All manners of being are the same to fire.
Life—to us, that means constantly transforming all that we are into light and flame, and also all that wounds us; we simply can do no other . . . Only great pain is the liberator of the spirit . . . that long, slow pain that takes its time and in which we are burned . . . But the attraction of everything problematic, the delight in an X, is so great in highly spiritual, spiritualized people . . . that this delight flares up like bright embers again and again over all the distress of what is problematic, over all the danger of uncertainty, and even over the jealousy of the lover. We know a new happiness . . .
Whatever exists between the number one and the number two . . . the line of mystery and fire.
– Clarice Lispector
ONE, TWO, THIRD. There is the white box, the space that sees itself as viewing objectively from above/outside (transcendent, solar, universal, paternal), a zone of contemplation, understanding, discourse. And there is the black box, the space that sees itself as viewing subjectively from below/within (immanent, lunar, individual, maternal), a zone of enjoyment, ecstasy, music. Out of the mutual negation of these two spaces, which correspond to the polar regions of the arts (fine and performative), we present a third: fireboX. An inverted space of the intersection of the white and the black. Non-place of life, transformation, love. The third is really the first. “Firstly and chiefly, the principal subject of this Art is fire” (Paracelsus).
DIAGNITION. The white box is anemic, sterile, boring. The black box is plethoric, rotting, excited. They are dual sides of the same coin, to be melted down, tossed into where it already is—the burning X of fire. To cast the white/black box in this way, to liquefy in the crucible that shapes its sides, means to track the eye beyond the illusion of spectatorial space, the notion of there being places in which to see and to be seen—a fundamental projection of the I whose life is nothing other than the daily show of being its own audience. To see and seize fire rather than achromatic color as the container and carrier of vision means to restore the eye to its own principle and invisibility, to curve it back around the omnipresent specular point where seer and seen coincide, to convert or bend it in the fire of which all we see is only the flames. “For that light was within, I was looking outward. Nor was that light in space: but I was intent upon things that are contained in space, and in them I found no place to rest” (Augustine, Confessions). White/black = the invisible as visible. Fire = the visible as invisible. The die is cast—everything is on fire.
NO( )HERE. The notion that there exists a place, an ‘out there’ where things happen is erroneous. There is inside and outside. There are bodies without and within bodies. And there is no place. Like time, place is simply definition, the drawing of a boundary around something (de-finire). It exists in the mind alone. “For if every definition is in art and every art is in mind, every place, since place is definition, will necessarily be nowhere else but in the mind” (Eriugena, Periphyseon). Where are you? “To inhabit is still to say too much since the sky of skies is a non-place and a non-time” (Lyotard, Confession of Augustine). When I spin around and try to get my bearings, to get a grip on myself and understand where I actually am, what do I see? Darkness and light, light and darkness . . . So what is that dark thing that gives light, this light by which one sees darkness? What is the unquenchable ocean wherein you and I are drowning and burning? “They were right, those ancient philosophers who identified fire with the principle of the universe” (Cioran, The New Gods).
FIREWORKS. The work of art produces or presents the placeless place of itself, illuminating the specular utopia of the image or gesture—its being at once somewhere and nowhere. “[T]he work of art does not simply refer to something, because what it refers to is actually there. We could say that the work of art signifies an increase in being” (Gadamer, The Relevance of the Beautiful). Like a still blast or frozen lightning, this increase is an intensification of that nature whose work, in distinction from both divine creation and human artifice, is “to bring forth into actuality that which lay hidden” (Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon). As the seed is a slow bomb, so “art imitates nature in her nature of operation [ars imitatur naturam in sua operatione]” (Aquinas, Summa Theologica), exploding reality according to the silence of its own explosiveness. Now the (in)existent line is seen anew to be the more-than-itself that it always was: a halo, a horizon—something within-beyond place. Location as reverse latency of the placeless. Where are things? “Things are not outside us, in measurable external space, like neutral objects (ob-jecta) of use and exchange; rather they open to us the original place solely from which the experience of measurable external space becomes possible . . . Like the fetish, the toy, things are not properly anywhere, because their place is found on this side of objects and beyond the human in a zone that is no longer objective or subjective, neither personal nor impersonal, neither material nor immaterial, but where we find ourselves suddenly facing these apparently so simple unknowns: the human, the thing” (Agamben, Stanzas). So this sudden facing in unknowing is continuous with the situation of fire reverie, the moving spectacle of flame which is analogously third, something securely between subject and object that also enfolds both, containing them in the absolutely seductive—since already taking place—threat of total transformation: “To lose everything in order to gain everything. The lesson taught by the fire is clear” (Bachelard, The Psychoanalysis of Fire).
PYROMETIS. As labor is essentially an art of fire, of manipulating the energies of physical nature, so art is metaphysical fireworks, the pyrotechnics of synthesizing and detonating truth-goodness-beauty (i.e. the loveable), the science of setting fire to the ideal in both senses at once or ‘bringing it to earth.’ “Love alone is devoid of all purpose and a spark of Divine Love sets fire to all purposes” (Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing). Fire is perfect translation, the pure movement of itself. “A line of openness that slashes through the god, the human and the earth” (Negarestani, Cyclonopedia). Consider the fire pot—a means of transporting the spot of fire—in relation to place. “Just as a vessel is a movable place, so place is an immovable vessel” (Aristotle, Physics). As fire, in order to be conveyed, must be kept in its own place, so does fire itself carry the sense of topological impossibility, of being a motion of the placeless, a vessel of the immovable. Theologically, fire is the indifference of hell and heaven, the substance of God in which both saint and sinner burn. “That divine fire always lives by itself and thrives without any nourishment. There is no smoke mixed with it, but it is pure and flowing, as liquid as water” (Lactantius, Divine Institutes). Like the frictional crossing through which point becomes spark, the action of staying with fire, inside the fireboX, holds a double, self-tensioning sense. On the one hand, it signifies the insistence of dwelling, of here as it, the only place to go, of remaining on the spot. On the other hand, it signifies the refusal of being on any side, of falling for duality or occupying a position in the agon of fire. “Postquam vapor diutinus / decoxit exustum latus, / ultro e catasta iudicem / conpellat adfatu brevi: / ‘converte partem corporis / satis crematam iugiter, / et fac periclum, quid tuus / Vulcanus ardens egerit’’” (Prudentius, Hymnus in Honorem Passionis Laurentii) [After the long-continued heat has burned his side away. Lawrence on his own part hails the judge and addresses him briefly from the gridiron: “This part of my body has been burned long enough; turn it round and try what your hot god of fire has done”]. As if the indifference of fire to what it burns and the indifference to being burned coincide in the point of burning with a pure, perfectly commanding will: the play of fire itself—and ‘fire always plays with fire.’
BURNING UP. Paradoxical will of the artist: to combust with the spontaneity of one’s own being, to flame into oneself. “I would like to explode, flow, crumble into dust, and my disintegration would be my masterpiece” (Cioran, On the Heights of Despair). “But the laughter of men seems to grieve me, for I have a heart. Would I like to be a comet? I think so. For they possess the swiftness of birds; they blossom with fire and are like children in purity” (Hölderlin, “In a Lovely Blue”). “I don’t want anything . . . I am like the cicadas that explode from so much singing. When shall I explode?” (Lispector, A Breath of Life). “I have to set myself afire, and since I am everywhere, all will be in that fire of mine. There is no doubt about it now. The whole world will have to burn with me” (Meher Baba).
?. Why ponder ‘black hyperbox’ under the rubric of fire? Here are a three more reasons, to be piled upon the funeral pyre. First, the hyperbox is not another, better box, but a beyond-box that answers like fire to the spontaneous call of that which blows wheresoever it will, preferring to be nowhere than somewhere in this world: “Truly I would rather be nowhere bodily, wrestling with that blind nothingness, than be like some great lord who would be everywhere, merrily playing all this something as if it were his own” (The Cloud of Unknowing). To index the black hyperbox as fire affirms that it is not a ‘next’ space for self-projection or social theatrics, not a region of colors, but a crucible, a site of individuated burning, an X, as per Nietzsche’s meaning of life. At the same time, doing so also recognizes the link between color (rhetoric, affects, artifice, staging) and fire, the grounding of lights in the unseen. For X is always a matter of marking what does not have to be brought from anywhere, of designating (like a stage spike) actualities that are rather too real to enter into representation. Second, as an obscure and blackening force, fire is black, in principle. Fire is a form of ‘first black,’ a black blacker, in its abysmal unseeability, than any black we see. “Air is white and fire is black. So when air changes from whiteness into blackness, what is generated will be fire” (Alexander of Aphrodisias, On Aristotle). Third, a final and best-worst reason for choosing to draw the ‘black hyperbox’ with the principle of fire is that there really is no choice, fire being a name precisely for that which calls itself to itself in a paradoxically omnipotent manner, through a creative-sacrificial force at once irresistible and non-coercive. “The light of love is not free from its fire of sacrifice. Like heat and light, love and sacrifice go hand in hand. The true spirit of sacrifice that springs spontaneously does not and cannot reserve itself for particular objects and special occasions. Love and coercion can never go together. Love has to spring spontaneously from within. It is in no way amenable to any form of inner or outer force and it cannot be forced upon anybody, yet it can be awakened in one through love itself” (Meher Baba). In other words, black hyperbox is neither black nor hyper if not a modality of ‘the only game in town’ or species of the torment: “The intolerable shirt of flame / Which human power cannot remove. / We only live, only suspire / Consumed by either fire or fire” (T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets). The only thing that matters, the only way of art, is this flame that cannot be put off, the work of burning which enters the fabric of life beyond one’s ability either to follow or to leave behind, just as the work of physical fire is essentially to penetrate bodies and make them like itself. In the Zororastrian scriptures it is written that asha or truth “penetrates all ethical life, as fire penetrates all physical being.” Thus the ancient equation of fire, arrow, and glance—“From one glance all upheaval will arise, / the sharp fire of love will enter the mind” (Unsuri, Vamiq u ‘Adhra [The Lover and the Virgin])—and the classic Xian figure for mystical union, in which individuality is at once annihilated and preserved: “As fire penetrates iron, and seems to change it into itself, so does God penetrate the soul and fill her with Himself; and though she never loses her own being, yet she becomes so penetrated and absorbed by that immense ocean of the Divine substance, that she remains, as it were, annihilated, and as if she ceased to exist” (Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori). The relevance of this traditional idea of spiritual fire to the practice of art—i.e. the performance of life—is clear: “From the spiritual point of view the only important thing is to realise the Divine Life and help others to realise it by manifesting it in every-day happenings. To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others, by expressing, in the world of forms, truth, love, purity and beauty—this is the sole game which has intrinsic and absolute worth. All other happenings, incidents and attainments in themselves can have no lasting importance” (Meher Baba, Discourses). For beings who have no place to be, what else is there to do, where else is there to go? “But what the mind does not believe, the heart does. And in the end the intellect does, too; what else is left for it to do?” (Klima, Glorious Nemesis).