Artworks |  Ladder


Performance | 2019

In our civilization, ritual has traditionally been understood as a way of joining the structures and plans of the higher world. In this way, it became the means for getting answers to the deepest questions of life, consolation and achieving a state of security in a world that one cannot fully understand and express. However, our time is marked by doubts about this optimism. As Wittgenstein wrote, “when the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be put into words”.[1] Moreover, as Derrida thought after Socrates, thoughts turned into letters are helpless orphans: what is written “always needs its father to attend to it, being quite unable to defend itself or attend to its own needs”.[2]

In the performance, the artist performs a ritual, asking questions without answeres: “What is truth?”, “What is spirit and matter?”, “What is being?”, “Is there a purpose?”. In the spirit of tradition, she operates within the circle and tries to make it a reliable, protected piece of the world. However, in line with Wittgenstein’s and Derrida’s presentiment, the ritual turns dark and produces a state of total helplessness: the simultaneous pronunciation and writing of these questions results in both unreadable text and indistinct speech. Comparing awareness of the meaninglessness of essential questions to climbing the epistemological ladder, Wittgenstein said that one “must […] throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it”; after this overcoming, “he will see the world aright”.[3] The ritual shows that the ladder of knowledge is the perceiving person herself. Contrary to the intention, the fragile scribbles open the border with the terrible void of the unspeakable. The end is the triumph of Wittgenstein’s last conclusion: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence”.[4] The ritual turned into a ladder, and then into silence, the person herself.

1. Wittgenstein, L. 1974. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Trans. from the German by D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness, with an introd. by B. Russell. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. §6.5, P. 88.
2. Derrida, J. 1981. “Plato’s Pharmacy”. In Dissemination. Trans. from the French by B.&.Johnson. London: The Athlone Press. P. 77: “[…] the origin of logos is its father. One could say anachronously that the ‘speaking subject’ is the father of his speech. […] The reader will have noted Socrates’ insis­tence on the misery, whether pitiful or arrogant, of a logos committed to writing: ‘…It always needs its father to attend to it, being quite unable to defend itself or attend to its own needs’ (Plat. Phd. 275e). This misery is ambiguous: it is the distress of the orphan, of course, who needs not only an attending presence but also a presence that will attend to its needs […] The status of this orphan, whose welfare cannot be assured by any attendance or assistance, coincides with that of a graphein which, being nobody’s son at the instant it reaches inscription, scarcely remains a son at all and no longer recognizes its origins, whether legally or morally.”
3. Wittgenstein. Op. cit. §6.54, P. 89.
4. Ibid. §7, P. 89.
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