Date of Publishing:
September 22, 2015

2015 © Anderwald + Grond
Photo © Anderwald + Grond

Inside/Outside and The Ground beneath Our Feet

Karoline Feyertag
with Comments by Feyertag, Anderwald + Grond

This text by Karoline Feyertag is accompanied by her own comments and those of Ruth Anderwald + Leonhard Grond. These comments serve as an extension of their conversations on dizziness, its components, potential and resources. Furthermore, it connects the text and Karoline’s stream of thinking with Ruth and Leonhard’s artistic practice.

Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling on a bridge over the River Hao, when the former observed, “See how the minnows dart between the rocks! Such is the happiness of fishes.” “You not being a fish,” said Huizi, “how can you possibly know what makes fish happy?”

Ruth Anderwald + Leonhard Grond: The task of writing comments to accompany the conversation of Karoline Feyertag and François Jullien could be linked to the story of the happy fish. Like the men on the bridge, we try to construe their communication. Working as a duo, we always have to try to understand the other person to proceed with our work process. The story of the happy fish could be understood as the method of interdisciplinary research. To work in an interdisciplinary way means first to listen amicably and to follow the movements of the fish.

“And you not being I,” said Zhuangzi, “how can you know that I don’t know what makes fish happy?” “If I, not being you, cannot know what you know,” replied Huizi, “does it not follow from that very fact that you, not being a fish, cannot know what makes fish happy?”

A + G: Ludwig Wittgenstein writes in his book On Certainty about this moment when two people agree over a passage of music, that a certain section is indeed the best, most intense part of the whole piece. Nevertheless, he insists, both think this for different reasons. We understand this as the core of our artistic co-creation, that understanding can only be shared to a certain point. And this is also what we want to keep in mind with this text, not knowing François Jullien and not knowing Karoline Feyertag that well.

“Let us go back,” said Zhuangzi, “to your original question. You asked me how I knew what makes fish happy. The very fact you asked shows that you knew I knew – as I did know, from my own feelings [perception/observation] on this bridge.[1]

Karoline Feyertag: Comment by François Jullien to this English translation: “This answer at the end is interesting, when Zhuangzi replies to his interlocutor: “Let’s go back”. In Chinese this passage reads: “Let’s come to what is fundamental!” It’s not “back”, it’s the “stem” (souche). “Come to the ground (foncier)”, “Let’s follow the ground”.”

Commenting on this famous passage from the Chinese book “Zhuangzi” (chapter 17, one of the so called “outer chapters”, which were probably not written by master Zhuang personally as were the first seven “inner” chapters of the book), the French philosopher François Jullien states, a little bit embarrassed by the bad English translation, I proposed to discuss during our interview, that things are much simpler:“There is neither perception nor observation, nothing. There is only ‘I know - I realise’ and the bridge over the river. The only verb is ‘to know - to realise’ but there are no choices in between feelings, perceptions or observations. This is the European psychological spectrum. The Chinese text speaks about the ground, the fundament, the stem, where there is no distinction between feelings, perceptions etc.

A + G: From synaesthesia research we know that the differentiation of the senses in the consciousness is something that develops throughout early childhood. At first a sensation is a sensation, no matter what it is caused by, be it a stimulus to the eyes, the skin, the inner ear, etc. In people with synaesthesia this development is incomplete, leaving them to see colours or structures when hearing a certain kind of music, for example.

"It is on this ground that I, Zhuangzi, can know the happiness of the fish.”[2]

A + G: So the immanence of the moment at this location (bridge) evokes this realisation. The fragility of the experience of realisation is, as we see it, related to film, where a frame, a picture in time, can only be perceived in this moment and in the condition it is at this very place on the reel.

So it’s this “ground” or “fundament” or “stem”, where there are no distinctions, demarcations, individuations, determinations and delimitations yet, which enables first of all communication, communitas. It’s the “foncier” or even the "fond(s)" in French, which was translated as “foundation-fount”[3] and also “source”. I prefer to call it “ground”, although this should not allude to the Greek concept of hypokeimenon (material substratum or substance). I just want to evoke the common ground we all put our feet on, this ground beneath our feet, which we can also lose when spinning around and becoming dizzy. It is on this ground that “Inside” and “Outside” melt or merge in fusion.

A + G: By spinning, the visual perception is altered. For many people visual perception determines their spatial navigation. But this sense cannot be trusted in a situation of disorientation (e.g. this is how people get lost in the woods, they think they have seen a certain tree already). Other senses need to be activated, and other new possibilities need to be put to the test.

This time, my blog entry will pertain to this “common ground”, the “foundation-fount”, the initial ambiguity that is preliminary to the interdisciplinary and intercultural communication in between different kinds of languages. Furthermore, this ambiguity and communication can be understood as preliminary to creation and innovation in the sense of a “new way”, a “new idea” or a “new image”.

A + G: Every image in time-based art can be understood as a phenomenon-image, in our understanding, under the condition that the medium is used in a direct relation to the content. The fast alteration of frames showing for instance a bear and a candle creates in the human eye something like a bear-candle. Something that is both and neither. The expectation for the next image in relation to the present and in remembrance of the last is a characteristic of time based image art.
The image is not to be understood within the register of representation – Jullien’s phenomenon-image does resonate with our art practice. We make art work as ‘potential’, as Gareth Evans wrote. We search for the possibility to create pre-scripts, maybe one could even say pre-images and pre-narratives. One condition to do that it seems is to expose ourselves to dizziness.

In the end, dizziness will reappear as a resource to find a way to this “ground”, where "ambiguity" is at stake.

A + G: Together with Anna Kim, we have created the slogan The Future is Compost, written in Chinese, on billboards for Rohbau der Zukunft TM, a project accompanying the construction of a new district in Vienna in the Viennese subways.
Until now we have talked about this using the word "superposition", a term borrowed from quantum physics. Analogous to "ambiguity" "superposition" describes potentiality, but it seems to be a more sterile word, as it is young and comes from a field not yet put into so many images. More down to earth, one could think of "ambiguity" and "superposition" in terms of compost (from Lat. com-ponere - to put together), but we believe they all describe the same phenomenon by emphasising the different parts of it, the vagueness, the fecundity, the potentiality, the inherent energy.

1. On compossibility

“…because in the end, dizziness, which I call ambiguity, is compossibility.”
François Jullien

In my last blog entry I’ve asked a question in the context of contemporary physics and its loss of observational certainty and perpetual laminar flows: What “language” is henceforth capable of describing the world as being in permanent transition? And how could we learn to “navigate within the Unknown” when there are neither given coordinates nor any defined positions and momentums?

“Inside” our European culture, there are different “languages”, which try to cope with this “Unknown”: Natural Science, Cultural Science, Art, Literature, Economy, Statistics and last, but not least Politics. Admitting an “Outside” of our culture, we have to acknowledge different languages as well, according this time not to different disciplinary approaches or “scientific cultures”, but to foreign cultures and their distinct languages. Maybe the so-called Babylonian confusion of languages gives one of the most impressive accounts, of this seeming impossibility to communicate among humans.

A + G: Yes, the outsider’s perspective. This is what first drew us to Jullien’s philosophy. His methodology seems related to ours in the sense that we, too, are searching for places outside our media, be it film, photography, art in public spaces, or even outside art itself: We need to do that in order to create more freely. Crossing the threshold is what propels us in terms of art. Of course, the feeling of being outside is a personal and subjective experience, leading to contradictions and misunderstandings. As artists we travel further, cannibalising in realms that disciplines of science or other artistic practices, such as music or literature, claim as their territory. We try to adapt in order to understand, but all the while we remain visual artists.
KF: Jullien speaks about his project of a “deconstruction from the Outside” of Western thought in our interview. Admitting such an “Outside” implies a dichotomy between two terms and, finally, between two entities. Jullien has been criticised for speaking about “China” as an entity. I believe that this critique merits some attention. See also: Heubel 2011, Billeter 2006.

Where lies the common ground of understanding or at least of communication? Any communication implies misunderstanding, collision, opposition and separation. But it always creates a possible time-space as well, the possibility to exchange, to mingle, to mix up, to melt together – to “con-fuse”[4] in a positive sense.

A + G: It was interesting to see our photo series Atlases at our exhibition Shattered Horizon in Shanghai, China. For the series Atlases, we asked people to hold the world on their shoulders. When Gu Zheng, a Chinese photographer and scholar, commented on the work, he strengthened the absurdity of the mythological Atlas in the context of Chinese thought.
Excerpt from Gu Zheng’s text Lifting Something Heavy is just like Lifting Something Light: “In Greek mythology, Atlas carries the terrestrial sphere on his shoulders […] However, in Chinese, to express the concept of the world, the term ‘heaven and earth’ (tiandi) is used. In this term, heaven and earth are combined. Heaven and earth are the substance of the world. The world was formed by heaven and earth; a separation of heaven and earth cannot form the world. As we hold up heaven, we hold up earth, or, whatever we are holding up actually does not matter.”

In the interview, François Jullien evokes these positive connotations of confusion, dizziness and ambiguity:

"The interest, which l find in China, is that it makes us get out of the philosophy of being [classical ontology], towards a thinking of processes, of the flux etc. China privileges the transition, the “amorce” (lure or trigger) and this phase when it’s neither the one nor the other, this phase of confusion/dizziness, when both are possible, compossible, and there is no separation yet between the two."

A + G: Thinking of Karoline’s question about the lure (“How to make something happen without constraint? Waiting? Spinning around?”), and thinking of Andrew Benjamin, maybe hope as this structural condition of the present can be understood as a lure? Hope in itself is a pre-script, not a script, not a way the narration must follow. Hope is not yet expectation. What do you think, Karoline? Embracing the aporetic as our conditio humana indicates the presence of the incomplete and fragmentary, whose temporal correlates are renewal and repetition (as creating variations and mutations, not stereotypes). It is the abidance of the not-yet, not-quite in correlation to the premonition that something will manifest, will become evident. ("Evidence", as Jean-Luc Nancy uses it – evidencia translated from the Greek enargeia, that comes from argos, the lightening. "Intersilient" might be a translation to English. But the lightning is a far too obvious symbol here. I think of "enargeia" and of suddenness, of something striking, but not as ostentatious as lightning and thunder. A sudden spark, perhaps.)
The lure is a central point of artistic creation, and we spoke with Charlotte Hug about it in Klagenfurt at Navigating in the Unknown. What kind of preparations do you need to make your possibilities and sources most fertile in a specific moment? How do you exercise your skills? How can you destroy learnt patterns to navigate to new shores? In our practise we need a lot of time for reading and contemplation, then we wait and forget, trying to clear the consciousness. Making our (film) art happens at the écart between awareness and absence of awareness including and defying both.

"This is what I consider a resource of Chinese thought: To think in the mode of the confused/dizzy and not in the mode of the distinct."

KF: A resource seems to be always part of a problem as well. For finding a way out of aporia, we also need poroi, which is translated by resource as well. Resources are found at the very beginning, when things are not yet “clear”, not yet “outside”, only about to come (out), still mixed up, melted and confused.

“Compossible” was first used by the European philosopher Leibniz and means that two or more individuals, things, states, languages, meanings etc. are possible together and at the same time.[5] Only since contemporary philosophy could compossibility also mean that opposites, several mutually contradictory worlds or heterogeneous truths, are possible within the same universe and without necessarily entailing separation, distinction or any dichotomy between them. Besides French philosophers like Deleuze and Badiou, there are also Jullien and the German philosopher Steinweg who refer to the notion of compossibility. Both Jullien and Steinweg make different uses of this concept, but both imply the creation of a time-space where/when something becomes possible, which wasn’t possible before or, at least, it was not thought to be possible before.[6]

In this sense, compossibility reminds us of the paradoxes that physicists face when trying to understand quantum entanglement. The particles involved in quantum entanglement are said to occupy multiple states at once – a condition referred to as “superposition”. The problem lies within our Occidental frame of observation, perception and maybe imagination (Download). Put into this context, Jullien is only suggesting taking a step out of this Occidental frame, within which “two contraries at the same time” are not possible to think. Jullien’s “Outside” is maybe better understood as an “in-between” ,the one and the other world, language or philosophy.

A + G: At its core the classification ‘experimental film’ itself is vague. There is nothing that can be called Experimental Film in capitals. This term is housing everything that the genres of feature film, documentary, short film and art cannot place. It is as heterogeneous an art form as can be. It forms its identity from the unclassifiable. One could say this genre is specialised in being in-between, that puts it in the context of dizziness.

In his view, Occident and Orient only mark the two extreme poles in between which thinking evolves. Greece and China are just points of orientation within an infinite “ocean of discourse” (Kofman).

KF: Kofman evokes the different discourses of philosophers and sophists by referring to the metaphor of the river and the sea: “Although, like the sea, rivers are liquid spaces which are difficult to cross and which are full of dangerous currents and whirlpools, the sea is still the aporetic place par excellence, and it is still the best metaphor for the aporia of discourse. Certain texts therefore contrast the sea and its salinity with the fresh waters of rivers, just as they contrast philosophical discourses with sophistical discourses, discourses ‘taken from some haunt of sailors’.” Quoted from Sarah Kofman, “Beyond Aporia?” in: Post-Structuralist Classics, ed. Andrew Benjamin (New York: Routledge, 1988), p. 11-12.

Either we speak of the ocean, the source, the river where all lively creatures evolve freely, or we speak of chaos, matrix, khôra, Tao – we always seem to mean some time-space in the sense of an intermediary “in-between”. I believe there are many names for what we try to find out when exploring the phenomenon and implications of dizziness.

KF: I feel, writing this time my blog entry, a personal urge to mention the Greek khôra. But there is not enough time-space for this fertile Platonic concept … Coming to the end of my pregnancy at the very moment of writing these words, I remember Plato’s term khôra, its maternal overtones to the woman’s womb, the “matrix”, as well as the territory and the land. (Cf. Alice Pechriggl’s feminist-philosophical reading of Plato’s chora in Chiasmen. Antike Philosophie von Platon zu Sappho – von Sappho zu uns. Bielefeld: transcript, 2006, p. 178).
“Plato proposes that the chora rests between the sensible and the intelligible, through which everything passes but in which nothing is retained. For example an image needs to be held by something, just as a mirror will hold a reflection.” Quoted online

2. Let’s go back!

Let’s go back to the initial quotation from the Zhuangzi. The Japanese philosopher Nishida has another name for what Jullien calls “foundation-fount”, the ground (souche) or the source: a “field” in the sense of an “absolute contradictory identity of space-time-self”[7]. Nishida himself borrows his concept originally from Plato’s term xora/khôra (as a “place in which principles develop and come into being”[8]). So there is an exchange in between Eastern and Western thinking, which goes simultaneously in both directions: French philosopher Jullien goes off to China to find what is the un-thought of Greek thought – and Japanese philosopher Nishida turns towards the Occident to find what is maybe the un-thought of Oriental thought. Both are moving on this “common ground”, creating and thinking out of this common source.

Hisaki Hashi is another thinker of the in-between who tries to come down to this “common ground” of thinking in between Oriental and Occidental thought. Working on the communication between physics and philosophy, she refers to notions of Nishida and concepts of quantum physics in order to establish her concept of the field of “between”. In one of her recent articles, the passage of the happy fish, and the verbal exchange between Zhuangzi and Huizi serve as metaphors for this possibility of a common ground of interdisciplinary and intercultural exchange – or shall I say “con-fusion”?

A + G: For there is a spot the size of a shilling at the back of the head which one can never see for oneself, as Virginia Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own.
In your conversation Jullien said, “It’s only through this act of vacillation that philosophy realises that it has a basis or foundations. It’s these foundations which philosophy takes as evident; the basis, which one doesn’t know, the basis, which philosophy itself ignores.”

Hashi quotes the 1949 Japanese Nobel prize winner in physics, Yukawa, who was of the opinion that only Human and Natural Science together could serve the cognition of the human being. In order to communicate his interdisciplinary thought, he refers to the happy fish-dialogue of the Taoist Zhuangzi and his rival Huizi. “Huizi took a positivistic and materialistic view against the Taoist Zhuangzi. In comparing the Taoist and positivistic positions, Yukawa developed his own thesis that this kind of concurrence is also found among philosophers and natural scientists in the contemporary period.”[9] Here is one part of what Yukawa said:

"‘(…) To find and establish a new thesis or principle, the true scientist must hold a position between the two extreme poles: regarding the systematic construction of a hitherto unknown part of nature, they have developed their insight and imagination (like philosophers or Taoists). On the other hand, they have clarified what is provable in a positivistic way by employing a maximum of scientific deduction. I, as a particle physicist, want to find the systematic principle of a particle which is not recognizable as a ‘substantial and independent particle’. The nature of a particle is recognizable only if we observe it in a relation with another particle: we cannot observe a particle in a constant and consistent state, but only in an extremely short time-span, i.e. when another particle is near the observed one and when the first particle removes the second one. The theory of particle physics is built on this field of relations, in which I, as the scientist, move always between the two poles; one of them is the insight to grasp a new cognition, and the other one is to prove a hypothesis by the scientific method.’” (Bold emphasis added)[10]

This steady movement “between two poles” seems to be what enables communication and “true insight”. Hashi uses the metaphor of the field in order to articulate that the meeting of A and non-A “constructs a field of an ‘emerging relation dependent on each other.”[11] It’s the relation of A with non-A, the (re-)connection of opposites, which enables creation and emergence of new “determinations” and “oppositions” in Jullien’s wording.

A + G: This reminds us of the so-called event horizon. Nearing a black hole the event horizon describes the point of no return from where no particle, not even light can escape the gravity of the black hole, like a boat coming too close to a whirlpool. The event horizon can be understood as a one-way membrane. By trying to include opposites in one entity, called compossibility, the membrane shifts, but the outside, the unthinkable still exists.

I would like to propose that Jullien’s “foundation-fount”, which is characterised by ambiguity and compossibility, is related to the notion of the “field of ‘between’” as Hashi defines it with regard to European and Japanese philosophy, as well as to contemporary particular physics.[12] It’s not so much about being “inside” or “outside” a specific language and/or culture; what really seems to count in order to gain new cognition and “to reset the field of oppositions” (Jullien in the interview), is the state of the “in-between”, the slash (/), which separates and connects the inside/outside-formula. Somehow it’s the threshold, which marks the “just before” something changes, the critical point within crisis.

A + G: In our film installation Camera Solaris we deconstruct the concrete imagery of film via the effect of the camera obscura, until only a vague fluttering of light spots can be seen on the wall opposite the film projection. The connection between the two opposing projection walls is palpable, without being intelligible. To us this space of the two walls constitutes the locus of our visual interest. It is this tension and polyvalence that is the centre of our artistic work, the space in the inner of the eye, where concrete and abstract meet, fuse, melt, transform.

In this context, Jullien also speaks about the “sas”, a kind of “sluice chamber” which he uses as a metaphor for this time-space when “the precedent determinations and oppositions, by which we have been thinking, are fusing – “con-fusing”.

A + G: We have filmed one in Dubrovnik. We are curious how the film will turn out and if it can help us in understanding more profoundly the potentiality and the force of a sas in that sense.

"From this con-fusion emerges a fundamental ambiguity, the non-separation of opposites, which is fertile because it enables an outside of our current oppositions, and from this outside other determinations could result.” (Jullien in the interview)[13]

A + G: The condition for seeing, as well as for film and photography, is light. Camera Solaris discusses the long time span between the Western discovery of the effect of the camera obscura by Aristotle and the possibility to fix the image. The effect of the camera obscura was discovered when the earth passed into the shadow of the moon, a moment when light is nearly absent – at an eclipse of the sun. The importance of the absence of the normal (daylight) for this discovery struck us.

Jullien’s “Outside” seems to be the “in-between” induced by dizziness and con-fusion. So now the question comes up of how to access this field, time-space or foundation-fount? Maybe this is the moment when Art enters the dizzy picture, which was dominated so far by Cultural and Natural Sciences.

3. Dizziness as chance

A + G: Chance is a difficult word in this context. When we first met with Karoline, we spoke about chance connected to dizziness in terms of serendipity. But there is also pseudo-serendipity, described as if something comes your way by chance, but nevertheless you have been looking for it intentionally but somewhere else. It differs from the so-called luck of the diligent, when hard work pays off. Another possibility can be pure luck. Something comes your way, you haven’t been looking for it, but you understand how to benefit from it.

“It is a striving towards this ontological root of creativity that is characteristic of the new processual paradigm. It engages the composition of enunciative assemblages actualising the compossibility of two infinities, the active and the passive. A striving that is in no way constrained, catatonic or abstract like those of capitalistic monotheisms, but animated by a mutant creationism, always to be re-invented, always about to be lost. The irreversibility belonging to the events-advents of autopoietic grasping and transmonadism is consubstantial with a permanent resistance to circular, reterritorialising repetitions and with a constant renewal of aesthetic boundaries, scientific apparatuses of partial observation, philosophical conceptual montages and the establishment of “habitats” (oikos) that are political or psychoanalytical ("ecosophy").”[14]

This dense quote from Guattari’s last book “Chaosmosis” appears like the (con-)fusion of many topics that I discussed above – “just before” (en amont). Guattari uses the word “striving”, that indicates a specifically Occidental attitude towards movement, strategy and method (or poros). Jullien would not speak about “striving” when analysing the Chinese “way” (Tao). Striving implies making an effort in order to achieve an aim. In several books, Jullien tried to demonstrate that Chinese thinking is in a écart, in a “distance-deviation”, to this very European conception of “striving towards”.

A + G: Threshold, pivot, hinge, écart are terms we see related to film. The relation between two frames of film is where the impression of movement forms. One could say that the impression of movement itself is a misunderstanding of the human ocular system, created by the persistency of vision in relation to the fusion frequency of the film projection.

The Chinese approach – at least the one which is interesting in Jullien’s eyes – is more about waiting for the right moment to act, luring reality in order to make it bite like luring a fish. “It’s the sensitivity for what is going to emerge and what begins only to get configured in a very ductile way. […] There is an aptitude to be attentive to the first signs, to the cohesion, which is found at the very beginning, in the penumbra and not in the salience of the event. […] In this sense, Chinese thought dissolves the dramatic event of the occasional moment into the continuity of silent transformations.” (Jullien in the interview)

A + G: Our film Kan Yu is about the possibilities and the potentiality of a place. Kan Yu can mean look at the sky, look at the sea, the clouds, etc. It means take in what is there. This looking is executed on different levels for this film. There is the lens of the camera touching things as if to grasp their presence and to understand movements; there is the light perforating the film coating and the camera dancing through the possibilities of the space provided by the environment.
Could it be that a sense of cohesion is what ends feelings of dizziness in transformative processes? Is cohesion what starts our inner narration again, after being destroyed or partly destroyed by falling into dizziness?

Anyhow, Guattari also speaks about a kind of continuity when he says that this “striving” is “always to be re-invented, always about to be lost”, it is irreversible and made of “events-advents”. Maybe the latter concept has more to do than it seems at first sight with Jullien’s analysis of the Chinese non-event under its label of “silent transformations”. Less meaning “striving” than dérive, going with the flow as when “the minnows dart between the rocks” in their river, evolving freely, that is to say “without constraint”. But any dérive implies the danger of losing the ground beneath the feet or of drowning in deep water.

KF: “According to situationist theorist Guy Debord, in performing a dérive, the individual in question must first set aside all work and leisure activities, clearing their minds of all their usual motives for movement and action and then let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Dérives are necessary, according to situationist theory, because of the increasingly predictable and monotonous experience of everyday life in advanced capitalism. The dérive grants a rare instance of pure chance, an opportunity for an utterly new and authentic experience of the different atmospheres and feelings generated by the urban landscape.” Quoted online:

In the interview, Jullien also evoked this danger and paired it with opportunity. It was his proposition to translate “occasion” (in the sense of the Greek kairos, the right moment to act) into Chinese. I had asked him if he had suggestions regarding a Chinese translation of “dizziness”. Within this semantic field, he suggested the Chinese binomial (a Chinese character composed of two Chinese ‘graphs’) wei-ji, what commonly is translated as “crisis”. Actually, Jullien pointed out that “wei” means danger and “ji” means opportunity.

KF: There are masses of comments on this Chinese formula on the internet – and there is one very interesting critique by the renowned sinologist Victor H. Mair. Mair points out the problem of translating “weiji” as “danger+opportunity”: “While it is true that wēijī does indeed mean “crisis” and that the wēi syllable of wēijī does convey the notion of “danger,” the jī syllable of wēijī most definitely does not signify “opportunity.” […] The jī of wēijī, in fact, means something like “incipient moment; crucial point (when something begins or changes).” Thus, a wēijī is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry. A wēijī indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. It is not a juncture when one goes looking for advantages and benefits. In a crisis, one wants above all to save one's skin and neck! Any would-be guru who advocates opportunism in the face of crisis should be run out of town on a rail, for his or her advice will only compound the danger of the crisis.
For those who have staked their hopes and careers on the CRISIS = DANGER + OPPORTUNITY formula and are loath to abandon their fervent belief in jī as signifying “opportunity,” it is essential to list some of the primary meanings of the graph in question. Aside from the notion of “incipient moment” or “crucial point” discussed above, the graph for jī by itself indicates “quick-witted(ness); resourceful(ness)” and “machine; device.” In combination with other graphs, however, jī can acquire hundreds of secondary meanings” (Quoted online
The notion’s link to dizziness as “resourceful(ness)” will be studied in more detail in the next essay. Interestingly, Mair states that instead of looking for the above-criticised formula in Chinese language we just have to refer ourselves to the Greek meaning of “crisis”.

“Danger means at the same time opportunity."

A + G: Risk management, conflict management and pedagogy recognise this connection. In Klagenfurt risk and addiction specialist Gerald Koller spoke about a tree in a kindergarten that had to be cut down in order to prevent children from falling off. But if we prevent all risks we become helpless in times of serious danger. Being familiar with situations of risk can be an asset.

"This seems interesting compared to the idea of dizziness (Taumel). Because dizziness could mean imperilment and endangerment of vitality or rationality […] – and how could an endangerment be an opportunity at the same time?!” (Jullien in the interview)

KF: The whole interview reads better when vertigo is replaced by dizziness – as we already discussed.
A + G: We have discussed this. "Vertigo" is a medical term. "Dizziness" comprises more than the medical side, the fear of heights, or the psychological part of anxiety induced dizziness, that plays a role in traditional Chinese medicine as well. Vertigo comprises a spiralling movement, dizziness something more vague, a non- or omni-directional movement. Taumel (dizziness) seems the most relevant term. It means confused movement, that could be inner and outer movement, and it has these connotations of conflict, awe, fight and seduction. But agreed, we still lack a word that can describe in totality what we want to say.
There are different situations of dizziness, from being in flux, to taking drugs to spinning around – complementary and contradictory as they come – but the effects that seem relevant and conjunctive in all kinds of dizziness are the change in the experience of time; the changed perception of proportion; and the increasing sensation of loss of control.
I have already referred to the concept of crisis in the Greek sense in my first blog entry. It is the critical turning point of something evolving, changing. It’s exactly the moment of something turning into something different or other than it was before. It’s the moment of the “just before”, en amont when only a kind of seismographic detection of what will come about could anticipate the up-coming, the whole movement and where it is evolving towards. And there is danger within this dizziness – the danger of not finding a way out (a poros), the danger of losing oneself within this kind of trance, spinning, twirling and turning around. It’s the danger of losing any relation to time and space, losing grip and dissolving within chaos. But the big chance could be that we acknowledge a part of the still Unknown as unknown (without assimilating the Unknown into the yet Known), that we become open for what we do not yet know or are not yet able to think and that we free our mind”.
A + G: Sas – we have discussed situations of dizziness in terms of a mechanism of relief.

Dizziness could maybe then be regarded as a "cultural technique", supported by artistic experience

A + G: This makes us quite uneasy, because there might be some misunderstanding along the way. Art is not logical and not helpful. There is a certain amount of knowledge inherent to art, but to put it to use is something else entirely, and would rob art of its uselessness, and headlessness. In an artwork, there can be mindful, profitable parts, but there are also vague, roguish, disinterested, absent-minded parts. Identifying and distilling the useful part means to destroy the artwork.
KF: Initially and related to the Jullien-interview, I focused on the question whether inside and outside have to be connected, how they could communicate and whether their “common ground” lies “beyond” the separation of inside/outside. Dizziness could also be regarded as a way (a resource, a poros, not as much a method) to come to this “ground” of non-separation. And my question to Ruth and Leonhard was: Do you think dizziness could be seen as a cultural technique or is it a more general term for you? And their answer was: "It is neither to us. Taumel/dizziness seems a possibility to gain (intellectual) fruitfulness, and its capacity is not considered enough. This is the core of our research: dizziness is a resource." So I would like to conclude that cultural techniques (like meditation, thinking, respiration, spinning around, taking drugs, reflection, fasting and many others) perhaps provoke dizziness in order to get to this ambiguous “common ground” (le foncier)? By the way, I agree upon your critique of the instrumentalisation of Art by Science and Philosophy. Still we have to clearify what means "support" and "experience" within our context.

and knowledge, which allows us to access this “field of ‘between’”, this time-space of the non-separation of opposites (“con-fusion”), this “foundation-fount” or simply: this “common ground”.

A + G: The artist Pedro Cabrita Reis said: “I believe that in any Artwork what is to be perceived is that very particular, brief and silent moment when one experiences Intelligence, an absolute and total Intelligence through which everything comes together … Being a revelation of all our fears, Art neither changes life nor explains death. Such magnificent inability to provide a destiny makes Art different from Science, Religion and Philosophy. As an attempt for meaning/sense, this might as well be (why not?) a search for Beauty. I like to see my work as a part of this method of thinking …”


Billeter, Jean-François: Contre François Jullien, Paris: Allia, 2006. Guattari, Félix: Chaosmosis. An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, transl. by Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis, Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995. Hashi, Hisaki: “The Significance of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in Nishida’s ‘Logic of Field’”, in: Philosophy East & West, Vol. 57, nr. 4, University of Hawai’i Press, Oct 2007.

Heubel, Fabian: “Immanente Transzendenz im Spannungsfeld von europäischer Sinologie, kritischer Theorie und zeitgenössischem Konfuzianismus” in: Polylog. Zeitschrift für interkulturelles Philosophieren. Nr. 26: Selbstkultivierung. Politik und Kritik im zeitgenössischen Konfuzianismus, Wien, Winter 2011, p. 91-114. Kofman, Sarah: “Beyond Aporia?” in: Post-Structuralist Classics, ed. Andrew Benjamin, New York: Routledge, 1988, p. 7-44. Jullien, François: Traîté de l’efficacité, Paris: Grasset, 1996.

  • Les Transformations silencieuses. Chantiers, I. Paris: Grasset, 2009.
  • De l’Être au Vivre. Lexique euro-chinois de la pensée, Paris: Gallimard, 2015.
  • The Great Image Has No Form, or On the Nonobject through Painting, by Jane Marie Todd, Chicago University Press, 2009.

Mair, Victor H.: “danger + opportunity ≠ crisis. How a misunderstanding about Chinese characters has led many astray”, in: Pīnyī A Guide to the Writing of Mandarin Chinese in Romanization, University of Pennsylvania, 2009. Look, Brandon C., “Leibniz's Modal Metaphysics”, in: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Spring 2013, online: Steinweg, Marcus: Philosophie der Überstürzung, Berlin: Merve, 2013.
Zhuangzi: Mit den passenden Schuhen vergißt man die Füße. Ein Zhuangzi-Lesebuch von Henrik Jäger, Zürich: Ammann, 2009.


Quoted from Lucas Klein’s commentary on this famous Daoist passage by Zhuangzi.

Quoted from the interview with François Jullien on the 26th of May 2015 in Paris.

Jane Marie Todd explains in her “Translator’s Note”: “The expression I translate as “foundation-fount” is fond(s), which combines two French terms, each with a wide range of meanings. Fond means, amongst other things, “bottom” and “foundation”; it is also contrasted to forme in the form/content binary, and to figure in figure/ground. Au fond or dans le fond means “fundamentally” […]. Although the English “fund” once meant “font” and still means “a supply of material resources,” “a reserve of intangible resources” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary), its connotations are too monetary for this context. Jullien defines fond(s) as “à la fois fond et source, fons et fundus” (both ground and source, source and ground) and often pairs the term fonds with words alluding to its liquidity: amont, résorber, irriguer, découler (upstream, resorb, irrigate, flow). Hence “fount”, which Webster’s defines as “a reservoir for liquids” and, most pertinent in this context, as “something that resembles a spring or reservoir: source”, is particularly felicitous.” Quoted from François Jullien, The Great Image Has No Form, or On the Nonobject through Painting, transl. by Jane Marie Todd (Chicago University Press, 2009), p. xii.

The hyphen is used in this text to emphasise the Latin origin of the word confusion: confusus, past participle of confundere - poured together, mingled together. The prefix con- meaning with, together.

See for the notion of “compossibility” also: Look, Brandon C., "Leibniz's Modal Metaphysics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Because of the actuality of the Jullien-interview, I’ll refer with more details to the French thinker. Just a hint towards Steinweg who says in an interview with Thomas Martin, published under the title “Philosophie der Überstürzung”: “Philosophy only exists as experience of fundamental disorientation. To get oriented within disorientation […] would be one first definition of philosophy.” Furthermore, Steinweg defines for any act of thinking that it has to take the risk to be “as much precise as headless” or “excess and exact” (Steinweg 2013, p. 135-136). “In any case, the point is to articulate the compossibility of precision and excess.” (Ibid., p. 136, all my translation)

“Space is grasped as a dimension of being something; time is grasped as a period of being something. Our self as a thinking and living subject performs this recognition. Things that can be recognized include not only objects of cognition outside our bodies, but also our self-consciousness itself. The existence of our body as being here and the existence of time as being now are displayed in a contrasted relation. Simultaneously we can say that this contrast is issued as a united recognition of time and space, in which we recognize the form and the contents of our self-consciousness as itself. There is a unity which includes the three contents of existing space, existing time and existing self, which recognizes this unity in various directions: space-time, time-space, unity of space and recognizing self, unity of time and recognizing self.“ The complete synthesis of these elements is defined in Nishida’s terminology as follows: the absolute contradictory identity of space-time-self at the absolute contemporary point of here and now.”, Hashi Hisaki 2007, p. 457-481, here: p. 460.

Ibid., p. 458.

Quoted from Hisaki Hashi, “The Field of “Between” – A New Principle for Interdisciplinary Epistemology” in: Global Journal of Human-Social Science: H Interdisciplinary, Vol. 15, Issue 1, Version 1.0, Global Journals Inc. (USA), 2015, p. 12.

Hashi 2015, p. 12.

Hashi 2015, p. 13.

Compare with this following passage in Hashi: “The Field of ‘Between’, viewed purely physically, is a field of space-time that enables a physical interaction. Viewed physically, in the double-slit experiment, a physical interaction emerges between the shooting light quantum and the receptor. Viewed philosophically and epistemologically, the Field of ‘Between’ is the [space-time], where the things [A and non-A] enter into a relation.” (Hashi 2015, p. 13)

“This is what I call “le fond indifférencié”. There is a non-differentiated ground that enables the communication among all differences. Your theme of dizziness – and that’s what I find interesting – is that dizziness makes one flourish again, pulling us back to this non-differentiated ground of confusion, where the differences are fused/melted together and from where other differences could also appear. It’s a kind of melting-pot where all differences melt and where reality again communicates beyond its individuations and particular demarcations. This is what China is thinking. The Tao is this. The Tao is this undivided, non-differentiated ground, from where all differences and divisions could come out. Maybe the interest of the kind of vertigo, of dizziness as you use it, is to bring us back to this ground of seeming confusions, but which is actually a ground of ambiguity, non-separation and communication of opposites among each other.” (Jullien in the interview)

Quoted from Félix Guattari, Chaosmosis. An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, transl. by Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis (Indiana University Press, Bloomington/Indianapolis, 1995), here p. 116-117.

– See also: “Transmonadism through the effect of retro-activity crystallises within the primitive chaotic soup spatial coordinates, temporal causalities, energy levels, possibilities for the meeting of complexions, a whole ontological "sexuality" composed by axiological bifurcations and mutations.” Ibid., p. 115.

– See also In Conversation with François Jullien.

– See also On the Threshold in between Motion and Standstill.

– See also Get Entangled!.– See also The unexplained "Rest".