– Marc de Roover –


The Sculptors Dance

The farmers dance

Spending a lot of time in the country during my youth, I got fascinated by how agricultural activity was dealing with the surrounding landscapes. The scale and size of the meadows and fields were defined by the environmental conditions, and at the same time these pattern of patterns was making the landscape. In these meadows and fields farmers were mowing and reaping, plowing and horrowing, planting and sowing, irrigating and manuring. All these activities were made in a rythmical, almost ballet-like way, leaving behind heaps and stacks, lines and rows, beautifuly and regularly spread out over the land. With materials that couldn’t be else as be in harmony with the country around. These impressions have been of great influence for my later sculptural work.
In my world, as a creator of three-dimensionale art, landscapes are the basis and the base. These landscapes can be agricultural or natural, cultivated or wild, open or closed, rural or urban, populated or not, and even outside or inside. The observing and taking in, the surveying and measuring are the first step. Nothing should be done when it wouldn’t fit together, when it wouldn’t take from and give to. The landscape should be honoured, the landscape should honour the work.


Another element in my work is the architectural approach. As well in the way that I deal with this adaptation and integration of the landscape, as well in the way my works are designed, built up and constructed. A lot of calculation is involved in it. Geometrical feeling and practice, no-fear for symmetry, love for construction, and need for soberness. These are the makers of the work. Not a need for lyrical interpretations, not a need for story-telling, not a need to make things that look like sculpture.
So, the landscape is the basis, geometry and construction (with a preference for wood) are the makers, but where does it all starts?

The artistic moment

Ideas come and go, welcome-goodbye, goodbye-welcome. They may come, they may go. I notice them, I don’t note them down, not yet. I let them go. Some thoughts come back, some thoughts are growing. It is not my work, they just do. I notice it. Some thoughts get full-grown, grown-up, they get mature. I notice it. It gives a shock of energy. I give in, I surrender, I agree. I declare myself ready to collaborate, to go for it. This little moment, the moment I say yes, a moment with a lot of authority, is my artistic moment. My only artistic moment. From that moment on, I’m only a worker, a planner, a constructor, an almost fanatical reproductor of the given thoughts. But because I don’t have to deal anymore with the creatif part of the game, I feel free for all the new comings and goings, goings and comings. Let them go, let them come. Let them come, let them go. Let me meanwhile absorb and enjoy the landscapes surrounding me.


Landscapes have a language. When communicating with them, you should know this language, you should be able to read it, consciously or inconsiously, no matter. When planning objects in these landscapes, when trying to discover the right spots, the right scale, the right materials, the right forms, the right number, the right harmony between distance and fusion you must be able to distinguish and connect.
These things have to do with ‘feeling’. Feeling the parts and the whole. Feeling that one place is silent and quite and protecting as a harbour. That another place is absorbing and watching as a watch-tower. That another place is surrounded by guards, another one maintaining, preserving as a barn, another one connecting as a bridge, flowing as a river, gathering and giving as a cup…
And that your own being of the moment is reacting on them with preferences, with attraction or disapproval. It is this feeling and observing that make the objects, placed on a certain spot, shaped with a certain shape, really environmental and integrated.
There is ‘Land-Art’, which uses only the material found on the spot itself, which of course is totally O.K. for me. In my case, my love for carpentry and construction brings me to really manufacture the objects, transporting them to and assembling them at the particular sites. According to the discribed feelings you will see me making bowls, cups, rings, hives, towers, bridges, tunnels, gutters…I will place them in mostly geometrical patterns, rythmical formations with a studied number and scale leaving few space for accident or coincidence.

Empty forms

Empty forms, this is how I call a lot of the things that I make. I notice they mostly do nomore want to express particular opinions, judgments, pronunciations. They rather try to feminize expression. On a place that is terrorised by lead-polution I make large cups made of lead. In a church where the cross is known as a symbol of quite a lot of almost obtrusive convictions, I make a large wooden gutter in the form of a cross filling almost the whole building and I rub it in with yellow coloured clay-powder.
Roofs are covering and protecting things. Cups can hold things, gutters make place for transportation, bridges are connecting… But I don’t define what is being transported, holded, covered. You can put things in it, you can take things out. Nevertheless these empty forms stay themselves, opinion-less but ready and totally potential.
Expressing an opinion always confronts you with the opposite opinion. This makes it necessary to protect it, and gather arguments. Expressing these arguments confronts you with the opposite arguments. It never ends. Unless you only want to see one side of the story and neglect the other side. You can’t walk only using your right leg. That is why I think that female, receptive forms, that are keeping in the heart, are more powerful and true than male expressive ones, trying to convince. (But most probably this is a typical male conviction of me.)

The line in the middle

Two elements being opposed to each other, but not being able to do without each other. This idea seems to be made visible in my work.(not only in my work of course).When there is black, there is white. When there is left, there is right. When there is small, there is big. When there is low, there is high. When there is yin, there is yang. The one thing has no meaning without the other. When there should be only left, there would be no left. That is clear. I even have the impression that when you put black on white, left on right, small on big there is nothing left over. It is clear that you can’t express anything without the use of this opposits, but seemingly they are only there for the expression of this nothing in the middle, of this line in between that has no breath. In that case the two-legged life of expression is a dance, joyfully celebrating the inexpressible unity-line in the middle.
I remember one of my chinese students, when I was guest-teacher in ShenYang, telling me, after showing my work that she saw in all my works a ‘line in the middle’, and that she thought this line was the key to my work. I hope she was right.
Anyway this is what the ‘Bridge’ now in the ‘International Scuclpture Park’ in Beijing is showing. At both sides waves rocking up and down, in an opposite movement. In the middle a silent line. Let’s dance.

Marc de Roover, Beijing, the 29th of august 2002

De dans van de beeldhouwer.

De dans van de boer.

In mijn jeugd bracht ik veel tijd door op het platteland.  Ik raakte gefascineerd door de manier waarop de landbouwactiviteit omging met het omringende landschap. De schaal en omvang van weiden en velden waren bepaald door de omgeving, en tezelfdertijd maakte dit patroon van patronen het landschap. In deze weiden en velden maaiden en oogstten, ploegden, plantten en zaaiden, irrigeerden en bemestten de boeren. Al deze activiteiten werden op een ritmische, bijna balletachtige manier uitgevoerd. Achter bleven mijten en hopen, lijnen en rijen – mooi en regelmatig uitgespreid over het land. Met materialen die alleen maar in harmonie konden zijn met het omgevende land. Deze indrukken waren van grote invloed op mijn later sculpturaal werk. In mijn wereld, als maker van driedimensionale kunst, zijn landschappen de basis en het fundament. Deze landschappen kunnen natuurlijk of agrarisch zijn, gecultiveerd of wild, open of gesloten, ruraal of stedelijk, al of niet bevolkt, en zelfs binnen of buiten. Observeren en bevatten, opmeten en onderzoeken zijn de eerste stappen. Je moet niets doen als het niet juist past, als het niet juist vorm neemt. Het landschap moet geëerd worden en het landschap moet het werk eren


Een ander element in mijn werk is de architecturale benadering. Zowel op de wijze dat ik omga met de aanpassing en integratiei van het landschap, als op de manier dat mijn werken ontworpen, opgebouwd en gemaakt worden. Er komt veel rekenwerk bij te pas. Gevoel voor en ervaring met geometrie, geen angst voor symmetrie, liefde voor constructie en behoefte aan soberheid. Dat zijn de makers van het werk. Niet de nood aan lyrische interpretatie, niet de behoefte aan verhalen, niet de behoefte iets te maken dat op een beeldhouwwerk lijkt. Dus, het landschap is de basis, geometrie en constructie (met voorkeur voor hout) zijn de makers. Maar waar begint het allemaal?

Het artistieke moment.

Ideeën komen en gaan, welcome – goodbye, goodbye – welcome. Ze mogen komen, ze mogen weggaan. Ik merk ze op, noteer ze niet, nog niet. Ik laat ze gaan. Sommige gedachten komen terug, sommige gedachten groeien op, worden volwassen, rijpen. Ik merk het op. Het geeft een energiestoot. Ik geef toe, geef me over, stem in. Ik verklaar mezelf klaar om mee te werken, om er me voor in te zetten. Dit kleine moment, het moment dat ik ja zeg, een gezaghebbend  moment is mijn artistieke moment. Van dat ogenblik af ben ik een werker, een planner, een bouwer –een bijna fanatieke weergever van de gegeven gedachten. Maar omdat ik niet meer moet bezig zijn met het creatieve deel van het spel, voel ik me vrij voor al de nieuwe dingen die komen en gaan, gaan en komen. Laat ze gaan, laat ze komen. Laat ze komen. Laat ze gaan. Laat mij ondertussen de landschappen rondom mij in me opnemen en ervan genieten. 


Landschappen hebben een taal. Wanneer je er mee communiceert moet je deze taal verstaan, je moet ze kunnen lezen, bewust of onbewust, het maakt niet uit. Wanneer je objecten in landschappen plant, als je de juiste locatie,, de juiste schaal, het juiste materiaal, de juiste vorm, het juiste aantal, de juiste verhouding tussen afstand en versmelting zoekt, dan moet je kunnen onderscheiden en verbinden. Deze dingen hebben te maken met ‘gevoel’. Het voelen van de delen en van het geheel. Voelen dat de ene paats stil en rustig is en beschermend als een haven. Dat een andere plaats absorberend is en uitkijkend als een uitkijktoren. Dat een andere plaats omgeven is door wachters, een andere behoudend, bewarend als een schuur, een ander verbindend als een brug, vloeiend als een rivier, vergarend en gevend als een schaal…

En dat je eigen persoon  van dat ogenblik erop reageert met voorkeuren, aantrekking of afwijzing Het is dit gevoel en deze observatie die maken dat een object – op een bepaalde plaats, met een bepaalde vorm, echt ruimtelijk  en geïntegreerd is. Er is’Land Art’ die enkel gebruik maakt van materiaal dat op de plek zelf gevonden wordt, dit is natuurlijk volledig ok, voor mij. In mijn geval brengt mijn liefde voor schrijnwerkerij en constructie mij ertoe objecten te vervaardigen, ze te vervoeren en samen te stellen op welbepaalde plaatsen. Naargelang de beschreven gevoelens,zul je me kommen, schalen, ringen, bijkorven, torens bruggen tunnels en goten… zien maken. Ik plaats ze meestal in geometrische patronen, ritmische formaties, met een bestudeerd aantal en schaal, en weinig plaats latend voor toeval of samenloop van omstandigheden..

Lege vormen.

Lege vormen, zo noem ik veel van de dingen die ik maak. Ik merk op dat ze meestal geen bepaalde opinies, oordelen of uitspraken willen weergeven. Ze proberen eerder om het uitdrukken te ‘vervrouwelijken’. Op een plaats die geterroriseerd is door loodvervuiling, maak ik grote loden schalen. In een kerk waar het kruis bekend staat als symbool van bijna dwingende overtuigingen, maak ik een grote houten goot in de vorm van een kruis die bijna het hele gebouw vult en wrijf het in met geel gekleurd kleipoeder.

Daken dekken en beschermen dingen. Kommen kunnen dingen vasthouden, goten maken plaats voor vervoer, bruggen verbinden… Maar ik definieer niet wat wordt vervoerd, vastgehouden, bedekt. Je kunt er dingen in of uit nemen. Nochtans, deze lege vormen blijven zichzelf, zonder opinie, maar klaar en met volledig potentieel.

Als je een mening uitdrukt, wordt je altijd met de tegengestelde opinie geconfronteerd. Dat maakt het nodig ze te beschermen en er argumenten voor te verzamelen. Deze argumenten confronteren je met tegengestelde argumenten. Het eindigt nooit. Tenzij je maar één kant van het verhaal wil zien en de andere negeert. Je kunt niet alleen op je rechterbeen lopen. Dat is waarom ik denk dat vrouwelijke, ontvankelijke vormen, die in het hart bewaren, sterker en echter zijn dan expressieve mannelijke die trachten te overtuigen ( maar waarschijnlijk is dit een typische mannelijke overtuiging van me).

De lijn in het midden.

Twee elementen die tegengesteld zijn aan elkaar, maar niet zonder elkaar kunnen. Deze gedachte  lijkt zichtbaar gemaakt te worden in mijn werk (niet alleen in mijn werk natuurlijk). Als er zwart is, is er wit. Als er links is, is er rechts. Als er klein is, is er groot. Als er laag is, is er hoog.Als er yin is, is er yang. Als er enkel links moest zijn, dan zou er geen links zijn. Dat is duidelijk. Ik heb zelfs de indruk dat als je zwart op wit legt, links op rechts, klein op groot, dat er dan niets over blijft. Het is duidelijk dat je niets kan uitdrukken zonder tegenstellingen te gebruiken, maar schijnbaar zijn ze er enkel om het niets in het midden uit te drukken, deze lijn zonder breedte in het midden. In dat geval is het tweebenige leven van de expressie een dans, met vreugde de onuitdrukbare eenheidslijn in het midden vierend.

Ik herinner mij een van mijn chinese studenten, toen ik gastleraar was in Shen Yang, die me zei, nadat ik mijn werk had getoond, dat ze in al mijn werken een ‘middellijn’ zag – en zij dacht dat dat de sleutel van mijn werk was. Ik hoop dat ze gelijk had. Dit is wat de ‘Brug’ in the ‘International Sculpture Park’ in Beijing toont.

Aan beide kanten gaan de golven op en neer, in tegengestelde beweging. In het midden een sprakeloze lijn. Let’s dance.

Marc de Roover – vertaald uit het engels – Beijing 29 aug 2002


Fussgängerbrücke Reipoltskirchen.

Ohne Brücke findet das Leben keinen Fortschritt. Alles läuft dann zum Ende.

Zum Leben braucht man eine Brücke zwischen gestern und morgen, zwischen hier und da, zwischen oben und unten, zwischen aussen und innen, zwischen dunkel und hell, zwischen du und ich…


Stellen Sie sich einen Bach vor mit nur einem linken Ufer. Das ist unmöglich. Linke und rechte Ufer zusammen machen einen Bach. Eine Brücke verbindet zwei offenbare Gegensätze.


Zwei ist ein. Nenn es eine Liebeserklärung.

Deshalb habe ich dieser Brücke Flügel gegeben.


Oben, unten, oben, unten, links und rechts, links und rechts.

Das Leben ist Tanzen.


Marc de Roover,  Ozenay,  30 April 2014


Goten – Kortrijk Kennedypark.

De werken van Marc de Roover zijn meer constructies dan beelden.   Ze hebben iets organisch en net als organismen zijn ze geënt op de plek waar ze staan.  Ze kunnen niet zonder hun locatie, of dat nu een landschap, een ruimte of de tuin van SD Worx is. 

De Roover’s vormen groeien uit hun omgeving, hij baseert of inspireert zich voortdurend op afmetingen, lijnen en hoeken uit de omgeving.  Ze zijn landschappelijk en architecturaal omdat ze de ruimte innemen.  Zijn werk laveert dan ook tussen architectuur en sculptuur.  Bovendien is het alsof die vormen er altijd al geweest zijn.  En dat komt omdat ze niet zomaar staan waar ze staan.  Ze kunnen niet zonder hun omgeving. 

Om dit te bereiken is messcherp gereken, van getallen en verhoudingen, en geometrische wetmatigheden een noodzaak.  De Roover doet niet zomaar wat, hij meet, wikt en weegt en herberekent.  Hij puzzelt met afmetingen en verhoudingen, hij trekt lijnen en zet punten.  Het getal en de ratio bevruchten het gevoel.  Marc de Roover maakt kunst waarin de emotie of de intuïtie niet aan de haal gaat met het eindresultaat.

Geerdt Magiels

Kunst als landschap.

Ik werk vanuit het landschap. En natuurlijk heb ik een eigen beeldentaal.Die ik probeer te hanteren met zoveel mogelijk respect voor dat landschap. Ik wil dat een plaats zichzelf blijft. Ik wil dat het voelbaar wordt dat een welbepaalde plaats die welbepaalde plaats is. Dus, mijn beeldentaal probeert niet te bruskeren, niet te choqueren. Eerder te harmoniseren, al kan dat heel choquerend zijn. Ik ga dus meten, onderzoeken, analyseren, ik probeer de plaats, het landschap te lezen.  In verleden, heden en toekomst.


En plaats er dan iets in, soms heel groot, heel monumentaal, zij het niet altijd in de hoogte. Wel heel ruimtelijk, dikwijls repetitief, rythmisch. Groot maar niet schreeuwerig. Groot, aanwezig en stil.


En in een archetypische beeldentaal: brug, tunnel, dak, schaal…mee opgeroepen door de plaats. Taal, maar geen verhaal. Betekenins, inhoud, maar geen allegorie.


Een landschap, dat is niet enkel natuur. Een landschap dat is ook een verkeersknooppunt, een landschap is ook een scholencomplex, een woonwijk, hoogbouw, laagbouw. Een landschap is ook de mensen die er wonen en voorbijgaan. Het is natuurlijk ook platteland, het is natuurlijk ook natuur. Maar zeker niet alleen. Het is daar waar er mensen zijn.


Landschap is in de eerste plaats omgeving, de ruimte waarin bewogen wordt. Daarom wil ik dat een werk, geplaatst in een landschap, mee dat landschap wordt.



Marc de Roover 

Gratay, 1 november 2009


Marc de Roover

Les installations extérieures de Marc de Roover exercent sur le spectateur une étrange fascination : elles transmettent tout à la fois harmonie et puissance spirituelle.
Tel un architecte minimaliste, de Roover construit des objets en bois de grande dimension, qu’il recouvre parfois d’une couche de goudron et qu’il installe au sol dans une savante symétrie. Ces sculptures s’inspirent des constructions simples et utiles que l’on doit au génie paysan : ruche d’apiculteur ou cabanon utilisé pour le séchage des haricots. Les installations de cet ordre, ont tout naturellement trouvé leur place au beau milieu des champs.

Par ailleurs, le sculpteur a conçu une œuvre monumentale dont la forme, le volume, le mouvement sont en adéquation parfaite avec l’étendue plane qui la reçoit : une sculpture de bois naturel, spirale géante, déploie avec élégance ses quarante mètres de diamètre dans la prairie. Tout en évoquant la danse sacrée des derviches tourneurs, elle rappelle la légèreté et la gaieté d’une immense ronde enfantine. Figure géométrique parfaite, elle semble représenter un mouvement de rotation infinie.

Quant aux petites sculptures intérieures, Marc de Roover procède de façon très simple : lorsqu’il se promène, il ne fait plus qu’un avec la nature et ramasse ce qu’elle lui présente : brindilles, feuilles, graines, pierres, coquilles, etc. Les petits objets qu’il glane sont à première vue tout à fait insignifiants ; ils possèdent pourtant de réelles qualités plastiques. De retour chez lui, il vide ses poches et commence à « jouer » avec ces trouvailles des bords de chemin. « Je les appelle croquis ou débuts de petits dessins tridimensionnels », dit-il. Les différents éléments, combinés avec soin, deviennent des sculptures-jeux. Placées dans des boîtes transparentes, ces minuscules sculptures remplissent d’étonnement et de jubilation celui qui les regarde.

Nanky de Vreeze (galeriste)

Marc de Roover – Artiste.

Marc de Roover est un homme de regards et d’écoute qui transmet dans son œuvre un regard généreux sur l’humanité. Sa démarche sensible présente bien des similitudes avec le travail du paysagiste.

La volonté d’inscrire le projet du parc cinéraire dans le paysage local trouve une parfaite corrélation dans les oeuvres monumentales de Marc de Roover. Ses œuvres renvoient à notre propre questionnement face à la Nature.

La mise en œuvre du processus de création relève du même cheminement. L’artiste et le paysagiste sont à la recherche des archétypes qui forment le langage du lieu. Le site existant dans ce qu’il a à offrir de dons de la nature, de traces de l’homme, est la source à partir de laquelle le projet prend forme.

L’un comme l’autre procèdent par longues déambulations sur le terrain, à la recherche de signes, d’ambiances, de matières, de lumières, révélatrices du genius loci.

 Ainsi, l’implantation du parc cinéraire propose une déclinaison du parcellaire agricole local très ouvert mais très structuré. La palette végétale est une transcription des vergers anciens présents à l’orée des villages, des tilleuls ou des chênes rencontrés sur les places de village ou comme arbres de position des campagnes, des bosquets d’arbres ou des reliquats du réseau des haies champêtres disparues.

Marc de Roover puise aussi dans l’histoire des terres et des hommes les formes et la nature de ses œuvres. Le génie paysan est transcendé dans ces formes (on pense aux œuvres inspirées des ruches d’apiculteurs, de cabanons de séchages de haricots,… : »Ruiters » 1992, « Spin-up’s » 1995, « They wish » 1998, « Maten » 2000)

Les matières sont nobles, offertes pas la nature, le plus souvent le bois, la tourbe, le sang de bœuf.  (Peinture à base d’oxyde de fer)

Les formes proposées leurs confèrent une étonnante densité qui paradoxalement renvoient à un voyage souvent aérien.

La recherche attentive de communion entre la nature des lieux et des hommes se retrouve et interfère dans les deux démarches.

L’évidence des œuvres de Marc de Roover et leur puissance évocatrice dans l’équilibre des sites s’impose.

EOLE SPRL, atelier d’Architecture des Jardins et du Paysage.

Bruxelles, 22-11-2007


 Marc de Roover

Marc de Roover travaille avec la circularité, le mouvement gravitationnel des planètes, le cycle de la vie, les échanges intergénérationnels.

« Un arbre ne s’explique pas, il se plante. Il devient une présence. Il devient paysage, et il se reproduit. C’est tout et ça suffît.

Il en est de même pour l’œuvre d’art. Elle se plante. Avec une grande évidence. Se plante dans son lieu. 
Elle se plante dans l’œil et le cœur de l’observateur. 
Et puis, elle se reproduit. Nous ne savons pas comment, mais elle se reproduit.

Une bonne œuvre d’art sème et essaime. Sans mots… Depuis longtemps, je trouve qu’il faut pouvoir toucher une œuvre d’art, accéder à son intériorité, s’asseoir dessus, se promener dedans ou dessus. Je trouve qu’une œuvre devrait nous entourer, comme une belle pièce de maison vous enveloppe. Voilà pourquoi je me sens proche de l’architecture. 


Segment de la présentation des artistes du projet ‘A mi-bois’, au Chambon sur Lignon dans le site internet de Motabilem. 2022


Wenn wir das eine oder andere bestimmte Gefühl oder den einen oder anderen bestimmten Gedanken zum Ausdruck bringen wollen, in eine Form giessen wollen, wenn wir von dem Standpunkt ausgehen, dass zuerst die Idee da ist und erst danach die Ausführung, dann ist es trotzdem nötig, dass die Form, unabhängig von ihrer Bedeutung, unabhängig von der Aussage, die richtigen Proportionen, die richtigen Spannungen, die richtigen Massen hat und im richtigen Material ausgeführt ist.

Wenn wir ausgehen wollen von der Aussage, vom Figurativen, dann ist es trotzdem notwendig, dass die erkennbare Form in seiner abstrakten Verteilung, in seiner abstrakten Sprache bestehen bleibt.

Wer stark sein will im Figurativen, muss stark sein im Abstrakten.

Die Form muss stark sein, wenn sie etwas Starkes ausdrücken möchte, die Form muss subtil sein, wenn sie etwas Subtiles ausdrücken möchte, die Form muss sonderbar und überaschend sein, wenn sie ansprechen möchte.

Alles Gründe, um einmal von der Form selbst auzugehen und nicht von der Aussage.

Auf den ersten Blick scheint es ein Spiel zu sein und das ist es auch: Puzzeln, Kombinieren, Auseinandernehmen und Zusammenbringen.

Aber schon bald erscheint es auch als purer Ernst, weil die gesamte Aufmerksamkeit erforderlich ist, um im richtigen Moment zu merken, wann etwas wirkt, weil es manchmal sehr schwierig ist, sich zu lösen von der Neigung, alles mit einer Aussage zu füllen, weil es schwierig ist, rechtzeitig aufzuhören und zu akzeptieren, das etwas genug ist.

Marc de Roover, Pentiment, Hamburg, 2008


Geen ‘Landart’, want zelden gebruik ik het materiaal van terplekke, meestal maak ik in het atelier series vormen of repetitieve puzzles die ik dan later in het landschap plaats.

Geen ‘architectuur’, want ondanks het meetkundig-ruimtelijke, het constructieve, de op de mens gebaseerde maatvoering, kan je er niet in wonen.

Geen ‘landbouw’, al resulteert die ook in ritmisch in het landschap geplaatste seriale vormen als hoopjes mest, strepen hooi, evenwijdige traktorsporen in de velden…, want het resultaat van mijn werk kan je niet eten.

Geen ‘natuur’, want al speel ik met vormen die ernaar refereren: kringlopen, groeibewegingen, aardkorsten, en vulkanen, het werk is te mathematisch opgebouwd om puur natuur te zijn, het resultaat van meet- en denkwerk.

Het is dit alles tesamen, of er tussenin.

Marc de Roover  Gratay, juni 2005


Seit 1988 besteht meine wichtigste Arbeit von Herstellen monumentaler Landschaftsskulpturen, meistens aus Holz. Es sind eigentlich keine wirklichen Skulpturen. Es sind wirkliche Konstruktionen, aus Brettern gemacht, nah zu Architektur und Landart. Der Form nach sind es oft Kurben, Wellen, Dächer, Türme, Kanälen…, archetypische Formen, die sich manchmal identisch im Raum wiederholen. Mein Ziel ist nicht nur,Landschaftsskulptuur dass meine Skulpturen gut in der Landschaft stehen, aber das sie selbst Landschaft werden.

Marc de Roover, Ozenay, 15 – 04 – 2012


In a short yet penetrating text, Marc de Roover suggests that the ‘place’ (lieu) where art is shown is not so much possessed by the sculptors and painters who make the art but that somehow it possesses them as they become immersed in it. At the same time, the place becomes more itself and more a part of the village and landscape by housing the art with which it becomes identified. Rather than giving answers, he sees the functions of art to pose questions, questions which, in their turn, raise further questions. 

Having made these comments, de Roover then takes a step back, as it were, insisting that it would be a mistake to try to understand or explain art rationally. Rather, it should be experienced viscerally. He contrasts rational understanding with ‘living the thing’[1]. This suspicion of rationality and understanding at the very least gives a provisional character to the points he has already made. But it may also imply something about the nature of the different kinds of knowledge that come from thinking, from practice, from work and from living.

Might some of these ideas be applied to intellectual work? Is the work of a philosopher or a writer, like that of the sculptor, inscribed into the places in which he thinks and studies? Does the ‘place’ form the thought? Do the places in which we study impact on the texts that emerge from the thought giving them a specific character? Did the bourgeois apartment in Vienna in which the event of analysis was enacted and psychoanalytic theory constructed, determine its schema? Did the rustic hut in Todnauberg, where Heidegger worked, possess him and was his thought some kind of disclosure of the place? And did the thought from which the work of Freud and Heidegger arose, in its turn, somehow alter those places and make them more themselves and more a part of their environment?

The disclosure of (everyday) truth

In Heidegger’s schema the meta-category of care is a way of speaking about the manner in which being is disclosed or unfolded. This includes care in relation to place and a way of working with objects in the world (e.g. wood, stone). It is an everyday process but not one that is accomplished through reason. It is the event of transcending whether we are thinking in terms of the self or the world. In fact, Heidegger describes the self and Being-in-the-world as somehow brought together in such a way that being appears as their unique unfolding, as ‘the transcendens pure and simple’ (Schürmann 2008: 93). To refer to the self in this way is to be reminded that we can no longer speak coherently about the self in terms of a person’s pre-given inner states or subjective or spiritual apparatus but only as a task yet to be achieved (SZ 115, 117). That is to say, the self must be understood as already engaged in a world, in relation to being-there (Dasein) and thus in relation to others or community. Everdayness (Alltäglichkeit) does not refer to the surface of things in the sense of what is superficial as Section 27 of SZ shows (126). Indeed, in the course of some very dense arguments, Heidegger demonstrates that paradoxically the subject encounters him or herself in everyday existence precisely because that existence is prescribed by others. There is a correlation here in Lacan’s description of the unconscious as exterior and outside – rather than interior or deep – trans-individual, intersubjective because it is linguistic. Indeed, Lacan sees the unconscious on the surface, as the everyday, as the exteriority of the symbolic in relation to man. To quote from his Écrits ‘[This is] the very notion of the unconscious’ (E 469). Hölderlin’s ‘deepest inwardness’ and ‘deepening solitude’ (Hamburger 2004: 29, 35) also resonates with this dialectic of disclosure and the hiddenness of being as the syntax of truth, ‘roped to/the abandoned dream relics’ (Celan 2001: 79). This is not intended to suggest an otherworldliness, in fact Gadamer argues explicitly against a transcendent reading of Celan in favour of the everdayness of his poetry. ‘The “hidden” language that the poet brings out into the open’, he says, ‘is not a transcendental language of the gods; it is not anything occult, subterranean, or otherworldly…It is only the quotidian speech of ordinary mortals, language in all its human facticity, the word in everyone’s mouth.’ (Gadamer 1997: 5). In other words, a poem – as the work of art – can be made of anything. ‘It doesn’t have to be “poetical” to be poetic’ (ibid). 

‘Place’ as the locus of an absence

Freud’s work is situated in relation to the Other, to the illusion of completeness and autonomy and to that which cannot be symbolised in language. The latter stretches all representations and is outside all systems of thought. As such, it is only in the traces of its absence that it is glimpsed (in dreams, jokes and slips of the tongue). This is mirrored in Wittgenstein’s contention in the Tractatus is that there is a whole realm of human life made up of the things that belong to the limit of the world – things, that is, that cannot be put into propositions. In short, the mystical, in the sense that it signifies the realm of the unsayable. Paradoxically, however, even when we think about the inexpressible we are already engaged in language. Tugendhat (2003) describes mysticism as a retreat from oneself, from an egocentric view of the world in which there is no room for gratitude or thanksgiving for that upon which our existence depends. In this sense the mystical could be described in terms of a ‘dis-placement’ of the self (Verschiebung). ‘One can perhaps say – to adopt the terminology of his [Wittgenstein’s] later works – that he has given us an instance of one particular language-game, from which already the feeling of something “mystical” emerges’ (D’hert 1978: 32). Thus language – and this includes the language of empiricism – always points beyond itself in the sense that ‘aspects of things which are most important for us are hidden’ (Wittgenstein 1999: 129).

According to psychoanalysis what is excluded infiltrates the ‘place’ from which it originated. This re-surfacing ‘turns the present feeling of being “at home” into an illusion’ (de Certeau 2006: 4). That is to say, it is a misapprehension, one that masks an absence on a number of different levels. But psychoanalysis – founded, as it is, on a negation (the un-conscious) – signifies not just the operation of repression (forgetting) but more fundamentally an absence within being itself (manque-de-l’être). This enshrines it within the apophatic tradition in thinking as we find it at the end of antiquity in pagan (notably in Plotinus) and in Christian writers (e.g. Pseudo Dionysius) and in the medieval period (e.g. Meister Eckhart, Tauler, Suso and Ruysbroeck). Furthermore, the analytic ‘work’ is not what the subject does in an analysis but rather, something through which he passes (Durcharbeiten). He undergoes it and it is a process of which the subject is largely unaware because it is unconscious.

In the introduction to a book about Freud’s apartment in Vienna, Berggasse 19, Scholz-Strasser (1998) writes:

Looking out of the window of his practice, he [Freud] could see a large chestnut tree situated in the centre of the inner courtyard of a Viennese apartment house. As he grew older, the apartment increasingly became a refuge, housing for “the collection,” a place of labor, for patients, and for selected guests…Freud sought peace in a place that subsequently became a site of historical significance.

 Scholz-Strasser 1998: 7-8

Scholz-Strasser suggests that the meaning of the place in which Freud worked shifted over time. At its most fundamental, this signifies a relationship between place and chronology in relation to being. Indeed, the temporal and spatial aspects of being are inseparable from one another and from our developing understanding of being itself (SZ).

In the Beiträge it is the sense of being that is presented as something so lost or lacking in Western thought, due to the perspective of machination in which everything is just seen as scientific matter for quantitative measurement, calculation or manipulation (something to be possessed). ‘At the utmost limit of the process, the distress caused by the withdrawal of being and of the question of its possibility is so complete that it manifests itself as a total lack of distress, as the impossibility of even raising the question of what has withdrawn and what has been abandoned’ (GA 327).

Inhabiting language

In a fundamental sense language is the primary place which we inhabit. That is say, we do not possess language but dwell in it.  It possesses us[2]. This is to speak of language as something more than our utterances[3]. Rather, it is the condition that makes any utterance possible. In fact, all thought and even silence is inscribed within language which is the primordial symbol and dwelling place. It is prior to all and the universal primary mode of being. In this sense, we can say that ‘space’ as well as ‘place’ depend on it. Art functions like a language or more precisely, as a part of language, in that it has a structure with its own semantics and history (thus we identify schools of painters) and as a result has meaning[4].

Being in the environment

For Heidegger, the subject’s own self-environment (Eigenwelt) which comprises both the inner as well as the outer bodily self; the social environment (Mitwelt) which includes relationships; and surrounding environment (Umwelt) which refers to nature as a whole, the location and neighbouring landscape, form a whole.[5] Indeed, these can be understood as a modes of Being-in-the-world. As such they reveal our structural connectedness to others in a shared world – what Heidegger calls Mitsein (Being-with) – because there can be no language without, to use Wittgenstein’s phrase, a community of language users. In Heidegger’s idiom, Being-in-the-word ‘expresses itself as speech’ (SZ 161)[6].

Much of Heidegger’s philosophy was done in a small hut at Todtnauberg. Sharr describes this dwelling itself as a philosophical event as well as an architectural one.

[For] opened up in both are sites of activity. The activity in question centers on the question of how ‘place’ is to be understood. With place there arises the complex relationship not just between philosophy and geography but also, and just as acutely, between geography and creativity. Even though when first posed it appears to be a simplistic question, nonetheless it is possible to ask what type of relationship exists between geography – understood as the place of writing – and that act which brings writing and thinking together.

Sharr 2006: xiv 

For Heidegger a place is, first of all, a space that has been cleared, like a clearing in the forest, cleared for something. And in a way, what matters, he suggests, is the kind of thing for which the place has been cleared. In other words, the emphasis in architecture is shifted by the philosopher away from the aesthetics of the building to the human activity of dwelling, which is rooted in the building for which it has been constructed.

Art, truth and being

Following Heidegger, Gadamer discussed art not in relation to beauty but in relation to truth. For Heidegger, poetry has precedence over all other art forms, ‘as the letting happen of the event of the truth of beings’ firstly because of it discloses truth. It is in its relation to ontic truth and not in its creativity that poetry is ‘the essence of art’ (Phillips 2005: 155-6). Secondly, because poetry is language it constitutes the internal condition for the possibility of all other art forms.

[All art], in as much as it is language, reveals beings as such and thus reveals them in their Being. Revealing them not merely in the presence of their apprehensibility, it reveals them in their truth. The essence of all art is poetry, because poetry, in its turn, is defined, for Heidegger, by language’s foundation of world. In comparison with its foundation of world, all other characteristics of language are inessential. Insofar as it founds a world, the work of art is language.

Phillips 2005: 156

Art is a form of truth about the world and not a heightened state of individual feeling. It is not, therefore, a diversion or amusement but a crucial point of access to fundamental truths about the world and what it is to be human. This view of art as revealer of truth and being relies heavily on the Platonic insistence that there can be no distinction between ethics and aesthetics. That is a later distinction (Jaeger 1973).   

Being and place belong together

The Aristotelean definition of place was in fact already a synthesis between two rival conceptions – a realist conception, so called, and a relativist conception. This is because, in the words of Jean Brun, ‘le lieu est une enveloppe réelle distincte de la chose logée il ne se confound pas avec celle-ci, mais, d’autre part, la définition du lieu implique la notion d’environnement et l’enveloppant ne se qualifie comme lieu que par le movement local qui amène l’enveloppé à se détacher de son lieu.’ (Brun 1966: 145). Yet by the middle of the 14th century Aristotle’s definition of place and its relation to space (Physics IV.4: 212a) had come under criticism (Moreau 1965)[9].

Discussing the distinction between place and location, which de Certeau employs, Graham Ward argues that community participates in a ‘rhythm of gathering and dispersal’ which ‘transgresses all boundaries, producing a complex space which cannot be defined or grasped or mapped (Ward 2000:154). This mirrors Augustine’s description of the dynamic aspect of the unconscious (memoria) that Solignac calls totalisation (Skutella et al. 1996). Bringing together and ordering interior experience, otherwise ‘scattered and unarranged’ (quasi colligere atque animadvertendo), collected out of dispersion[10]. Within this dual signification architectural texts can themselves be seen as artefacts and not just as depictions. Drawings, plans and illustrations which mark out spatial dimensions and boundaries including their reinforcement, disruption and displacement. This is exemplified in medieval cartological representations which may do more than merely act as simulacra (Baudrillard 2016). In their most abstract they function as an imaginary geography in relation to topography in much the same quasi sacramental way as icons. We find this illustrated vividly in a woodcut map drawn by the German cartographer Heinrich Bünting in the Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae first published in Magdeburg in 1581. The book was a standard work in its day, and was reprinted and translated several times. It gave a summary of biblical geography by describing the Holy Land through the lives of notable characters from sacred scripture. In addition to conventional maps, it also contained three non-figurative maps – Europe in the form of a crowned and robed woman, Asia as the winged horse Pegasus, and the world in the form of a cloverleaf, representing the Trinity with Jerusalem in the centre (Christian 2006).

The ‘place’ of the body

This discourse is also concerned with the topography of the body in its relation to the soul, a geography mapped out in the literature of spiritual direction (akēdia) as it appears particularly in Stoicsm, Epicureanism and Neo-Platonism (Hadot 1987) as well as in some patristic writers (Foucault 2012). The abstract proximity of body and soul is principally drawn out in three passages in Plato where he describes the body both as a tomb (sēma), or index of the soul (psuchē), and as that which, in some way, signifies (sēmainei) the soul (Gorgias 493a; Cratylus 400c; and Phaedrus 250c)[11].

Here the tomb acts as a metonym of the cadaver,[12] one of its primary functions in antiquity being to preserve the memory of the departed and not just the body. It stood for the whole person whose memory it sought to preserve (Keiser 2011). Indeed, with the corporal remains of the deceased closed off, it operated as a ‘body’ with which the living interacted in a variety of ritually distinct ways and through which the social identity of the departed was articulated. This might take the form of an idealised statue or even a non-iconographical representation such as a stēlē which then become the sign of the departed in the world (Sourvinou-Inwood 1996). The monument itself, that is, articulated the continuing presence of the deceased forming a signifying chain in the memory of the living (Immerwahr 1960). As they are little affected by time, stone inscriptions suggested permanence and durability. But Herodotus undermines the perception of the stability of epigraphic records by pointing out how all of Darius’ stēlē, save one, were later removed and brought to Byzantium where they were reused as building blocks for the altar of Artemis. The exception being a single plinth with Assyrian letters that, years afterwards, was left lying in front of the temple of Dionysus. As Grethlein shrewdly points out, in the end the fate of the stēlē merely illustrates a ‘failure to establish permanent memory’ (Grethlein 2013: 188). In the fifth century BC lekythoi were used as grave markers, performing in effect a double metonymic function, as a sign of a sign of the deceased (Keiser 2011). Here they resemble a palimpsest, in which the original text has been erased or obliterated, and the surface used for some quite different writing.[13] This insinuates the way the space of memory always remains, in some way, embedded in the web of its other (de Certeau 2006)[14]. Although this only hints at the way eschatology has been articulated in relation to the body (Holmes 2010), it was destined to be repeated through the centuries by a host of pagan as well as Christian authors (Courcelle 1965)[15].

Boundaries and limits

A place is always limited by a boundary, a limit or terminus of some kind. The boundary marks the inside and the outside of a place and as such makes possible bringing-in and preserving within the residence, as well as going out and being in relation to what is not the shelter. Terminus is the Latin word for a boundary stone, and the worship of the god Terminus, as recorded in the late Republic and Empire, centred on stones, with which the god was identified. Siculus Flaccus, a writer on land surveying, records the ritual by which the stone was sanctified. The bones, ashes and the blood of a sacrificial victim, along with crops, honeycombs and wine, were placed into a hole at a point where estates converged, and the stone was driven in on top. Annually, on 23rd February, a festival called the Terminalia was celebrated in Terminus’ honour, involving a yearly renewal of this foundational ritual. Neighbouring families would garland their respective sides of the marker, and make offerings to Terminus at an altar. The marker itself would be drenched in the blood of a sacrificed lamb or pig. There followed a communal feast and hymns in praise of Terminus. These rites were practised by private landowners, but there were also related public ceremonies. Ovid refers to the sacrifice of a sheep on the day of the Terminalia at the sixth milestone from Rome along the Via Laurentina. It is likely this was thought to have marked the boundary between the early Romans and their neighbours in Laurentum. A stone or altar to Terminus was located in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. Because of a belief that this stone had to be exposed to the sky, there was a small hole in the ceiling directly above it. There is some evidence to suggest that Terminus’ associations could extend from property boundaries to limits more generally. Some ancient writers believed that the Terminalia, had once been kept at the end of the year. Diocletian‘s decision, in 303 AD, to initiate his persecution of Christians on 23rdFebruary, may thus be seen as an attempt at enlisting Terminus, to put a limit to the progress of Christianity.


Madness is understood, in psychoanalytic thought, as a turning away from set limits or boundaries. This is described in relation to the myth of Oedipus as a failure of symbolic castration[16] which amounts to a radical non-inscription (Verwerfung)[17]. This reference to a failure to enrol or to enlist – to the negation of writing (scriptum, scriptura) and the work of the scriptorium and to the non-textual (scribere) – alludes both to legal documents (scriptum legis) including wills (testamentum), and to breaking contracts, as well as to witnesses (testatio – usually, in antiquity, to the gods), and to sacred scripture. Indeed, Freud referred to the dream as ‘eine Heiligen Text’. That is to say, something historically bound, written and redacted within a social context.

During the nineteenth century works of art produced by the mentally ill caught the attention of the psychiatric community. Paintings by some psychotic patients became known, for example, through an exhibition of Adolf Wölfli [1864 -1930], a prolific Swiss artist and one of the foremost painters in the Art Brut movement. In 1919 Hanz Prinzhorn[18] extended an earlier collection of art, started by Emil Kraepelin, which had been created by the mentally ill in Heidleberg (Brand-Claussen 1996)[19]. Most of the artists who contributed to this collection suffered from psychosis. Prinzhorn became aware of the similarities between expressionist art and the art of the mentally ill and was interested in the origins of the artistic impulse.  He collected more than 5,000 works and in 1922 published Bildnerei der Geisteskranken – Ein Beitrag zur Psychologie und Psychopathologie der Gestaltung. The volume was richly illustrated with works by the patients and here he discussed the relationship between psychiatry and art. His was one of the first attempts to analyse the work of the mentally ill.[20] 


Ineffable space

Linked to this is the question of spirituality and architecture, and the way in which the symbolic associations of place relate to what Le Corbusier famously described as ‘ineffable space’ or the sacred with its emphasis on silence.

In the later work of Le Corbusier we see an attempt to re-situate notions of the sacred within a radically modern vernacularism which echoes today’s post-modernist mood. Here the architect touches the basis of psychic experience in the earlier obsession with harmony and nature – in the case of Indian mysticism associated with the symbolism at Chandigarh, as well as in the design of La Tourette and Ronchamp. These projects both look back to his early passionate interest in the Certosa at Ema – a building which had made him conscious of the harmony which results from the interplay of individual and collective life (the essential dualism of institutional life) when each reacts favourably on one another and forced Le Corbusier to confront the role of the sacred in architecture especially in its institutional forms. The basic elements of walls, towers and roofs wrap around the interior space. Here boundaries act as an enclosure (fermetture) that brings together structure or form to delineate the real[21].

John GALE        Ozenay, 2019


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[1] Perhaps this echoes the sentiments of Georges-Louis Leclerc, Count of Buffon, the eighteenth-century French naturalist, who asked himself why bees make such pretty hexagons [Buffon, G.L.L. Histoire naturelle IV: 99, Paris, 1753]. He noticed that no other polyhedron fills a surface in so practical and pretty a manner. It is a kind of pressure on the occupation of space which requires that they be hexagons, and one doesn’t have to create sophisticated problems of the type – do bees know geometry? (Lacan S2: 28)


[2] The Greek word pathos (passion; emotion), like its Latin equivalent passio, suggests something that happens to a person. That is to say, a person in an emotional state is literally passive or possessed.

[3] The concept of utterance (énonciation) has been developed by a number of French scholars over the last thirty years. It addresses the way in which linguistic subjects appropriate the languages available to them. See Benveniste, E. (1974). Problems in General Linguistics (trans) M. Meek. Miami: University of Miami Press. Lacan began using the term from the mid 1940’s to describe psychotic language and later to locate the subject of the unconscious.


[4] André Breton and Louis Aragon, the founders, amongst others, of the periodical Littérature, which marked the beginning of the surrealist movement in 1919, met while studying medicine at L’Hôpital Val-de-Grâce in Paris that treated patients suffering from battle fatigue during the First World War (Gascoyne 2000). Here, Freudian techniques, specifically free association and dream analysis were used (Montagu 2002). Both men took a keen interest in Freud, particularly in his Interpretations of Dreams (SE IV) and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (SE VII). Breton dedicated his Les Vases communicants to Freud and in 1932 sent him a dedicatory copy.  Freud himself did not reciprocate the surrealists’ warm feelings and a close reading of three extant letters from Freud to Breton from 1932 shows Freud keen to keep a distance from Breton (Davis 1973; Fer 1993b). Freud had little understanding or consideration for surrealism and the use to which they were putting his ideas.  His reaction was polite but sceptical cf. B. Frederick and M.D. Davis, Three Letters from Sigmund Freud to André Breton, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 21 (1973):  127-134.  Cf.  B. Fer, Surrealism, Myth and Psychoanalysis op. cit. Lacan, however, was to become far less cautious. Through the review Littérature he had became familiar with both dadaism and surrealism.  In fact, he had met André Breton and Philippe Soupault sometime before he discovered Freud in 1923 and the first number of Surréalisme au service de la Révolution which was published in 1930, had a profound effect on his re-reading of Freud particularly with regard to psychosis (Roundinesco 1997). In an article entitled L’Ane pourri Salvador Dalí argued that paranoia functioned in the same way as hallucination and amounted to a delusional interpretation of reality. This challenged both the received psychiatric view that paranoia was an error of judgment or reason gone mad, as well as Freud’s view that paranoia was a defense against homosexuality. As a result, Lacan met Dalí and developed his own theory of paranoia which formed the basis of his doctoral thesis De la psychose paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité which appeared in the winter of 1932 (Roundinesco 1997; Schmitt 1980; Alexandrian 1976). Here, Lacan brought together concepts from psychiatry, psychoanalysis and surrealism.

[5] Heidegger first presented the ideas found in ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’ in a conference entitled Mensch und Raum (Man and Space) which was held in Darmstadt from 4th to 6th August 1951. The discussion of his paper was chaired by Otto Bartning who was the principal of the school of architecture in Weimar. Gadamer was present. Heidegger’s threefold schema has led some architects to become fascinated with Heidegger’s philosophy which has informed their designs (e.g. Peter Zumthor, Steven Holl, Hans Scharoun and Colin St John Wilson) (Sharr 2007). Zumthor, in his spa at Vals, emphasised the sensory aspects of architecture and the physicality of the materials he used ‘evoking experiences and texturing horizons of place through memory’ (Sharr 2007: 92); while Holl, writing about the Simmons Hall at MIT stressed the influence of phenomenology in thinking about form and shade.

[6] Speech (Rede) is Heidegger’s third structure of Being-in-the-world. Its function being to articulate understanding. Thus, in SZ we read that ‘[t]he fundamental “existentialia” which constitute the disclosedness of Being-in-the-world, are attunement and understanding…Existentially equi-originary with attunement and understanding is speech’ (SZ 160-1).

[7]Sie  brauchen nämlich nur zu sprechen, dann zeigt sich, daß in jedem Sprechen, jedem Ansprechen von etwas, bestimmte Strukturen des Gesagtseins mitgemeint sind’ Heidegger, M. (1992). Platon: Sophistes 515. Gesamtausgabe II. Abteilung: Vorlesungen 1919-1944 (Band 19). Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann Verlag.

[8] Thus Hemmings (2011) argues that to auto in Parmenides Fragment 5 (4 in Coxon) could be substituted with topos or chora.  Our only sources for the passage are Clement of Alexandria Strom VI: 23, Plotinus Enn. V: 1 (8); V: 9 (5) and Proclus Plat. Parm comm1152 (8  See Diels, H. (1906). Die Fragmemte der Vorsokratiker. Vol 2: 117. Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung. A critical review of modern approaches to Zeno’s paradoxes from Hegel and Russell to the present by Alba Papa-Grimaldi (1996) shows the inadequacy of mathematical solutions. She argues that any resolution to Zeno’s paradoxes must make sense of his metaphysics.

[9] Nicole Oresme [1320-1382] may have been the first philosopher since Late Antiquity to reject Aristotle’s definition of place as the innermost surface of the surrounding body. There is a link here between absence and the notion of a ‘remainder’ which Lacan and later Baudrillard discuss.

[10] Skutella, M. (Ed.), Solignac, A. (Intro. and notes), Tréhorel, E. And Bouissou, G. (Trans.) (1998 and 1996). Oeuvres de Saint Augustin 13 and 14. Paris: Études Augustiniennes, Paris 1996-98 pp 559-60. 

[11] Plato mistakenly attributes the origin of this idea to the Orphic tradition and conflates it with the rather different notion of the body as a prison (Courcelle 1966). It is more likely Pythagorean rather than Orphic in origin (Dodds 1951).

[12] Although cadaver is the older word it has come to refer in particular to a dead body used for medical or scientific purposes, for example, for medical students to dissect, while corpse is used more generally and evokes the embalmed dead body. Alternative terms for the dead body include the word ‘carcass’ which has not been used of humans since the middle of the 18th century, and is reserved exclusively for a dead animal body used for food.

[13] Of biblical mss the best known instance is the so-called Codex Ephraemi Syri rescriptus (‘C’) of the Greek New Testament at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, Gk. Reg. 9 (Thompson, 1912). C is the last in the group of the four great uncial mss of the Greek bible. In it many of the sheets of the original fifth century ms which appears to have contained a complete text of the Old Testament and New Testament, have been lost or thrown away.  In the 12th century the remainder was converted into a palimpsest by cleaning and writing over it (rescriptus) with texts of Ephraem the Syrian (AD 307-73). Ephraem’s voluminous exegetical and ascetical writings are mostly in verse. Their style characterised by repetition and metaphor. He seems to have written mostly in Syriac but at a very early date his work was translated into Armenian and Greek, and via the latter into Latin and Slavonic (Brock 1990; Tanios 1988). Only portions of the original ms have survived and the text is not always decipherable. As much as could be deciphered was edited in 1843-5 by the textual critic Constantin Tischendorf whose most famous being the discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus (Scrivener 1894; Kenyon 1895; Fenlon 1908). In the past chemicals were generally used to reveal the underlying writings on palimpsests but it is now possible to secure in many cases at least equally successful results by photography, which has the advantage that there is no risk of damaging the ms. Instances are also known of double palimpsests, where the ms has received three texts (Mone, 1855; Chatelain, 1904).

[14] Lacan, commenting on a passage from Freud’s Studien über Hysterie (SE II, 287-9) refers to speech beginning to flow ‘in the leaves of a printed manuscript’ (Lacan 1988, 22). This is, Lacan continues a metaphor ‘of the blank page…of the palimpsest’ (ibid). He argues that the hermetic elements that psychoanalytic exegesis resolves starts with the revelation of a palimpsest (Lacan 1966). Commenting on this, Anthony Wilden suggests that the metaphor of the palimpsest, which was common in the 19th century where it was applied to dreams by James Sully and cited by Freud in the Traumdeutung (SE IV, 135 n2). It was James Sully (1842–1923) who had called the meeting at which the Psychoanalytic Society was formed in 1901.

[15] Porphyry refers to it in his life of Plotinus (Porph Vita Plot XXII.45). The first century Jewish philosopher Philo shows a special interest in the theme in his exegesis of Genesis as well as in…….. (Quaest. in Gen I.45, 70; II. 69). Paul’s approach is complex and has… In Origen… In Gregory, in Basil. Ambrose Augustine understood it in relation to hope (spes) (Lagouanère 2012).We find it developed in a new mystical sense by Cistercian writers in the twelfth century, notably by William of Saint Thierry. And it recurs again in the opera of Bossuet. The subtlety of Plato’s position has consistently been overlooked, over the last half century by biblical scholars who have, by oversimplifying it, characterised it as a dualistic and contrasted it with a Judaic unitary view of man. A view that is mirrored in the turn to the body as we find it in Foucault and others. See Ferwerda, R. (1985). The Meaning of the Word ΣΩΜΑ in Plato’s Cratylus 400c Hermes 113 (3): 266-79.

[16] In Lacan’s thought this refers to the symbolic loss of the imaginary phallus and he links it to fantasies of bodily mutilation which originate during the mirror stage of development. Castration is crucial to our understanding of the Oedipus complex where it represents the dissolution of the complex.  As a result symbolic castration is at the root of psychopathology. In psychosis, the subject fundamentally refuses to limit jouissance (pleasure) through a denial of castration. This rejection then generates hallucinations of dismemberment (e.g. the Wolf Man).

[17] The term foreclosure was originally introduced into psychology in 1928, when Eduard Pichon published an article on the psychological significance of negation, borrowing the legal term forclusif to indicate things that the speaker no longer sees as part of reality. The publication appeared against the background of the dispute between Freud and René Laforgue concerning scotomization (Mijolla 2010). Lacan first translates Verwerfung as foreclosure in Seminar III. In On a Question Prior to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis (1955) he defines Verwerfung as a foreclosure ‘of the signifier’: ‘at the point at which the Name of the Father is summoned…a pure and simple hole may thus answer in the Other; due to the lack of the metaphoric effect, this hole will give rise to a corresponding hole in the place of phallic signification’ (Lacan 2005: 558). He specifies that it is the Name of the Father that is foreclosed.   If the Name of the Father is foreclosed and the symbolic function of castration is refused by the subject, the signifiers of the father and of castration reappear in reality, in the form of hallucinations. Thus, in developing the concept of foreclosure, Lacan was able to declare, ‘What does not come to light in the symbolic appears in the real’ (Lacan 2005: 388). Lacan reconceived Freud’s hypothesis of an original affirmation as a symbolic operation in which the subject emerges from an already present real and recognises the signifying stroke that engages the subject in a world symbolically ordered by the Name of the Father and castration. In his seminar The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1978), Lacan took up Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Freud SE 1920) and approached the real in terms of compulsion and repetition. He proposed distinguishing between two different aspects of repetition: a symbolic aspect that depends on the compulsion of signifiers (automaton) and a real aspect that he called tuché, the interruption of the automaton by trauma or a bad encounter that the subject is unable to avoid. Engendered by the real of trauma, repetition is perpetuated by the failure of symbolisation. From this point on, Lacan defined the real as ‘that which always returns to the same place’ (Lacan 1978: 49). Trauma, which Freud situated within the framework of the death drive, Lacan conceptualised as the impossible-to-symbolise real.

[18] Hans Prinzhorn appears, by all accounts, to have been an eccentric and attractive character.  After a doctorate in the history of art and an abortive attempt to train as a singer, he turned to medicine.  Eventually he settled as an assistant at the psychiatric clinic at Heidelberg university, W. Geinitz, Zur biographie Hans Prinzhorns, Kulturelle Psychiatrie und Psychologie (ed.) W. Pöldinger, Karlsruhe, 1992.  Binswanger, who visited the collection in 1920, described him, in a letter to Freud of 15th august 1921, as an artist by nature with an independent personality, strongly opposed to all authority, cf. Sigmund Freud and Ludwig Binswanger, Briefwechsel 1908-1938, Frankfurt, 1992.

[19] Emil Kraepelin was in charge of the Heidelberg clinic from 1890 to 1903 and it was while in post here, in 1898, that he first presented his concept of dementia praecox, Brand-Claussen, 1996 op.cit.  For a review of Kraepelin’s ideas cf. Cullberg, 2006 op.cit. p.127ff. 

[20] Douglas notes that ‘John Haslam, apothecary at the Bethlem Hospital may have been the first to reproduce patient drawings, in his Illustrations of Madness in 1810.  Haslam’s interest was in the diagnostic value of the work of his patient, James Tilly Matthews’.  Matthews suffered from schizophrenia and thought he was being persecuted by an ‘influencing machine’ which he called an ‘air-loom’, C. Douglas, Precious and Splendid Fossils, Beyond Reason, op.cit. p.36-7 and p.46 n.5. 

[21] For Claudel architecture is embedded in beauty which is its primary form. This brings it into relation with both the body and the soul.  ‘L’idée d’éternitése réduit àcelle d’une fermeture par elle-même infrangible. Or, toute forme se déduit de cette même idée d’une enceinte fermée sure elle-même, et mous avons vu que rien en ce monde n’échappe àla nécessitéde la forme.’ Claudel, P. (1957) Oeuvre poétique 203.Paris: Gallimard.