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Traces of the Invisible

Joëlle Caullier
mai 2011Traduction de Joyce Shintani


1In its first issue, Filigrane expressed the wish that musicologists might assume their political role in full measure; they would thus support artists in their function as ‘awakeners’ of the sensibilities and of consciousness, so that by stimulating individual and group feelings both might contribute to a better living together.The second issue, Traces of the Invisible, undertakes this task and invites artists, thinkers from different artistic areas, and philosophers to cross reflections on the arts, notably on music. In doing so, they unveil that which escapes appearance, but that nonetheless brings the reality of the world into relief. We seek to underscore the manner in which the art of our day unfurls the silent and invisible life of thoughts, of sensibility, and of interiority with infinite inventiveness. We seek to show how art unceasingly strives to enhance the subtleness of perceptions, rather than abandon them to the violent manipulations of visual and auditory senses, complacently bombarded by a media society eager to control collective emotion. To call attention to the invisible, the inaudible, or the unspeakable does not mean yielding to siren presumptions of a spiritualist and conservative nature that the Western world has fought against since Nietzsche. On the contrary, another model of man is proposed : not the one that mass media try to shape by exposing it to sensory and emotional attacks that wither the critical spirit in the flames of the footlights. Instead, a model of man that listens to what is silently alive beneath the uproar, devoting all its care to that mysterious activity of the spirit, the activity that ‘invents reality’1 and thus even liberty…

2To be sure, at a certain moment in Western history, it was necessary to provide protection against the invisible, which became a tool used for the enslavement of consciousness ; but the frantic growth of present-day commercialization has created a pernicious situation, a catastrophic enfeeblement of consciousness and sensibilities. Could humanity imagine no other behavior than this distressing alternative ? One refuses to believe it, and, among possible exits, art is doubtlessly capable of opening a salutary window.

3Since our communication-obsessed society seems to privilege what is shown, exhibited, unveiled, or revealed, attention turns away ever more from that which offers nothing to see and nothing to hear, from that which is mute or unutterable, from that which is neither manifest nor perceptible ; in a word, away from that submerged part of the iceberg that nevertheless participates in worldly reality. Perhaps it is the individual and collective unconscious that determines so much human behavior. Perhaps behind objects and gestures, meaning and symbolic value are hidden, from the quotidian to the most artfully construed. Perhaps it is the time and the silence of aesthetic contemplation, or the metaphoric order reinserted by artists into the world’s chaos. It might also be things dreamt, felt, and perceived, which are neither spoken of nor shown, that nonetheless temper and condition all human thought and action.

4Now, it is this sense of the invisible with its endless inflections that artists try to awaken in their contemporaries, in order to draw attention to this hidden dimension. For without it, humans lose their humanity and fall into the abyss of a reified universe that has become the unique horizon of their desires.

5Music, in its abstraction, could rightfully constitute the point of departure for a reflection on the ‘condition of modern man.’ This volume has three sections. Firstly, reflections on music that strongly contrast in their approach : the thoughts of the phenomenologist Marc Richir on musical perception, the thoughts of Vincent Tiffon on the refinement of perception occasioned by new technologies, and finally Matthieu Guillot’s thoughts on the need today to rescue subtle listening. Then, the areas of dance and film, represented by the writings of Philippe Guisgand, Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues and Robert Bonamy, are called upon to interrogate the paradoxical tie that joins those two visual arts with what is beyond the image. Finally, the last section makes room for the artists themselves, who through their poetics evoke ‘traces of the invisible’ beyond the materiality of their art – or perhaps due to it : the composers Jean-Claude Risset and Pascale Criton, the visual artist Dietlind Bertelsmann, and Gianfranco Vinay, who writes about composer Salvatore Sciarrino.


1  Cf. Paul Watzlawick, L’invention de la réalité, Paris, Seuil, 1990, p. 380.


Joëlle Caullier, «Traces of the Invisible», Filigrane. Musique, esthétique, sciences, société. [En ligne], Numéros de la revue, Traces d’invisible, mis à  jour le : 25/05/2011, URL : https://revues.mshparisnord.fr:443/filigrane/index.php?id=89.


Joëlle CaullierJoyce Shintani