sanna saastamoinen-barrois

LImit of Language

Installation (photography, painting, poetry performance)  at OFR Gallery, Paris September 2017

"Potential of Poetic Language as a interpreter of Reality" essee was written on a wall and floor in a 6 hours performance.I wrote the essee in Paris in 2004 to reflect philosophy, reality and language. 

Potential of poetic language as an interpreter of reality

Socrates asked us to close our eyes to be able to see our own inner beauty. Wittgenstein asked us to silence away from what can not be spoken I would like to continue from silence and ask our ears to close to everyday noise and to listen to silence. In silence, our ears open up to hear authentic poetic language, that reaches to where everyday language doesn’t.

  In my essay I aim to show the potential of poetic language in perceiving reality. What can not be spoken, can be continued with poetic language. While perceiving my future writing task my thoughts start to wander; there in front of my eyes sail sentences, words, letters. Where do these thoughts come from ? Is my unconscious sending me messages? Maybe my own inner reality wants to participate in this speculation? Throughout the times philosophers have held conversations with languages as a tool about the essence of reality, of the last, farthest substance of it. When having conversations about reality one is searching for the ultimate, the authentic answer for the WHY-question.

Language opened the future of thought for humanity. Language is a path to a conscious future. Without words, would we know what we are thinking? When our vocabulary increases, does our thinking capacity grow, does our capability to process thoughts expand? Or is our capacity already on us, in some other level, that we do not understand? Wittgenstein believed that language is the limit of thinking. ”The limit of my words are the limits of my world.” There are no roads of language to the place which can not be spoken, no concepts that reaches our thinking.


Do we then have intuitive conscience somewhere absent of our understanding? A child thinks before talking, before owning language, before pronouncing any sound. It feels obvious to assume that language exists on another level, that with language, we perceive, pronounce and, on a conscious level, are thinking. If we think our reality to be inside of our vocabulary, are we prisoners of our own language?

Do we have a reality without language?

Do trees that sway with the wind have language?

Are there as many languages as there are thoughts?

Peter Winch thanks Locke for his viewpoint that the philosopher’s task overhauls language, removes contradictions from logical speech. With this we arrive at the problem of the limits of language, because if the philosopher is to be content with only existent terminology nothing NEW could ever appear and our reality would be contained inside the borders of our language. But then again Kant, Bloch, Descartes, Jaspers, Wittgenstein amongst others are, while considering and pondering reality,  bumping into matter, substance, spirit, utopia, the motivating force, that is outside of the language. An Unspeakable essence that can not be logically explained.

The paradox of the Philosophy is to question everything, but one needs to own all the philosophical theories and terms to be able to navigate in philosophical conversations.   Sometimes I feel that philosophers like Rudolf Carnap with his absolute opinions of philosophy as a scientific theory can not see forest from the trees. Or language from the words. Or reality from language. 

One can become blind to one own way of thinking when starting too often from same kind of point of views, from something considered too often self-evidence/self evident. SELF-EVIDENTS?? Who proclaimed self evidents as self-evidents? Scientific community? Society with its political leaders? We know the limits of our spoken language, the seed of reason, is planted in us so deeply that we demand rational explanation for everything; otherwise that which can not be explained, can not exist. If we do not own words that can describe or terms that can explain, we deny the inexplicable out of this need for rationality. It seems inevitable that our constantly developing existence will meet matters, subjects, phenomenons, conditions that are not known within our existent terminology recognized by science On an authentic emotional level it is different. The state of Tabula Rasa can be as real for a painter that is looking at her empty canvas before the first brush stroke, as for a writer who opens her first empty page of her book to come, as for someone who after meditation looks at the world with a calm mind, as well as for a philosopher who ponders the term Tabula Rasa. For all of them, the reality of that moment is the most genuine reality, one that they each treat with their own authentic language.

I am ready to cheer for my hero, philosopher Paul Feyerabend, anarchist of Philosophy, who stood up against the method. He extended the questioning to the theories thought of as self-evident by the sciences ”given any rule, however fundamental or necessary for science, there are always circumstances when it is advisable not only to ignore the rule, but to adopt its opposite ” G.E Moore declaration of the outside world opened the doors for us. Moore proved the existence of the outside world by raising his two hands, showing that there are two external pieces, thus the outside world exists. This also opens the gate to the world that can not be explained, to a world that can be felt.

Even though Philosophy claims to be the opposite of emotion, I claim emotions to be a part of Philosophy. I believe that Philosophy loves rational intellect, but I also believe that Philosophy loves emotional intellect.   Imagination and emotions can be misled by senses, but that does not make them less real than rational reality, because what can be proof of the rationality of the rational?

Ernst Bloch thinks humans carry hope. They dream of a better life, in their daydreams pursuing a different and better future. This reality of tomorrow, the not-yet-arrived, that humans can not be sure of, appears as its purest sometimes with glimpses of light. Bloch talks about the light of the dawn, that appears in strong, teenage dreamy states, in a time of transition when moving from one type of society to another. And in the production of art, science and philosophy, where, as Dante said, one leaves to sail in to unknown waters. These moments of Bloch’s, colored with the morning glow, could be compared to Matti Wuori’s incubation time. That is the ”invisible very difficultly sensed phase before it transforms to clear breakthrough of a new idea. It is when something very new has been born in your consciousness and without mistake you can note that this is not to be emptied rationally to our own explanation models or to be mechanically returned to anything known from earlier.”  

In the same way we could attach this comparison to the structure of Kuhn’s scientific revolution, to that earth-moving moment when something COMPLETELY NEW is understood that prevents us from going back to the same old way of thinking. Actually the revolutionary transformation of Kuhn could be the next moment of Bloch’s sunrise, the moment when the sun has already risen that high, that the warmth of its rays are melting the stagnant, ’self-evidences’ of language. So great is the power of transformation, that it demands us to change our way of thinking and describing.

Where do we draw these glimpses of light that, artists, philosophers, children and the elderly aspire each in their own way to describe? Where is the wordless universal language and the rising sun of Bloch? Plato believes of a Theory of Forms, of the real world of ideas that we can see, as reflections, shadows. If the reality would be Plato’s Theory of Forms and notions would be these ideas, so reality would be the notions that we describe with words, the symbols would then have the REALITY, that would be independent of all language, this same word described with many different words, ex love, affection, amour, eros… but the notion of love would always be the same, no matter of the word. So the idea of love would stay behind the word always the same. According to Plato, we are in touch with ideas, concepts through thinking and reasoning, not through the senses, which is paradoxical. Art is directly related to sensory perception; to understand art, sensibility and emotion are needed. Art is the language of the emotions.    Paradoxically, Plato did give wings to the human soul. Wings that grow when the soul, through Beauty, remembers the real home, the world of the ideas. To notice Beauty, we need senses, emotions.

Heidegger said art is real. Artistic expression in general is the most authentic expression possible for the emotion.   In communication, artistic speech can bring us close to truth , the real. Poetic language gives the possibility for emotion. Poetic language is maybe the only possible language to approach the genuine truth.   Everyday language, -that according to Heidegger, ”has not only become poorer, but been rotten”, has a capacity to make us blind.

Poetic language brings us to the high peak of the mountain, above the clouds, somewhere unfamiliar. There we could maybe open our eyes and look at reality. Because as long as we look at the surrounding world, and emotions and thoughts, with the same familiar metaphors, we are not able to distance ourselves from the ’self evidences’ that I think philosophical terminolgy to be a part of as well. ”That whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent’, is Wittgenstein’s summary of the idea of Tractatus. Wittgenstein forgot the emotions Wittgenstein forgot that sometimes in the haze one sees better. Sometimes paradoxical words, surreal sentences can open a whole new world.   Artistic, even indefinite, expressions coming from authentic experiences, -born from a a real need to get it out.  Poetic language can function as a interpreter, as a bridge to the other side of the proven theories.   But to find poetic language we have to find emotions.

We have to find silence

s h h   shhhhh

Everyday blabber gets us, not only to become blind, but to become deaf.   Maybe Wittgenstein did not listen silence? Maybe he didn’t fall silent? What if we close our ears? In our own personal silence one can hear own inner language. Language that comes from own reality. Language, that can not be talked, but that can be felt.  And emotions can give something pure with the aid of the art.   And the language of Art is poetic language as long as it expresses something real, that has been FELT from the reality Poetic language doesn’t have notions, theories, doors, terminology, stairs or paths. Poetic language has potential of all. Every act of creation is a statement to this reality that Bloch’s dawn sheds light on, where we know how to listen the language of the light with the help of the plum covered wings of our soul.   Pariisi 2003