Re-reading two texts recently, I have stumbled on an idea that at once eludes and titillates me. The texts are Clarice Lispector's Stream of Life (Agua Viva) and Velasquez's Las Meninas. Both works proffer a peculiar rhetorical strategy that gives way to an equally odd architecture of the perceptual event: dual vanishing points that are neither temporally successive nor spatially conflictual.
Lispector's sprawling text of fluctuating affects and intensities speaks in what seems to be a direct voice addressed at the reader: "you," the text declares again and again. Due to the way of language and its indexicals, the "you" is necessarily the reader. And yet this "you" is never quite the reader; or this "you" is both the reader and someone or something else — “after all, this "you" has qualities and memories that are rarely those of the reader. The text, then, hits it marks, if you will, twice: once upon the body of the reader, once directly over this reader's shoulder.
This strategy of the dual vanishing point is deceptively complex. It is not a matter of speaking to two audiences, directly or indirectly: this text is not Janus-faced. While the text sprawls this way and that, it nevertheless enjoys a rather pointed mode of address. The text, in a sense, gives itself over twice but not in succession, nor in conflict, nor in a strict parallelism. The text happens twice, instantaneously.
Las Meninas performs a similar strategy as the painting's perceptive horizon vanishes twice: once at the point of the viewer, once at the point of the royal couple. These two spatializations are mutually incompatible — the painting cannot vanish here and there. And it is certainly not a matter of the painting simply addressing two audiences simultaneously. And unlike Wittgenstein's rabbit/duck, there is no temporal succession as in, "now I see it this way, now I see it that way." Both vanishing points happen at the same time.
The ensuing architecture is quite odd: two equally possible worlds, the one excluding the other in a gesture of pure indifference. This is therefore not Leibniz's baroque world; here, God has chosen both worlds. And yet this is not the modern in which two equally viable spatio-temporal events collide in dissonance. Here, there can be no dissonance because the two worlds in fact share nothing. (Clearly, then, there is no harmony either.)
What is this space? I imagine something out of Borges, an impossibly intricate architecture in which two worlds are intimately intertwined and yet do not know, or care, anything of the other. Like Mr. Magoo, there are almost-collisions every moment. But collision, alas, is impossible.
This is something I wrote nine years ago and a friend just found online. Reading it, I barely recognized myself but then I remembered thinking it and writing it. And, frankly, I think it's pretty smart.