Aisha Pagnes, kunstenaar en student filosofie, openende zondag 12 februari de tentoonstelling 'With Every Exhale Lost' van Catherine Ostraya. Hieronder kun je haar voordracht (in het engels) nalezen.  

Peter Handke, master playwright, poet, director, asked himself in 1986: “what is the essence of duration?”. Duration understood not simply as a length of time, to be measured in units of minutes, seconds, years; but as the sensation of time, in time, over time. 


foto: Koen Kieviet
Aisha Pagnes | Fotograaf: Koen Kievits

I first saw Catherine’s work in 2018. Today, after 5 years, we are presented (some of us for the first time) with its development. In studying the piece, I looked for differences that would indicate a change in perspective, a growth, new insights into themes ancient and complex: the malleability of memory? The impossibility of Death? The all-too-human desire for transcendence and its counterpart in nothingness? None of these themes quite hit the mark and yet belong to Catherine’s work all the same. It is as if, the more time I spend with her work -the more these themes coalesce- the closer I am brought to a paradoxical sensation: now! yet not here, here! yet not now, and the real space this tension opens.

In many respects this nameless sensation requires one to come closer to time, in time, over time.

I will therefore refrain from singling out salient scenes, or words, and combinations thereof in Catherine’s beautiful piece of poetry. The concrete aesthetics of the piece are for you to discover. I will instead speak in kind through the words of Peter Handke, in the hope that his question (what is the essence of duration?) may settle within you as the space Catherine’s work opens: a sensation of time, in time, and over time.

And so, with Handke we ask: 

That sense of duration, what is it?
is it a length of time?
is it measurable? A certainty?
No, duration is a feeling,
the most elusive of all feelings,
often faster than a moment,
not predictable, not controllable,
ungraspable, not measurable.

It comes as the moment in which you feel reached,
by what? 
By one more sun,
by a fresh wind,
by a soft soundless chord
in which all dissonances rise and fall.

Needless to say, perhaps,
that duration is not born 
by every-day catastrophes,
by recycling contrariety,  
by counting casualties.
It is true: all this does not pass
It will never pass,
but it doesn’t have the strength of duration,
it hasn’t the warmth of duration,
it hasn’t the comfort of duration.

I begin to understand 
that to the miracle of the instant caught, 
I can claim no right
when duration is missing.

“It takes days, years go by”
duration has to do with the span of a life:
there, duration is the feeling of living.
It is true: duration is born from daily acts, 
through the years repeated,
and yet isn’t dependent on established ways.
Never have I felt duration
in that sitting in silence
that makes ‘saints’ as they say.

It is not a great thing, 
it is not unusual, otherworldly,
it isn’t war, a moon landing,
the masterpiece of the century,
the conquering of a summit.

Is it therefore connected with work,
with effort,
with unyielding commitment?

No: if it had a rule
It would then require a paragraphand
not a poem.

I begin to understand that
duration is only possible
when I am true to what concerns me,
when I am able to be cautious,
careful, slow,
always completely present to myself.
And to what must I remain true? 

Duration may appear 
in your affection
For the living 
- for one of them -
and in the consciousness of a union 
(Even if only illusory).

Yet duration
is not tied to love between the sexes.
It can equally catch you 
in the continuous exercise 
of love for you child upon his return home
As the door, softly opening, sounds to you,
if right then you were paying attention,
as the most beautiful music.

In order that from me 
moments of duration may be born  
and give to this rigid face expression 
and place within this chest a heart,
I must absolutely exercise
Year after year
my love
for what is dear to me 
and is of most importance.

And so, preventing its fading over the years,
I will feel then – maybe –
altogether unexpectedly
the thrill of duration.

And each time by trivial gestures 
In cautiously closing the door,
In carefully crossing the threshold, 
In leaning to pick up a thread.

When I get close to this place,
in which my every rumination dissolves
and my thinking becomes a pure reflecting
upon the world

The chatter within me,
A many-voiced torment,
Clears the ground for meditation,
a sort of redeeming silence,
from which arises an explicit thought,
my loftiest thought:
To save, to save, to save!
Gratitude for the existence of this 

It is true: duration does not form a people.
And yet in its grace, finally I am not alone.
Sustained by duration,
I, ephemeral being,
carry upon me my predecessors and my successors:
a weight that lifts me, 
my redemption.

The gasp of duration
in itself already a song,
does not overwhelm.

Duration is not in the immortal stone,
but within time,
In its softness.

Duration you have 
in a child
who is no longer a child
–  and perhaps is already an Old Man –
I find the eyes of the child.

Tears of duration, tears of joy, too rare!,
Gasps of duration, 
exhaled you are nowin a song.  1. 

“No image will replace the intuition of duration, and yet many different images taken by the orders of things most diverse, could, acting together in their movement, turn consciousness toward the precises point in which a certain intuition becomes conceivable.”  2.  Henri Bergson

Aisha Pagnes
12 februari 2023

De tentoonstelling With Every Exhale Lost is nog te zien tot en met 12 maart 2023. Lees meer >> 

1. The poem in the above text is extracted from Peter Handke’s Gedicht an Die Dauer (1986). I have used my own translation from the Italian ‘Handke Peter and Kitzmüller Hans. 1995. Canto Alla Durata. Torino: Einaudi’, selecting and at times reordering verses of most relevance for Catherine Ostraya’s With Every Exhale Lost. The poem should therefore not be taken as a faithful translation of the original. I have submitted it to heavy editing, both syntactically and structurally. Whatever its merit, Handke we must thank; for its flaws, only I am accountable.
2. Bergson, Henri. 2007. The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics. New York: Dover Publications. I have modified the sentence slightly for readability. The original translation is as follows: “No image will replace the intuition of duration, but many different images, taken from quite different orders of things, will be able, through the convergence of their action, to direct the consciousness to the precise point where there is a certain intuition to seize on.”