Drawing and Longing: Proposal for Drawing as Paratext


A ‘state of drawingness’ is proposed and explored by the philosopher Hélène Cixous in her essay 'Without End, no, State of drawingness, no, rather: The Executioner’s taking off' [Cixous:20]. The intention of this proposal is to reflect her notion that a subject can be drawn out through the inscription of marks and words that evoke the ‘living of life’ [Cixous:25]. She speaks of desiring the ‘before and after’ of a book, invoking the frustration that, for a subject to be legible and visible, it must be approached, bound and delimited through writing or drawing and therefore, paradoxically, taken from life and movement into stasis. Cixous seeks the event itself, or rather, the improvisational means by which, through an open-ended and tentative process of mark-making, erasure and placing, a person or event may be drawn out.

The proposal finds its form in the notion of ‘paratext’. This originally, for me, was a means of drawing out subject matter by presenting meta-material through pairings of text, or text with image. However, the idea that a subject may be invoked by components beyond and around it is also reflected in literary theory. Gerard Genette defines ‘paratexts’ as components of the paraphernalia surrounding texts in publication (prefaces, illustrations, titles etc). For Genette, the paratext is ‘More than a boundary or a sealed border, the paratext is, rather, a threshold… a zone between text and off-text, not only of transition but also of transaction … an influence that ... is at the service of a better reception for the text and a more pertinent reading of it’ [Genette:1,2].

The main body of this proposal takes the form of a cluster of paratext pieces (image with text) around the notion of parastasis [Frizot:2], defined as ‘the act or action of abstracting an image or representation from the continuous flow of time, where the original and its replicant, for an instant, coexist within the same temporal and spatial dimension’ (Oxford Latin Dictionary 1850). The notion of parastasis evokes, as does Cixous through her analysis of drawing ‘from life’, the desire to capture and thereby defy time. The paratexts presented here [Bowen:2006/2008] explore drawing’s relationship with photography, the inscription of the ‘pencil of nature’ incorporating the idea of paper as a performance space.


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This Work, Drawing and Longing: Proposal for Drawing as Paratext, by Eleanor Bowen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales license.
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