Ecologies of Attention

Before the turn of the new year, we at Communiqués came into possession of some material, concerning the Order of the Third Bird, that at first appears to be part of a book by a valued associate of the Order. We are told that the Birds of the Order did not for a minute believe that the author, Yves Citton, was responsible for this material, which as it turns out was inserted into the book manuscript by an unknown malice-maker in the final stages of publication. It would be difficult, in any case, to understand how a Bird could have written the pages reproduced in part here.

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Citton himself, of course, has been speaking of aesthetic experimentation as a kind of athanor of social values – or as a prayer-like suspension of everyday praxis that ultimately allows new forms of praxis to take shape. The contrast between this setting and the alien pages concerning the “Troisième Oiseau” (Third Bird) is substantial for those who – like the Birds themselves – know how to look.

Attention, in these pages, finds itself defined as a kind of nursing or midwifery, as performance, as “artistic action,” as activism, basically as anything other than itself. The practices of the Order are then co-opted as a kind of re-framing or restabilization:

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If the act of looking, in these pages, is what transforms the fundamentally formless into an image, the objects of attention are literally created by acts of attention, as if one were constantly Photoshopping a sea of shifting pixels. In other words, to lend one’s attention to a painting has the effect of arbitrarily consolidating and confirming this painting as a discrete and single object. The practice of the Order begins to look like a conservative act, one of maintaining and reinforcing familiar partitions of the given (the division of reality into things like paintings and sculptures), and a kind of willful forgetting of fundamental instabilities.

One almost begins to imagine acts of Birdlike attention partaking of something like the righteousness of the 36 hidden saints, or tzadikim nistarim, who humbly and silently keep the very world standing on its pillars.

All this, of course, is absurd – and we are glad that M. Citton has clarified the matter for us.