« I love beginnings, I am amazed by beginnings » wrote American architect Louis Kahn (1901-1974) in 1972. « I think it's the beginning that confirms the rest. If this were not the case, nothing could be nor would be. […] In my own quest for beginnings, a thought came to me – prompted by many influences – that matter is spent light” » [1].

No architectures in the works of Benjamin L. Aman. No architectures except those, invisible, of thought or of the continuum of matter, those which secretly organize the order of the world, which collect the memory-images of mental wanderings, which build suspended structures from which to contemplate the void. No architectures except those in the works of Benjamin L. Aman, and the evidence, however, that the « beginnings » evoked by Louis Kahn perhaps resemble those sought by the artist. Through the exhibition Ordine prior, the latter takes us on a « motionless journey » to the heart of the impossible present. The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). In his book The World as Will and as Representation (first published in 1819 before reappearing in its enlarged version in 1844), the German philosopher posits a separation between an ordine prior (the world as will) and an ordine posterior (the world as representation), the man not being able to reach the knowledge of the world as will being prevented by his representations. Admittedly, Benjamin L. Aman takes up the Latin expression ordine prior which literally designates what precedes, spatially and/or temporally – a previous world. However, it is not a question of falling into idealism, far from it. The artist is interested in both orders because they constitute the margins of a third nameless (unnameable, in the literal sense?): that of experience. Where the sensation struggles to make itself intelligible, where the present moment is only tugging between past and future, tugging itself sucked in by space-time. Where everything would only flow, everything would dissolve and be indissoluble at the same time.

In the exhibition at PapelArt, a group of recent works as well as an older object: BLIND (2012) sets the tone even before the visitor has entered the gallery. Hanging in the window, this East German blind continues in Paris the slow discoloration by the sun that began in the studio that the artist previously occupied in Berlin. The cut-out of the window it was protecting will have ended up being printed on it – impressing oneself, one might say. It can be seen, doubling once again this blind window (which itself doubles the shop window). Like a prefiguration of the drawings from the A SILENT FLOW series, a sequence of which will also be shown: a threshold image, between appearance and disappearance. A beginning? A burn inside the eyelids, eyes half-closed facing the dazzling light. Shutters too: the slats of the blind activate the flow from the inside to the outside and vice versa, unroll a surface that is as much about concealment as projection, opening the shutter, closing it. If only by its title, BLIND acknowledges our ignorance, our inability to see things. Unless, on the contrary, it becomes an invitation to access another knowledge: that of the « forbidden gazes » [2], that of the severed eye of the film Un Chien Andalou (1929) by Luis Buñuel by which the tilting in the other reality can take place.

Inside the gallery, a few attempts to capture these vague flashes which vanish as quickly as they were formed but which continue to wander their lingering wake long after – dreams, visions, impressions, sensations, etc. Benjamin L. Aman's drawings and objects are like impossible replicas of fleeting phenomena, frozen, petrified by the use of the object or the image. Although vibrant like his charcoals from the UNLIMITED FLOWING OCCURRENCES series, whose deep blacks become denser with colored underlying frames and A SILENT FLOW [Presence of a presence] where shadows are fixed on the screens of dark rooms. Between retinal persistence and freeze frames of a flood of consciousness: « unlimited floating presences » whose thickness becomes almost disturbing with « presence of a presence ». However vertiginous it may be, the circularity of this « presence of a presence » must not only be apprehended as the sole evidence of said presence, as an unnamed overflow (unnameable, again?). It can also be seen as the expression of a constant co-emergence of the phenomenon and its perception, of objects and subjects, whose roles could therefore be reversed. It refers me, for my part, to another circularity: that of the night of the night, « the other night » that Maurice Blanchot evokes in his 1953 text, « Le Dehors, la nuit ». This night when, « when everything has disappeared [...] 'everything has disappeared' appears » [3].

From the same author: « The dream touches the region where pure resemblance reigns. Everything is semblance, each figure is another, is similar to another and still another, this one to another. We are looking for the original model, we would like to be sent back to a starting point, to an initial revelation, but there is none: the dream is the similar which eternally refers to the similar » [4]. And such are precisely those other silent presences that are the NIGHT TABLES. These shelves or small furniture in paper and cardboard impose their enigmatic silence. Their perfectly blank surfaces open up to all possibilities but also appear to be turned in on themselves. This other side of things, a place of ramblings, becomes a threshold to another world (that of sleep, therefore of dreams, but not only). He becomes a lookout, a concomitant presence at the various orders, a ferryman. THE MISSING MASS opposes the same impression mixed with recognition and radical strangeness. She cuts out, mutatis mutandis, objects reminiscent of those in Nightstands. Objects that are their own image – their own reflection and their own shadow, at the same time. Literally, since Benjamin L. Aman proceeded, to produce this large format, using not only masks (as he can do regularly), but also the shadows produced by these masks on the sheet of paper. Each transition from black, « to black » if I may say so, weighs more heavily on the shaded areas. One can discern, in this drawing in charcoal and lampblack, rectangular forms which alternately act and react differently: they are the cardboard objects that the artist places on these shelves, they are nocturnal urban landscapes, they are density and voids in the same movement: because it attaches itself precisely to « the object of the shadow and not the shadow of the objects » [5].

In his drawings, sculptures, installations and sound creations, echoing each other and testifying to an almost synaesthetic approach, Benjamin L. Aman seems to play at amplifying our perceptions to sketch the discordant gap in which they plunge us. A gap that refers to transitory states, to vacations of being. Something of a « blindness of hearing » and a « deafness of sight » to use the terms of the artist. The thickness of the darkness, the sound of its inhabited silence, for example. « In my own quest for beginnings, a thought came to me – prompted by many influences – that matter is spent light. » Back in the night.

   Marie Cantos (2015)

[1] Louis Kahn, « I love beginnings » (1972) in Silence et lumière, Paris, Les Editions du Linteau, 1996, p. 263.
[2] Cf. Max Milner, On est prié de fermer les yeux. Le Regard interdit, Paris, Gallimard, coll. « Connaissance de l’inconscient », 1991.
[3] Maurice Blanchot, « Le Dehors, la nuit », in L’Espace littéraire, Paris, Gallimard, coll. « Folio-Essay », 1988, p. 213-214.
[4] M. Blanchot, « Le Sommeil, la nuit », Id., p. 362.
[5] Benjamin L. Aman.