LEQUEU 1

PEOPLE
Lequeu
Blanchot


ESSAYS
Lequeu 2
Lequeu 3
Lequeu 4


IMAGES
Lequeu 2


THEMES
Encyclopedia
Labyrinth

"The Secret/The Impossible" from Negotiations Towards a Self , 1770-1830

        Lequeu's work offers up secrets, but the secrets it reveals are frivolous, are not the secrets that interpretation wants to consume, the inability to consume the other precisely being the point to the origin of drawing, an origin that is always a re-drawing, a re-drawing which like Lequeu's re-drawing of Paris, a set of horse heads, which un-veils "nothing, from any angle," a statement that bugs interpretation's attempt to de-bug Lequeu, to place a bug in Lequeu's work, to listen in on secret conversations, a statement that appears on the back of a drawing of bugs, of insects, but a drawing that does not offer a fly on the wall with which to see and hear Lequeu's secret....

        There is always a catch, the secret seeming to offer how to catch Lequeu's work, but this work only offers secrets on how to catch fish, Lequeu's "As fishing is an agreeable pastime, here is how to catch fish by hand." This fishing, however, is not agreeable to art historical interpretation, such interpretation caught by its own recipes of how to keep birds from flying away, its own strategies of how to catch fish. Interpretation reaches a limit in trying to de-limit Lequeu's work, having to put it at the limit, as a limit to the history of art and architecture, Lequeu's work always exceeding the limits of history, writing his own history, re-writing history. A history of art and architecture would like to wipe its hands clean of Lequeu's work, putting his work in the sanitary confines of the sanitarium, but Lequeu is the one who offers up theories of cleaning, his treatise "Letter on the fine soaping which might be called Paris Soaping, addressed to Mother's Families...."

*****
        Interpretation labors at these points, but it does not work, Lequeu's work working on the blind spot of interpretation, casting doubt on the object of interpretation, not offering an object for interpretation, or, rather, offering objects that object to interpretation, the intrusion of interpretation, objects that hold secrets that are cryptic, buried in crypts, the history of art and architecture unwilling to leave this work buried, breaking into the crypt, but burying the rotting corpus that is found there, burying Lequeu's work into the margins, and failing to address Lequeu's problematization of the crypt, his use of the cryptic, cryptic marginalia such as "[t]he flesh eater, firmly divided in three graves, is covered by slabs of marble," written above the tombs in Elevation of Tombs in the Field of Physical Recreation.
It is language that is "cryptic": not only as a totality that is exceeded and untheorizable, but inasmuch as it contains pockets, cavernous places where words become things, where the inside is out and thus inaccessible to any cryptanalysis whatever- for deciphering is required to keep the secret secret. The code no longer suffices. The translation is infinite. And yet we have to find the key word that opens and does not open. At that juncture something gets away safely, something which frees loss and refuses the gift of it. (Maurice Blanchot)
The secret is encrypted into Lequeu's work, but any means of de-ciphering the code was buried into the cryptic vault that Lequeu refers to in his donation to the Bibliothéque Royale, Lequeu always ciphering his work, and his name always serving as a cipher....

*****
        Lequeu's work holds the attention of interpretation, inviting interpretation, inciting interpretation, but failing to be interpreted, only existing through this failure of interpretation, refusing interpretation, re-fusing to be fused to interpretation, with interpretation, only confusing interpretation. Lequeu is not revealed through his work, his work only revealing "Lequeu," whatever that may mean. I have suggested a scaffolding that provides terms with which I have tried to describe something that for lack of a better name I have called "Lequeu," but such a scaffolding must be thrown away, a scaffolding that only exists outside of the work, which only serves to make the façade more fetching. Lequeu's far-fetched explanation throws interpretation for a loop, leaving interpretation caught within circular arguments that fail to ground Lequeu's work. One cannot try to approach Lequeu's work from the outside. One has to try to live within Lequeu's work, even if that space, that work is not for the living. One must be inside the work herself. A self, however, is never simply either inside or outside, always both and neither. The scaffolding obstructs as much as it repairs, leaving marks, leaving traces, leaving scars. Lequeu's work in turn scars, de-faces all scaffolding, leaving all scaffolding in ruins, as ruins. While one tradition of the history of art and architecture does not see how Lequeu's negation affirms, another tradition does not see how his affirmation negates. All the while Lequeu leaves these interpretations in ruins. I can neither offer a synthesis, nor simply a new negation or affirmation. The self never synthesizes and is only ever synthetic, my interpretation just as much ruined by Lequeu's ruinous runes.
        A tradition of the history of art and architecture has withdrawn Lequeu's name from among the most important architects of his time, and such a gesture may be justified. Lequeu may not be an architect, if such a designation matters. In terms of his impact on the events of his time, such a withdrawal is deserved. As long as history wants to be a story of those who did, who accomplished, who had a direct impact, who produced, then Lequeu has no place within such a story of the progress and triumph of agency. But, if we wish to look at a history in terms of those impacted by events, responding to events, critiquing the results of events, providing critique, Lequeu is useful in having left behind and leaving beyond his frivolous archaeology. Neither completely in his time, nor out of his time, Lequeu's work is suffused with questions of temporality and space, the visible and the invisible, mind and matter. In other words, Lequeu's work is not just engaged in questions pertinent to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, but is also engaged in issues that will be taken up by philosophy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, or rather these issues may be addressed in and through Lequeu's work....

*****
        In a sense, Lequeu provides the best list of terms that are used in his œuvre in his "Alphabetical summary of terms used in this work," a list that has no terms, no terms being used by Lequeu, Lequeu trying to arrive at possible terms, terms for gender as possibility, a body as possibility, a self as possibility, a negotiation that is an on-going process. This is just another blank within Lequeu's work, more literal than others, and also more ephemeral, a blank that exists in a chain with the unstated promise, his frivolous secrets that he reveals, his proclamations, his complaints, his notices, his explanations, all of these mobilizations of guerrilla forces whose battle never seems to end, except in a draw, a chain of images and writings that offer no way of enchaining Lequeu's work, of binding Lequeu's work, Lequeu's work always leaving interpretation in a double-bind, bound to fail....