The problematic of time in contemporary art / Nicolas Bourriaud

Transcribed by: Ami Asher
Image: “Ahuzat Bayit”, Daniel Mann 

This text is a transcription of a lecture Bourriaud gave during his visit in Israel in December 2012. The lecture was organized by the MFA program of Bezalel Academy of Arts.

I will try today to address the question of time in contemporary art, how our vision of time evolves – due to technological, economic and social reasons. This evolution is actually affecting the way we see art and the way art is produced.

I want to start with a gesture which is quite rare in the field of art in the 20th century, but is used by some artists that I’m interested in, which is the act of digging. Digging has never been a modernist gesture, because it’s a practice directed towards the past – you’re digging to find something from the past, excavation is the archeological gesture par excellence – and it doesn’t really belong to the story of the avant-garde and the modernist art of the 20th century.

Recently, a few years ago, I read a very interesting text by the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. According to him, the beginning of Modernism was the discovery of the oil fields in the 19th-century American West. For him, this discovery of oil in the Wild West was the primitive gesture, the primal scene of modernity. But at the time it was a superficial excavation. All the witnesses from the time talk about the shallowness of the oil wells…

But today, and I quote Peter Sloterdijk, “Our lifestyle is still based on the possibility of wasting the energy stored at the fossil layer. That is, we’ve laid our bets on explosion, we’re all fans of explosions”, he goes on, “admirers of that fast release of great quantities of energy. I believe that the adventure movies of today, the action movies are all grouped around that sick and primitive scene of modernity – the explosion of a car or a plane”.

I think this is something that we can verify in the iconography of the 20th century. The stream, the jet, the explosion pervade the representations that the 20th century made of itself. In terms of the avant-garde of the early 20th century – Dadaism; you find behind every Dadaist gesture the idea of the explosion. And to mention only a few 20th-century gestures or movements – think of Homage to New York that Jean Tinguely made in 1960, which was a huge machine due to explode in New York. If you look only at representation, Pop Art is a good example. If you look at it, it is a way to represent reality which is burst out. And the big gesture of the Pop Artist is the blow up, which is related to the explosion, the release of huge quantities of energy.

Of course, you can also find counter-examples. I’m thinking about Surrealism, which defined itself as a nocturnal and introspective movement, which explored the world of dreams, also the depths of the unconscious. But here, again, we are referring to digging.

To find an iconography of digging and excavation, however, you have to wait till the 1960s, with artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark, even Eva Hesse in some ways, and a few others. And, of course, Land Art in general was largely based on excavation.

If we look back, all of modern art was essentially related to planeness, to flatness. It was born of a refusal to dig into the canvas. Born of the rejection of the illusion of depth, actually. Modernity turns flatness into a positive element. And in a way, the abyss – if we set aside Surrealism and some other genres – represents its main enemy.

We can take two examples, one century away from each other. If you take Édouard Manet on the one hand and Andy Warhol on the other, you have two different types of allegories of the surface. Two metaphysical tendencies in relation to depth and the existence of a background world. It was the French writer and poet Paul Valéry who wrote, “What is deepest is the skin”. And both Manet and Warhol describe a skinny reality that is not accompanied by an inside, with no mystery other than the continually renewable visible world.

If you take The Balcony by Manet, for example, in 1868, it is a clear vindication of the surface against classical illusionism. If you read the critics of the time, of course, it’s quite obvious that they totally loathed this kind of painting, since it destroyed all the values they were submitted to, and the contemporaneous type of metaphysics that supported that discourse concerning reality.

Today – and I think that’s the reason why this subject interests me – it’s seems that we’re experiencing a kind of surface crisis. Its main symptom may be found in our relation to the screen. Because screens are absolutely everywhere in our reality today. There is no opposition anymore between surface and depth in the world of representation, because we are actually accompanied by this flatness, by the screen.

Let’s come back to the idea of digging and excavation. Throughout the 20th century, even when an artist made reference to what could be called an arche, from archeology, which means historical foundation, rock-bottom idea of reality – even then it was made through the affirmation of flatness and verticality. I’m thinking specifically about Barnett Newman’s Zips, for example, which are actually the emblems of this modernist iconography. You can take also his sculptures, for example, Here 1 or Here 2, which are actually pure verticality. The same goes for Giacometti’s skinny lines, or even the late, more pyramidal works, that Newman did like Chartres and Jericho (1968-69). What’s interesting here is that Newman recuperated the very mythical origins of sculpture, which is erecting a promontory, a stele, like the ziggurat.

In short, it’s just implementing in the horizon a form which rises up and separates from the Earth. Sculpture, in this way, could be qualified as a kind of polar opposite of the Earth. It’s the domain of the dead, of the forgotten, of the buried. It’s the domain of the formless and the mud.

And here we have another way of envisioning the opposition between ground and form that we have in the most classical modernist painting. Because the development of American painting, let’s say, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, came from overcoming the fundamental opposition of the Earth, from which rises this culture. Like the critic Clement Greenberg once said, “The painting is still a window, even if that window is closed”. From this point, with the all-over, which is the characteristic of Jackson Pollock’s painting, the form is confused with the background, and they are both united by the painting’s planeness, which is defined as a pure optic surface.

It is interesting to see that this unity permits an artist like Ad Reinhardt to state that painting, then, entered into post-history. What he calls a timeout – a form of timelessness, as he writes. He does not deny that the object, the painting, belongs to a specific historical moment, of course, when it’s done, but insists on the fact that there is no ancient or modern, no past or future in art. And that the painting, whatever it is, is eternally found in the present. To quote Ad Reinhardt, “A work of art is always present”.

This could mean several things. The one thing that for me is the most important might be found in the notion of time itself, actually. And the way an artwork inscribes itself into the dimension of time. Time is seen here in its historical dimension. Because any artwork, if you think about it, goes both ways. If you take any important artwork – let’s say, the first readymade by Marcel Duchamp, or the White on White by Kazimir Malevich, to take very well-known examples. What’s interesting in them is the fact that they produce consequences. You have many people, many other artists who will use them as a starting point or react against them. You have a chain of consequences which are more important, of course, if the gesture has been strong and if the work produces energy and thought.

But it’s not the only effect it has. Because it also creates causes in the past. It goes backwards. It’s the French group of writers, Oulipo, who were talking about “plagiarism by anticipation”. Also, Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges was talking about the precursors of Kafka, saying that many writers existed in a different way after the existence of Kafka, after Kafka’s writings. This means that every important gesture produces a genealogy that never existed before.

Now I go back to Relational Esthetics. A very interesting example: after the publication of this book, a few artists who were never really appreciated, like for example in Brazil, Hélio Oiticica, or in America, Tom Marioni, could be seen in a different way. Their work was meaning something else. They were becoming, actually, the precursors of this generation of artists that I was mentioning in the book.

The same way, if we take Pop Art, for example, if you look at Gerald Murphy in the 1930s, he might be considered a precursor of Pop Art, but his work was not visible before Pop Art. That’s what I mean when I say that any artwork that is significant changes the past: it goes both ways.

What has been dramatically changing in the last thirty years is our loss of confidence in the ideas of the future. We were mentioning the discovery of oil fields in the American West as the primitive scene of Modernism. What’s really interesting to look at is the fact that Postmodernism, as we call it, started to be discussed in the 1970s, let’s say between 72, Charles Jencks the architect coins the term, in a way –  between 72 and 79, when Jean-François Lyotard writes about the postmodern condition. It’s in-between that something happens – an event in thought, an event in the world’s mentality, which I believe is very important and is again related to oil. It may sound crazy, if you think about it, but if we follow this thread we can actually build a real story.

What happened in 73? Several important things! And one of them, of course is the oil crisis, which suddenly made all the Western countries conscious of the fact that the energy reserves were not infinite. That all of this could end. Before that exact date, 73-74 – the exact moment of the emergence of what is now called Postmodernism – nobody was really aware of it. It’s the exact moment when the Western world stops believing in the future as a kind of infinite line. It’s a moment when they think that it might end sooner or later.

And I really believe – even if it’s, again, a story – that Postmodernism has to do with this, and that the modernist period, that we could describe as born with the 19th-century discovery of oil fields in America, ended with this first oil shock in 73, leading the way to what is called Postmodernism. We’ll return to that later.

The idea of the future has been in a very clear way the idea of progress. The idea of the future was the instrument of command which modernist artists used to describe the present. What’s really striking today is to see that the future is only present in yesterday’s science fiction! An already outdated literary and film genre whose origins are, again, to be found in the 19th century.

We have a kind of possible story starting today, something that is related to the future, and that is the use of technology. The notion of the future today, as we see it, especially in sci-fi movies, is constantly expressed through special effects.

But there are many signs in the art world, in the work of today’s artists that indicate that the past has actually substituted the future as an object of interrogation and concern. Think, for example, of the really increasing obsession with traceability, traceability of products, of destinations, the omnipresence of the ecological catastrophe as a kind of collective horizon. Our distrust in utopian politics. This acts to erase any representation of the future. The fact is, we live with a kind of rearview mirror all the time.

The past and its representation, the presence of historical documents in today’s art, have led to the rise of the figure of the archeologist in art. The archeologist uses or produces plans to locate him/herself in space as well as in time. S/he establishes the link between the figure of the modernist explorer and the critical artist, the contemporary of cultural studies of today.

I would like to evoke a very important art work, in my view, which is relevant to this exact turning point between Modernism and Postmodernism: Hotel Palenque by the American artist Robert Smithson. It’s a series of slides documenting the hotel he was living in at the time, in Mexico. It’s a kind of an inquiry. He really learns the history of this hotel, he’s digging into its archeological reality, trying to understand the physicality of the field on which this hotel has been built, etc. It’s a kind of conference, a kind of lecture with slides, very simple, nothing complicated in the process or the device he’s using. And I think this piece is a turning point, really. It’s the emergence of the artist as the pure archeologist, obsessed with the traceability of the present.

Robert Smithson developed the notion of Ruins in Reverse, which is very useful for us to understand the reality in which we live. The ruin in reverse is a kind of inversed archeology. As he did in many works, Robert Smithson was exploring the failed Modernist buildings, failed Modernist architecture in general. And he presented it as if it were something from the ancient times… Whereas it was the present, or very near past.

This change in focus helps us understand in a totally different way the world we live in. There are many ruins in reverse around us. Here and in many other places in the world. They are actually everywhere!

After having taken this series of photographs of this strange hotel, which gave birth to Hotel Palenque, Robert Smithson gave a lecture at the University of Utah, where he analyzed with extreme precision this dismantled, de-architecturalized and off-centered place, illustrating the idea of entropy as it applies to culture. According to Smithson, the world was dominated by entropy and the fact that is at the very source of his work is that you can always find the fossil – and we’re getting back to fossil energies and to oil.

Today we have many artists who are actually working like this. What’s really striking when you’re visiting exhibitions is the fact that you have many artists using fragments, historical fragments, documents from the past, in order to address issues in the present. Again, we have shifted, it’s not the future, it’s not utopia that leads the artist’s efforts to make us understand the present – it’s the past!

There was a really interesting art critic and art historian, who wrote a lot about Robert Smithson in the sixties, also an expert on Aztec and Pre-Columbian civilizations. His name was George Kubler. And in 62 he published a book which is absolutely fascinating: The Shape of Time. And it defines, already – a lot in advance – this new field of investigation with incredible lucidity. This is something which is really true now, I think. I’m going to quote Kubler: “Instead of occupying an expanding universe of forms, which is the contemporary artist’s happy, but premature assumption” – here he describes the Modernist world – “we would be seen to inhabit a finite world of limited possibilities, still largely unexplored, yet still open to adventure and discovery, like the polar wastes long before their human settlement… Instead of regarding the past as a microscopic annex to a future of astronomical magnitudes, we would have to envisage a future with limited room for changes, and these of types to which the past already yields the key.” What he’s describing here is exactly what we can feel, actually, in the relationship that artists have to the past and the future. The future is shrinking; the past is growing more and more all the time.

Our present is the archeological ruin in reverse that Robert Smithson was talking about. One of the possible explanations for this might be the fact that for the first time in the history of mankind, we are all, in this room, living in a world which is finite. It’s mapped entirely, since 2001. Which is a very important historical date that nobody really cared about. But it’s the year when the last blanks on the world map were filled by the satellites. Since then we have a representation of every millimeter of this planet – and this is a historical fact of great magnitude. And it changes, in a way – because we unconsciously know it, obviously – we are living in a world where there is nothing to discover anymore! There’s no terra incognita. Over. How could it not produce effects in our psyche and in the arts? Obviously, it does!

Strangely, if you look at what’s left, what are the possibilities now, the last continent to be discovered is actually history. The past is the only place where we can make discoveries. It’s not about the new anymore; it’s about discovering, which is very different.

To enrich this reflection, I would suggest to address the writings of Walter Benjamin – a great thinker of the past, obviously. The past that Benjamin is interested in was this unknown side of reality that was appearing in the light of the present. He wrote this absolutely incredible sentence which is also very inspiring: “Knowledge comes only in lightning flashes“. And we’re going to keep that in mind because I think we are going to see how deep this sentence is.

I will quote Benjamin further: “Every present day is determined by the images that are synchronic with it. Each now is the now of a particular recognizability. In it, truth is charged to the bursting point with time. (This point of explosion, and nothing else, is the death of the intention, which thus coincides with the birth of authentic historical time, the time of truth). It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present casts its light on what is past; rather,” – and that’s the important point – image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation”.

Here Walter Benjamin introduces the idea of what he calls the dialectical image. This image which has two sides: past and present. And with scintillation, actually, give us – in a flash, again, as he writes – knowledge not only on the past but on the present. The dialectical image, he defines it, is “an image that emerges suddenly, in a flash. What has been is to be held fast – as an image flashing up in the now of its recognizability”.

And here I want to make a comparison with another text by George Kubler. Strangely enough, talking about art in this book, The Shape of Time, in 62, he writes something that is so much related to it: “Actuality is when the lighthouse is dark between flashes: it’s the instant between the ticks of the watch: it is a void interval slipping forever through time…. Yet the instant of actuality is all we ever can know directly” – the present. “The rest of time emerges only in signals relayed to us at this instant by innumerable stages and by unexpected bearers. These signals are like kinetic energy stored until the moment of knowledge”.

The image may be – both in Benjamin’s and in George Kubler’s writings – exactly like a constellation of stars. If we look at the sky at night, a constellation is actually a condensation of time and space. It’s not purely space. The stars whose light we see now might be coming from the past, they might be dead like some supernovas which actually exploded millions of years ago, but whose light we can still actually see. When we look at a constellation we see something from the past and from the present at the same time.

This sheds a particular light on a pattern which is really important in contemporary art: flickering images. This is the lighthouse George Kubler was talking about: one moment you see something and the next you don’t. Or the dialectical image referred to by Walter Benjamin. I’m thinking for example of the series of phosphorescent drawings made by Philippe Parreno, which fade every minute and are reloaded by a violent lightning, or spotlight over and over.

I’m thinking also of works by British artist Cerith Wyn Evans that deliver messages or transcribe texts that are actually delivered in Morse code.

I’m thinking also, in a more metaphorical way, of the way of working of artists like Maurizio Cattelan, for example. It’s about flashes, it’s about being seen and recognized in one moment! That’s a specific, twisted logic of communication, but that’s so much used today, it’s the strategy of the flash – the surprise effect.

Of course, there are many modes of flickering. I could define it like a regime of the visible which is marked by intermittence. It’s the programmed fading of what is presented to our eyes, or to our perception. Another work by Philippe Parreno might be a good example for it. It’s a Christmas tree in steel, whose title is Fraught Times. It’s a piece which has to be considered for eleven months of the year like an artwork, and in December as a Christmas tree.

If you look at the work of Carsten Höller, flickering is absolutely everywhere. He uses a wall of flickering light-bulbs, alluding to the chickens raised in industrial farms, and it’s really about persuasion and hypnosis, that he claims actually governs and determines reality.

This art of flickering works goes with a reality that also flickers. And looking at those elements that we can see in today’s art, one might be interested also to look back and consider – which I still didn’t do properly but I’d love to once – all the artistic devices which include delays in art. A very archetypal example is Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass, that he defined as a “delay in glass”. It’s time, again, that defines the artwork.

There is a new distinction between the direct, the deferred and the archive in today’s art. There’s one element we should never forget, because it also determines many things. Today, our world is a huge recording machine. We all have iPhones, we record things all the time. Our whole world, our whole reality is recorded all the time. Even satellites do that. It’s amazing to think that we are living in a world which is recorded minute by minute. We have never seen that. All our societies are machines producing archives, all the time. And it’s impossible to avoid it. What are we going to do with those archives? How can we learn to navigate through them? What for? That’s a question that we might have to answer.

It’s no surprise, then, that some artists – I’m thinking of Trisha Donnelly in North America, of Tino Sehgal – actually refuse to record their work! Their art is performance-based and they don’t want any documentation of it. Because, anyway, if things are not shot or recorded, anyway they will get into the huge archive that we’re living in.

This insistence on the here and now of the work, of the artistic event, and the refusal to record it, represent, of course, a challenge to the art world, but its institutional nature anyway is a mighty archival apparatus. And that’s what’s holding things together – this archival apparatus – what else is the art world, anyway? It’s a selective process of recording.

I want to insist on this dialectical twist that Walter Benjamin was mentioning, between the present and the past. Because Benjamin was of course, himself, a historian, a materialist historian. And he was particularly interested in the obsolete, the old toys, the signs from the 19th century, etc. If you take this category and try to look at the art world – which artist is interested to give an answer to Walter Benjamin – I think, again, Phillip Parreno is highly interesting. Parreno may be one of few artists who are still developing an idea of the future. I think this is rare enough to be emphasized. Parreno’s work is based on the idea of the artifact from the future, that we describe in the world we live now – a kind of portrait of the 21st century, on the future.

The big difference is that for Walter Benjamin the examination of history is a rescue operation. By practicing quotation, which does not interpret but, as he says, “photographs” the past, and by approaching urban fragments from their phantasmagoric coating, Benjamin means to liberate the forces contained within, in order to bring to the present the contents that have been confiscated by the conquerors. To write about history, according to Benjamin is to reveal the truth of history – it’s to activate the present in a revolutionary sense.

Parreno is developing the exact symmetrical position to this “archeological mechanism”. It’s possible, Parreno says, to activate the present from the future, beginning with anticipation from scratch.

What’s striking, again, is the fact that today space and time seem to be at the point of merging and even exchanging their properties. Time, as we know it, we spontaneously define it as succession, and we identify space with simultaneity. But we now live in times in which nothing disappears anymore. The huge archival apparatus I was mentioning before. Everything accumulates under the effect of a frenetic archiving.

To give an example of this new idea of time, I remember that 20-30 years ago there were real fashions in the cultural world. Today, we don’t have fashions – we have trends, which are a kind of microscopic version of it, short-lived trends.

For Modernism, the past was representing tradition. It was destined to be supplanted by the new, of course. This idea of the new is something that we don’t have anymore. In fact, for Postmodernism, the past has a very different signification. Historical time took the form of a kind of catalog or repertoire of styles. Again, it’s not succession anymore, it’s simultaneity.

And the past, here, is defined in territorial terms, we could say. The most spontaneous example of it is the fact that when you travel you might have the sensation that you are changing epochs. On the other hand, if you look at a book of art history today, you encounter a geography of contemporary styles and techniques.

This is the reason why the science called anthropology has been founded. In anthropology, the “over there” is spontaneously transformed into “back then”. And tourism, traveling, is not only a change of scenery, it’s also a change in time. As Claude LéviStrauss was saying in Sad Tropics [Tristes Tropiques], a journey occurs simultaneously in space, in time and in social hierarchy.

This phenomenon of space-time merging into a hyper-technologized world, transformed into a huge archive could lead to the emergence of a kind of Borgesian esthetics, inspired by the Argentinian writer. Because quite obsessively, he alludes several times to this kind of transformation of time into space, and describes time as a kind of a maze, a labyrinth, nonlinear, whose nature is to bifurcate, forking all the time. He even views the movement of time, as he mentions several times, from the future into the past, as if it were a constant production of the past.

There was a short story called Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius where Borges imagines a civilization whose inhabitants have developed a new relationship with metaphysics. To them, he writes, “The world is not a concurrence of objects in space, but a heterogeneous series of independent acts. It’s serial, and temporal, but not spatial”. In this civilization, producing, discovering and exhuming objects are one and the same. And the archeologists of this civilization, of Tlön, can as easily invent the objects they exhibit as much as unearth them – it’s exactly the same. The point that Borges wants to make is that discoveries are made in the past, as well as in the present and in the future.

It seems that sometimes contemporary art world resembles the civilization of Tlön, and its way of thinking begins to look like that its philosophers… In the context of the very complex relations that artists entertain with history today – now that the end of the race for a new that structured the narrative of the artistic avant-garde has been generally acknowledged – formal discovery, the establishment of the relationship between the past and the present is as much valorized today as an anticipation of the art of the future. This kind of exercise seems to belong to the past. And the idea of an art of the future is not necessarily something that we take into account anymore.

To describe time, the French philosopher Michel Serres was calling for topology as opposed to metrics, which is the classical measuring of time in seconds, minutes, hours. According to him, “we are always simultaneously making gestures that are archaic, modern, and futuristic”. Therefore, all historical events are multi-temporal, referring simultaneously to the past, present and future.

Here, again, we find the idea of the constellation. And we also find this idea in topology that time might be not a linear space, but more like a kind of… If you fold a sheet of paper several times, what was linear and flat is now much more complex. You have certain elements that touch one another, that were not connected one minute before. This [pointing to the crumpled sheet of paper on his table] might be the real representation of time – a folded space, where sometimes elements form the past touch elements of the future and the present.

So what is clear to me today is the fact that artists build some of their pathways as much in history as in geography. Those two notions might come together much easier than we think.

I think the most interesting artists of our times are those who take these ideas and have the intuition of those transformations, and take them into account in their effort to produce space-time the way we actually experience it.

I invented a word to define this kind of movement – exploring the world – and this word is semionaut. The artist is a semionaut: from semios, the sign, and nautos, navigation. Which means the artist navigates throughout the signs. They find their way into the huge forest of signs that we are living in today, which is increasingly overcrowded with objects and signs, obviously. So this exercise of navigation is more and more complex.

What is interesting to see is that many artists are actually folding one onto the other elements that are separated by time and/or space, and putting them together to establish a comparison or connection with them. Artists are semionauts who invent pathways throughout today’s global culture.

As we construct those pathways, as much in history as in geography, I think that we might envision in a different manner our relation towards Modernism or modernity. One may not agree with that, but I tend to think that the modern is an occurrence in history. There was not only one modernity – from the end of the 19th century and throughout a large part of the 20th century – I think there were many modern moments in history, which were all sharing an important element, which was the idea of the departure: leaving behind the old, monumental apparatus and finding your way into a new, blank space, a desert. I think that’s the Modernist gesture par excellence. One cannot think about modernity without it.

I firmly believe that today, we need a new modernity, to rise up. Because we cannot be dominated forever by the prefix post, which brands us as inhabitants of the outskirts of history. And this modernity whose clues I find everywhere I go might not be radical like the Modernism of the 20th century, because, as we know, radical means “belonging to the root”. If you are radical, you erase the tree. You cut the branches and you only keep the root. And you grow something else on it. That’s being radical.

There’s another word that come right after in any European dictionary, which is radicant. And a radicant is an organism that grows its own roots as it advances or progresses, such as ivy or strawberries. You can cut the original root, and it still goes. This botanical metaphor for me is very rich. It implies and generates many possibilities of being, of relating to our culture, to the past, to the Other. The radicant is not necessarily doing a tabula rasa, not erasing, destroying the past in order to make a new order apparent. The radicant has to engage in dialog with the spaces and space-times that s/he is crossing. It’s a journey that we’re talking about. And this journey is the constitution of the subject.

Those are really important elements, and the way we deal with history, the way we deal with time today – not only in art, of course, but also in our own way of looking at the world – is absolutely crucial.

There is also a kind of ideal representation that is made on the other side, for example, Bill Gates was calling for what he calls “Capitalism without friction”, which means transforming the world into a place which would be borderless – only for commodities, of course! No friction, nothing to slow the hyper-speed movement of mercantilization.

Time and history are exactly the opposite. They produce distinctions, they are factors of division, they are disruptive elements. And the logic of globalization tends to weaken those elements by diluting them in the unobstructed space of free trade. But because Bill Gates uses the word this does not mean we can’t use it either and do something different out of it. I don’t think that the border in itself is a good thing. At least, it’s so present today in our mental representation of the world that we can interrogate ourselves – What exactly does it mean? Is the border’s presence critical, or not? This should be analyzed in a more precise way.

Let’s conclude with the evocation of a theoretician of modernity, who also was the most disillusionized commentator of this transition towards the industrial world. Charles Baudelaire was calling for “jumping into the depths of the unknown to find something new”. This could be the perfect summary of this big adventure that modernity has been. The depth on one side and the new on the other. It’s a figure which is, interestingly enough, obsolete already when the imagery of the surface emerged at the exact same time.