Georges Didi-Huberman takes emotions to heart


The philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman, at home, in Paris, in 2021.

One day, Georges Didi-Huberman saw his heart beat ” face to face “he writes at the beginning of his new book, Fogs of sorrows and desires. On the video screen scrutinized by the cardiologist and his patient, the image stood there, vibrant, pulsating. Of what did she deliver the symptom? Not only of what is called a “pathology” in medicine, but of what the philosopher and art historian, author of an imposing work made up of nearly sixty books, objects of numerous translations – he received in 2015, in Germany, one of the most prestigious international awards, the Adorno Prize – has always examined in images, namely the link between pathos and logos, or, according to Greek etymology, between passion and thought.

If, most often, his books start from what he called a “opening experience”like the discovery of a pictorial gesture by Fra Angelico which, in his eyes, linked the Renaissance painter to the“action painting” of Jackson Pollock (astonishment at the origin of Fra Angelico. Dissimilarity and figurationFlammarion, 1990), this time the experience is written in the first person.

“I found myself face to face with something that was inside of me”he explains to the “World of Books”, which he receives at home, in the heart of his library. “That says a lot about how emotion works, which involves projecting an inner movement outward, to do something with it in relation to oneself and to others”, continues the director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Series Facts of affects, of which his new book constitutes the first of three parts, intends to take the measure of such a dimension, both aesthetic and ethical, of emotions. As he shows in an article in the journal issueCritical which is dedicated to him (January-February 2023, Midnight, 176 pages, 14 euros), this supposes refusing the reduction of emotions to conditioned psychophysiological responses, such as instrumentalize them by all the powers. “What defines the ethical sphere is the use value of affects,” Spinoza teaches us. The question is not to respond “to” a stimulus but to respond “to” something, in a responsibility that binds us”he said.

strange mirrors

We never stay long in the first person singular with Georges Didi-Huberman. But, in the “we”, it is indeed a subjectivity in power that it is a question of thinking through the affects, such as the images give them to feel. The author of What we see, what looks at us (Minuit, 1992) repeats it: “We see images, but the images concern us and touch us beyond what they reflect. »

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