Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Serres on the fold

Balder posted the following at IPS. Knotty and nice Mr. Serres. He mingles well in the fold thread.

"The organism forms a gigantic knot with as many dimensions as one could wish. It begins, in an embryonic state, with one or more sheets, folded, pleated, rolled, invaginated. Embryology has the appearance of applied topology, looks like an infinitely wrinkled skin. The organism fills with
local interchangers that finally form a global interchange system, a giant knot made from small differential knots.

"The body folds, curves, adapts, enj oying at least three hundred degrees of freedom. From the feet to the head or to the tips of the fingers it traces a variable and complex path between the things of the world, changing like a piece of seaweed in the depths of the water, a thousand and one exchanges or signals. Knowing things requires one first of all to place oneself between them. Not only in front in order to see them, but in the midst of their mixture, on the paths that unite them...

"The skin is a variety of contingency: in it, through it, with it, the world and my body touch each other, the feeling and the felt, it defines their common edge. Contingency means common tangency: in it the world and the body intersect and caress each other. I do not wish to call the place in which I live a medium, I prefer to say that things mingle with each other and that I am no exception to that, I mix with the world which mixes with me. Skin intervenes between several things in the world and
makes them mingle.

"Mixture is a more accurate term than medium. Medium, too geometrical, is minimally useful: a centre in a volume, when it is reduced to an intersection, or the volume itself, when its tendency is to surround. A point or totality, singular or almost universal. A contradictory and inflexible concept.

"Everything has its place in the middle when the medium is concentrated' everything meets and joins together in this complex place, in this knot, through which everything passes, like an interchanger. It makes me think of the solar plexus of a thwarted left-hander, of an unwilling ambidextrous person. Everything still has its place in the medium when it expands to fill the volume. Everything meets there. How? By chance. Where? In proximity to one another. All right, here is mixture. Confluence,
unfurling, occupation of places.

"A medium is abstract, dense, homogeneous, almost stable, concentrated; a mixture fluctuates. The medium belongs to solid geometry, as one used to say; a mixture favours fusion and tends towards the fluid. The medium separates, the mixture mitigates; the medium creates classes and the mixture,

"Everything meets in contingency, as if everything had a skin. Contingency is the tangency of two or several varieties and reveals their proximity to each other. Water and air border on a thick or thin layer of evaporation, air and water touch in a bed of mist. Earth and water espouse each other
in clay and mud, are joined in a bed of silt. The cold front and the hot front slide over each other on a mattress of turbulence. Veils of proximity, layers, films, membranes, plates. We live on slow, inexorable moving footpaths, thousands of metres beneath our feet."

(Michel Serres, The Five Senses)

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