Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Hvile(Rest) (1905) is a work equal in visual ambiguity and complexity to Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas(1656). Hammershøi’s painting presents a woman sitting in a chair with her back to the viewer. A slump in the shoulders angles the right part of the neck into shadow. The eyes are turned away. The face is withheld. If this is a scene of “rest” for the person in the room, it is also a scene of refusal on the part of the gendered subject of portrait-painting, who in this case rejects the work of sitting to be painted (or the millions of portraits subtitled, invisibly, Work). And in rejecting this work, she abjures the ethical relation that, for Emmanuel Levinas, is formed by the dramatic encounter with the “face.”
Situationist counter-maps are the product of drifts or dérives practiced by Guy Debord and his companions in post-World War II Paris. Often collective rather than solitary, of no preset route or duration, and driven by intuition rather than calculation, a dérive is a ritual exorcism of the instrumental, efficient, and ratiocinative life Le Corbusier and other urban planners envisioned for post-war cities of steel-framed, glass-enclosed housing blocks; pre-fabricated, mass-produced office and manufacturing complexes; and networks of ring roads, shuttle stops, and pedestrian “circulation paths” designed to bind them together.
The sound of textile-making draws the maker in. When it is handwork — the click of knitting needles, the pull on a skein of yarn, the swoosh of the shuttle across — the sounds of textiles extend the body of the maker out into space, making a wider territory. When the machines of textiles are sounded, this is another soundscape altogether, invoking, to some, profit and progress. To others, this textile machine soundscape is distress, underpayment, monotony, even danger.
In this commentary I want to urge us to conceptualize the senses as interbraided. And if we do, then maybe one of the reasons we write is in order to sound but the sound I am referring to does not have to do with language’s sign, an utterance, or our poetic voice.