ESR 5 Blog April/May 2022: Claude Nassar

Body, Space, Subject

When faced with a dissonance between how I desire things to be and how things are, I find that I have two choices: to change myself, the subject that occupies the particular ‘I’ of that moment, or to change something in the space outside of the subject. A change inside the subject through which I make sense of the world, or a change outside of that subject in the space from which the subject is subtracted from.

When I change something in the space, on the outside of the subject I think through—when I close a window when its windy, when I tell someone that they have crossed a line, when I make coffee to wake myself up in the morning, when I go to a protest, for a walk, or curse a corporation—I’m also triggering a change on the inside of the subject as a response to the doing of what has been done. Even though the change was initiated from the subject towards its outside, the transformed space in turn initiates a change in the body that transforms the subject. From the other side, when I opt for a change internal to the subject. When I rationalise the situation in a way that makes it more tolerable, when I relate a challenging situation to a desirable outcome in the future—I am also triggering a simultaneous transformation in the body and its relation to the space around it that transforms the space itself and the ways it relates to the body.

When examined consciously, as I necessarily am doing now, the body lies in between the subject and the space it exists in. The ‘I’ is a subject always separated from the body even when it takes the shape of the body because this separation is not spatial—the subject is not elsewhere but it is always in a temporality different from that of the body. The subject always issues from a continuously thinking/sensing body; I am always late, my body is always ahead of me sensing, feeling, and thinking with its surroundings what I am able to synthesise into linear chains of cause and effect. The space in which the subject exists is both the past and the future depending from where you access it: it is the past as the continuation of the body from which the subject emerges, and the future in which the subject can act. I am the subject that freezes and flattens the world into significance that can be ordered and reorganised, the space in which I exist is what is outside of me and thus needs to be ordered, and my body is what orders its surroundings and is ordered by them.

I think through the ‘I’ as the individuality of the subject, even collective subject. I could refer to myself, my body, but also to any other subject I occupy on other scales: a family, an institution, a political party, a nation, etc. Even though I use ‘I’ to think through these collective subjects, the ability of my individual body that does the conscious thinking to effectively change the subject or its space, varies according to the relative position my body occupies to the center of the subject: does my body comply with the presupposed image of the individual body that embodies the subject? Does my body have the right gender, sexuality, economic class, religion academic status, to fully occupy the ‘I’ it thinks through? Does my body have enough relations with the network of bodies that form this subject to actualise the possibilities I am theorising?

The dissonance between how I desire things to be and how things are is not something that can be resolved but it is the predicament of the ‘I’. When there’s no dissonance, I do not need to think nor do I need to exist; the body exists in its surroundings, thinking with its surroundings without the need to rationalise itself as individuality separate from the space it occupies. As long as I am thinking there is a dissonance between my body and its environment that requires a retuning of both my body and my environment. As long as I exist I’ll remind myself that I have a body before a subject.

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