Phenomenoa: Text 2

Basho of the Invisible

In his Phenomenologie de la Perception color is presented as a crucial element that contributes to a recognizable set of features as in a painting. Color, then, becomes a quality as important as the primary qualities (height, width, contours, etc.) when it comes to perceiving things as entities. And like any other quality it is perceived as such partly because of its place, location and field; in other words, because of the way it relates to its basho, which remains invisible at the time of perception. In the case of Cezanne's work, we identify a color as it is appearing to us because of its relation to the whole, because of the set of relations there are between the different elements in the painting as a whole. This has a particular impact on what we feel is the reality of things, whether the are colors, paintings, houses, nature, or more abstract entities such as the mind, history, or existence. Each time the appearing of a quality or an aspect of something is perceived, it contributes to building the feeling of permanence, or, to put it differently, the sense of reality. Each time I see the color blue, it reinforces my feeling of the permanence of blue. Each time I see a painting, I know more about the reality of [painting] the painting. From this follows the reality of things, or, as paradoxical as it may sound, their permanence mutate(s)ing in [over] time. Such [general] reality is a felt permanence that we are bound to perceive through the particular. In a way the sense of reality actualizes itself in the very process of appearing here and now. This is what Cezanne was thought to have experienced in front of Mont Sainte-Victoire. Even more, this is what he attempted to communicate through his paintings. The permanence of the mountain is rendered through every single moment of his perceptual experience, in a way that can therefore be seen as diametrically opposed to the impressionists' attempt to render the changing appearance of objects (and essences) by, paradoxically, fixing them in time. (stop motion) 

[this also says something in response to the frivolity of the ready-made and the shallow superficiality of POP and outlines the structure on which to rebuild the aesthetic of beauty and truth in painting. IMO]

Overall the mutual relationship between reality, as a particular instance of what has been called [in the context of this chapter] the invisible basho, and the appearing of such or such a quality as a particular instance of what is perceived is paramount. Each quality appears as it is because of its location within the invisible basho of reality, which in turns becomes renewed each time one perceives such or such a quality. If we [ …] turn to Nishida's [Japanese Buddhist Philosopher, 1870-1945] multilayered logic of basho, we may distinguish at least two dimensions of our sense of reality as an invisible basho. One tends to relate to space and the other to time. When we look at Mount Fuji near Tokyo, like the eighteenth century Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige did, the mountain appears as such because of its being surrounded by the blue sky, trees, hill, and, further away, water, as well as because or the particular angle of perception. This environment can be understood as a spatial basho. In addition, Mount Fuji also appears as such because of past perceptual experiences of it, to which one unconsiously relates. This is temporal basho. One's relationship to these two different and complementary basho is precisely what Cezanne was thought to express or communicate in painting. In this sense Cezanne was indeed rendering a truth in painting. 

Merleau-Ponty, Cezanne, and the Basho of the Visible, Gerald Cipriani. Merleau-Ponty and Buddhism, edited by Jin Y. Park and Gereon Kopf, Chapter 8, pages 152-153. © 2009. Roman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.