Letter to a friend
We're left with the stars.
The cold will come.
Dear friend, in this country that is not yours, wherefrom I write to you, I've gotten used to exchanging confidences. Without them, we can't bear the rigour of weariness, though a certain tragedy has given us an optimistic world back—one with no Sun, however.
Thinking is no longer a sort of skandalon, a stumble. How to think without stumbling? How to think without disarranging and without sinning? Thought is this form of intimate journal; not that it serves to tell about our lives, but rather to assert that possibility of a bewildering movement, a nonconforming force. And isn't thought always an incident in its unpredictable, diverging dimension? Longino stated that, though the useful and the necessary are right within our reach, it is the unexpected that we admire, for it is the latter that can give hearing the form of sight.
We learned from Hamlet that all in existence is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought. There is now little to expect from Eden, as we plunge into the claustrophobic common dream, in which the future is an incurable vestige of youth. Today, we lie in the eternal spiral of reality, without yet abandoning the order of the impossible. The real. Our hallucination. That which has no name. For it can't have one. Something of a disagreeing quality arises anytime we are made to believe we are not capable of continuing our journey. The doctrine of social obedience is always the same throughout our lives, in all moments and circumstances. We know it already. It's like a face without a body, always falling short of itself. In this country, which is not yours, stories with castles in are populated with dead people. Even the ghosts have dissolved within their own immateriality. Building castles in the sky has become a sort of curse. Only the "great causes," the trendy ones, are to be dreamt of. We live, work, think, and desire in the same, regulated way. We can rest, for even suffering has been integrated into the so-called identity politics, thus becoming productive. Alas, this must be the world without borders: global pathologisation. Even the latter has embraced the relations between philosophy and company. We've already forgotten that philosophy was born in the form of a poem. I've heard philosophy courses are today greatly sought after for emotion management, for increasing the workers' general knowledge after working hours, or for balancing the so-called emotional intelligence (these administrative divisions perhaps fail to consider that intelligence might probably be the most surprising of all emotions). Let me recall Deleuze's inspiring words, centred around Nietzsche's thought, which remind us that stupidity and baseness are always those of our own time, of our contemporaries, our stupidity and baseness.
Seizing the present and every waking hour, without relying on tomorrow, was Seneca's advice to Lucilius. As we postpone, everything goes; and everything must eventually restart. Only time is ours. Perhaps that's what we are left with. Wise piece of advice right here, my dear friend. We're left with slipperiness, the ephemeral things that are born and die. We're left with the stars. Which is no small thing, by the way. While the Sun doesn't swallow Earth and become a red giant, we carry on postponing such a glorious epic. The cold will come.
In this country that is not yours, financial worship has long become the great muse of art.
I now remember that in 1974, from 23 November to 14 December, Werner Herzog covered countless kilometres on foot to Paris, through new fragments of life, towns, fields, animals, stars, rainstorms, snow, wind, and fog. The Sun, at last. He could have caught a plane, but he walked. He took three weeks, for he wasn't intent on arriving quickly. He needed time. As though in a prayer, he'd say over and over again that the more time he took, the more time his great friend Lotte Eisner. Would have to get better.
In his book Of Walking in Ice, a sort of diary where he describes this adventure, which is at the same time the expression of a deep friendship, Herzog writes: "Meditating upon myself makes one thing evident: the rest of the world is in rhyme." We must walk in ice, make that inner journey of a sacrificial form, just like the fervent filmmaker, in order to believe that art can still live on. We don't know if the time remaining is enough to ensure its survival. Just like Herzog repeated to himself about Lotte, she must not die. Later, perhaps, when we allow it. But not now.
It was my intention to tell you of the condition of art in this country that is not yours, but what could I write about it now? They say art is reduced to the sector, a part of the economic system. Sector. Thus they often call it in this country. New semantics to locate and organise the functioning of desire. Wasn't it Marx who taught us that each mode of production creates the forms of subjectivation it requires?
However, just like when we go for a run, some works still make our hearts beat faster. There are artists who won't run from trouble. They are specialists in this cold-blooded fight, and they do not forget their own history. They know there's nothing to lose. They know that the life of an artist is similar to the philosophical life—which, according to Michel Foucault, with regard to the constitution of the subjectivity of the lives of philosophers in Antiquity, is connected with the relationship between the subject and truth, with the way in which one lives. As such, the existence we lead, our choices, that which we give up, our ways of dressing and talking witness and fulfil, from beginning to end, the philosophical life as a manifestation of that truth.
Beside me, the book Sculpting in Time. Let me read Tarkovsky to you: "… a masterpiece only comes into being when the artist is totally sincere in his treatment of his material. Diamonds are not found in black earth; they have to be sought near volcanoes."
Dear friend, perhaps some dignity is not yet possible, as this year comes to end. In this country, which is not yours, one also writes to escape from an empty place.
Eduarda Neves has a degree in Philosophy and a PhD in Aesthetics. She is a professor of contemporary art theory and criticism, an area in which she has published various works, and an independent curator. Her research and curatorial activity crosses the fields of art, philosophy and politics.
Translation PT-EN: Diogo Montenegro.
 Like Nietzsche said, all philosophical work conceals an intimate journal.
 German historian and film critic whom Herzog greatly admired.