Quay Brothers

Chantal Maillard

Image © Quay Brothers
Photography: Oficina de disseny

Chantal Maillard

On The Sixth Day

They fell. Perched, rather, as they shook off their wings. Beings of ambiguous nature that instilled terror in the animal world. Resplendent during their struggle yet dark in equal measure. Each day it lasted ran into night; the moon changed place several times as the flying chariots crossed the sky, round as suns. Some skimmed the treetops, ablaze. Others perched. The dark beings walked two extremities. They walked in the cold searching for shelter in a world that was not theirs. Searching for refuge. Coupling with the animals that most resembled them. The one born of their seed they called man.

And one of them said: “Follow me!

You shall inherit the Earth

and the meek shall sustain you.”

This is how it could have been told. Perhaps this is how it was. Or perhaps not.

*

Who, of all the gods, were the vanquished who offered us, animals that we once were, their seed and some of their light and the uncertain fate of a warped mind? Who, mistakenly or maliciously, engendered us as hybrids of immortals and wild animals, as delirious consciousness thirsty for existence, as animals lost to themselves, stripped of their innocence?

*

Thousands of Somalies crowd at the Kenyan border. Most will be transported to the camp at Dadaab, in the northeast of the country.

Refugee camps… Refuge? Corrals where, as agreed by our social partners, we contain whoever tries to reach the sea. The Kenyan camp alone costs the European Union fourteen million dollars a year. In the end, it’s a reasonable price if we want to avoid sharing with them the goods we stashed when we plundered their lands.

Dadaab, Hagadera, Ifo, Dagahale, Kobe, Ashraf, Fara, Saklepéha… Indifference has many pretty names.

*

In economic terms we speak of growth; in social terms, of backward countries. A person or a country grows or advances when it adopts the customs and ways of thinking of our tribe. It was the nineteenth century idea of progress that fed the language of globalization. Grow, advance, emerge: movements that push forward and upward, metaphors inherited from production economies, colonial enterprise and a biblical principle.

We urgently need a study on the history of concepts. We urgently need to understand their origin and how they strategically became values that we defend.

*

Armed with the arrogance of his tribe and an over-inflated sense of his own values, white man has destabilized other peoples and ravaged the animal kingdom. The will of the West has been like a ship’s prow: plunging forward, rigidly sundering the liquid nature of other beings. Sooner or later, order will have to be restored. The rhythm of the seasons, the kingdom of ants, the night of owls and moles. And that boat won’t capsize without causing pain.

*

What a deterioration, from the eidos to the idea. We’ve forgotten and corrupted its original meaning, essential vision and vision of the essential, the idea as something that is grasped, translated in Latin with the word conceptus, which we later adulterated as idol (éidôlon): a simple image or representation. The corruption is all the more paradoxical when we consider that Plato used those essential entelechies precisely in order to counter our tendency to cling to phantasmata: images, phantoms or fantasies born from our imaginative rather than intellectual abilities.

The only difference now between ideas and idols is that some form of sentimentality always adheres to an idol. Apart from that, both are equally subjective, although ideas are more unstable, given that idols command deeper devotion that flourishes in territories where fear and issues of identity prevail.

*

In Book 1 of Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum Scientiarum, which contains his new scientific method, Bacon described four types of false idols (idola) that hinder or prevent us from attaining knowledge: idols of the tribe (idola tribus), that arise from the individual’s tendency to cling to prejudices, his instability, his passions, the stupidity of his senses, his limited intellectual ability, and his habit of thinking according to the patterns of his mind rather than those of the universe, believing it to be more ordered and balanced than it is; idols of the cave (idola specus), that respond to each person’s individual nature, his education, customs and circumstance; idols of the marketplace (idola fori), that arise from the false or ambiguous meaning of words; and, lastly, idols of the theatre (idola theatri), false tales inculcated by the various philosophical fields; i.e.—Bacon clarifies—all those invented up to then.

Max Scheller added one more to these four types of illusory representations: the idola of self-knowledge or perception of the self.

*

History: of how young nations rise up on the ruins of those that preceded them. Of how the wellbeing or satisfaction of some people is built on the ruin or sacrifice of others. Of how the era of the dead opens the space of the living.

*

Every animal recognises the paths forged by his ancestors. Epic air, sea and land voyages. Only human beings forget. That’s why they invent, construct, build, embark on journeys of discovery. What distinguishes us from other species is not what we’ve gained but what we’ve lost. The wound is a door closed to the past. Having lost the great past, the human animal remains trapped in his personal history, turning round and round like a dog trying to chase its tail. His intelligence is limited, of the type that cannot embrace any experience other than his own. Reason is the result of forgetting; his achievements, no more than the pathetic proof that he has lost his way. The light we so greatly appreciate is not from the gods: it is simply our adapting to loss and abandonment.

*

Morning. Sky blue, as it was back then. The organs, the body, happy when in one piece. Pleasant dreams. Golden awakenings on the warm window ledge. Promises of water and sunshine.

Invite me to the blindness. I want to be the credulous hero of former times again. Impostor of nothing, though innocent at least.

*

It is wrong to rear children in good faith like princes, ignorant of disaster. Everything is cyclical. They will go hungry, chew stones, longing for what they lost.

*

How many corpses make a victory?

It doesn’t matter. There’ll be more room for wolves

and dragonflies.

*

European thought evolved around the personification of a verb: being. Given that the thing called being existed, fear materialised: not-being. European thought evolved around that fear. It became possible to measure the space between being and not-being, divide it into fragments that we call time, and whose measurements gives rise to what we call events. But the process of becoming beings is more like the flow of a river than instruments for calculating measurements. In the flow, events are equivalent to the stones in the river. The heavier they are, the more history they say a people has. In this way, they make up for the enormity of what has been forgotten.

*

Telling: weaving a consistent weave with saliva. Giving consecutive images an order that makes sense. An argument. We are never witnesses to the beginning or the end of our own lives. And reason demands that we come up with endings for the sum of the sequences.

*

“It was a dark, moonless night. The wind howled at more than a hundred kilometers an hour. It whipped up ten-meter-high waves that crashed down on the weakened vessel with a terrifying din. The ship had set sail ten days earlier from an inlet along the Mauritanian coast. Aboard were a hundred and one African refugees…” This isn’t a novel. But the author knows that this is how best to reach a greater number of readers, because they will absorb the facts as if they were a narrative. And we find narratives pleasing.

*

You get close to the fledgling sparrow that came in the window. Carefully, you reach out your hand and he flaps away to the middle of the room. You want to return him to the fresh air. You try again: the sparrow flees, trying to find a safe place and disappears behind the narrow gap between the wardrobe and the wall. Outside, you hear birds chirping.

*

Checking how easily our conscience identifies again with the never-ending discourse in our mind, how quickly it is distracted and retreats like a lizard that has lost its tail in the dispute.

*

There is something even more perverse than the terrible mechanism of Hunger that holds us captive, and it is our tendency to consider it a beautiful thing. Our willingness not only to condone it but to think of it as attractive is, undoubtedly, part of the grand design. Humans are predisposed to being amazed, to show fascinated and fertile admiration for the coherence in the universe, the subtle workings of its cogs and gears, its “harmony”. Without this fascination, would we really accept being the cogs we are in this great machine? Could it be that what we call beauty is the movement that leads us to our proper place as cogs in the system, and admiration is our consent to this movement, the cog’s intimate acceptance of its function?

Rebelliousness begins when doubt appears about what we judge to be beautiful.

*

Perfect assembly, an autonomous organism. Docile creatures who, feeding off each other, would unquestioningly accept the precept of hunger, tearing apart their bodies to reproduce and perpetuate the sacrifice. Universe. An ingenious artefact, for sure; but admirable?

Admiration, that uneven pane of glass through which the mind judges the heinous mechanism to be beautiful, no doubt was also part of the grand design. “Harmony” was the word the ancient Greeks used to describe when the parts interacted smoothly: Pythagorians applied it to planetary order; Aristotle applied it to the supposed relationship between understanding and nature. But what is nature in relation to understanding if not the result of our faculty of representation? Without such admiration, without that deep, programmed acceptance of the system, would the human animal have allowed the system to perpetuate?

*

One of the problems with having been born is that the will to survive rarely leaves us.

*

Liberty, fraternity, equality: the unfulfilled dream of revolutionary Europe. An unachievable goal. Every organised group is coercive. Every herd is predatory.

*

I cannot think of a single valid argument in favour of preserving our species instead of exterminating it.

We should be woodworm or larva. Nest in the rotten tree of our tribe. Let the sawdust nourish inferior worlds.

*

When reason comes face to face with itself, it seems to me to be pure mirage. Fear is the idea of fear churning our stomach. Pain is the fear that prolongs the feeling of hurt.

July dissolves into freezing rain. The wind constricts the hearts of camomile flowers so they cannot bloom.

*

Seeing the mind run riot and not finding any trace of identity in its discourse. Being present at our many evolutions without interfering in them. Not adding new causes to the effects.*

*

“Stand a little further back,” he said. I need distance to die.

We are born in public, we die in public. Why should we clamour for intimacy during the intermission?

Dying is ploughing through me. It is a slow boat that leaves the foam of other bodies in its wake.

*

An open wound, hurrying.

The person opening it is still a coward, resisting. Or blind. From so much dalliance. From so much solid armour woven to the trembling of an entire abandoned people who, like a dark cloud, fill the abyss to the brim.

Across the mountain tops resound the voices of anchorites—the lonely—, across the mountain tops, over the sea of clouds, babbling.

English translation: Anamaría Crowe Serrano

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Quay Brothers


The Quay Brothers (Philadelphia, 1947) are artists and filmmakers. Born in the United States and residing in United Kingdom for more than three decades, these identical twins work at the forefront of international animation. Some of the finest puppet movies of all time have been made thanks to these alchemists of the image, who were trained as graphic designers. In animated films like The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984), Street of Crocodiles (1986), and In Absentia (2000) as well as in fictional films such as Institute Benjamenta (1995), the powerful influence of the rich cultural legacy of Central Europe is evident in their work. The MoMA in New York organized a major retrospective of their work in 2012. They have also shown at the Eye Film Museum in Amsterdam (2013) and in the exhibition Metamorphosis (2014), at Barcelona’s CCCB.

Chantal Maillard


Chantal Maillard (Brussels, 1951) is a poet and thinker. She has a PhD in Philosophy specializing in Indian philosophies and religions. She was Full Professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory at the University of Malaga until 2000. Maillard won the Spanish National Poetry Prize for the book Matar a Platón (Kill Plato) in 2004 and the Critic’s Prize and Andalusia Critic’s Prize for Hilos (Threads) in 2007. Her most recent books include India (2014), which brings together all her writing on India; La baba del caracol (Slime of the Snail) (2014), an essay collection; La herida en la lengua (The Wound in the Tongue) (2015), a book of poetry; and La mujer de pie (The Standing Woman) (2015), a collection of prose writing and essays.
Photography: Oficina de disseny