Tag Archives: Agamben

The Last Chapter in the History of the World

Summarises my view on artistic research perfectly….

Chapter 10 Nudities  ‘The Last Chapter in the History of the World’ – Agamben

“in the Marionette or in God”  von Kleist  (Agamben’s quote)

“The ways in which we do not know things are just as important and perhaps even more important  as the ways in which we know them. There are ways of not knowing…that lead to clumsiness and ugliness, but there are others – the unselfconsciousness of Kleists young man (this is a ref to on the puppet theatre) – whose completeness we never tire of admiring…

We could say what is most intimate and nourishing does not take the form of science but of grace and testimony..

Perhaps a zone of non-knowledge does not exist at all, perhaps only its gestures exist..

As Kleist understood so well, the relationship with a zone of non-knowledge is a dance”.


Return to the intermedial gesture – Agamben, Kleist, Calvino, Odradek

Some time ago in 2016 I read von Kleist’s essay ‘On the puppet theatre’ in which he argued that a puppet could be more graceful than a dancer. Its in the form of a dialogue.

‘He smiled and replied that he dared to venture that a marionette could perform a dance that no dancer could equal…

Symmetry, mobility, lightness, only all of that to a higher degree…

For affectation appears when the dancer locates itself at any point other than the centre of gravity..

The puppet possess the virtue of being immune to gravitys force…the puppets need only touch upon the ground and the soaring of their limbs is newly anmated by this momentary hesitation”

I now realise that Agamben was in some way responding to this essay in some way in his Notes on Gesture. In Notes he takes Marey’s chronophotography and identifies this technology as a point at which human beings become like puppets – Chronophotography being an early form of motion capture, which ultimately led to the encoded of human motion in CGI puppets. So just as the wooden puppet is constrained by its strings and mechanics which we are all too aware of, so we are constrained by our own body-our being in a medium.   But motion capture also allows us to understand our body and its motion and offers new potential otherwise inaccessible to us.

So in the context of the intermedial gesture the puppe is positioned as follows

Being in a medium – the materiality of the puppet and its constraints allow us to identify with it and our own mediality

Staging the medium – we know the puppet isn’t human so we compare its behaviour to actual humans.

For example in Wael Shawkys puppet films we encounter the violence of the crusades through the materiality of the puppet which are also human.  So we can re enages with our being in a medium of history and our own bodies.

So lightness as in Calvino appears in the intermedial gesture as a kind of suspension between conflicting forces – see also the suspended fire engine of Theaster Gates.

I’m also now thinking of Odradek as a kind of puppet or maybe a fragment of a puppet, its spool , trailing thread.  Searching on this idea returns a book by Keith Piper in which he makes just this point…

Agamben- articles and books


Agamben’s take on Time – to be read later


Agamben on Warburg.  Links directly to Notes on Gesture and his theory of the image.



Janet Harbord (see also book on Agamben) discusses Claerbout in the context of Agamben and film philosophy.



Good treatment of Agamben’s Kafka


Main Agamben article on film.



One of two or three essays on gesture


Short essay on early photography – ref by Harbord



Alex Murray’s book.  Need to read it all, but this deals with Gesture and film.


Janet Harbord – to be read, along with the book.