Passage: Anouk De Clercq


Paul Nougé, La naissance de l’objet [The Birth of an Object], 1930

One saw nothing happening there, for nothing ever happens there. Until it does.1

In my never-ending search for other ways of looking and other ways of making images, I came across this quote by Anne Carson. The explorative realm of what it means to look suddenly became full of adventure and seemed to comprise the importance of that which could be.

The way we see the world is influenced by what we know or what we believe in. There are many possible perspectives from which to look at a thing, a landscape, a person, a story, yourself. Unfortunately, we poor myopic humans lack the gift of birds of prey, with their long-range sight, and the talents of houseflies, with their panoramic vision. Through our large brains, however, we are at least aware of the limits of our seeing. With a humility rare in our species, we acknowledge that there is much we cannot see and therefore devise ways to observe the world.

Infrared satellite images, optical telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope bring vastness into our visual sphere. By means of electron microscopes, we roam the remote universe of our own cells. But on the middle scale, that of the naked eye, our senses seem strangely dulled. 

King Lear wonders how the blind Earl of Gloucester sees the world, and Gloucester replies: “I see it feelingly.”

It is difficult to look and to see at the same time. Only genuine attention is able to rival the most powerful magnifying lens. Intimacy offers us a different way of looking, when visual acuity is not enough. And if you look long enough at what seems ordinary, it often becomes strange and unfamiliar, as every child learns when they repeatedly say their own name out loud. To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees, said Paul Valéry. Learning to see is perhaps more listening than looking.

Where the people in the photograph by Paul Nougé are looking, there is nothing to see, yet all sorts of things are vibrating. Beyond what we see, into the unseen; a deeper insight that touches on our imagination. Our field of vision is not demarcated by an edge, but presents itself as an infinitely explorable openness.

If our looking is limited to our eyes, we are seeing blind. Only when we surrender fully and long enough to what or whom we observe does the world break open. Anne Carson said it first.

  • 1Anne Carson in Men in the Off Hours (2000).

Image: Paul Nougé, La naissance de l’objet [The Birth of an Object], 1930

With thanks to Trevor Perri and Mari Shields.


In its new section Passage, Sabzian invites film critics, authors, filmmakers and spectators to send a text or fragment on cinema that left a lasting impression.

In Passage, Sabzian invites film critics, authors, filmmakers and spectators to send a text or fragment on cinema that left a lasting impression.
Pour Passage, Sabzian demande à des critiques de cinéma, auteurs, cinéastes et spectateurs un texte ou un fragment qui les a marqués.
In Passage vraagt Sabzian filmcritici, auteurs, filmmakers en toeschouwers naar een tekst of een fragment dat ooit een blijvende indruk op hen achterliet.
The Prisma section is a series of short reflections on cinema. A Prisma always has the same length – exactly 2000 characters – and is accompanied by one image. It is a short-distance exercise, a miniature text in which one detail or element is refracted into the spectrum of a larger idea or observation.
La rubrique Prisma est une série de courtes réflexions sur le cinéma. Tous les Prisma ont la même longueur – exactement 2000 caractères – et sont accompagnés d'une seule image. Exercices à courte distance, les Prisma consistent en un texte miniature dans lequel un détail ou élément se détache du spectre d'une penséée ou observation plus large.
De Prisma-rubriek is een reeks korte reflecties over cinema. Een Prisma heeft altijd dezelfde lengte – precies 2000 tekens – en wordt begeleid door één beeld. Een Prisma is een oefening op de korte afstand, een miniatuurtekst waarin één detail of element in het spectrum van een grotere gedachte of observatie breekt.
EN opeendageenfilm
FR opeendageenfilm
NL opeendageenfilm