The dream was of a perfect line

The dream was of a perfect line. Not an imaginary line perfect because it had not been drawn. The dream was different. A line had not been drawn. As the dream deepened the possibility of such a line, of its being drawn, acquired a different reality. In the dream it was this eventuality that began to emerge. Beginning to appear, though from what could not be discerned. Another sense of the real was being drawn into play. Neither line nor background had any distinct form, nor was there a blurred presence. In the dream, presence took on a complexity denied elsewhere. The line’s perfection sought that demand. Struggling in the dream, both in terms of comprehension, and in that which pertained, directly, to the line’s opening, there was a sense of possibility. Both the struggle to comprehend and the one marking an emergent opening were there, both were allowed, each one brought presence with it, though it was in the dream. Being in the dream, but seen from where? Again, the question, both in and as the dream. An irresistible doubling was at work stealing from the dream the edge of fantasy.

Imagining within the dream a line whose precision eclipsed others, demanding, thereby, a presence that as yet resisted any incorporation. Neither light nor dark the line remained. Not captured but capturing, holding what qualities it had yet holding itself as the focus of attention. Not as an object, that would have been to give the line an inappropriate presence. It was there in the dream, not outside. Nor was it in the dream as a fantasy. The struggle, the divided moment where presence played with its own comprehension, betrayed the singular moment that had become extended. Not the moment overcoming the limit of the image, but its enduring within an image that moved. Moving, not across time from one image to another, but within time. The image had depth; a depth of time. With depth whatever sight there had been plunged. In the dream sight could only have been maintained by being prolonged. And yet, even then, prolonging enriched. It did not allow itself to be taken as the mark of futility. Whatever perfection the line had, there within the dream, it was inextricably linked to this prolonging. Dreaming held the prolonging image. Relating what had taken place – recognising what was taking place – both enjoined specific demands. What was demanded could not be refused and yet what had to be accepted was that the dream, its own activity and the account of that activity, would always be rendered more difficult because of the possibility of perfection.

Held by the image, neither by sight nor vision, there was another quality presented by the dream’s own holding. It was where imagination had to loosen its hold. No longer imagining, other possibilities had already appeared. Not as a single possibility, as though they were no more than other eventualities conjured by circumstance. That such concerns already figured in the dream meant that they had already been discovered within it. There was a sense of the already present. Even though the line’s perfection would only be occasioned by an image, once it was already present then it would have to be an image not imagined. Sight, in the dream, already drifting from vision, still allowed for clarity. What was there exercised its hold. Describing that hold, within the dream, would have to begin with a simple acknowledgment. And yet, once given, once, in the dream, it had become possible to acknowledge the presence of an insistence whose presence slipped, though slipped without loss, at that point time began to define the work of space. Timed depth gave the image its capacity to endure. Not willed, but willing within it, would define the presence of that force marking the continuity of opening.

Feeling for it, feeling in the image, even though description only lingers on the edge. Not at the edge of perfection. The line held, continuing in its place, lending itself neither to comparison not differentiation. This perfect line held its place in the image not imagined. The image held. In the dream the privilege that accrues from the power of comparison and with it, from the movement of differentiation had both been surrendered. This freeing worked independently of any sense of privation. In the dream there had been losses, though there was a need, perhaps only sensed as a need, a feeling given within an image that had been freed from the hold of will, that integrated loss, winning from it any sense of privation. A certain power had begun to fall away. In the falling another capacity was taking over, taking its place in allowing for perfection even though it could only ever be there in the image’s deepening. In the dream depth eschewed the stabilising luxury of a surface dissipating further whatever hold comparison may have had.

The dream had to be the space where perfection could at least be noticed, even if only noticed in its passing. Trying, in the struggle of the dream, to distinguish between passing and vanishing – vanishing as the passing away where nothing was retained. In the dream – and there may not have been any more than that recognition- vanishing seemed impossible. Remainders abound. Staying, remaining had its own quality. No longer habit’s past but a different sense of lasting. Even in the dream it had become clear that it contained the truth of vanishing. In the dream passing away gave way to a vanishing that tarries. Remaining opened up as part of perfection. Whatever it was that perfection demanded fell beyond simple presentation, though in its falling perfection was sustained by that impossibility. In being sustained it remained.

Not because of any importance, nor moreover because of any perceived necessity coming from outside, did the demand stemming from the dream, occurring within it, have either source or cause. What could not be ignored – such a feint would always have been impossible – was its presence. And yet, presence had adopted another quality. Its exercise had a calm force. There was an insistence even though any sense of urgency had been muted. Recognising insistence as having been muted allowed for a distance in which its effects could be noted, its continuity both allowed and sanctioned. The distancing opened up a space of freedom. Not free because of the dissolving of boundaries, free precisely because of a distancing staging an insistence which though muted, calmed, continued to work. Indeed, what had been sensed was an insistence. What perfection there was could not be distinguished from its place in the continuity of this insistence. Freedom became the manoeuvres occasioned by distancing.

Neither as an after-effect nor as a moment derived from forms of retrieval, what perfection there was, was there in a different form. In the dream time would work in another way. That was known. What continued to return was a vision allowing for clarity, a clarity which in the continuity of its emerging was distanced from the work of sight. What took place occurred in the dream. And yet, far from what would have been the usual attempt to restrict what was taking place by linking it to an imagination out of measure, slipping beyond control, there was a different quality in the dream. There was a different demand and another language, one that turned restriction and control around. Neither by allowing the opposite, nor by sanctioning the impossibility of both measure and control, could the presence of what insisted within the dream be given the reality it was due – known to be due. The dream was not there as a counter-measure, as though it were a check on what was real. Once there was the possibility of perfection, in the dream, then the question that arose – and it would not cease arising – concerned how that eventuality could be expressed. The dream’s own possibility continued to provide both the measure and expression of that perfection.

Neither a perfect line nor one whose imperfections would already have been differentiated from any possibility of perfection, appeared. In the dream appearance gave way to another form of presence. What form it took was initially elusive, initially in flight from the attempt to secure it within the confines, perhaps the necessary confines, of expression. In the dream, and after in the pursuit of what reality there had been, it was not the failed attempt that fascinated. Another hold was at work. This time it stemmed as much from the flight as it was derived from the elusive. The elusive was not a quality. Equally, flight was not the measure of an object. The hold was of the elusive. It was flight that fascinated. Was there another object, less real precisely because of its presence in a dream? Moreover, in the dream, was the reality of objects no more than a gesture which, in any other context, would amount to a mere skimming of the surface? The questions troubled. They troubled in the dream. With this recognition the exercise of flight and fascination returned precisely because its take could be placed neither inside nor outside the dream, if any strict sense of location were to be demanded. Recognition staged the inescapability of what, in the dream, was real. Place had become intertwined with a question. Openings within the dream seemed both inside and outside. Neither one nor the other, both place and openings within it – equally, openings as place – had lost whatever simplicity they might, elsewhere, have had. This was, perhaps, integral to what they really are. The dream had the measure of truth.

To have been troubled involved a spacing within the dream. Neither of place nor of connection, in the dream, space was more than the relation between objects. Spacing was in the gift of recognition. Moreover, spacing occasioned. Occasioned and occasioning, the dream had allowed for a sense of the given. Spacing was more than an opening. Spacing gave. What was given had become a complex. Intricate relations through which the twofold struggle within the dream would be allowed to work. Having been troubled was a position recognised from within the dream. Being troubled necessitated a distance where there would need to be a certain concession. Not one evincing, let alone demanding, a moving beyond. Here there was no letting go of being troubled thus no ease arising from its having been left behind. On the contrary it was maintained. Its force noted. Equally the anxiety engendered by such a state was present as more than a gesture and yet something had fallen away. The slippage did not refer to the state itself. It continued. The falling away was more akin to a distancing. Having been troubled was a state whose presence neither dominated nor controlled. In the distancing being troubled appeared not just as a source of fascination, but more exactly as itself. What troubled was the reality that being troubled brought with it. It impinged, in the distance, in the dream. Here, if freedom pertained, it was in the form of the distancing – spacing – that allowed for anxiety without anxiety. In place, anxiety was recognised. It was there, and yet with the register of its affect, it was present, in the dream as a choice. was the reality that being troubl

What was in place demanded. Neither as voiced nor as seen; yet the place, in the dream of perfection, announced its presence. Fascination stemmed from the already there. Indissolubly part of the image not imagined. Fascination’s work had neither beginning nor end. It brought with it an unending presence that was neither restless nor restful. The truth of fascination seemed to elude the adoption of a specific mood. Fascination was more properly the place of time, though one where there could only ever be a ceaseless plunging. It wasn’t a fixed property. It could not have been stripped away in order that what were left would have been the real object. Revelation did not figure. There wasn’t other than what there was. And yet what was there, whatever it was that counted as real, caught as it had to be in an intrication defying direct expression, was always present. Presence, however, in the dream had a more elusive quality. Neither hidden nor open, what fascinated held itself in a position differing from both, and eluding whatever take either may have had. Fascination, in the dream, exerted a different hold. It seemed to traverse objects bringing them into play and then allowing for their gradual disappearance. Objects were retained in their disappearing. It was as though fascination were the power that accounted for whatever enduring quality any object might have. Fascination was the continuity; maintained, once it exercised what force it had, in the distancing of freedom.

Being held, in the dream, brought with it the vanishing place of will. What would it have been to will the dream? And yet there was an opening. Freedom had a place. Even though it was a place defined in terms of the play between giving and distancing, freedom was inevitably linked to the line’s insistence. It was with that insistence that perfection lay. Insistence and freedom defined an accord. With the will’s own impossibility – the dream could not have been willed, perfection did not come into being as the consequence of the will – the will re-emerged. In the dream the will gave way to the decision. Indeed the place of decision within the dream would have always had greater plausibility. It was given by the persistence of a continuity necessitating its own form of finality. Making one move rather than another, enjoining its own specific sense of responsibility, the dream sanctioned the place of the decision. And yet, it was a decision that was no longer dominated by the power to control all that was taking place. In the dream there was the acceptance of another speed. Activity’s speed had itself opened up. Action had become deliberate precisely because of the recognition of the impossibility of a certain mastery, though equally it was demanded by a prolonging that invited a decision. Prolonging was the intertwining of time and intensity. In the opening, in the allowing that continued to be the place where all decisions were to be made and their consequences entertained, in the dream, was the perfect line.

Being fascinated had to be linked to perfection. However, once perfection was no longer the mere object, the line drawn as perfect, the relation between two points, then it could not be the perfect object that exerted such a force. Nor, moreover, could it be that all objects, any line, worked as perfect or as instances of perfection. What was perfect, in the dream, was of a different form. Perfection had an abstract force and yet it could only ever have been with the line. Others were not precluded. In this instance however the dream was of a perfect line. At every moment there was an abstracting quality that allowed the line to endure. Neither transcending nor the refusal of the specific, abstracting – and it was always the process, a movement – brought with it a further need. Movement opened. It allowed perfection to work through any moment that suggested instantiation. Abstracting held perfection’s possibility away from the risk of instantiation and yet demanded that the relation to the specific be noted – at least noted in its passing. Held back was the slip where perfection would have been reduced to an object which would itself have had to bear the burden of the example. Perfection – its abstracting force – worked in the opening where the particular could at least appear and appear unburdened.

Neither with end nor beginning, what perfection the line had could only be located in the allowing that was given to its appearance. In the spacing whose depth – a depth without surface – could only be understood in terms of the unending and thus of time, what continued was the allowing. With it, in its ceaseless hold, was a line moving towards perfection. Not towards it as though perfection were a state to be attained, a goal in the distance. Moving towards had a different sense. Distance exercised another hold. Movement, initially, comprised direction within the dream. Moving towards therefore was the reiteration of continuity and of the allowing that occasioned the line’s possibility. And the perfect line, if perfection there was, had to have been there, there in the opening up. Perfection, for the dream turned around it, had become the limit. Neither limit as an end to be approached, nor as that which controlled by establishing what in another context would have been a frontier defining identity. The limit, within the dream, was always part of what was occasioned. What the limit allowed was the allowing itself. Perfection neither resisted appearing, nor was it concealed. Perfection was not, in the dream, either lure or project. Perfection’s hold elicited; demanding without demand. In the distancing of its refusal, in its prolonging presence, perfection lay in the possibility of its taking place in the dream.

The dream was of a perfect line.


Andrew Benjamin is Professor of Critical Theory and Philosophical Aesthetics in the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies in Monash University. He was previously Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Research in Philosophy and Literature at Warwick University. An internationally recognised authority on contemporary French and German critical theory, he has been Visiting Professor at Columbia University in New York and Visiting Critic at the Architectural Association in London. His many books include: What is Deconstruction? (1988), Art, Mimesis and the Avant-Garde (1991), Present Hope: Philosophy, Architecture, Judaism (1997), Philosophy’s Literature (2001) and Disclosing Spaces: On Painting (2004). He also edited The Lyotard Reader(1989), Abjection, Melancholia and Love: the Work of Julia Kristeva(1990) and Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy: Destruction and Experience (1993) and Walter Benjamin and Romanticism (2002).