabelle krzyWkoWski (Universit Stendhal-Grenoble III)Sofiane LAGhouAti (Muse Royal de Mariemont)Franois LecercLe (Universit Paris Sorbonne Paris IV)Ilse LoGie (Universiteit Gent)Marc mAuFort (Universit Libre de Bruxelles)Isabelle meuret (Universit Libre de Bruxelles)Christina morin (Queens University Belfast) Miguel norbArtubArri (Universiteit Antwerpen)Olivier Odaert (Universit de Limoges)Andra oberhuber (Universit de Montral)Jan oosterhoLt (Carl von Ossietzky Universitt Oldenburg) Mat snAuWAert (University of Alberta Edmonton)

    conseil de rdaction redactieraad

    David mArtens (KU Leuven & UCL) Rdacteur en chef - HoofdredacteurMatthieu serGier (UCL & Factults Universitaires Saint-Louis), Laurence VAn nuijs (FWO KU Leuven), Guillaume Willem (KU Leuven Redactiesecretaris Elke dhoker (KU Leuven)Lieven dhuLst (KU Leuven Kortrijk)Hubert roLAnd (FNRS UCL)Myriam WAtthee-deLmotte (FNRS UCL)

    Interfrences littraires / Literaire interferentiesKU Leuven Faculteit Letteren

    Blijde-Inkomststraat 21 Bus 3331B 3000 Leuven (Belgium)

    Contact : matthi[email protected] & [email protected]

    comit scientifique Wetenschappelijk comit

    comit de direction directiecomit

  • Interfrences littraires/Literaire interferenties, n 11, octobre 2013


    derrida: textually onscreen

    While primarily known for his large body of philosophical and critical works, Jacques Derrida was also notably involved throughout his career in a series of tex-tual, visual, architectural and cinematographic experiments that sought, through both theory and praxis, to express the underlying issues of what one could loosely term his philosophy, in a non-habitual or non-academic manner. His architectu-ral collaboration on the design of a garden as part of the Parc de la Villette with Peter Eisenman, his collaborations with Valerio Adami (reproduced in part in La Vrit en peinture), the three films in which he featured, directed by Ken McMullen, Safaa Fathy and Amy Kofman, as well as the 1988 video installation Disturbance (among the jars) with Gary Hill, are all testimonies to his extra-textual experiments that can otherwise be seen textually in works such as Glas, La Carte postale, Tympan and La Vrit en peinture.1

    Neither fiction nor documentary, the three films in which Jacques Derrida participated (Ken McMullens Ghostdance, Safaa Fathys Dailleurs, Derrida and Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofmans Derrida) trace a fine line between art, meditation, confessional, seminar, and cinematic deconstruction. The three films share strong autobiographical tendencies that had already begun to appear in Derridas texts, but were nevertheless accentuated onscreen in films where Derrida plays a fictional ver-sion of himself (Ghostdance) or where the content is more overtly biographic, even if not very traditionally so (Dailleurs, Derrida and Derrida).2 Accompanied by texts (such as Echographies of Television3), essays, and the further transcribed publication of the views Derrida expressed therein, the films form a visual record of the philoso-pher and his environment.

    Among these films, Dailleurs, Derrida, the 1999 documentary by Safaa Fathy, is accompanied by the most complete textual treatment by both Derrida and Fathy, in the form of the book Tourner les mots.4 While the film traces a relatively autobio-graphic journey through Algeria, Spain, California and Paris, it is nevertheless fil-med in what one could term a Derridean cinematographic aesthetic a visual style that one can trace through all the films in which Derrida participated and which is marked by long meditative shots, an accompanying reflective tempo and above all,

    1. Jacques derridA and Peter eisenmAn, Chora L Works, New York, The Monacelli Press, 1997, + R (par-dessus le march) , in: Derrire le Miroir, 1975, 214; La Vrit en peinture, Paris, Flammarion, 1978; Glas, Paris, Galile, 1974; La Carte postale: De Socrate Freud et au-del, Paris, Flam-marion, 1980; Marges de la philosophie, Paris, Minuit, 1972.

    2. Ken mcmuLLen (dir.), Ghost Dance, United Kingdom, Pinnacle Vision, 1983; Safaa FAthy (dir.), Dailleurs, Derrida, France, ditions Montparnasse, 2008. [All translations are mine]; Kirby dick and Amy zierinG koFmAn (dir.), Derrida, France, Seven7, 2002.

    3 Jacques derridA and Bernard steiGLer, Echographies of Television filmed interviews, transla-tion Jennifer bAjorek, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2002.

    4. Jacques derridA and Safaa FAthy, Tourner les mots: Au bord dun film, Paris, Galile/Arte, 2000. [All translations are mine.]

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen


    by the abundant presence of the voice of Derrida himself. But more interesting in this case is the manner in which the book and its essays, (two by Fathy, one by Derrida, and one which is co-signed) interlace with the visual material. Written and published post facto, the book seeks essentially to textualize the experience of the film: it amounts to the publication of the filmic dialogue, between actor and direc-tor, filmmaker and philosopher, the re-rendering of the film in book form. The interest lies in the manner in which the dialogue is, in turn, rendered both textually and visually and the manner in which the participants account for this dialogue which individually and collectively takes place between the acteur and the auteur in so far as they reverse the role traditionally taken by Derrida as the (undisputed) author of his philosophical texts. Furthermore, the book recasts elements of the film, bearing (and representing) the trace of the invisible in describing certain filmic sequences which were left on the cutting room floor.

    Dailleurs, Derrida and Tourner les mots also touch on the notion of perfor-mativity, which is central to certain Derridean concepts and to his appearances on screen (regarding Derrida he underlines the artificial, ventriloquistic nature of his appearances). Dailleurs, Derrida forms an essential background to an understanding of Derridas performances more generally, laying out the relationship between Tourner les mots and the film, and thus more generally considered, between text and performance. In considering this particular relationship between text and film, one can ask what arises out of the differences in the approach of the texts (cinemato-graphic and written) when the play on words relies solely on the ear. To this end Tourner les mots as a title is itself interesting, the English translation essentially means to film the words in a construction that plays on turn (as another meaning of tourner to film) and the chameleon like quality of words which can be (and are) turned this way and that within the space of Derridean logic. Finally, what of deconstruction? Where can one locate the deconstructive act in relation to the film and to Tourner les mots and how does one measure the textual and cinematographic practice of this critical idiom?

    Whereas for Fathy, echoing the words of Maurice Blanchot, one has to choose between la parole, la vue, between speech and sight5, that is between the film and the text; this essay seeks to underline the supplementary relationship en-gendered between Dailleurs, Derrida and Tourner les mots. This resonates with Ginette Michauds Points de vue daveugle in which she speaks of the secret alliance between these works: Tourner les mots allows the discarded images of the cinematic editing process to be saved, while Dailleurs, Derrida invents an anacoluthic and ellip-tical syntax in order to do justice to this wordy subject.6 This essay seeks thus to explore the manner in which the film Dailleurs, Derrida and the book Tourner les mots exist in relation to each other, how the supplemental relationship between them influences the structure and the play within both the textual and cinematographic work. In the movement between the mediums of film and essay we can detect, as in the play of the word and image, and in the veritable cinematographic play on words, a continuum between paper and screen, suggestive of a cinemato-textual aesthetic which blends elements of both the visual and the textual, which we here explore.

    5. Jacques derridA and Safaa FAthy, Tourner les mots, 128.6. Ginette MichAud, Points de vue daveugle, in: Critique, 2001, 646, 232-233.

  • Brendon Wocke


    1. tourner contre-jour : the contre-jeu

    Dailleurs, Derrida, the title of Safaa Fathys film is at once a blatantly direct title, Derrida Elsewhere Derrida in Spain, in France and in Southern California and a play on the notions of otherwise and elsewhere. The film follows Der-rida from his home in Ris-Orangis, a town south of Paris, to his seminar at the cole normale suprieure in Paris and to the University of Southern California in Irvine, via the Spanish cities of Toledo and Almeria. But it is not a linear journey and the arrangement of the various short interviews, comments and mediations do not fol-low a strict narrative or logical structure. Rather, the journey spirals philosophically, as Derrida discusses various elements pertinent to the concept of otherness as well as further autobiographic issues which underline much of his writing. Further-more, and perhaps more importantly for the notion of presence developed in the course of his work, in this film, Derrida is, indeed, elsewhere. His voice is often heard diegetically, he is elsewhere, invisible to the camera yet fantasmatically pre-sent as his voice draws a trace of his passage and continued attendance within the structure of the film.

    But Dailleurs, Derrida plays also with a further meaning of dailleurs othe-rwise, moreover indicative of the manner in which the film encourages a cer-tain audio/visual exploration of Derridas work, an other manner of exploring his textual works and the themes underlined therein. This manner moreover ex-tends and encompasses autobiographic and visual elements that put the notion of otherness into perspective as evidenced in the opening scene of the film where Derrida details an original (autobiographical and philosophical) otherness that is at the heart of his philosophical development.

    What has, for a long time, appeared to me, under the name of literature, of deconstruction, of phallogocentrism etc. could not have come about without this reference to a strange otherness, that is, childhood, the other side of the Medi-terranean, French culture, finally, Europe. This can be thought of in terms of the transition of the limit; otherness, even when it is close by is always beyond a certain boundary, a boundary within. We carry this elsewhere, this otherness, in our hearts, we carry it in our bodies, and this is what otherness (elsewhere) means, the elsewhere that is here, for if elsewhere were somewhere else, it would not be other.7

    The opening statement of the film Dailleurs, Derrida underlines at once the personal nature of what is to come, the ailleurs inside and the play within the no-tion of ailleurs: the necessity of the otherness to be located within oneself for if one were to locate the otherness elsewhere it would no longer be other. The ailleurs must be ici, here within; reminiscent of the deconstructive movement that is located within the text the critical mass with which it is undone. More than merely related to the autobiographic journey of the Algerian-born Derrida, the notion of the ailleurs ici, as explored in this film, can be seen in terms of comments made by Derrida in the course of his first cinematographic experience, playing a fictionalized version of

    7. Ce qui vient moi depuis longtemps sous le nom dcriture, de la dconstruction, du phallogocentrisme, etc. na pas pu procder sans cette rfrence un trange ailleurs, lenfance, lau-del de la Mditerrane, la culture franaise, lEurope finalement. Il sagit de penser partir de ce passage de la limite, lailleurs mme quand il est trs prs cest toujours lau-del dune limite, mais en soi. On a lailleurs dans le cur, on la dans le corps et cest a que veut dire lailleurs, lailleurs ici, si lailleurs tait ailleurs a ne serait pas un ailleurs. (Safaa FAthy, Dailleurs, Derrida) [My translation]

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen


    himself in Ken McMullens 1983 Ghostdance. When asked, in the course of the film by Pascale Ogier, as to whether he believes in ghosts, Derrida describes the manner in which he feels ventriloquized by his cinematographic experience:

    Thats a difficult question. Firstly, youre asking a ghost whether he believes in ghosts. Here, the ghost is me. Since Ive been asked to play myself in a film which is more or less improvised, I feel as if Im letting a ghost speak for me. Curiously, instead of playing myself without knowing it, I let a ghost ventriloquize my words or play my role which is even more amusing. The cinema is the art of ghosts, a battle of phantoms. Thats what I think the cinemas about, when its not boring. Its the art of allowing ghosts to come back. Thats what were doing now. Therefore, if Im a ghost, but believe Im speaking with my own voice, its precisely because I believe its my own voice that I allow it to be taken over by anothers voice. Not just any other voice, but that of my own ghosts. So ghosts do exist, and its the ghosts who answer you. Perhaps they already have.8

    It is thus that the ailleurs ici, the interior otherwise/elsewhere, is related cine-matographically to the phantom: the ghost who takes on the voice of Derrida, speaking for him onscreen (Curiously, instead of playing myself without knowing it, I let a ghost ventriloquize my words or play my role which is even more amu-sing). Derrida furthermore underlines the sensation of estrangement at the heart of his cinematographic experience in Lettres sur un aveugle, the essay he contributed to Tourner les mots :

    Ailleurs in the title of the film (Dailleurs, Derrida...), was not only designating another place where one could find, another scene from which, or another country to which, the person and the character which I am both in turn and simultaneously, was coming or going. Ailleurs should forever carry the un-derstanding that I, the Actor, was feeling outside of the film, a stranger to all that the film could represent or compose regarding me. And all of this must be felt, like an effect of estrangement.9

    The uncanny experience of being taken over by the potential otherness harbou-red within is at the heart of the ailleurs ici : Derrida is cinematographically ven-triloquized by himself, overtaken by the transgressed barrier of author and spectatorship at play both in the improvised 1983 film and Fathys subsequent documentary. The other Derrida is already at play, both within and without, ci-nematographically estranged, vocally estranged, displaced within his theories (and displacing them), as well as most importantly in terms of the visual aesthetics ons-creen and the printed word. The other Derrida, the ailleurs within, originates in the ventriloquism and the visual doubling of the cinematographic experience and, while this is a touchstone of his written work and an autobiographical element of his life, it is nevertheless essentially enacted cinematographically. The ailleurs lies between the written and the visual.

    Written in the margins of Fathy and Derridas documentary, the title of their accompanying book Tourner les mots, also plays with notions that are under-

    8. Ken mcmuLLen, Ghost Dance.9. Ailleurs dans le titre du film (Dailleurs, Derrida...), ne dsignait pas seulement lautre lieu o se

    trouvaient, lautre scne do venaient, lautre pays o se rendaient la personne et le personnage que je suis tour tour ou simultanment. Ailleurs devrait aussi donner entendre que, toujours, moi, lActeur, je me suis senti hors du film, tranger tout ce que le film pouvait montrer ou composer de moi. Et tout cela devrait se sentir, comme un effet dtranget . (Jacques derridA and Safaa FAthy, Tourner les mots, 74.) [My translation]

  • Brendon Wocke


    lined and developed in the context of an amplified autobiographic undertaking. Signifying at once turn and film the title plays on the notion of a cinemato-graphic representation of the pun itself. Tourner les mots playing with (or turning) words and Tourner les mots, filming the words exists in parallel, indicative of the manner in which the film meditates on the notion of writing (especially the playful manner in which Derrida writes).

    Tourner les mots [to turn/film the words] would be to attempt to find the words, as we say, to find the right turn of phrase, to form sentences, to invent or the appropriate verbal expressions, without twisting, tying ones tongue seven times in ones mouth, however, in order to speak about what the film was, especially about its body of silence, starting from the preface to the shoot.10

    The subject of Tourner les mots is at once the tournage of the film, the film itself and the body of silence that surrounds the film: a search for a manner in which to do just homage to a work through invention and appropriation. Derrida and Fathy thus announce, in their collective introduction to the book, their modus operandi, the turn of phrase they seek and which becomes a recurrent theme.

    The play inaugurated in the title of the book continues throughout much of the articles, especially those signed by Fathy, Tourner sous surveillance and Tour-ner sur tous les fronts, in which Fathy details the very personal manner in which the production of the film took place. The title of the second essay in Tourner les mots: Tourner sous surveillance is indicative again of the cinematographic process (the actor under the cameras constant watch, the camera under the actors constant watch), recalling the play of words at stake in the title in the cinematographic repre-sentation of Derridas philosophical text.

    More than anything, Fathys essay Tourner sous surveillance enables the reader to follow the events surrounding the filming in a much more intimate manner than what would otherwise have been possible. For instance, Fathy details the manner in which, for the first time in 50 years, snow began to fall on the first day of filming in Algeria, how she was under constant surveillance and travelled with at least three guards even during the shortest possible journeys, how she spent evenings barri-caded in her hotel room, receiving telephonic directions from Derrida.11

    The notion of displacement is, furthermore, central to Tourner sous sur-veillance, and is explored throughout the essays penned by Fathy. She asks What could I have filmed in Paris in a documentary about a philosopher whose principle movements are between Ris-Orangis and the Boulevard Raspail ?12 The question is thus of how to structurally and cinematographically represent an intellectual journey. It is a question of how to best survey and underline Derridas Algerian otherness, but also one of placing the philosopher under observation (in an almost situationalist sense) in order to observe the improvised reaction of Derrida, a reac-tion at once to the camera and also to his surroundings. This open improvisation

    10. Tourner les mots, ce serait donc essayer de trouver les mots, comme on dit, chercher les tournures justes, faire des phrases, inventer ou sapproprier les expressions verbales, sans tourner sept fois la langue dans sa bouche, toutefois, pour parler de ce que fut un film, surtout son corps de silence, et ds la prface dun tournage. (Ibid., 16.) [My translation]

    11. Ibid., 34.12. Quaurai-je pu filmer Paris dans un documentaire sur un philosophe qui se dplace principalement

    entre Ris-Orangis et le boulevard Raspail ? (Ibid., 36.) [My translation]

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen


    and voyeuristic ventriloquism is all the more interesting when one considers that Derrida, for much of his early career, had a tenuous relationship with the media and only allowed himself to be photographed publically after 1979, a decade after he began to attract strong international academic attention.

    Tourner sur tous les fronts is the fourth and Fathys final essay in the collec-tion - which together with Tourner sous surveillance, bookends Derridas Lettres sur un aveugle. Where Tourner sous surveillance dealt with her experiences filming alone in Algeria, Tourner sur tous les fronts recounts both the genesis of the film itself and her journey with Derrida during the 1999 filming in Toledo and Almeria. Again the title plays with notions of the cinematographic process, filming on all fronts: from the initial versions of the project that were proposed to Arte, the Franco-Ger-man television channel, anchored initially at least in the realm of the possible, to the front lines of filming in Paris, Spain and the United States. Yet, these concrete locations in which the film was shot belie the philosophical implications of the cinematographic process here detailed - implications which form the veritable front lines at (and of) play - tourner sur tous les fronts, filming on all fronts, concrete and philosophical, real and metaphysical.

    This also underlies a certain phenomenological aspect that we can read, both within the film and in the text, structured around the notion of turning (tourner). That is to say that both the film and the text turn around Derridas words, circling them, seeking to present, or represent them in a manner that captures their meaning. But they also turn to the words which are at once both the subject and the object of study; it is only through the further deployment of Derridas words that the film and the text hope to capture, in their mutually supplemental nature, the essence of Derridas text. Remember, of course, that the cinematographic journey spirals philosophically, moving out and around, turning from place to place, and from page to page. Whereas the film seeks, in a double movement, to reflect upon and to offer an experience of Derridas work, Tourner les mots, in turn, seeks to recapture the experience of the film. That is to say that Dailleurs, Derrida seeks to capture a certain phenomenology of Derridas work as a whole, visually, poetically and autobiographically, while Tourner les mots seeks to (re)capture certain phenome-nological aspects of the film. In this we see the turn and the counter turn of the inter-artwork and of the double supplementary nature of Dailleurs, Derrida and Tourner les mots : a cinematographic exploration of textual phenomenology which turns to a textual consideration of cinematographic phenomenology.

    The play between the philosophical and the real, between the text and the image, is central to the mutually dependant structure of Dailleurs, Derrida and Tour-ner les mots, as Fathy herself says: What to choose, sight or the voice? And if sight spoke, if the eye wrote, there would be, perhaps, a visual writing. A text.13 The play on words, which unites and shatters the relationships between the visual appearance of the word, its pronunciation and the diverse meanings and interpretations which can be ascribed to it (and which is precisely what is at stake in the notion of tourner), is perhaps even better developed in the short opening essay Contre-jour signed by both Derrida and Fathy. Structured as a dialogue, this essay sets what one could call the primordial scene between actor, that is the subject of the film, and the cine-

    13. Que choisir, la parole ou la vue? Et si la vue parlait, si loeil crivait, il y aurait, peut-tre, une criture de la vue. Un texte. (Ibid.,129.) [My translation]

  • Brendon Wocke


    matographic author. However, the relationships are immediately problematised in so far as the characters within the dialogue remain, at least to begin with, relatively unidentified. The dialogue opens in textual silence [...] followed by from this point, I would like to continue in order to say something like : here we are, having come back to the scene of the film.14 And if the voices are ultimately identifiable, or rather, if the voices ultimately identify themselves, the point nevertheless is precisely that of a confused origin, an inter-bleeding of voices that establishes the necessity of the book as such and undercuts the authority of the film as complete, as having been conceived and written from beginning to end. Ginette Michaud underlines the man-ner in which the script for Dailleurs, Derrida was subject to multiple changes, Fathy ultimately abandoning the synopsis, allowing the film to move in its own indirection.15 It is here, recapturing the displaced origin and structure of the film, that the notion of a film journal, of a book written on the borders of the film, is proposed: But as if it was an afterthought, to remember, to keep a backdated journal, in the margins of the film I would call that a counter-journal.16 Contre-jour, a cinematographic tech-nique literally translated as against the daylight or backlighting, more eloquently considered in terms of the resulting silhouette, here plays against the notion of a contre-journal, a written supplement to the cinematographic profile of the subject. As Fathy and Derrida continue, playing notions of textual expression (journal) against questions of cinematography (contre-jour):

    On the other hand, the scene of the silhouette, if we could say that, which is also known as mise en abyme, was often performed in the film. Playing at per-formance. From the very first minute, in fact, we can detect its appearance in the film: from the place to which he is assigned, the Actor (alias Jacques Derrida, me) brings into view, camera in hand, both the Author of the film (alias Safaa Fathy, me) and the entire film crew, busy, on the terrace of a seaside Californian villa, setting up their own form of technology. That would have been sufficient, once and for all, to decentre the origin of the film, the word spoken by the Actor and the authority of the Author. [...] Elsewhere, in an equally furtive manner, we see the face of the Author in a window which resembles a mirror. Elsewhere again, we hear his voice; we recognise his im-perceptibly foreign accent, which has also come from elsewhere. 17

    To begin with, a cinematographic silhouette can also be known, as Derrida and Fathy assert, in certain cases as a mise en abyme - a structure within a struc-ture, an artwork within an artwork. This is then perhaps the primordial scene of the film, the very first scene, the scene of the contre-jour, the silhouette and the mise en abyme (a film within a book and a book within a film) in which, as Derrida and

    14. - partir de l, jenchanerais pour dire quelque chose comme : nous voici tous les deux revenus sur les lieux du film. (Ibid., 13.)

    15. Ginette M Ginette MichAud, Points de vue daveugle, 240.16. - Mais comme si nous tenions aprs coup, et pour mmoire, tenir une sorte de journal antidat, dans

    la marge dun film Jappellerais a un contre-journal. (Jacques derridA and Safaa FAthy, Tourner les mots.,13.) [My translation]

    17. Dailleurs la scne du contre-jour lui-mme [sic], si on peut dire, et certains lappellent aussi mise en abyme, elle fut souvent joue dans le film. Joue tre joue. Ds la premire minute, en effet, on pouvait la voir filme dans le film : depuis la place qui lui est assigne, lActeur (alias moi, Jacques Derrida) prend en vue, appareil la main, et lAuteur du film (alias moi, Safaa Fathy) et toute lquipe du tournage occupe, sur la terrasse dune villa californienne, au bord de locan, mettre au point sa propre technologie. Cela aurait d suffire, une fois pour toutes, dcentrer la source du film, la parole donne par lActeur et lautorit de lAuteur. [] Ailleurs de faon tout aussi furtive on aperoit le visage de lAuteur travers une vitre qui ressemble un miroir. Ailleurs encore, on entend sa voix, on reconnat son accent imperceptiblement tranger, venu, lui aussi, dailleurs. (Ibid.,14-15.) [My translation]

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen


    Fathy assert, all the play invoked in the subsequent scenes and subsequent pages is laid out. In the same way as the scene of the silhouette filmed on the terrace of a Californian villa can be considered to be the primordial scene of the film, so too can this paragraph, or the complete co-signed article Contre-jour, be seen as the primordial silhouette of the stakes at play within the interlacing philosophical and metaphysic aspects of the textual film.

    This is in fact the contre-jeu, the counter play, that plays against the notion of a documentary, against the notions of a journal (being a counter-journal or contre-journal), against the notions of authorship (oui, qui signons le court-mtrage, who will sign the short film) and against the notions of a fixed and standard interpre-tation of the work. For the counter play is at once that the book should destabilize the image and that the image should destabilize the book, the necessity of the book being to draw out everything that the film Dailleurs, Derrida cannot express or dis-cuss within the limits imposed. In the same manner the film destabilizes the book, being, despite all that is at stake, nevertheless a record, a document (if not a docu-mentary) of certain events, more or less improvised, of certain situations and of certain interventions. In the same manner that the textual word play, which begins with the titles, plays with notions that are at once supplementary, destabilizing, effectively foundational and which vary depending on the perspective of the rea-der or viewer, so too do the book and the film function, exploring the possibilities of interpretation in opening up the (linguistic) boundaries and inviting a range of understanding that remains necessarily incomplete.

    More generally, the play and counter-play between text and image is so-mething that can be read throughout Derridas work; consider for instance (over and above the examples already mentioned) his lecture of the photographic novel Droits de regards by Marie-Franoise Plissart.18 In his lecture, Derrida plays eloquent-ly with the underlying principle of the novel, a novel written entirely without words, constructed photographically. He matches, opposes, and counter-plays his words to the images crafted by Marie Franoise Plissart, offering a textual reading of the visual novel. The play and counter-play between text and image thus manifests not only in the space between Dailleurs, Derrida and Tourner les mots, that is to say, purely in terms of these works, but is equally evident through them in so far as they evoke the greater body of Derridas oeuvre, both directly and indirectly. In this, one of the most eloquent examples of the play between the visual (that is, photographic or cinematographic) and the textual, can be seen in the references to El Grecos painting, The Burial of Count Orgaz, which feature in both the film and in the text, echoing Derridas Circumfession. Fathy (aware of Derridas connection to the painting, having read Circumfession) considered this prominent scene to be one of the most complex and gracious sequences of the film.19 The scene depicts Der-rida reading from Circumfession, El Grecos painting in the background, with the camera moving between him and the The Burial of Count Orgaz:

    I confess my mother, one always confesses the other, I confess (myself) means I confess my mother means I own up to making my mother own up, I make her speak in me, before me, whence all the questions at her bedside as though

    18. Marie-Franoise pLissArt, Droits de regards, suivi de Une lecture par Jacques Derrida, Paris, Minuit, 1985.

    19. Jacques derridA and Safaa FAthy, Tourner les mots, 146-147.

  • Brendon Wocke


    I were hoping to hear from her mouth the revelation of the sin at last, without believing that everything here comes down to turning around a fault of the mother carried in me, about which one might expect me to say however little, as SA did about the surreptitious taste of Monica, never, you hear, never, the fault will remain as mythical as my circumcision, do I have to draw you a picture, this December 2, 1 989, in Madrid, when its a year ago, to the day, that I thought my mother was already dead from her fall and that I know her to be alive wit-hout knowing what I know in this way, about she who is all over me, whom as regards the eyes and lips I resemble more and more, as I see her for example today at Toledo, this Saturday afternoon, with her ancestors, Saint Augustine as an extra returned at the moment of the burial of the Conde de Orgaz [sic] to place his remains in the tomb, and here I am stopped with her, in the corner of the picture, I am the son of the painter, his signature in my pocket, domenikos theotokopolis epioei, and on my return to Barcelona, where I lived in the via Au-gusta , I reread The Burial of the Conde de Orgaz signed by J.-C., I re-comma and underline (burial is a reverse birth, return to the womb), by assimilating the picture and the child indicating the miracle, the anachronism spreads the present, by presenting simultaneously in one single place four distinct epochs, the old date of the counts death and the miracle, the inscribed date of birth (legitimation of the bastard son?) the date at which the canvas was painted, with the portraits of the Toledans at that date, and the fleeting, indeterminate epoch at which the spectator is watching, outside the picture but attracted toward its space by the look and gesture of the son, anticipated metaphor of the canvas . . , without counting ethernity, and I wonder why SA returns at the moment of the burial, hers, mine, and all the characters in the picture, the contemporaries in fact, are looking in different directions, never crossing a glance, like my readers, the condition for there to be, or not, a world, like the obstinate deformation of a gaze, as the sustained hallucination of El Greco produces a work, for centu-ries, the mohel sucked the glans of so many little Jews: give to the hallucinating repetition of this enlarged gesture its duration, its acceleration too, mechanical, compulsive, describe the inspiration (12-30-76), the orgy.20

    Fathy recalls the manner in which Derridas reading evokes a powerful and pro-found feeling of mourning and melancholy, dramatic and romanesque, poetic and literary. His words, as she recalls in Tourner sur tous les fronts, open up an experience of another time and space21, moving out from the museum in Toledo which houses The Burial of Count Orgaz (which is in fact neither museum nor church, serving only to house El Grecos masterpiece22), in what one could consider an autobiographic spiral, carried by the weight of experience, carrying the audience with him. Derrida too recalls the scene, considering the manner in which it represents an ascension, an elevation before the artwork, within what the painting allows us to see.23 Parti-cularly interesting in what Derrida writes (and later reads) is the manner in which he assimilates the image (by assimilating the picture), becoming a part of the visual medium (I am the son of the painter) in order to express textually, but not necessarily ekphratically, the image and his connection to it. Asking do I have to draw you a picture[?] Derrida paints us the scene of his mourning, a scene which is in turn refracted by Fathys cinematography before being once again recast in

    20. Jacques derridA, Circumfession in: Jacques derridA and Geoffrey benninGton, Jacques Derrida (trans. Geoffrey benninGton), Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1999, 147-152

    21. Jacques derridA and Safaa FAthy, Tourner les mots, 148.22. Ibid., 143.23. La scne devant la tableau du Greco, maintenant, LEnterrement du comte dOrgaz, nest-ce pas

    aussi un moment dlvation ? Une ascension ? lvation devant luvre dart, sans doute, mais aussi au-dedans de ce quun tableau donne voir (Ibid., 97.)

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen


    Tourner les mots. What we see in this identification with the image, in the movement towards the visual (noting that the painting is reproduced in Circumfession as well as in Tourner les mots and Dailleurs, Derrida) is the construction of the inter-space, the mechanic of the inter-play, which weaves El Grecos painting within the structure of the text, imbuing it with a new, supplementary, contextually determined signification. This is, of course, dependant on the ready presence of the image, of our ability to see the corpse, the son, the pointed finger, and to read between the text and the image, that is to read the supplementary play, to read Derridas words in terms of the image, and the image in terms of his words. Derrida draws us a picture between word and image of the death of his mother, and anticipated metaphor of the canvas. Ultimately, the mise en abyme that we see within Dailleurs, Derrida (exaggerated by the essays in Tourner les mots), and the repetition of that moment, Derrida reliving cinematographically his textual mourning in reading the text before The Burial of Count Orgaz, represents the induction of an alternate structure of reading in which works are able to bleed into one another. It marks a double relation between the text and the visual, the film writing itself into the equation, reanimating the sequence. In inscribing Derridas text within what the painting allows us to see it is apparent that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, opening towards a reading of the dynamic interstitial space crafted out of the text and the image.

    2. the Written film & the cinematographic text

    The film Dailleurs, Derrida opens with a long meditative shot that traverses an arid landscape, Derridas voice sounding out against the void detailing the ailleurs, the elsewhere that forms a important starting point for his philosophy, as well as the limits and the transgression of limits that marked his childhood and later life. This diegetic narration (or rather diegetic meditation) that inaugurates the film lays the foun-dation for a succession of interviews and discussions which range from the purely practical problems of his library, to the personal and the deeply philosophical. Der-rida performs, masterfully. His philosophical considerations and interventions seem so complete that one begins to doubt the unprepared nature of the film. This is after all a pseudo-documentary - there is no script, or rather the post facto post scriptum serves not to elucidate the spoken words and to offer a definitive account of his speech, but rather as we have seen, exists in order to problematise the entire notion of documentary.

    In Chora L Works Bernard Tschumi asks whether Derrida aided in the design of a garden for the Parc de la Villette in Paris merely in order to write the book that he subsequently produced with his architectural partner on the project, Peter Eisenman. And while the film by Derrida and Fathy in fact exists, as opposed to the garden which was ultimately excluded from the project for budgetary reasons, one could ask if the film was merely an excuse to co-author a book. There is nevertheless within the film itself a cinematographic text, an oral text essentially composed of Derridas voice, with occasional interventions by Fathy.

    This apparent pre-eminence of the voice and of speech as such, even without the problematic notion of authorship, is an important point to consider, especially in the case of a philosopher such as Derrida for whom the metaphysics of speech and writing play such an important philosophical role throughout his work. Consider furthermore the nature of Derridas speech: he speaks as he writes in a manner that

  • Brendon Wocke


    paradoxically places a certain value on the text despite the evident orality of his speech. For as Derrida writes in La pharmacie de Platon, where he considers the historic nature of the logo-centric privilege accorded to speech and the consequent secondary status of writing:

    Writing and speech have thus become two different species, or values of the trace. One, writing, is a lots trace, a nonviable seed, everything in sperm that overflows wastefully, a force wandering outside the domain of life, incapable of engendering anything, of picking itself up, of regenerating itself. On the opposite side, living speech makes its capital bear fruit and does not divert its seminal potency toward indulgence in pleasures without paternity. In its semi-nar, in its seminary, it is in conformity with the law. In it there is still a marked unity between logos and nomos.24

    In a space where speech has historically and philosophically been privileged over writing, Derrida, broadly speaking, seeks to undermine this state of affairs in engaging in a form of writing that does not submit to the traditional logo-phono-centric concepts which he identifies at the heart of western philosophy. The notion of diffrance and the deployment and deliberate exploration of puns and homonyms are key indices of this act, which underlie the relationship between the book and the film in terms of the orality of the film and the textuality of the accompanying book, and which culminate in what one could consider in terms of an inter-text between these two works.

    Early on the film Derrida comments on the relationship of the text to speech, he says:

    Writing is finite, that is to say that, as soon as there is inscription, there is necessarily selection, and consequently, erasure, censure and exclusion. [] Whatever I say [] It will be selective, finite, and consequently as marked by exclusion, by silence and by the unsaid as by what I say.25

    What is immediately interesting is the manner in which both the written text and what Derrida says in the course of the various interviews which, like vignettes, compose the length of the documentary, are underpinned by the notion of exclu-sion. In the case of the text, the unwritten or that which has explicitly been erased or edited out, is a priori excluded. Selection as part of the fundamental process of writing implies erasure, censure and exclusion. Similarly, the spoken word is marked by the unsaid, not just in terms of (his) silence but also in terms of time, of the limited space accorded to the interviews and more precisely by the fact that, like the text, the cinematographic form requires editing a necessary condition for the subsequent release of the film. For Derrida, both writing and speech imply a degree of finality : writing is finite [...] whatever I say [...] will be selective, finite - the word, written or spoken takes on a life of its own, a life precisely dependant on the technology employed by both the writer and the cinematographer: the entire film crew, [was] busy, on the terrace of a seaside Californian villa, setting up their own technology. This notion of editing, visually and textually, is one of the key

    24. Jacques derridA, Dissemination, trans. Barbara johnson, London, The Athlone Press, 1981.25. Lcriture est finie, a veut dire que de toute faon ds quil y a inscription il y a ncessairement slec-ire que de toute faon ds quil y a inscription il y a ncessairement slec-

    tion, par consquent effacement, censure, exclusion. [] Quoi que je dise [] a sera slectif, fini et par consquent autant marqu par lexclusion, par le silence, par le non-dit, que par ce que je dirais. (Safaa FAthy, Dailleurs, Derrida.). [My translation]

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen


    elements that unite the notion of the written and the spoken text in terms of the cinemato-textual (as opposed to cinematographic) hybrid that Dailleurs, Derrida and Tourner les mots ultimately forms.

    Derrida makes this process even more explicit as he later comments on the relationship that he shares with Fathy as she appears behind the camera, while he holds court in full view of the lens.

    You are in the process, of writing, that is to say that you are inscribing images which you in turn will, how does one say, mount, edit as one says, select, cut, paste. And so we are in the process of preparing, very artificially, a text which you will write and sign, and I am here, a source of material for your writing. As material of, for, you writing, the material must speak a little about writing and about his biography.26

    She, Fathy, is writing - Derrida elaborates - inscribing images which she will in turn mount, edit, select, cut, paste. They are in fact in the process of preparing a text in what Derrida describes as a very artificial manner, a situation in which he is merely the material and subject of study. The artificiality of the situation lies not on the manner in which the film is being shot, or the content, or even on the subject manner, but rather on the manner in which Derrida is at once himself and the other. Derrida is at once in a very real sense the sole subject of the film, but to the same degree to which Fathy writes in the recorded images, Derrida writes in the recorded soundtrack. If, as Derrida precisely says, Fathy is the author of the cine-matographic visual experience, one can only conclude that Derrida is the author of the auditory experience, not merely in terms of the fact that he is recorded, but in terms of his performance, and of the text that he ultimately curates and edits on the spot, if only fleetingly: I feel like a fish, obliged to be before the window of your gaze.27 This is the essence of Derrida as a subject, a submissive goldfish to which we oppose the powerful, if madly signifying, Derrida of Contre-jour: With the mad pretention of being at once the Actor and Testimonial28 Derrida delimits the space, the event and the occurrence.

    Yet while Derridas spoken words in the film, like the words he writes, are finished and marked by the notion of exclusion and the weight of the unwritten / unsaid (noting that Dailleurs, Derrida was never the victim of a script or screenplay), his speeches are nevertheless curiously alive.

    It is this universality which dictates that, de jure and by virtue of its structure, no consciousness is possible without the voice. The voice is the being which is present to itself in the form of universality, as consciousness; the voice is consciousness. In colloquy, the propagation of signs does not seem to meet any obstacles because it brings together two phenomenological origins of pure auto-affection. To speak to someone is doubtless to hear oneself speak, to be heard by oneself; but, at the same time, if one is heard by another, to speak is

    26. Vous tes en train, vous, dcrire cest--dire dinscrire des images que vous allez votre tour, com-ment dire, monter, diter, comme on dit dans ce pays, slectionner, couper, coller. Et donc on est en train de faon trs artificielle de prparer un texte que vous allez vous crire et signer, et moi je suis l, une espce de matriau pour votre criture. Comme matriau de, pour votre criture, de votre film, le matriau doit parler un peu de lcriture et de biographie. (Safaa FAthy, Dailleurs, Derrida.) [My translation]

    27. Je me sens poisson, oblig de figurer devant la vitre de ton regard. (Safaa FAthy, Dailleurs, Der-rida.) [My translation]

    28. Avec la folle prtention dtre la fois Acteur et Tmoin . (Jacques derridA and Safaa FAthy, Tourner les mots, 15.) [My translation]

  • Brendon Wocke


    to make him repeat immediately in himself the hearing-oneself-speak in the very form in which I effectuated it. This immediate repetition is a reproduc-tion of pure auto-affection without the help of anything external.29

    This is at the heart of the sensation that Derrida describes in the course of Ghostdance as being ventriloquized by himself, and which he again refers to in the context of Dailleurs, Derrida as the necessary other that is already here. The voice as consciousness, as an expression of thought that is at once pronounced, heard, and understood by oneself and the audience and which is itself recorded in order to be understood, heard and performed again and again, gains in this transaction something of the living. The voice of Derrida is doubled, tripled even, through a process of cinematographic mitosis; it is alive and exists outside of the relationship of memory to thought. In the relationship that the voice of Derrida in the film has to permanence, iterability and to exclusion, as Derrida himself has pointed out, and to the manner in which the editing of a book and the editing of a film can be seen as essentially analogous (at least in this case), the voice of Derrida essentially represents his textual contribution to the cinematographic endeavour. Moreover, the oral nature of Derridas presentation in the film does nothing to undermine the essential point of his logocentric critique. In fact the manner in which he expresses himself in the film and the manner in which the subsequent book problematises this presentation can be seen as an example of what Derrida refers to in Of Grammatoloqy as arche-writing:

    It is because arche-writing, movement of differance, irreducible arche-synthesis, opening in one and the same possibility, temporalization as well as relationship with the other and language, cannot, as the condition of all linguistic systems, form a part of the linguistic system itself and be situated as an object in its field. (Which does not mean it has a real field elsewhere, another assignable site). 30

    In the conclusion of Grammatology, Derrida returns to this theme and conti-nues, Thus one takes into account that the absolute alterity of writing might never-theless affect living speech, from the outside, within its inside : alter it.31 Arche-writing is thus here seen as part of the irreducible synthesis opened up by the play between the oral and the textual in the course of the film: the relationship between the other (the ventriloquized Derrida, Fathy and the audience) and language and which, while indeed submerged in a linguistic system, nevertheless marks at the same time an ailleurs. The living alterity of the spoken text that Derrida at once writes and pronounces in the course of the film is part and parcel of what finally can be termed the cinematographic representation of arche-writing. This arche-textual relationship between speech and writing, or the expression of the film as a form of arche-writing, is also referred to by Derrida in chographies de la tlvision as tele-technological writing :

    [] teletechnological writing such as it is developing today is anything but in the thrall of the phonetic-alphabetic model. It is increasingly hierogly-

    29. Jacques Jacques derridA, Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserls Theory of Signs (trans. David B. ALLison), Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 1973, 79-80.

    30. Jacques Jacques derridA, Of Grammatology (trans. Gayatri Chakravorty spiVAk), Baltimore/Lon-don, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, 60.

    31. Ibid., 314.

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen


    phic or ideographic or pictographic as well. It is the pictogram, or in any case the pictographic effect, that television, video, cinema reintroduce. 32

    But this is not to discount the importance of the image in the sounding space of Derridas cinematographic discourse, as Geoffrey Hartman says in his foreword to Kirby Dick and Amy Zeiring Kofmans Derrida: Screenplay and Essays on the Film Moreover, one of the directors many genial conceptions is to use voice-overs quoting Derridas own texts. The poetry of his prose becomes audible as we fasten on to its aphoristic quality in contrast to the surrounding visual business.33 The image is part of the graphic (and graphically dangerous) supplement that accen-tuates the spoken arche-writing pronounced by Derrida throughout the film, in the same manner that Tourner les mots and Dailleurs, Derrida are mutually supplementary in so far as they accumulate a theoretical trace, an inter-artwork, which take them from the realm of text and documentary into the realm of the mutually dependant, eminently pictographic arche-writing.

    3. the double blind transfer

    Parallel to the play on words, the arche-writing and the question of authorship is the further biographic nature of the film which plays out, not only against the backdrop of the documentary and the associated recorded events, but also through the theme of blindness. This theme is at once already present in Derridas work, portraits of the blind being the subject of the exhibition he curated at the Louvre and his accompanying book, Memoirs of the Blind, and is the underlying theme of the essay that Derrida contributed to Tourner les mots.34 The essay, Lettres sur un aveugle : Punctum caecum which lies at the heart of Tourner les mots opens with a citation from Diderots Lettre sur les aveugles with which the title of Derridas essay plays :

    Here, with the number of Diderots title, the Lettre sur les aveugles : the Actor plays a little, he counterfeits, he amuses himself as an afterthought in plu-ralizing one he substitutes letters for letter, always with the view of sin-gularizing the other, the uniquely blind, my blindness, the blindness which is my own. Instead of one Lettre sur les aveugles there will this time be, once and for all, multiple letters for a single blind person. We can also dream : at Toledo, that stranger was perhaps reading Diderot. Or rewriting him. In secret. Like me. Not the Actor, but me, if you understand.35

    Concerned at once with the aveugle de Tolde (the blind person of Toledo) and with the notion of the blind spot (the punctum caecum), the essay organizes itself in terms of an abcdaire, A for Aveugle, B for Bote aux lettres, C for Carrelage,

    32. Jacques Jacques derridA and Bernard stieGLer, Echographies of Television, 103-104.33. Kirby DICK and Amy Ziering KOFMAN, Kirby DICK and Amy Ziering KOFMAN, Derrida : Screenplay and Essays on the Film, Lon-

    don/New York, Routledge, 2005, 7.34. Jacques Jacques derridA, Memoirs of the Blind : The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins (trans. Pascale-Anne

    brAuLt and Micheal nAAs), Chicago & London, University of Chicago Press, 1993. Jacques derridA and Safaa FAthy, Tourner les mots, 71.

    35. Ici avec le nombre du titre de Diderot, la Lettre sur les aveugles : LActeur joue un peu, il contrefait, il samuse donc aprs coup pluraliser lune - la Lettre il substitue les lettres, mais surtout en vue de singulariser lautre, laveugle lunique, mon aveugle, cette ccit qui est la mienne. Au lieu dune Lettre sur les aveu-gles, il y aura cette fois, une fois pour toutes, de multiples lettres pour un seul aveugle. On peut aussi rver : Tolde, cet inconnu tait peut-tre en train de lire Diderot. Ou de le rcrire. En secret. Comme moi. Non pas lActeur mais moi, entendez-moi bien. (Ibid., 85.) [My translation]

  • Brendon Wocke


    thematically highlighting elements of Derridas experience as the divided subject of the film. Derrida, perhaps even more clearly than in Contre-Jour, outlines in the opening passages of Lettres sur un aveugle the internal division that is characteristic of his experience as subject and object of the documentary process. The varying use of moi, lacteur, and lauteur as terms of self-reference is, according to Derrida, not merely a written or rhetoric flourish but part and parcel of the cinematographic machinations to which the documentary process exposes one. This blindness regarding the traditional roles of subject, object and director of the documentary forms the first of many blind spots which arise thematically in the course of the essay, playing with notions of authorship and documentary that, while raised ons-creen, are brought into sharper relief in terms of the supplemental book.

    Initially, during filming, Derrida was blind to the presence of the aveugle, surprised even to see this strange, almost mysterious figure in the course of his later viewing of the film. The appearance of this figure is tied, for Derrida, to the notion of editing, a process to which he, as actor, is blind. He asks how many other possible versions of the film can exist:

    In what you will let go, nearly 99% of the whole, there is, in reserve, an inde-finite number of other possible films and other virtual silhouettes, and other profiles sketched : I will, certainly, always be me but every time another. One has to blind oneself to these possibilities in order to see that which we effectively see. 36

    One has to blind oneself to the other possibilities in order to see what we see. This is the economics of blindness, in the cinematographic sense, the organi-zation of the hors champ, what Derrida terms the champ daveuglement - the field of blindness. But Derrida is not merely an actor blind to the audience and blind to the process of editing (and in fact, to much of what surrounds him), he is also blinded as a spectator, unable to watch the film as if from outside, his proximity to the layers of experiential blindness and exposure to the blank stare of the camera precluding anything other than a fleeting acknowledgement of himself onscreen. Blindness becomes a metaphoric or metonymic figure for the process of the film and for all parties engaged in the film:

    What I presently noticed is that the blind person (a figure among others but who has value once and for all for the Actor, for the Spectator, for the Film, perhaps for the Operators and for the Author, for the Editor(s) etc.), can be likened to other cinematographic metonymies [] It is the metonymies of all metonymies, the play which underlies the film. 37

    But the aveugle is more than merely a metaphor for the functioning of the film and the manner in which the film plays with cinematographic, philosophic, and documentary expression and the degree to which the unseen and the unwritten

    36. Dans ce que vous allez laisser tomber, peu prs 99% du tout, il y aurait en rserve, un nombre indfini dautres films possibles, et dautres silhouettes virtuelles, et dautres profils esquisss : jy serais toujours moi, certes, mais chaque fois un autre. Il faut saveugler tous ces possibles pour voir ce quon voit en effet. (Ibid., 79.) [My translation]

    37. Ce que je remarque linstant pour laveugle (figure entre autres, mais qui vaut une fois pour toutes - pour lActeur, pour le Spectateur, pour le Film, peut-tre mme pour les Oprateurs et pour lAuteur, pour le Mon-teur ou la Monteuse, etc.), nous pourrions le rapporter dautres mtonymies du film [...] Elle est la mtonymie des mtonymies, le jeu mme du film. (Ibid., 82.) [My translation]

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen


    play such an important role in the understanding of the film and its supplement. Rather, the aveugle is over and above all this, an autobiographic touchstone for the biographic elements of the film and for the autobiographic elements of Derridas essay. Having repeatedly and openly acknowledged his blindness, to the film, as an actor and to the environment itself under the cameras gaze, Derrida, a third of the way through his essay, describes a dispute with Fathy in which she tells him that he is blind :

    On the subject of our disputes in Toledo and at Almeida, Safaa Fathy told me, one fine day, that I was blind. Those were her words. She called me blind, she repeated that I could not see the film, and that all of my misunderstandings, my impatience, my fits of anger, my nervous attacks were due to the fact that I saw nothing, that I could not see, from the other side, from her point of view, the truth of the film being prepared. 38

    Reiterating the conditional nature of Derridas cinematographic blindness, Fathy (and Derrida in the retelling) nevertheless personalise the metonymic dis-course that has hitherto been the condition of the notion of Derrida as blind, as developed in the course of his essay. Moving past the philosophic metaphor, the scene underlines the manner in which Derrida identifies in a very personal way with blindness and which, like the ventriloquism and the notion of self-doubling under the gaze of the camera, can be seen to define the relationship between Derrida and film (the topic of cinematographic blindness is again raised in the context of Kirby Dick and Amy Zeiring Kofmans later film, Derrida, albeit to a more subtle degree). This thematic identification also brings a further element into relief, the importance that Derrida accords to the very rapid, almost haphazard appearance of the blind reading figure in Toledo. This autobiographic touchstone in the midst of the bio-graphic nature of the film can also be considered in terms of transference.

    In an article entitled Philosophy as Autobiography: The Confessions of Jacques Der-rida, Joseph G. Kronick discusses the question of transference and of autobiogra-phy in Derridas body of work which can be seen to be here embodied in Derri-das identification with blindness. Taking Nietzsche, the great philosopher is never impersonal as his point of departure, Kronick considers the manner in which the subjects of Derridas studies are more often than not given by others and, in citing Derrida, concludes that: Derrida suggests that the great texts of philosophy are structured like Freuds transference neurosis wherein the patient displaces onto the physician feelings connected to someone in the analysands past.39 This alone is interesting both in terms of the autobiographical nature of Dailleurs, Derrida, but also in the manner in which Derrida describes the film as almost imposed; a space in which he is placed under analysis as it were. While in the film itself the impor-tant thematic of self-identification with the aveugle de Tolde remains largely unap-parent, the development of this culminates in transference and is reinforced by the notion that, as Kronick later states, the body not just the subject is the site of

    38. Au sujet de toutes nos disputes Tolde et Almeria, Safaa Fathy me dit, un beau jour, que jtais aveugle. Ce fut son mot. Elle ma trait daveugle, elle a rpt que je ne pouvais pas voir le film, et que toutes mes in-comprhensions, mes impatiences, mes coups de colre, mes crises de nerfs tenaient au fait que je ne voyais rien, que je ne voyais pas, de lautre ct, de son point de vue elle, la vrit du film qui se prparait. (Ibid., 86.) [My translation]

    39. Joseph G. Joseph G. kronick, Philosophy as Autobiography : The Confessions of Jacques Der-rida, in: MLN, 2000, 115, 1000.

  • Brendon Wocke


    transference40. This becomes clear only in the context of the literary supplement to the film in so far as the idea is brought into relief by the text, as opposed to wit-hin the film. Dailleurs, Derrida taken together with Tourner les mots opens the works together onto the realm of play between biography and autobiography, reinforcing an awareness of the psychological that underpins much of what Kronick refers to as the autobiothanatography present in the work of Derrida.41

    Yet, the blindness with which Derrida identifies himself is nevertheless not wholly dark, it is rather a blindness that opens the eyes, not one that darkens the vision. It is a blindness which opens his (and our) eyes to the possibility of other readings and other forms of writing, and to the play which is at once inherent in this cinematotextual production and which is more subtly present in cinematogra-phic works, more generally42:

    In order to be absolutely foreign to the visible and even to the potentially visible, to the possibility of the visible, this invisibility would still inhabit the visible, or rather, it would come to haunt it to the point of being confused with it, in order to assure, from the specter of this very impossibility, its most proper resource. The visible as such would be invisible, not as visibility, the phe-nomenality or essence of the visible, but as the singular body of the visible it-self, right on the visible - so that, by emanation, and as if it were secreting its own medium, the visible would produce blindness.43

    Furthermore, Derridas concept of creative blindness in which the vi-sible produces blindness as a consequence of its own emanation that is to say, a consequence of its very existence is also related to the notion of invisibility as absolutely foreign to the visible. In underlining the manner in which the visible subtends the invisible and the fact that the possibility of blindness and invisibi-lity are essentially transcendentally necessary to the notion of the visual, Derrida considers that true visibility is essentially invisible. This is in so far as the underlying invisibility haunts the phenomenon of the visible, and thus visually, produces a self-referential blindness that extends beyond the purely phenomenal vision that it subtends. In this light, far from dividing the subject, invisibility is part of what can be seen to unite Derrida-Auteur, Derrida-Acteur and the Aveugle de Tolde in so far as the movement from vision to blindness carries with it the concept of invisibility and a form of vision that produces blindness. Whereas the autobiographic trans-ference that is at play between Derrida and the Aveugle de Tolde remains a highly personal and intimate movement, the conditional blindness that arises out of the spectral and haunting relationship between the visible and invisibility represents an element at play within the films wider audience who, faced with the multifaceted, coded and layered meanings confront, in essentially cinematographic form, their own blindness at the same time as they can be seen to critically confront or engage with the film itself. Even the most basic viewing of the film can be assimilated to this point: a covert experience of the spectators blindness to the greater critical elements at play.

    40. Ibidem. 41. Ibid., 1013.42. Jacques Jacques derridA, Memoirs of the Blind, 126-127.43. Ibid., 51-52.

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen


    To this effect, in the context of Dailleurs, Derrida and Memoirs of the Blind, Akira Mizuta Lippit in her 2005 eulogy for Derrida, argues for the notion of a sonic blindness which plays with much of what is at stake in phonological terms and also in visual terms in the play between Dailleurs, Derrida and Tourner les mots :

    Derridas scene of images within images, one on top of and inside another forms a mnemic montage (the figure that Freud invokes for the unconscious) not unlike the simultaneity of I love you made possible in cinema. Can one imagine, following Derrida, a sonic blindness? A convergence of sound and non sound images that initiates (or secretes) a secret phonography? A form of filmic audiovisuality like the simultaneous expression of love that generates a noisy super-love that both enhances it and renders it inaudible? And do I see myself reflected in this density; do I see in it and hear in it my own blindness? Am I rendered blind or blinded by the secret medium of audiovisuality that Derrida imagines? Wouldnt this be a theory of cinema? A theory of cinema based on the montage of visible and invisible images, audible and inaudible sounds ?44

    Phonologically, the secret medium of audiovisuality which Lippit sees in Derrida, essentially describes what we have termed the cinematotextual play between speech and writing which, in the case of Dailleurs, Derrida, can be here seen to inaugu-rate a form of arche-writing. The secret phonography which represents a form of filmic audiovisuality is for Lippit an expression of a sonic blindness: a cinemato-graphic layering of phonetic and visual material that places into perspective the nature of the visible and the invisible. This simple expression, sonic blindness, captures much of what is at stake and at play between Dailleurs, Derrida and Tourner les mots between the visual, the audiovisual and the written, and most importantly between the cinematographically overlooked (at least for Derrida) Aveugle de Tolde which becomes paramount in Tourner les mots, in the blind margins of the film.

    Conclusion: Deconstruction in the Field of Vision

    The notion of deconstruction within the context of Dailleurs, Derrida is tied at once to the presentation of the film, thematic questions relating to the structure of the film and, most importantly, to the filmic supplement which appears in the form of the book Tourner les mots. The critical importance of the supplement can, of course, not be understated, for it is in the light of the articles which form part of Tourner les mots, that much of what is at stake in Dailleurs, Derrida is brought into relief.

    Initially, having watched Dailleurs, Derrida, one may perhaps be hard pressed to consider the film as sustaining any large or important deconstructive action, aside from the aforementioned diegetic speech which, as discussed, hints at the problema-tics of speech in relation to the written in the work of Derrida. Cinematographically, the film is not visually as inventive or radical as one may (or may not) have been led to expect. Rather and even more interestingly the film is underpinned by the notion that deconstruction is always and everywhere already at work.45 Even without visual or

    44. Akira Mizuta Akira Mizuta Lippit, The Derrida That I Love, in: Grey Room, 2005, 20, 84-89.45. I remember having put this question to Paul de Man in the form of a virtual objection: I remember having put this question to Paul de Man in the form of a virtual objection:

    if this be so [that deconstruction is already at work in literature, e.g. in Rousseau], then there would be nothing left to do; yet how would we interpret the fact, that deconstruction, in spite of all this, constitutes a topic, that it influences certain events and something happens? Deconstruction is not a memory which simply recalls what is already there. The memory work is also an unforeseeable event, an event that demands a responsibility and gestures, deeds. This act is caught, however, in a

  • Brendon Wocke


    philosophic cues, the film, through its implicit problematisation of Derridas speech and furthermore, through the almost situationist and essentially explicit deployment of Derrida as Author/Actor/Subject/Victim undercuts, at the very least, the notion of a traditional biography if not the notion of cinematographic authorship alto-gether. Key to this is Derridas performance. Over and above the word-play that is almost always indicative of Derridas systematic exploration of concepts at stake, the series of improvisations where Fathy (as director) cedes control of the direction of the film to Derrida (the subject which thus takes power) form the cornerstone of the contractual give and take that characterizes their relationship throughout the work - cinematographically and textually. The manner in which, in the opening essay of Tourner les mots, the voices of Derrida and Fathy blend together, at times distin-guishable and at times sounding together in a united chorus is symptomatic of this give and take. This is the essence of the literary philosophical and cinematographic transfer that takes place. Further to this the very autobiographic nature of Derridas contribution subtends a certain deconstructive understanding, as illustrated by Kro-nick :

    Autobiography for Derrida, is the compulsion to respond to an other, dead or alive, who provokes in him something singular, a text of his own whose otherness surprises him because it cannot be foreseen from the texts it repeats but does not leave unchanged46; The deconstructive text would be a transfe-rential work that consists in its resistance, in it not collecting itself in a signa-ture but always signing itself +R as itself and something, someone else (...) This new body goes by the old name autobiography.47

    According to Kronick, one can thus consider the deconstructive nature wit-hin the work (+R / film + book) which, in its plurality, does not collect itself under one signature but yet does sign autobiographically and transferentially, as ari-sing, partially, out of the autobiographic or biographic nature of the work and the import that Derrida, as a creative force, brings to the project. This, of course, recalls the notion of deconstruction as an unpredictable act of memory48, reliant on the deconstructive act per se as having already taken place, and the critical act, as it were, being reliant on the recollection of this fact and of the stakes involved in the past event. In this manner again, the deconstruction which can be identified in terms of Dailleurs, Derrida takes place within, around and in between the film and the book - in the margins between: neither the film nor the book in their singular form have as much at stake as they do in their supplemental form which unites event and me-mory, the visual and the textual. As Derrida states in the course of the film, echoing the concepts that underlie the notion of cinematotextual arche-writing: All writing is constructed upon resistance [...] I can liberate incredible forces [] reading is to

    double bind: the more you remember, the more you are in danger of effacing, and vice versa. De-construction cannot step out of this aporia, of this double-bind, without diffidence. (Jacques Der-rida interviewed by Elisabeth Weber, in: Jdisches Denken in Frankreich, Frankfurt/M, Jdischer Verlag, 1994, 77-78.

    46. Joseph G. Joseph G. kronick, Philosophy as Autobiography., Ibid., 1001.47. Ibid., 1004.48. Deconstruction is not a memory which simply recalls what is already there. The memory Deconstruction is not a memory which simply recalls what is already there. The memory

    work is also an unforeseeable event, an event that demands a responsibility and gestures, deeds. This act is caught, however, in a double bind: the more you remember, the more you are in danger of ef-facing, and vice versa. Deconstruction cannot step out of this aporia, of this double-bind, without diffidence. (Jacques Derrida interviewed by Elisabeth Weber, Ibid., 77-78.)

  • derridA: textuALLy onscreen

    Interfrences littraires/Literaire interferenties 2013

    decipher the calculation in self-protection [] writing calculates.49 Cinematotex-tual arche-writing is thus writing which is constructed in terms of the resistance between the visual and the written, a calculation between textual wordplay and the logocentric primacy of speech which it nevertheless seeks to undercut in the intro-duction of a supplementary margin. The act of reading (and of watching) is thus precisely the decryption of what is at stake, a reading of the whole that is, of the work +R, which maps the preoccupations and calculations of the text, and in so doing, uncover, and liberates unexpected textual forces deconstructively at play. These are the stakes which underlie the exchange between the paper and the screen, between Tourner les mots and Dailleurs, Derrida, and which make, of the total work, a complex and subtly shifting space of exchange of which we can only begin to sketch the boundaries.

    Brendon WockeEberhard Karls Universitt Tbingen

    & Universit de Perpignan Via [email protected]

    49. Toute criture est construite sur des rsistances [] je peux librer des forces inoues [] lire cest dchiffrer le calcul dans la protection de soi [] lcriture calcule. (Safaa FAthy, DAilleurs, Derrida.) [My translation]