Purple Magazine
— F/W 2015 issue 24




As I read Jean-Christophe Bailly’s sumptuous book Le Versant Animal, I have before me the sad and famous photograph of one of Zimbabwe’s last white rhinoceroses. As if suffering a sudden twinge of conscience, man has now set a round-the-clock guard on the animal, lest it be killed for its horn. At stake is life’s immediacy to itself. At stake, too, is a position toward the world and its perception, a position that is being artfully obscured. Today, man is poor in world, just as Heidegger once said “the animal is poor in world.” The (Westernized) human being is no longer capable of hearing or seeing. The tragedy here is playing out as a lacuna of thought. There is a whole literature devoted to raising the alarm, but in the current emergency it is laughable, a mere semaphore.

Facts and figures in hand, thinkers and scientists are clamoring to warn us of mass extinctions, but in vain; our eyes remain shut with indifference. We must urgently straighten out our thinking, but we must also reckon with the thinking nature of animals; we must try to breathe in the same rhythm. We must come to understand that the world is shot through with all forms of intelligence, that to consider only our own form is to look through the wrong end of the telescope. We impoverish our view. Thus we see why man devastates seas, land, language. There is a poetics of animal habitation on earth, and through its mere observation, we can detect traces of thought.

For Merleau-Ponty, every animal is a specific contraction of space-time. I recall Bataille’s phrase: “The sex act is to time what the tiger is to space.” Sense, Bailly tells us, is not peculiar to humanity: the animal and its appearance are to be understood entirely as a language; intelligence is not peculiar to humanity.

Animals, as we well know, have emotions. Whether they are wild or domesticated makes no difference. Joy, the laughter of which they are capable, the grief of the elephant whose calf the poacher has killed, the fright of the cow being led to the slaughterhouse: these emotions are perhaps infra- or extra-human. Nevertheless, they exist. We suppress or deny these phenomena to preserve our comfort. If we acknowledged them, we would have no choice but to revolutionize our thinking from top to bottom — and that we have no desire to do. Nowadays, only children can delight in the marvel that is the existence of animals.

In the face of a beast, Jean-Christophe Bailly tells us, human thought, all on its own, undergoes a lapse before what it sees, which then corresponds to what it has ceased to contribute to a behavior or a purpose. The words “biodiversity” and “environment” are inadequate, for in their packaging they deny the sum of life’s singularities. They extend the pretentious ideology of man, wherein he sits atop all creation. That is all meaningless now.

To counter this hierarchy, we must think in terms of anarchy. To avoid devastation, the time has come to take animal destiny into account. To cite Bailly once more: “In escaping its condition as object of thought, the animal becomes thought, not because it thinks or might think (we ultimately don’t give a damn!), but because it is.”

Instead, we celebrate animals by genetically modifying them, as if they were nothing but pure matter. Or we imitate animals to refine the art of war. It is troubling to see the proliferation of terrestrial war drones that look like dogs, or snakes, or insects. Man is amassing a bellicose and lethal bestiary at the very same time that some of us are noticing a massive animal extinction. Self-destruction through ersatz animals: the allegory here, if allegory there is, cannot help but be maleficent and cynical, in the literal sense.

We have reduced animals to contractions, whether technical, scientific, bellicose, or alimentary. We now see them only through a reductive prism, denying that they spread out, that they arise, that they have their alterity, and that there is a poetics to their existence.

Of course, radiant, technical, post-industrial anthropocentrism scorns such impressions. They generate no profit.

[Table of contents]

F/W 2015 issue 24

Table of contents

purple EDITO

purple NEWS

purple BEST of the SEASON





purple BEAUTY

purple LOVE

purple TRAVEL


purple SEX

purple NIGHT

purple STORY


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