by Kylie Ellis Cariddi and Veronika Golova, Cohort ’21
We packed our bags and woke up in Paris, France, where rainy tarmacs greeted us in the city of lights. We rambled our way through the transit system and popped out at the Arc de Triomphe. Let the revolution begin! We embarked on a somewhat post-pandemic residency through Europe for four weeks in six cities. France and Italy unfolded in all their splendor and challenges. We became awake again after years of quarantine and sacrifice and kicked off the adventure in Paris.
If Emmanuel Levinas had met Howard Caygill, he would have written, ‘it is he who is the entre-nous.’ Between us and in confidence, professor Caygill embodies this way of being while he unfolded the unspoken of Paris for us. Love holds no candle to this agent of the universe we call professor Caygill who dérives in unmatched Debordian form, wakes us from a viral sleep, reacquainting us with life and being in the world. The gravity of internalizing, hybridizing, and thinking together is our entre-nous. We drifted through Paris, perfect strangers like the mythical creature Nadja feeling the hum of revolution, desire, and liberation that only Paris can offer. Parisian suppleness of May revives our senses and enlivens us again. Finally seeing so many faces we only knew in two dimensions on Zoom, we begin to find our paths through the giants of art such as Rodin and Monet, not to mention the Arcades, and we learn to be close again over dinner; Chilled Chablis, chèvre, baguette, double espresso, fruit on every corner, and ashtrays. “You better eat some food!” – our IDSVA founder George Smith reminds us to stay alive.
At the Musée Rodin, we breathe deep again in his tropospheric garden. As Rilke says, “To Rodin the participation of the atmosphere in the composition has always been of greatest importance” (Rilke, 49). The afternoon sun washes over all of us and shines through his sculptures. Paris exposes herself in a corner of the Gates of Hell; Rodin’s fusion of Crouching Woman and Falling Man off the Boulevard des Invalides causes our perception to spasm. We relax into the bewitchment of his static bronze rendered as flow. Rodin demonstrates to those who look how to be velvety copper, how to be an artist philosopher. The devil is in the details.
“Who am I… everything would amount to knowing whom I ‘haunt’” (Breton, 1) and we dwelled in the Musée d’Orsay, hovering around Manet paintings like André around Nadja. We are not there by necessity or symbiotic design but in a display of involuntary attraction, as lovers of ideas on the left bank of the Seine. With each art odyssey, we melt. First, we became soft bronze but before we left we were alnico, only beginning to feel our magnetism as we whisper myths of Jean Dubuffet riding up Centre Pompidou’s neverending escalators. We are drawn to the artist’s atemporal call through form and sign, but it is in the delight of hermeneutical intoxication that we become.
There is nothing like walking the sacred alleys of cities marked by history with philosophers, artists, and historians, real people that preserve history, create new meaning and find connections for a better future. It is impossible to transcribe the way we saw Paris, France, and people continue to ask what was the best part. Short answer, it was the people. IDSVA Cohorts of several years, faculty, and staff created a truly kaleidoscopic experience that was long overdue and truly singular. We read Nadja in Paris, rode boats in Venice, and walked the streets with philosophers and poets. We even flew through the galaxy with Professor Giovanbattista Tusa and Jean-Luc Nancy. It was in these moments of flocking together, knowing one another only by shared ideas and dreams, that the world revealed itself for the first time after two years of isolation.