Voice Message by Wilson Baldridge

In “Voice Message,” Wilson Baldridge offers a quick graph in response to the digital version of Paul O. Robinson’s Form of Absence seen as a radiographic revision of the Logos, our key relic: resurrection, here, would mean reference lost and recaptured. Robinson had taken Michel Deguy’s poem, “The Cella Was Empty,” as point of departure; now, in return, the translator interprets Robinson’s enfolded reliquaries as a wailing wall of silent imagery: the visual lamentation of a textured surface.


…for Paul O. Robinson (04/09/14): what a pleasure to discover your enfolded reliquaries. The percept appears clearly within these works… I’ll gratefully attempt to delineate the same through several voices because your project does involve an attentive response to Michel Deguy’s poem, “The Cella Was Empty,” and perhaps the book of Recumbents in general, and some of the theory outlined in my Foreword: as though the Same were defined here by different means → theoretical prose or the x-ray image painted and plastered over then radiographed once again. I promise not to review, but read. So:

I understand that for you “The Cella Was Empty” does not denote a void and that you kindly found this to be an initial and formative catalyst for your work, Form of Absence.

I note the beautifully textured surfaces, the layered paint and plaster, edges highlighted in white with gray-black accents, in a contrast of dark image-tones, dark and darker tones like a tonality of death and mourning — did you go through bereavement? I love the booklet cover that displays a black-and-white image without depiction, a fiction without depiction by way of a photo of pure texture because my experience is, as you know, not of the show in three dimensions but a digital read […] knowing, however, these surfaces enclose other images, radiographic images, of actual things and not just any archaic thing but artifacts that did belong to the architect whose work, rightly, you admire: Ljubljana’s consummate architect, Jože Plečnik (I am moved by the 1957 death mask); you’ve transformed and thus breathed new life into those precious items found there still in his home, now become a museum… It’s as though you were translating Plečnik’s lifework including the house from those early years, whose blueprint your Current Work booklet reproduces → a floorplan, an architectural drawing of the architect’s abode as though the textured cover of mourning, Form of Absence, were also a way to recast a recumbent of the architect and evoke his memory through a sort of requiem seen as the visual lamentation of a textured surface, a wailing wall of silent imagery? Then you reimagine artifacts located within the physical structure, the building in Ljubljana — the place Plečnik himself had transformed… And indeed the space he designed contains Christ figures, the God on the Cross: figures of Logos that hence allude to proportion, as I see it, between floorplan and home where the transformable artifacts were found, the metamorphosis beginning with your radiographs revealing inner form then externalized, translated by that layering technique of yours (“…compressed plaster upon painting, then removing…”). Here the textured surfaces come back: Christ or the figure of the Word morphs into… I don’t know, a black ghost in body armor, tone upon tone within the frame, a hazmat gorilla with a silver face mask, so what happened to the Son of Man, Paul? Our Logos all of a sudden looks like a Star Wars antihero like madness much more than Reason here… then translated once again, in a word: the figure of the Logos deconstructed, layers peeled off to reveal a new configuration of the Nothing, indeed a Form of Absence. The referent (it would seem) is lost on purpose; loss of the referent appears to be the work’s own purposiveness: then the partially erased Logos figurine re-emerges, restructured, relocated, transformed or translated into a new medium, a surface textured in earth tones; Kristus as though risen from wet earth against a sky that is above the floor only, an earthbound heaven… The Christ figure against a ground of earth, suspended betwixt and among radio-graph and plaster and paint… The front elevation of the Plečnik house gapes from within Kristus Indexus. Untitled architectures are like doors on both sides surrounded by zones of shadow, a haunted metal shed housing portraits of Jože in jet black intervals: semblances of the great architect again (dis)appear. In Images of the Studio, I see the edges of a recumbent, a series of recumbents, in the middle of which appears the KRISTUS yet again crucified: digital images of radiographs of a figurine… that embodies the Word.

What is the event, here, for me? Paul, you were kind enough to read my translation of Deguy’s Gisants and you came across “The Cella Was Empty”; you’ve responded masterfully with this set of works relating to the Architect: here in turn I answer in the spirit of antidosis, a “giving in return” around the figure of the Word reinvented through your art.

Wilson Baldridge    

Wilson Baldridge, professor of French & chair of Modern and Classical Languages at Wichita State University, received his doctorate from SUNY/Buffalo. His articles and translations have appeared in many journals and collective works in France and North America. He composed the biographical section of Les écrits de Michel Deguy and participated in all three international colloquia on the French poet’s work. His translation of Gisants (= Recumbents), together with the interpretive essay by Jacques Derrida, “How to Name,” came out in 2005 (Wesleyan UP). His research agenda includes “Savoir, inventer,” in the Grand Cahier Michel Deguy and “Lumière et révélation dans Sans retour” in Michel Deguy, l’allégresse pensive. His chapter titled “Reprise de Jumelages” is forthcoming in a collective volume: Michel Deguy à l’œuvre.