Why Emmanuel Levinas… and why “Face a Face” in Painting

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"Face a Face", Levinas.
“Face a Face”, Levinas.

I am a visual artist. A large part of the subject of my paintings and drawings, are people. They are not “copies” of the real people, (the global reality). I’m using the format of comics that  came to me directly and releases me from the need to be  close to this global reality. I prefer to create my own local “reality”.

I paint and draw people’s faces. Their face is an external surface. I’m guessing through this surface what they feel and express. In contrast, Rembrandt, when portraying  himself, knew what he felt when he painted them. The viewer is affected …but he only guesses what  Rembrandt really feels…Rembrandt is veiled.

The Veiled Look
The Veiled Look


And here comes Emmanuel Levinas  in…

I discovered him by chance. I saw the documentary film  “Absent god” (see here) where Levinas speaks, among other things, about his concept of “Face” ,. He says:

“…But this shock of the divine,
this rupture in the immanent order
the order that I can embrace, grasp,
the order I can make mine, possess,
it is the other person.
The way I phrase it,
it’s the face of the other person”…(Quoted from the subtitles accompanying a conversation  with Levinas in “Absent God”)

Trace
Trace

…and Derrida says on Levinas’s  “Face a Face”:

…”Ici Jacques Derrida [ …] en appelle à la tora pour contester Lévinas qui, lui, en appelle à la religion. Dans un premier temps, le texte indique “Or l’Eternel s’entretenait avec Moïse face à face, comme un homme s’entretient avec un autre” (Ex 33.11). Puis dans un second temps : “Tu ne pourras pas voir ma face, car nul homme ne peut me voir et vivre (…) Tu te tiendras sur le rocher. Qand ma gloire passera, je te mettrai dans un creux du rocher, et je te couvrirai de ma main jusqu’à ce que j’aie passé. Et lorsque je retournerai ma main, tu me verras par derrière, mais ma face ne pourra pas être vue” (Ex 33.20-23). Dieu parle à Moïse face à face, mais sa présence n’est jamais totale. Elle n’est que trace, effet de trace, effacement de la trace. Selon Lévinas, dans le face-à-face humain, il n’y a pas de symétrie. Autrui, qui ressemble à Dieu, nous parle depuis une hauteur. Tout dialogue est discours avec dieu. …” see here

J'ai vu  Levinas
J’ai vu Levinas

.From another point of view here is an excerpt from ” Violence and the Vulnerable Face of the Other” by professor  Roger Burggraeve :

“”What Levinas really means by the “face of the other” is not his physicalcountenance or appearance, but precisely the noteworthy fact that the other—not only in fact, but in principle—does not coincide with his appearance,image, photograph, representation, or evocation. “The other is invisible” (TI6). According to Levinas, we therefore can not properly speak of a “phenomenology” of the face since phenomenology describes what appears. The face is nonetheless what in the countenance of the other escapes our gaze when turned toward us. The other is “otherwise,” irreducible to his appearing, and thus reveals himself precisely as face. Surely, the other is indeed visible. Obviously, he appears and so calls up all sorts of impressions, images, and ideas by which he can be described. And naturally, we can come to know a great deal about him or her on the basis of what he or she gives us “to see.” But the other is more than a photograph, or rather not only is he factually more—not only more in the sense where there is always more for me to discover—but he can never be adequately reproduced or summarized by one or another image. The other is essentially, and not merely factually or provisionally, a movement of retreat and overflowing. I can never bind or identify the other with his plastic form (EI90–91). Paradoxically, the other’s appearing is executed as a withdrawal, or literally, as retraite or anachorese.

My local singularity
My local singularity
 The epiphany of the other is always also a breaking through and a throwing into confusion of
that very epiphany, and as such the other always remains “enigmatic,”
intruding on me as the “irreducible,” “separate and distinct,” “strange,” in
short as “the other” (AS81). The other is insurmountably otherwise because
he escapes once for all every effort at representation and diagnosis. The
epiphany of the face makes all curiosity ridiculous (TI46).”” see here.
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So to conclude this short note  metaphorically, the Levinasian “Face a Face” is a mystery, some sort of singularity where the picture breaks down. I as a picture maker am always positioned at the event horizon, a veiled horizon.
My Event Horizon
My Event Horizon

…And finally, it is worth reading the article by Professor Hagi Keenan  “Facing Images: after Levinas”, http://www.tau.ac.il/~kenaan/facing_images.pdf

Let’s see that Syrian Lingerie..

A year ago on November 12, 2007, I published  on this very blog., an article named “Dangerous Lingerie Under the Veil in Syria” ,see here. The same ‘Syrian Lingeries’ surfaced in the today actualities in the form of a book.

Lingerie in Syria
Lingerie in Syria
Lingerie
Lingerie

On the German site “Quantara”, an Internet portal for sustaining a dialog with the Islamic world,  an article by  Susannah Tarbush under the curious name  “Panties from the “Axis of Evil”  see here,  reveals the surprising fact that the Syrian member of the “Axis of Evil” has many sexy underwear attributes. Not to bad for an Axis of Evil..and very subtle for an entertaining dialog with the Islamist world.

Now let’s see what’s all about, I quote from the “Axis of Evil” article, ..”When Malu Halasa [journalist] and Rana Salam [designer] visited the souqs and shops of Damascus and Aleppo during a visit a couple of years ago, they were surprised by the apparent contradiction between the unusually audacious and playful lingerie on display there and the relatively conservative society, in which so many women are veiled.

Lingerie
Lingerie

Halasa and Salam soon decided to co-author a book, “The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design,” which was published recently by Chronicle Books of San Francisco… .”..see here.

And more…..It turns out that women in Syria’s conservative culture, “invest heavily in vivid, imaginatively designed lingerie to keep their men interested, not unlike the way a fisherman use brightly-colored flies to attract bass.”, see here.

The BBC refers to this kind of lingerie investment in an article called “Sexy secrets of the Syrian souk “, for example  “It stems from the Syrian tradition for brides-to-be to be given a trousseau of exotic underwear – sometimes dozens of items – usually by girlfriends, aunties and cousins, to add spice to their wedding nights, honeymoons and beyond.”

The souk
The souk

And further …”[On the contrary,] sex is there to be enjoyed to the maximum by Muslims – as long as they are married Muslims – and there are numerous religious exhortations on the importance of foreplay, mutual titillation and satisfaction for both partners. Adventurous underwear is popular among conservative Muslim couples. Indeed, if a husband fails to satisfy his wife sexually – or vice versa – it is considered grounds for divorce under Islamic law.”…see here.

syrian-lingerie1

QLICK  TO PLAY..

Continuing in the same vein, the article “Syrian wedding lingerie: veils of the unexpected”

Rana Salam (below) and Malu Halasi
Rana Salam (below) and Malu Halasi

emphasise that ..”It is

extraordinary that this deeply religious and conservative society is producing such saucy and explicit underwear. But, according to Rana Salam, co-author with Malu Halasa”… of the book on the lingerie ..” Islamic society in Syria is far from prudish, and men and women have open discussions about sex: ‘Syrians are known for being direct about sexual matters, and they love to laugh about it, too,’ she says. Women in Syria are also by no means the most restricted in the Arab world: they have good jobs, go to university and can make their own decisions. While

The souk
The souk

researching the book, Salam, who was raised in Lebanon, found that the lingerie was considered a treat, for both sexes. ‘t’s all about fantasy,’ she says. ‘For the woman, it can spell freedom: it says it’s okay to experiment with your husband, so the man benefits too.’
It’s doing what it says on the packet – aiming to seduce – while conveying a deeper social message. “It’s saying that these people have fun and joy in their lives,” she says, “and the Middle East isn’t all just about war and repression.”….see here on TIMEONLINE.

The Miami Herald, on his “Fashion and Beauty” page, mentioned in his article “Panties in a twist: Syrian women wear sexy underwear, too..”:…  ” ‘There’s an idea that because it’s Islam, they don’t have sex,’ explained Halasa, who is a co-author of several other books and writes for the British press. ‘We cannot make assumptions about the private lives of Muslims.’

Lingerie with birds and fur
Lingerie with birds and fur

Lingerie is a luxury item in Syria. Halasa doesn’t suggest that the women are wearing racy panties beneath their burqas; they are worn at intimate moments. When a woman gets married, she often collects up to 30 outfits for her wedding night. They are gifts to herself and from folks like her mother, future mother-in-law and groom.

The lingerie represents a rite of passage from virginity to respectable, married womanhood.

‘Some Syrian women think that buying lingerie is a waste of money and it has no role in their sexual lives. While for some traditional people, it is a must to buy lingerie with all different colors and styles before getting married,” an unidentified woman says in the book. “I think that not being able to wear what you want in daily life is a factor, which makes some girls feel that only marriage will give them the chance to show.”.. see here.

And in Israel…Lingerie..Lingerie… is women’s secret  panache , even for Jewish  orthodox women

Orthodox Jewish women
Orthodox Jewish women
Can WE Do It ?
Can WE Do It ?

For example  from an article on TIMEONLINE (April 15, 2006) ” Devout shoppers drawn to very unorthodox mall” in Bnei Brak.I quote ..”All the mannequins are headless and there is a dearth of in-store posters because of the Torah’s edict against any likeness of the human image. On the packaging for women’s tights the human form has been discreetly hidden behind strategically placed stickers.

The bedding department has only single beds because even married ultra-orthodox couples must sleep separately and refrain from sex at certain times of the month.

The lingerie section is also discreetly tucked away at the rear of the store and stocks colours no more racy than black, white or skin tones. There were complaints when one shop stocked pink-ish bras.
see here for more.

Veiled women entering a lingerie store
Veiled women entering a lingerie store
Inside Ali Nasser lingerie workshop
Inside Ali Nasser lingerie workshop