Chapter Four: Reading in Reverse

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Fingerpointing

In the context of so much free floating blame in de Man’s work and of de Man’s work after he died and his journalism came to light, the discussion of Riffaterre’s finger pointing seems something really important to read in relation to indexicality and reference, perhaps in connection with Holbein’s Jesus in a box.
To write down this piece of paper (contrary to saying it) is no longer deitic, no longer a gesture of pointing rightly or wrongly, no longer an example of a Beispiel, but the definitive erasure of a forgetting that leaves no trace . . . the determined elimination of determination. At any rate, it makes [Riffaterre] misread Hegel (and Derrida) when he summarizes them as stating: the only that (ca) which gives certainty is an abstract that, the fact of pointing ones finger, obtained by negating the multitude of heres and nows that concretize that” (“Trace,” p. 7) “Pointer-du-doigt,” which is indeed the abstraction par excellence, belongs to language as gesture and as voice, to speech (Sprache) and not to writing, which cannot be said, in the last analysis to point at all. (43).

Final Destinerrance, Auschwitz?:



The Box Car as Loco-Motif of History in The Train

and Europa

The Toy Trains of Europa,

Also discuss Frank Zinneman, The Search and Lars von Trier’s Europa.



The Search involves muteness, misunderstanding, and children reunited with mothers.

Happy / sad ending. Confessional booth with Montgomery Clift in I Confess!


La silence de la mer

Derrida’s film metaphor leads to an account of dream, which is then given a response that Derrida terms an unconscious image that turns his dream upside down, reversing he binary.

How do the train and film figure in this dream dialogue, this dream of dialogue, or bad dream of dialogue, or dialogue as a bad dream, dreamt by the Other.?

When I was very young—and until quite recently—I used to project a film in my mind of someone who, by midnight, plants bombs on the railway: blowing up the enemy=y structure, planting the delayed-action device and then watching the explosion or least hearing it at a distance. I see very well that this image, which translates a deep phantasmatic compulsion, could be illustrated by deconstructive operations, which consist in planting discreetly, with a delayed-action mechanism, devices that all of a sudden put a transit out of commission, making the enemy’s movements more hazardous. But the friend, too, will have to live and think differently, know where he’s going, tread lightly.

Taste of the Secret Polity, 2001, 51-52

Ferrais then quotes from Levinas, who compares Derrida to a Nazi.

“This is, beyond the philosophical scope of propositions, a purely literary effect, the few firsson, the poetry of Derrida. When I read him, I always recall the exodus of 1940. A retreating military unit arrives in an as yet unsuspecting locality, where cafes are open, where the ladies visit the ‘ladies fashion store’, where the hairdressers dress hair and bakers bake; where viscounts meet other viscounts and tell each other stories of viscounts, and where, an hour later, everything is deconstructed and devastated, Emmanuel Levinas, Proper Names, Wholly Otherwise, trans Simon Critchlety, p. 4

A strange kind of dialogue here, where only people like themselves talk to each other, as if stuck in mirror stages. That is the idea of peace here. The real is purely external to this mirroring.

As well as the steps he takes and does not take in Beyond the Pleasure, what Derrida calls paralysis , p. 337.Principle,

Derrida on Freud and Trains in The Post Card, the train of the child’s Fort-da game, his grandson, the suspended train he could not take when his daughter Sophie died.

The title sequence of John Frankenheimer’s The Train follows a prologue in which a Nazi officer visits a closed Paris museum and surveys some its Impressionist paintings before conversation with the French woman curator about saving rather than burning the “degenerate” art by having it shipped by train to Berlin. The title sequence shows the paintings being packed into crates labeled with the names of the artists, as if the crates were caskets; the activation of the latent connection between museum and mausoleum (noted by Theodor Adorno) in the title sequence is made explicit at the end of the film when long and close up shots of dead French civilians are contrasted with matching long shots and close ups of the scattered crates of paintings lying outside the train cars and left there by the retreating German Army. In this essay, I maintain that The Train’s matching of work of art and human life, and casting of American actor Burt Lancaster and French actress Jeanne Moreau as members of the French Resistance drive over and repress the full and dark history played by the train company used to transport the paintings, namely, the SCNF. In 2006, the French train company was sued by for its role in shipping 67,000 French Jews to Nazi concentration camps.5

The last painting we see before the film’s title appears is Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Woman with Lilacs” (1880s) (see figure 1, upper left and right). The lilacs take on an anticipatory funeral meaning even though the painting is being saved rather than destroyed.










Figure 1

Moreover, Renoir’s name is the first stenciled on a crate of paintings after the Gaughin painting entitled “When Will You Marry?” is packed up and the crate nailed shut (see figure 1, lower left). The shot of the painting’s title with the rolled up packing material being carried across the screen recalls and even perhaps alludes to the record in the first shot of Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion (1937), which is being played by a Frenchman in the French mess hall. A similar record player appears in the German officer’s mess as well (See figure 2).











Figure 2

In The Train’s opening title sequence and ending, French POW Vallard’s dream of co-operation with the “good German” von Waldheim is being buried with the paintings along with a recording mechanism for memory that operates on automatic pilot.

Why the connection? Because Renoir’s film takes place in a concentration camp and because a Jewish character is a prisoner in the camp. The Train resists, as it were, the myth of the French Resistance.

Why is the train as the film’s central (titular) character? Why is the train the unstoppable engine of the film? Why doesn’t the train stop making smoke or a puffing sound even after Labiche derails it and turns it off? The train is a figure of twi-lightenment in the film. It is supposed to be on the side of progress, but in WWII, under the Nazis, it becomes a vehicle of regression, the agent of a death drive that destroys human beings in the name of perfecting human being. The montage of crates (as coffins) and the unburied corpses at the end of The Train call up the SNCF’s role in the Vichy regime (never mentioned in the film). The opening text calls up this history inadvertently through the word “cooperation” and by modifying “men” with a phrase that syntactically and uncannily equates “the living and dead” as a “spirit” even it means to separate them:




The SCNF logo appears in several shots, but only in one does it appear near the Nazi insignia stamped on the crates.




The train is a shock to the (railyway) system that routes historical meaning (the evil only they, not we, did is over and can be sanitized, the past can become a prophylactic to secure the future). Notice the way the Nazi insignia in sign in the first shot of the film (below) returns in a visually degraded form near the end of the film in the shot of the French train (the wing shapes at the bottom of the shot, near Lancaster).



We see the shot above after a shot of Lancaster from below on the other side of the train, exactly where two boxcars meet, at the end of a relatively long tracking shot that alternates evenly spaced crates with train wheels. 


The Nazi enemy is on side opposite of Lancaster, so here the repressed again returns through a partially legible sign. The Resistance is not resistant.
What is being resisted? Consider the sign in this briefly held Expressionistic shot--"danger of death" with the weird  "Z" shape scrawled on it. 

Like the often partially visible names of the painters in the crates shown at the end of the film, the sign is only partially visible (it too is a symptom), though, if one knows French, one may infer reasonably that it reads: " [Atten]tion aux [c]atenaires” (“Danger: High Voltage”). (The first word we hear in the film is "Achtung," “attention” in English) The “Z” shape unfolds into from a single point on the left into an open track--like a train track—on the right.  The train leaves Paris after a switch is thrown open. What may be read as the letter “Z” loosely resembles an “S” in the style of “SS” (shock troops) lightning-like lettering, opening the French track onto a German track.  The mortal danger announced as a partially visible warning to avoid being electrocuted is not just to Colonel von Waldheim (whom Labiche murders a few minutes after this shot) but also to the French Jews the SCNF carried to the camps and who are missing from the film but recalled in the shots of the murdered French hostages.  (The barbed wire fences of the death camps were electrified at night.)

A similarly fragmented “Z” shape appears on a Nazi map earlier in the film when Schmitt pays for Labiche’s bill at the inn.





Instead of moving from place to place, we move from place to space (the ashes in the ashtray above the swastika being one destination).  


Like the closed switch that Labiche has to thrown open to let Papa Boule take the train out of Paris, the Z mark opens a figurative switch that routes Labiche and von Waldheim on the same destination death track.


The Train does not resist the myth of the French Resistance, it does not totally deconstruct it (as if the Resistance were really collaborators with the Nazis, after all). Instead, the film stalls out in the final shot (the train engine is still on as Labiche limps away) in a refusal to settle scores, as that would mean entering a regime of calculation (which is, in the logic of the film, resisted and transcended by the incalculable value of human life and art). The montage of corpses and crates in the final sequence makes both comparable, but not exchangeable; their value cannot properly be recorded by an accountant.

Neither the numbered (seen tattooed on the boxes in the title sequence) coffins of paintings nor the corpses are reducible to cash value or instrumentality: they remain, beyond calculation. The Train redefines the meaning of collaboration as non-cooperation (between dissenting forces on the same track instead of complicity between forces on seemingly opposite sides of the track).

So troping things becomes a carousel of stagings and intervals.

“The inclusion of images changes the status of the text, prompting a reciprocal effect. The interplay of text, documentary images, and image captions was an important element of the publication for Benjamin. This is demonstrated by notes on the Russian toys and the photo captions, found in the bequest. . . More explicitly than in the shortened essay (whose manuscript has not survived), they deal with the physiognomic aspects of the toy world” p. 73

“In the twenties he was apt to offer philosophical reflections as he brought forth a toy for his son.” Scholem, WB, Friendship, p. 47 (cited on p. 73 as an epigraph).

On “Dantiest Quarters: Notebooks”:

Notebooks are part of the fundamental equipment of writers, artists, architects, scientists, in short, all intellectuals who devise things—thoughts, images—that they need to record and register. Notebooks are handy traveling companions, places for the safekeeping of drafts. They provide storage space for ideas and data. When necessary they can release sheets to be passed on and inserted into another context. They make plain their owners’ “modes of thinking and working.” 151 “He owned many tiny notebooks, not only for taking notes, but also for writing down the titles of all the books he read. Yet another one was reserved from excerpts from his readings.” “The notebooks are a medium that connects author and work.” P. 153 The notebooks hold up a mirror to the author’s face” 153 Strangely specular construction to unify author and work and to see the notes to read the works as if they were self-descriptions (see p. 153)

“homeless thoughts. . he would have had to call printing ‘houses.’” O. 152, destined to become epigraphs” p. 151, from Jean Selz “Benjamin on Ibiza,” 359

“Let no thought pass incognito, and keep your notebook as strictly as the authorities keep their register of aliens” SW 1, p. 458), p. 153, from The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses.

Briefcase, p. 59

“And today, it is the same with the human material on the inside of the arcades as with the materials of their construction. Pimps are iron bearings of this street, and its glass breakables are the whores. Here was the last refuge of those infant prodigies that saw the light of day at the time of the world exhibitions: the briefcase with interior lighting, the meter-long pocket knife, or the patented umbrella handle with built-in watch and revolver.

From the Chapter on and Physiognomy of the Thingworld: Russian Toys”

Epigraph:

“I’ll bring a new manuscript—one, tiny, book—that will surprise you.” GB IV, p. 144 (p. 50 in WB’s Archive)


Walter Benjamin’s Archive inadvertently assembles a kind of audio commentary for use in a museum exhibition (the book as a museum catalogue), arranging the texts thematically and chronologically, providing a genetic explanation of WB’s writing processes and thought processes.

From the preface, p. 1:

“His last archive remains a secret: the briefcase that Walter Benjamin carried over the Pyrenees in September 1940 is lost. Only one document that was transported in it survives . . . Any more detailed information is lacking. What is certain, however, is that the briefcase had some sort of texts by Benjamin.

On the chapter “Tree of Conscientiousness: Benjamin as Archivist”:

As an epigraph:

Building / Critique: The Event as Mini-Catastrophe

Then we go to the toy train scene in Europa as a segue from the

catastrophe car in WB and how it gets replayed as  a "real" explosion

that is actually a miniature train, like in Hitchcock's Lady Vanishes,


Young and Innocent, The 39 Steps, and Reed's Night Train to Munich (etc, etc).

This allows us to drop the other WB foot, violence and turn to

self-storage as moment of production versus moment of destructive

critique; the difference between using storage units as uninhabitable

places, but the builders designing as no different, as if they were

motels. The catastrophe coach versus the engine is important. You get driven to distraction via catastrophe. It’s kind of like the opening roller coaster sequence in Final Destination 3, a kind of amusement ride (the film ends with a subway wreck in NYC).

Exploding Manuscripts (on Freud archive website). Derrida’s dream of blowing up a train. The Train is about detonation.

“No End of Shelf-Life”

Something here about Williams dying, about incompletion, about Benjamin’s brief case and his suicide. Not a death drive in self-storage (not an academic pyramid scheme). Misrecognition of spectrality as reference; we could use “spectrality” from Werner Hamacher.

For chapter one, segue link from briefcase to boxcars and crates

Link via departures: from Port Bou and Paris.


The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Deportation

And also add a note on Closely Watched trains (1966) in which trains pass through the Czech train station that are related to Nazis (weapons, and probably Jews) but we never see what’s inside the boxcars because the trains never stop.

It’s like some weird comedy version of Kafka.
At the end of chapter one, I’ll work in a conclusion on Hans Fallida’s Every Man Dies Alone (the translation comes with an afterward and archival documents on the people on whom the novel is based on which the novel is based attached as an appendix—another case of attachment—I never thought of the appendix as a body part like the footnote, but I guess I will look into that. German word is “Anhang”).

Discussion of Spectres of Provenance exhibition and the problem of restitution for art stolen by the Nazis. Play the exhibition off against Derrida’s chapter “Restitution” and also his chapter on the parergon in The Truth of Painting. Problem of recognizing the Jewish body (as work of art) in both films.

Freud pointed to a process in dreaming, equally observable in the symptom, which he called Verkehrung ins Gegenteil (`reversal into the opposite'):

Incidentally, reversal, or turning a thing into its opposite, is one of the

means of representation most favored by the dream-work . . . it produces a

mass of distortion in the material which is to be represented, and this has a

positively paralyzing effect, to begin with, on any attempt to understand the

dream . . . Hysterical attacks sometimes make use of the same kind of

chronological reversal in order to disguise their meaning from observers.

Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams,

(note 58), p. 328. Cited by Georges Did-Huberman, Confronting Images

Restance, not resistance

Not departing from protocol, but going above and beyond the “proto-call” of duty Give it a rest-itution

Derrida’s film metaphor leads to an account of a dream, which is then given a response that Derrida terms an unconscious image that turns his dream upside down, reversing the binary.

How do the train and film figure in this dream dialogue, this dream of dialogue, or bad dream of dialogue, or dialogue as a bad dream, dreamt by the Other.?

When I was very young—and until quite recently—I used to project a film in my mind of someone who, by midnight, plants bombs on the railway: blowing up the enemy structure, planting the delayed-action device and then watching the explosion or least hearing it at a distance. I see very well that this image, which translates a deep phantasmatic compulsion, could be illustrated by deconstructive operations, which consist in planting discreetly, with a delayed-action mechanism, devices that all of a sudden put a transit out of commission, making the enemy’s movements more hazardous. But the friend, too, will have to live and think differently, know where he’s going, tread lightly.

Taste of the Secret Polity, 2001, 51-52
Ferrais then quotes from Levinas, who compares Derrida to a nazi.

“This is, beyond the philosophical scope of propositions, a purely literary effect, the few firsson, the poetry of Derrida. When I read him, I always recall the exodus of 1940. A retreating military unit arrives in an as yet unsuspecting locality, where cafes are open, where the ladies visit the ‘ladies fashion store’, where the hairdressers dress hair and bakers bake; where viscounts meet other viscounts and tell each other stories of viscounts, and where, an hour later, everything is deconstructed and devastated, Emmanuel Levinas, Proper Names, Wholly Otherwise, trans Simon Critchlety, p. 4

A trange kind of dialogue here, where only people like themselves talk to each other, as if stuck in mirror stages. That is the idea of peace here. The real is purely external to this mirroring.

Derrida responds:

A few weeks ago a fried of mine . . [said]: ;Doesn’t it bother you? Look at what they’re accusing you of now. You’re like the enemy army!’ At that point I reread Levinas’s text. . . he says, . . . that I passed through it was as if the German army had hit town, there was nothing left . . . It makes you wonder. It’s bizarre, I’d never looked at the text from that angle.. What is the unconscious of that image? And then the Nazi invader . . . it’s sort of like the Resistnace dream we spoke of, but turned upside down.

(51-52)

Derrida is stunned by his own devastation, his experience of the deconstruction of his dream as a devastation. He pauses, can’t analysis or read Levinas.

He infat exaggerates what Levinas says (Levinas makes no mention of Germans or Nazis). Weber is a bad analyst, a bad reader of Levinas,
Derrida on the Arnolfini portrait in “Restitutions” goes from Moses to Prodigal son to Moses-back and forth from Judaism to Christianity

Paper Machine,

Reliability and faith (Faith and Knowledge)

Autoimmunity

In “The Rigorous Study of Art,” Benjamin begins by discussing Heinrich Wolfflin in the first paragraph and then goes on to contrast him to” Alois Riegel, whom he prefers.

Language has unmistakably made plain that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past, but rather a medium. It is the medium of that which is experienced, just as the earth is the medium in which ancient cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging. Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the “matter itself” is no more than the strata which yield their long-sought secrets only to the most meticulous investigation. That is to say, they yield those images that, severed from all earlier associations, reside as treasures in the sober rooms of our later insights—like torsos in a collector’s gallery. It is undoubtedly useful to plan excavations in the dark loam. And the man who merely makes an inventory of his findings, while failing to establish the exact location of where in today’s ground the ancient treasures have been stored up, cheats himself of his richest prize. In this sense, for authentic memories, it is far less important that the investigator report on them than that he mark, quite precisely, the site where he gained possession of them. Epic and rhapsodic in the strictest sense, genuine memory must therefore yield an image of the person who remembers, in the same way a good archaeological report not only informs us about the strata from which its findings originate, but also gives an account of the strata which first had to be broken through.

“Excavation and Memory,” Selected Writings 2 (2), 576

“Painting, or Signs and Marks” in Selected Writings Vol. 1, 84-85

The sign is printed on something, whereas the mark emerges from it. This makes it clear that the realm of the mark is a medium. Whereas the absolute sign does not for the most part appear on living beings but can be impressed or appear on lifeless buildings, trees, and so on, the mark appears principally on living beings (Christ’s stigmata, blushes, perhaps leprosy and both marks). The contrast between mark and absolute mark does not exist, for the mark is always absolute and resembles nothing else in its manifestation.

Seriality of prisoner tattooed numbers like serial numbers on the currency bills they print; the number is not singular; they are one in a series] and is related to the question of who decides who will live, and live what kind of life: shitty life versus a martyr’s death?

The antithesis of the absolute sign and the absolute mark. . . the sign appears to be more of a spatial relation and to have more reference to persons; the mark . . . us more temporal, and tends to exclude persons.

What is striking is that, because it appears on living beings, the mark is so often linked to guilt (blushing) or innocence (Christ’s stigmata); indeed, even where the mark appears in the form of something lifeless . . . it is often a warning sign of guilt. In that sense, however, it coincides with the sign (as in Balshezzar’s Feast), and awful nature of the apparition is based in large part on uniting these two phenomena, which of which only God is capable.

The tattooed numbers tend to exclude the personal (except for the hooker who identifies him in bed), and so resemble the Mark, the German Mark, the Christian mark.

No surprise that the Pieta scene follows. Yet not a symbol, more an alleogircal ruin.

The flip side of counterfeit is copyright, a different kind of seriality.

The easel painting evolved for display in a collector's private home

Takin It Easely

The Easal Painting literally becomes an easal painting when viewed. It is not hung on a wall the way it usually would be.

There’s something uneaslyabout the frame, the detachment.

“The self-portrait is the one form of easel painting that resists being owned.”

Philip Fisher, Art and the Future’s past

Museum studies: an anthology of contexts

By Bettina Messias Carbonell

Contributor Bettina Messias Carbonell

Published by Blackwell Pub., 2004

Come Closer / Stay Back

Put computer on first page of powerpoint play unforgettable on computer

One get on the train and it leaves on time, arrives on time, everything is on track

In the other you get on the train, but there may be delays, luggage may be lost, items stolen, but the good thing is htat we may we get sidetracked, f even go off track./ There may be a trainwreck. Bu thte upside htat it'll be a bullet train.

Not a difference between electric and magnetic—both cases pollution. But the first is diluted. The second is almost purely pollution.

Tell Nina, have a seat.

Endwith Faites vos jeux,and get up and go over to the computer.

Get up


Iis Italk like this.

And 2 is I present, wearing my beret.

Can you stand for it ? Stehen Sie aus?

Just because I don’t work, doesn’t mean I’m out of whack. I’m always in whack beause I’mnever out of whack. Whackey.

Hans Makart25

Portrait of a Lady with Red Plumed Hat c.1873 Oil on canvas 59 3/8 x 39 1/8 inches (151 x 99.6 cm)

Goering gives Hitler Marhart painting

We go on track, train will run on time

We can get sidetracked, may be delays, but it’ll be a bullet train.

Magnetic, eco friendly. But polluted, neverthelsss.Dilution versus pollustion (poluuted in voth cases

Bo pure solution

10precentsolution



Painting as an Art by Richard Wollheim

Art and its Objects by Richard Wollheim (Paperback - Sep 30, 1980)

Or as Itell my stdudnets Just because oyou;re out of work doesn't mean yuore out of qhack. I say that after they graudate.

Final solutions are never a good idea

reuniting paintings medieval renaissance diptych ehbit
reunting Germany

Reuinted and it doesn't feel so good

I had to over do it, undermachine, over do, redo, go beyond, because of my topic. I mean to begin a tlak about extermination, well, it just can’t be done.

I conclude. Tonight. .


I am going to fastrack my paper because we got off to a late start tonight. It couldn’t be helped.

Reunion---Non-Jewish painters painting s bought by Jews. So there is a strange impossibility of restitution in Derrida’s terms, or of retribution

No redistribution of guilt and debt.

I begin. Thank you Nina, for inviting me and all of you for coming. It’s very nice to have this occasion to present work in progress that will never be progress to publication. Seriously. The thoughts will remain, but remain only as something unfinished that only saw the light of night. Tonight.

I begin. I am here to present—to alert you to some films and related texts I think you may want to see or re/ read rather than give you my full blown readings. We won’t have time. (I will stay to 30 minutes).

To try to explain myself a bit more fully, let me tell you a story about my relation to secularism and Judaism. My Story about secular Jews has now turned out to be about Jewish secularism. And let me tell you one more story. Quickly.

Berlin—“Nehmen Sie Platz” Stranger there. here. Already occupied. I am alien, foreign, strange, out of place. Here I am a strange goy. There’s always a place for me here, or a dis-place. I am happy here to feel out of place. It’s always nice to be with people who like me are pre-occupied, even if I can’t sit down.

In any case, I’m very happy to be here. So is me. And so is myself. We have achieved weness, more or less. We get along pretty well most of the time.

Let me begin, then. Oh,first let me ask foryou, on your behalf, What does it mean for me to say that I appear tonight before you as a strange goy? It means to suspend certain discourses, to say the unexpected and possibly the unaccepted—you may be pleasantly surprised but you may be unpleasantly surprised and want to use media mail to return the package to sender, or you may even want to refuse delivery. You won’t be delivered by refusal to accept, however. Don’t worry. I will bounce it back to you. Those charges will remain, however, and you will keep being contacted by my Bill collector or Burt collector. I insist.

Please do forgive me for going on like this. I know that my talk is now long overdue. I am now in my anecdotage. It’s a real word. I didn’t make that word up. I thought I had made it up, but then I checked, and It’s in the O.ED. Ancedotage means “a garroulous old man.” O.E.D. gives the first see as in1835. So please realize that I am not to blame for this long delay in getting started tonight. Me is. Myself was egging me on. They refuse to take responsibility, however. So I have to offer their apologies to you on their behalf. So you see I already feel strangely left out. But I am always by myself. But really, I had to be careful because I am setting up a lot of fuses, and I don’t want them to blow, and they are highly explosive. But don’t worry. There’s no bomb attached to them. Sparks may fly.

I conclude. Really. I begin. Tonight, I develop some of the interests in the left and right hand in Freud’s Moses here in I relation to ways of reading paintings in reverse related to European art and WW II, one I want to characterize initially as anti-Semitic and the other as Anti-anti-Semitic.

The first kind of reversal involves seeing a painting backwards, as in a mirror image. Essay by Swiss art historian Heinrich Wolflin. First examples Raphael’s drawings. He left Germany went back to Switzerland.


  • Reading from left to right as natural, reading right to left as unnatural (perverse): the political as theological and erotic

  • The double meaning is not a hidden, secret code in the work of art or historical document (that is just a variation of genetic criticism and mistakenly reduces the polysemous work to a single meaning) but arises in the drama of reading the work of art and criticism of the image.

As an example, let me turn to the essay I had Michael mention earlier,

[next slide] the essay by Heinrich Woelfflin entitled “Ueber das Rechts und das Links im Bilde,” that is “On the Right and Left of Images.”

[next slide]

As you can see here, Wolfflin reproduced in his essay examples of Renaissance paintings and drawings in order to think about what happens when a slide is put in backwards during a lecture. Wolfflin begins by noting that the response is panic expressed as “Turn it around! You’ve got it backwards!” Quite brilliantly, Wolfflin wants to pause and ask what this panic is about. His answer is that viewing a painting is like reading a book—our gaze is directed from left to right, up from the man on the left looking at to the baby Jesus, then over to the Virgin Mary, and then down to Johanna, whose eyes look down. If the painting of the Virgin, and here we may begin to grasp the extent to which direction, theology, and erotics are connected, is viewed backwards, we do not know where to look and the image becomes incomprehensible. His other point is that the work of art only becomes irreversible when it is completed. The possibility of perversion when the work of art has been perfected.

Wolfflin’s text as itself to be read doubly, however, if we are to grasp the political stakes of. Written in 1924 just after left Munich but published in 1940 when Wolfflin was a professor at the University of Basel, the title itself presents us now, even if Wollflin did not intend it, with two puns in its title on the words “right” and “left.” Both sides of an image are also political sides, and how one side, fascist or Communist can turn an image around to distort it or clarify ir. There are similarly charged words and phrases in the essay. The German word Wollflin uses for the slide put in “backwards” is “umkerht,” a word employed frequently by the Nazis. Similarly, when Wolfflin compares viewing a painting to reading a book, he writes “unser shrift,” or “our script,” which is to say without saying, our Christian script, not a Jewish one (Hebrew is written from right to left). Finally, when he concludes that the work is the German word he uses at the very beginning of his sentence is “Das Enschiede,” or “the decision,” a word used by Carl Schmitt and others in writings on the state of emergency and the power of the sovereign. So the language of the essay itself present us now, knowing as we do what was happening between 1924 and 1940 with a question: how do are we to read Wolfflin’s essay between the lines to grasp his decision to read one way rather than another?

2. Anti-anti-Semitic kind of reading, this is reading not just backwards but from the backside. Politics of restitution exhibition—the back of the frame—European art looted by the Nazi from Jews who owned it. Display is symmetrical-or the photos shows us asymmetry. Back and front.

Back to back


So here the exhibition turns on the information about the owner on the backside rather than on the painting itself.


I say that the first, mirror reversal is anti-Semitic because it is Messianic—perfection has been achieved, first in the birth of Jesus and then in the painting. So it’s about looking toward a past I which incarnation is already fulfillment—it’s a revelation—all in the open.
In the second, one side of the painting is hidden,
So to put it somewhat crudely, let’s call the first reversal by inversion (a specular relation) and the second reversal by backside. In the first you can see the front from both sides; The first way is not uncanny, in that it sees one version as inferior of the other, the means by which its perfection may be furthered revealed, in the second you can see only the backside. uncanny, reversal that conceals as it unconceals. Or the front side, at the a time, one side usually being hidden given the way paintings are hung (with their backsides hidden). The other is. I want to think about two kinds of incredulity here as well (Spectral Evidence).

the binary opposition I am setting up between two kinds of reversal—it’s always already self-deconstructing.

Both look back to an unbelievable event, as in can you believe that Jesus . . . is the messiah? O my G! And as in and looks back to an unbelievable event—can you believe that holocaust? Incredulity that precedes it as well as postdates it. Incredulity shared by Jews and non-Jews—we knew, we didn’t know, we heard but we didn’t know, we should have known, but we didn’t.

And in terms of posing not only the question of who is a Jew but also who has defined who is a Jew, for what purposes, and by what criteria. So that reversal by inversion of backside involves a question of recognition and revelation as well as restitution in Judaism—a problem within Judeities and outside them.

And specifically, there’s a shared discourse of the damage and restitution, of perfection and imperfection, of inversion and backside, of closure—like perfection of Raphael——may not be so different. Need to think through the value of art and owners—here a discourse of identity kicks in necessarily—and is hence vulnerable to the critique, however stated it may be, of the Holocaust industry, which I, even if it is an anti-Semitic critique of anti-Semitism, shows the impossibility of restoring the paintings without reinscribing in some ways the anti-Semitic terms of the arts expropriation. So there is no simply chronology taking us fro purchase and provenance through looting and restoration, partly because the original owners are dead, mostly murdered. The ID papers for the camps and he ID papers for the museum tours, and the ID tattoos for the camps. in terms of the incalculable—and here I would follow Derrida’s chapter entitled “Restitutions” in The Truth of Painting on Heidegger and Meyer Shapiro on Van Gogh’s shoe paintings, and Derrida on the shoelace, in which restitution is not linked to identity. He interrogates the idea of restitution in terms of attribution and retribution, a desire to return, in the case of Heidegger’s shoes, the contents of the painting to its painter, to regard to the shoes as a pair and owned by a city dweller or a peasant. Potential problem here is suits like one against the SNCF is the vulnerability to Norman G. Finkelstein’s scathing and intemperate critique of the Hollow-cast in his The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. The problem of incredulity is that it can’t be divided, that it preexists the Holocaust and follows it; and it, follows, like cars in a train, that Holocaust deniability cannot be limited either to quacks like Mr. Death but also precedes and follows the Holocaust within and without Jewish populations. IS there a limit to ex-termination—or is there a terminus? Or are we talking Extermination Terminable and Interminable? Problem of settling, of settling differences, accounts, of occupying, resettling. People will always take sides, but the problem that requires them to take sides is far deeper and impossible to resolve than those who take sides will ever know.

Judaism is not a discourse of identity but is that which exceeds identity, not the her and now, not the incarnation and revelation, but the now here and not yet, of the yet to be perfected, of justice, , not reducible to the roman legal discourse of ownership, provenance, signature, proper name, authorship, and so on, as well as family genealogy and state census. Judaism is before the law and within the law. It is Judeities. But the law is not universal and yet the heritage of Judaism is universal—from Kant—Greek Jew, Christian Jew, Jew Christian, German Jew, strange Jew. Tonight I want to introduce another opposition, the Jew Jew. Not Jew jew b. Also the Jew non Jew non Jew Jew.

So I want to purse this deconstruction of the reversal by turning to two films, Mr Klein and the Train, both of which concern European paintings, the train, World War II, and misrecognizing or missing the Jewish body.
Both films have circular structures in which their endings reconnect with their beginnings. I am tempted to set up a new binary opposition between them, ranking them in relation to their historical proximity to World War II, hence Mr. Klein is not as good as the Train because it is more open. By the time we get to Europa, we have a terrible film because now the Jew is no longer missing but present, divided into characters by the director writer and actor Lars van Trier, into the bad jew who collaborates and then the good Jew who refuses to collaborate in the future.

In any case, I’ll go backwards chronologically, starting with the more recent Mr. Klein and then taking up the Train.

Questions—relation between Jewish identity and sale of artworks in order to be able to escape the Nazis.
The film begins with a women being seen by Doctors who determine whether or not she is a Jewish. Jewish body aligned with woman body and grotesque body, contrasted to the beautiful woman in bed (she is a prostitute) in Klein’s apartment. But she wounds herself.

. The main character is an art dealer who buys paintings from Jews, and is , he beliefs mistaken for another r Klein who happens to be a Jew. He buys a Dutch painting in the film.


Now this painting is seen in reverse.

I should add here that there was a Danish painter who painted trompe l’oeils, one he called reverse side of a framed painting. I will return to it if there is time.

So the painting is confiscated from him, he chases after a man he thinks is his double, arrives at the train station and gets on a train with Jews being deported. In voice-over, the and here the circle closes, the man he sold the paintings to now speaks to him, So there is a certain kind of avoidance, guilt, and punishment kind of reading possible here. Mr. Klein should have recognized his Jewish identity and not bout the paintings and tried to help Jews escape. Or recognized his non-Jewish identity and tried to help Jews escape. But the train of the film is not limited to the deportation cars at the end. The film is unclear about Klein’s identity. Is he a Jew or not? Relation of painting and his family medallions. The provenance of the painting is aligned with the genealogy of Klein’s family—Dutch art, Dutch Jews. . . ?

Does he end up doing what the Nazis want him to do without them ever ordering or telling him to do it, namely, get on the train? Does he recognize or misrecognize himself as a Jew. Does being a Jew mean in the film that you have to give the art, or same difference, have it taken from you?

What happens to good Jew selling his painting versus bad Jew or bad when the bad non Jew becomes a Jew and replays the scene of stealing? So here is another reading: Not a sort with a moral but a Kafkaesque parable. Here the Jew is he who is hidden form other Jews.

He is a Jew ebcuase he is not a Jew, he is, in other words, the Jew as the missing Jew, the Jew as missing body., the doppelganger one sees and doesn’t.

The good Jew won’t take a bag for the money—no protection or envelope, no aesthetic. Because the money already is aesthetic. Nice looking gold coins.
Problem of calculation—theworht of the paintings, the worth of the lives of their owners and the lives of the woner’s relatives. Questions of guilt and punishment—jew non jew, are all suspended of jewish identity—or due to the uncanniess of Jewish identity—Freudian double here in which cognition can never be sorted out from is recognition, when cognition depends on re-cognition (repetition) and when who is a Jew is never fully decided or decidable by anyone, Jew of anti-Jew.

So the film’s ethics / politics lies in its refusal to settle—to settle accounts, to divide setters from the unsettled, the squatters from the evacuated. But to use the train as a continuum—departing but a return to the beginning, to the arrival, which was a departure about a departure. Backwards reversal is not strictly anti-anti-Semitic—or anti and anti does not equal philo.




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