Ubiquitous Site – Nagi Ryoanji by Arakawa + Gins (1994)
“If persons are sited, why do philosophers inquiring into what constitutes a person, or, for that matter, into the nature of mind, rarely, if ever, factor this in?”
“Philosophers considering persons as sites would be obliged to develop a person architectonics. They would, I am afraid, have to turn themselves into architects of sorts.” Page 5
Some of my readers are maybe surprised to see the editorial line of the blog shrinking day by day to something more and more (too?) precise. The reason for it is partially temporary as part of a strategy towards the completion of a project that I will be happy to unveil in the coming weeks. Until then, I would like to present one more article about the work of the Reversible Destiny Foundation (Arakawa + Madeline Gins) for a more acute understanding of their theoretical and design work (which are not really discernible one from another).
The title Architecture of the Conatus I chose in reference to their book Architectural Body (University of Alabama Press, 2002) is a direct reference to Spinozist philosophy (once again!) and can therefore be put in dialogue with the recent series of article dedicated to the latter. For Spinoza, each assemblage of substance i.e. body, “as far as it lies in itself, strives to persevere in its being” (Ethics, part 3, prop. 6). In other words, each thing will be continuously involved in a process of effort to keep the integrity of the material assemblage that constitutes it. Any animal (humans included), for example, will keep its body together as long as the latter is involved within the vital process. When this animal dies, however, its body will decompose and its matter will be reassembled in other bodies (soil etc.). Arakawa and Madeline Gins present a similar concept in their book, but before coming to that, I should probably introduce the latter.
Architecture of the Sky (Milan Trade Fair Building by Massimiliano & Doriana Fuksas) versus Architecture of the Earth (Japanese playground photographed by Munemi Natsu)
This article will be somehow similar to the text Architectures of Joy I wrote in 2010 and to which I often referred this week; however, this time, I would like to oppose a Spinozist architecture to its antagonist. It is important to observe that attributing the status of ‘Spinozist’ to an architecture is a relatively artificial and subjective assignment as all architectures are, to some extents, celebrating the composition of material assemblages that will interact with the bodies they host. Nevertheless, just like I did for the cinema of Kurosawa yesterday, we can distinguish some architectures that express the essence of Spinoza’s philosophy with more intensity (another Spinozist term) than others. Moreover, some others seem to express an essence that can be interpreted as an opposition to such a philosophy. This antagonism is here gathered under the title Architecture of the Sky vs. Architecture of the Earth as a form of simplification of what opposes them. One could argue that the sky is fully part of Spinoza’s philosophy, at the same level than the ground itself; however, the sky has to be understood through two attributes here: a symbolic one that understands the sky in a theological way, and a “practical” one in the sense that what is called “architectures of the sky” here, would not challenge the body in a direct physical manner. We could therefore used two other antagonist notions to define this conflict: the transcendental. versus the immanent.
Screenshot from 悪い奴ほどよく眠る (The Bad Sleep Well) by A. Kurosawa (1960)
To be honest, I am not fully sure where I am going with this first of two articles on potential Applied Spinozism; the possibility to read the bodies depicted in the cinema of Akira Kurosawa through the philosophy of Spinoza is not necessarily obvious (he is usually more associated with authors like Dostoevsky or Shakespeare) and my interpretation of it might be somehow shallow and incomplete. I suppose however that good ideas are based on intuitions and, for this reason, the latter should be explored!
Having watched an important amount of films made by Kurosawa these last four years, I noticed that we often see in them one or two characters who are struggling to climb up an earth slope. That is the case in The Bad Sleep Well (see above), The Hidden Fortress (1958), Rashomon (1950), High and Low (1963) and probably in more that I forgot or did not watch. The almost obsessive care that Kurosawa takes to film those scenes that vary in their length, lead us to think that there might be something important to be observed in them. These scenes do not bring anything to the plot in terms of additional information and an inattentive reading of them could let us think that a flat land would pretty much depict the same action but again the slope seems to be a crucial element in Kurosawa’s cinematographic (and therefore conceptual) toolbox.
The ‘Spinoza Week” continues with its Deleuzian terminology to address the philosophy of Spinoza. The “scream” evoked in the title refers indeed to the concept of philosophical scream that Deleuze invents to define a phrase written or pronounced by a philosopher that contains the essence of his life work. The scream has to be understood in two senses here (at least, that is the way I interpret it): the absolute, almost physical, necessity for a philosopher to “scream” this phrase, and the trouble caused within the normative way of thinking by this same phrase. In the case of Spinoza, according to Deleuze, this scream is expressed in the Proposition II of the Part III of the Ethics:
However, no one has hitherto laid down the limits to the powers of the body, that is, no one has as yet been taught by experience what the body can accomplish solely by the laws of nature, in so far as she is regarded as extension. No one hitherto has gained such an accurate knowledge of the bodily mechanism, that he can explain all its functions; nor need I call attention to the fact that many actions are observed in the lower animals, which far transcend human sagacity, and that somnambulists do many things in their sleep, which they would not venture to do when awake: these instances are enough to show, that the body can by the sole laws of its nature do many things which the mind wonders at.
Again, no one knows how or by what means the mind moves the body, nor how many various degrees of motion it can impart to the body, nor how quickly it can move it.
Today is the fourth episode of the ‘Spinoza week’ (which will last a bit longer than a week as you probably already understood) and the third article dedicated to the exploration of Spinoza’s conceptology. Today’s text will be (once again) very influenced by the interpretation that Gilles Deleuze makes of Spinoza’s writings. In this regard, it might be important to observe that Deleuze spent the first part of his life by creating his own philosophy through the interpretations of others (Hume, Nietzsche, Bergson etc.) and that each of those interpretations he makes are very personal. There are therefore other way of approaching the philosophy of Spinoza but I am not as familiar with them as I am with the Deleuzian one.
During this week, we have not explored so much the concept of substance which is for Spinoza the only and necessarily perfect thing that exists and that can be considered as a whole under the name ‘God’. Expressed in a very simple way (maybe too much), and to somehow borrow Leibniz’s concept of monad, we need to see the world as a gigantic assemblage of infinitely small pieces of matter (calling them atoms would be erroneous but useful to make it understandable) that are all involved in more or less fast movement. These small elements of matter composes bodies that are perpetually striv[ing] to persevere in its being (Ethics, part 3, prop. 6). This property is called conatus and we will explore it in the final episode of this week. Those bodies are continuously interacting with each other and thus systematically affect each other. What it means in a very simple way, is that when you cut a piece of butter with a knife, of course, the knife affects the butter since you can see that the latter is being cut; however, the knife as well is affected by the butter and has to ‘resist’ the butter’s characteristics that attempt to make it persevering in its being.
First of all, I would like to share with my readers the story of this article that first took me three hours to write and disappeared when I pressed ‘publish’! According to yesterday’s article however, it did occurred as the result of the ensemble of circumstances that preceded it in world history, so I suppose that I should not regret it!
Let’s continue to explore the Spinozist ‘conceptology’ with, today, a contrast that is difficult to be made in English as the word power includes two meanings whose difference is fundamental in the philosophy of Spinoza. For the purpose of this article I will therefore differentiate the two latin terms of potentia and potestas both contained in the English word of power (in French we would use the notion of puissance for the former and pouvoir for the latter). The referent and complex book examining this question is the Savage Anomaly written by Antonio Negri in 1981 when he was in prison. The original subtitle of this book is saggio su potere e potenza in Baruch Spinoza (essay on the potestas and potential in Baruch Spinoza’s work). Unfortunately, Michael Hardt, Negri’s friend and translator of the English version did not find a way to reconcile this problem and added a different subtitle, The Power of Spinoza’s Metaphysics and Politics.
I might first try to explain the difference between potestas and potentia in a simple way by defining the former as a relationship to another body while the latter as a capacity or an intensity to use a Deleuzian terminology. The potestas needs indeed a referent to dominate or to be dominated by to effectuate itself. On the contrary, the potentia is a relationship to the whole world (Spinoza might say God but since his god is immanent, this is the same thing) in the composition of a form of “harmony”. In the Abécédaire (J for Joy), Gilles Deleuze helps us to understand this difference while explaining the concept of joy and sadness (my translation, the original French transcript is at the end of the article):
I am intending to conclude this ‘Spinoza week’ with some architectural applications of this philosophy; however, it is probably useful to dedicate the first articles to compose a sort of Spinozist ‘toolbox’ in order to understand those examples with more accuracy. This is obviously an assignment that I can do only with clear limitations as I am neither a philosopher nor a specialist of Spinoza (or anything else for that matter!); nevertheless, I will try to do my best to explain the bases of a few of his major concepts.
The first of these concepts is the one of determinism, although it would be an anachronism to attribute this word to the Spinozist terminology as it appeared later in history. The idea behind the word is however the same, as Spinoza is convinced that nothing that happens could have possibly happen differently as each of these events, as ‘minor’ it might be, constitutes the result of the sum of circumstances that occurred in the world since the latter started. There is no theology in this philosophy, or at least, not a transcendental one in which destiny or God have planned a path for the world; this vision has more to do with a logical holistic chain of events. We can say that this chain is following the law of physics, although the latter are of course an incomplete human interpretation (one might say decoding) of the former.
Today, I am starting a series of articles about 17th century Portuguese-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza and thus dedicates to his work a ‘week’ like I did two years ago for Gilles Deleuze and last year for Michel Foucault.
The first article of this week will attempt to examine how Spinoza can supply a terminology, or rather, a conceptology to extend the sharp analysis of capitalism made by Karl Marx in the 19th century to a its neo-liberal version we have been experiencing for the last thirty years. In order to do so, I would use a particular chapter from the book Capitalisme, désir et servitude: Marx et Spinoza (Capitalism, desire and servitude, Marx and Spinoza) written by Frédéric Lordon and published by the always excellent publisher La Fabrique in 2010.
Through this book, F. Lordon depicts, among other things, the two important shifts of paradigms in capitalism that occurred since the publication of Das Kapital, in order for it to survive against the potentiality of a revolution prophetized by Marx when he was observing the continuous production of a discontented working class. The first shift of paradigm, often known as Fordism, occurred in the first part of the 20th century and consisted in a neat amplification of the production rhythm associated with the integration of the working class itself in the mass consumption of their own product. The second shift of paradigm, closer to us, examined how the working class (which also shifted for a big part of it, from the industry to the realms of services) could gain in productivity by integrating it to an ideology of “self-accomplishment” that could apparently relate to the Spinozist idea of joyful affect (for a very basic introduction to his concepts, you can read my text Architectures of Joy from 2010). For Spinoza, the servitude is anyway universal as all our acts are determined by the sum of circumstances that caused it (much more about that in a upcoming article), but we can nevertheless increase our power (potentia in latin, more on that soon too) by acquiring the knowledge of the causes of our behavior. As we know too well, strategies of inducing do not allow the subject to understand the context of his decisions better than an assembly line worker in the beginning of the 20th century and therefore force it to remain within the sad affects.
Basile Doganis is a French philosopher particularly interested in the field of Japanese culture (see his work about the silence in Ozu’s cinema for example). His book, Pensées du corps: La philosophie à l’epreuve des arts gestuels japonais (danse, théâtre, arts martiaux) (Body thinking: Philosophy confronted to Japanese Gestural Arts (dance, theater, martial arts)) (Paris: Les Belles lettres, 2012) is an analysis of the way the body is considered in those arts and how it can be approached through concepts created in Western Philosophy (Deleuze, Bergson, Whitehead etc.). The book is also prefaced by Alain Badiou who used to be B.Doganis’ professor. In his research, jujidsu, kendo, butoh, no have all in common to depersonnalize the body in order to make it a “puppet” subjected to the forces of its environment. Of course, this requires some explanations not to be detrimental to both Japanese gestural arts and B.Doganis’s writing; and that is why he goes back recurrently to this idea along the book in order to provide a clear visualization of this paradoxal status (one would think that the puppet is precisely what one would want to avoid to be in the situation of dance or fighting).
My translation (all originals excerpt at the end of the article):
We therefore come up with a paradoxical situation that we could formulate as the following: if the body, in its most primary manifestation and its mere existence, presents more intensity and depth than a conscious artistic intention, then we would have to seek the minimal degree of intention that is of particularity, of personal will. However, since a part of consciousness and will always remains in action, the regulatory ideal will consist in “being dead” while being alive or, at least, to give to the body some properties based on pure inertia. For Hijikata, as we saw it, the will to dance always goes, in butoh, with a surprising desire of dispossession and handicap. Handicap is like a limit, where the body is silent and refuses any principle of will and control. The dancer chooses to give up progressively all his ordinary capacities to become only an instrument, a tool, a mere support through which an uncontrollable intensity acts. (P62)
Last Friday, the journal of Pratt Graduate School of Architecture’s students released its third issue in this format. This year’s volume gathers a certain amount of well known thinkers and designers (Catherine Ingraham, Ed Keller, David Gissen, Sandford Kwinter, Alisa Andrasek, Patrik Schumacher, Antoine Picon and more) and is slyly entitled Not Nature. Slyly indeed as, through the negative form of its title, it proposes precisely to debate around the very notion of nature. In this regard, we can distinguish two discourses opposing each other in the very important discrepancy of axioms defining nature.
It has been said many times that the most beautiful ballets are the ones that makes us forget the weight of the dancers’ bodies. With Pina Bausch, on the contrary, dance becomes a vehicle of celebration of this weight in its interaction with itself, the others’ and the environment. The film Pina by Wim Wenders (2011) is remarkable in this regard. It offers to the spectator another point of view on four of the German choreographer’s main pieces (The Rite of Spring, Cafe Muller, Kontakthoh and Vollmond) as well as introducing her dancers in various open landscapes thus perpetuating the emphasis on the relationship dance creates with a terrain.
This new point of view is highly interesting as it focuses on details that are almost imperceptible from the audience’s traditional situation. However, all those details are what composes the atmosphere of P.Bausch’s ballet and are beautifully emphasized by W.Wenders. The sound of the bodies, in particular is fascinating whether they inhale, breathe, run, fall on the floor or hit itself. Bodies are celebrated both in their superb as well as in their fragility. There is a violence in Pina Bauch’s work that is fascinating and frightening in its crudeness. One more time, the film recounts well this dimension of dance, whether it is by those two female bodies which repeatedly encounter the power of a wall in Cafe Muller, or the group of women ritually hitting their bodies in Le Sacre du Printemps, or else the rope that retains this young girl from escaping of the room, or again, this couple, in Cafe Muller, who can’t stop repeating the same action over and over between embrace and fall. Each time, the sound produced by those bodies reminds us of their weight i.e. their factor of attraction for gravity and shocks us in its coldness.
Depending of the matter it is composed of, the environment reacts more or less visually to those encounters. Earth, sand and water are found regularly in the movie as good examples of such visible interactions. Indeed, these materials embody expressively the effect that the environment has on the body and vice versa.
This article registers itself in a series of short posts questioning this notion of weight of the body:
- 01/ The Weight of the Body Falling (Sept 11)
- 02/ Spinozist Collision (Sept 11)
- 03/ Gravity Dances (Dec 11)
Human Writes by William Forsythe (2005) /// Photograph by Julian Gabriel Richter
Today’s essay has been written by Hiroko Nakatani in a way that allies scientific rigorousness and the subjectivity of an architect who finds in these experiments, a way to re-introduce the notion of the body in architecture. Starting from the Spinozist assessment that body and mind cannot be separated, Hiroko then overtakes a short inventory of scientific experiments that confirms such an immanent reading of the living. As a conclusion, she quotes Shusaku Arakawa -who she knows well for having worked with him as well as Madeline Gins for two years of her life- saying that a human owns thousands of brains in and out of his (her) body. Such a manifesto is of course deeply related to the body’s environment and therefore the architecture that surrounds it. Understanding this approach is what Hiroko proposes in the following paper:
Dissolving Minds and Bodies
by Hiroko Nakatani
The object of the idea constituting a human mind is the corresponding body, or a certain mode of extension that actually exists, and nothing else. -Baruch de Spinoza
This article is the second sequel of the one called “The Weight of the Body Falling” that was followed by another entitled Spinozist collision. When those two articles were insisting on the weight of bodies, in particular when they fall and hit a surface, this one is dedicated, on the contrary, to work that celebrate the lightness of those who manage to play with gravity to a certain extent of transgression. Three beautiful examples come to mind in this regard:
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee (2000) is a film in which some warriors have learned secret fighting skills among which they are able to defy gravity by becoming lighter:
Stills from 36 Quai des Orfèvres by Olivier Marchal
I recently wrote an article (Sept 14th) entitled The Weight of the Body Falling which consisted in a first approach of a study of the effect of gravity on the human body and its potential architectural interpretation. The latter can be explored by writing about the notion of Landing Sites created by Arakawa and Gins (see all previous articles), I don’t feel ready to elaborate about it yet but it should come very soon.
For now, I would like to approach this notion of bodies falling in a Spinozist way, focusing on the notion of collision. The introductory image of this article is not innocent here; I noticed that however bad a movie can be as far as the scenario or the acting are concerned, I have a strong respect for films that are attached to the weights of bodies – body, here, has to be understood as a coherent cluster of microscopic particles forming a macroscopic ensemble. Off the top of my head, I am thinking in particular of the movies directed by Akira Kurosawa -in particular The Hidden Fortress- and of a very recent one directly registered in this genealogy: 13 Assassins by Takeshi Miike. I recommend -in addition of watching the movies themselves, of course- to watch entirely both movies’ trailer by clicking on the two previous links which in few minutes manage somehow to transmit this importance of the weight. Horses galloping in the mud, never far from sliding and falling, human bodies falling in the water or on the earth, and of course the instrumental steel of the swords that resonates when clashing, are as many indicators of the reality of two bodies colliding with each other.
picture: The Shower by Kerry Skarbakka
Gravity is never more perceptible than when an object falls and when this object is a human body, the visual expressiveness of the scene becomes even more dramatic. Photographs of the body falling probably all owes a lot to the one composed by Yves Klein jumping in the void of a Parisian street in 1960. Since then other photographers worked on this subject, more or less voluntarily as we will see.
The photographs of Kerry Skarbakka are very expressive in this matter. Although his body is always suspended, he indeed succeeds to translate the weight of the body in his literal meaning: the degree of attraction of the body towards the earth. The viewer can inexorably imagine the moment that comes next, the collision of the earth and the body, climax of the violence of gravity.
Denis Darzacq is observing a similar method but, for better of worse, tend to express a feeling of slow motion that add to the aesthetics of the image but reduce this very interesting attraction which subject the body. In D.Darzacq’s photographs, bodies seems to be suspended in the void for ever as if the notion of weight was not effective anymore.
Eventually, one last photographer, Richard Drew, somehow involuntarily revolutionized this photographic subject as he managed to photograph one of the most traumatic scenes from the September 11st 2001′s attack against the New York World Trade Center, a man who chose the void over the flames and fell for long seconds along the very linear facade of the towers. This photograph tackles a lot of problems in the definition of art and its limits; nevertheless, it expresses the subjectivization of the body to gravity like no other work and provoke an intense emotion to the viewer who cannot not identify to this body and associate to it the context in which it has been photographed.
Sept 15th Add-on: The Huffington Post just released an article about a beautiful video filming base jumpers…it seemed appropriate to add it here.
Read the first sequel to this chapter published on September 26th 2011.
Read the second sequel to this chapter published on December 6th 2011
Read the third sequel to this chapter published on January 3rd 2012
All the concerned photographs are to be seen after the break:
First of all, I would like to say that this article is not an indictment against the three “new” episodes (I, II & III) of Star Wars; on the contrary of a lot of people, I think that those films brings something extremely interesting to the saga, which is the retroactive construction of a myth (I still remember my shiver in theater at the end of the Episode III, when we observe the birth of Dark Vador) which managed intelligently to introduce how the Jedi went from faithful servants of a democratic Republic to rebels to the same regime when it turned into a permanent autocratic State of Emergency.
However, one thing that I find incredibly superb in the three first episodes (IV, V & VI) and that makes all the difference between the episode from the 70-80′s and those from the 2000′s: the ground.
In fact, the original Star Wars was shot in several places in the world which gives a very various and rich landscapes to express several planet’s specificity. On the contrary, the new series of films principally used semi or full computer generated landscapes (except for some scenes in Naboo where we can recognize Seville or Como). It is important to precise here that my argument is nothing in favor of “realism” or credibility of the movie. It is almost the opposite actually, George Lucas in the 70′s was not necessarily disposing of the same techniques than he has now, and some shots of the original films are charming by their clumsy attempt to set characters and aircraft in a landscape that is clearly dissociated from them…
What really makes this difference is what I would call gravity but that could maybe be named in another way. What I mean by that is the fact that bodies are attracted to the center of the earth (and presumably in Star Wars to the center of any planet) and therefore have a weight that provoke their contact with the ground. This contact always have a material repercussion, some dust is lifted, some snow is squashed, some branches on the ground crack (in the Episode VI, Han Solo is even betrayed by one of them) etc. The three new episodes also have those noises, of course, but for some reason, the viewer don’t buy it, gravity is not transcribed in the right way. When in the old movies, one can hear the infinitely small noise of a worm or of snow melting in contact with human heat, what one can hear in the new movies, is the simple, precise and cold sound of a noise reproduced in studio.
The very useful tumblr Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines recently chose an excerpt of the course Gilles Deleuze gave about Spinoza in the wonderful University of Vincennes in 1981. I copied this excerpt below and its original version in French. This short text questions the notion of body and outline as interpreted by the Stoics that can be considered as a base for Spinoza’s question What can a body do?. The sentence that both illustrates this question and characterizes Deleuze’s powerful and poetic style here can be “A sunflower seed lost in a wall is capable of blowing out that wall.” One can wonder here, if the millions of sunflower, Ai Wei Wei brought to the Tate Modern would be able to blow out the Great Wall of China. It looks like it is not the case so far, but it is still too early to say…
The other example he gives to distinguish a body and a power (using Spinoza’s terminology) is the one of the forest. Of course the tree itself is a body but the forest is a power, power to make the trees continue up to the moment at which it can no longer do so.
Other articles about Spinoza on The Funambulist (for Deleuze, please consult the recent archive I created with all the articles):
- ARCHITECTURES OF JOY. A spinozist reading of Parent/Virilio and Arakawa/Gins’ architecture
- Deleuze’s wave about Spinoza
- Spinoza par les bêtes by Ariel Suhamy & Alia Daval
- Spinoza by Borges
- What can a body do ? a Spinozist issue.
- The Other Spinoza on French Radio
Does everything have an outline? Bateson, who is a genius, has written a short text that is called “[why] does everything have an outline?” Take the expression “outside the subject,” that is to say “beyond the subject.” Does that mean that the subject has an outline? Perhaps. Otherwise what does “outside the limits” mean? At first sight it has a spatial air. But is it the same space? Do “outside the limits” and “outside the outline” belong to the same space? Does the conversation or my course today have an outline? My reply is yes. One can touch it. Let’s return to the Stoics. Their favorite example is: how far does the action of a seed go? A sunflower seed lost in a wall is capable of blowing out that wall. A thing with so small an outline. How far does the sunflower seed go, does that mean how far does its surface go? No, the surface is where the seed ends. In their theory of the utterance [énoncé], they will say that it states exactly what the seed is not. That is to say where the seed is no longer, but about what the seed is it tells us nothing. They will say of Plato that, with his theory of ideas, he tells us very well what things are not, but he tells us nothing about what things are. The Stoics cry out triumphantly: things are bodies.
It is interesting to envision Art History in terms of inventions. Of course, one could argue that a work of art is not simply about inventing new techniques but also to be able to use those techniques to the content of this work, however we could approach the problem in a Spinozist way which does not differentiate the soul and the body, and therefore here, between the means and the essence. Studying Art History by focusing on inventions is therefore interesting in what new emotions it allows to communicate.
After this general introduction, I am interested in observing more specifically the invention that Spike Lee invented for Cinema. The principle is pretty simple, filming an actor standing on the dolly on which the camera is set and effectuating a back traveling shot that makes the actor immobile but the setting around moving (see the short video in Clockers) . The main effect produced is the feeling that the actor is floating and moved by an external force.
With this process, Spike Lee manages to communicate different emotions that take over the character whose body has no choice but to obey to an irresistible force that push him (her) forward.
In Malcolm X, the character of Denzel Washington is pushed by the fatal history when he goes to give the speech during which he will be assassinated. In Clockers, a young drug dealer is moved by its loss of control of a situation that drives the kid that helps him to shoot a man in front of him. In the 25th Hour, both Anna Paquin and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s characters are subjected to a state of drunkenness that bring her to seduce him and him to kiss her despite the fact that she is his 17 years old student. Eventually, in Inside Man, Denzel Washington again, as an hostage negotiator and calm for the whole first part of the movie, is moved by a virulent anger when one of the hostage he is responsible of has been shot by Bank robbers.
Spinoza par les bêtes (Ollendorf & Desseins 2008) is a French book part of a series entitled Le sens figuré which attempt to explain didactically the work of a thinker (Spinoza, Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze etc.) by associating text and drawings. The result for Spinoza is interesting as it originally proposes to establishes a bestiary in the Dutch Philosopher’s writings (mostly the Ethics) and by this mean, explaining the substance of such a philosophy.
The book’s text is by Ariel Suhamy while the drawings have been created by Alia Daval. I don’t think that this series exists in English yet unfortunately.
Spinoza by Jorge Luis Borges (traduction by Richard Howard, César Rennert)
The translucent hands of the Jew
Work in the penumbra, crystals
& the evening, dying, is dread & chill.
(Evenings to evenings are equal.)
The hands & space of hyacinth
Waning in the confines of the Ghetto
Almost do not exist for the man so quiet
Who is dreaming a clear labyrinth.
He’s not perturbed by fame, that reflection
Of dreams in the dream of another mirror,
Nor by the timorous love of maidens.
Free from metaphor & myth
He works a hard crystal: the Infinite
Map of That which totals His stars.
In this poem, Jorge Luis Borges refers to Spinoza by its profession, lenses polisher, and express that his philosophy also consists in polishing the diamond of the universe.