Erotic Anamnesis is a body of work made in the wake of the 2016 US elections. While processing the events of that November, Kim Pieters began a series of paintings influenced by Giorgio Agamben’s 1993 collection of essays The Coming Community, a text that investigates the political implications of what the author describes as “whatever singularity”: a being that exists outside of traditional systems of classification and is instead a kind of embodiment of the idea of belonging.
Anamnesis is a loss of forgetfulness—an act of remembering. Plato contended that all knowledge was innate in the human soul, and that what we experience as learning is a process of recalling information that we forgot when we were born. An “erotic anamnesis” would, then, be a recollection of love or desire, but a desire that has existed latently from before one’s birth. In Agamben’s text, this concept is described as “a movement that transports the object not toward another thing or another place, but toward its own taking-place”—an act that results in the creation of “whatever singularity.” By choosing this title, Pieters directs the viewer’s attention towards Agamben’s statement that “the singularity exposed as such is whatever you want, that is, lovable.”
This suite of paintings consists of fields of colour—sombre mauves and purples—upon which float indeterminate forms. Some are circular, their exactitude suggesting bubbles, planets or punctuation marks, while others are less definite: hesitant daubs or transparent lens-like stains that appear poured or dripped onto the surface. In and around these wind linear paths, some of which describe sketchy isometric geometries, seemingly in the process of unravelling into unruly coils, spools and traceries. The palette of these works is restrained; they emanate a sense of unease, evoking hastily figured back-of-napkin calculations of probabilities and outcomes.
These paintings are, then, both a gloss on Agamben’s text—their titles drawn from essay headings or evocative phrases therein—and a painterly meditation on the themes that it unlocks: the problem of individuality, the function of desire, and the way these interact with states, communities and other exercisers of power. Like Agamben’s “whatever singularity,” Pieters’ lines and forms are neither indeterminately hazy, or entirely purposeful and directed; they exist in a state of in-between-ness, refusing to either resolve themselves into figures or submit entirely to the demands of formal abstraction. Agamben compares the nature of his “singularity” to the fate of unbaptized children who die innocent and are sent to limbo: “Like letters with no addressee, these uprisen beings remain without a destination. Neither blessed like the elected, nor hopeless like the damned, they are infused with a joy with no outlet.” This is, perhaps, the state that Pieters seeks for her works: sufficient, undifferentiated, belonging only to themselves.
However, the attainment of this state of singularity is not an end in itself. Agamben ultimately concludes that the task going forward will be to unlock the potential of this singularity, a being that exists outside of identities and classes: “The novelty of the coming politics is that it will no longer be a struggle for the conquest or control of the State, but a struggle between the State and the non-State (humanity).” These paintings, then, seem to represent a call to action: a contention that one solution to the vitriolic political climate precipitated by the internet would be to abandon the concept of identity entirely.