8. Khora, the nurse of images.

In the Timaeus, Plato describes how the task of the Demiurge was to create the world in the image of ideas, in order to make them accessible to the senses. For him, the world, man and all that the world contains are always images of the ideas. But between the model of the idea and the image, which is the copy of the model and which can be perceived by the senses, there is the “necessity” of a third intermediary term which gives the image its substance.

“An image, in fact, as much as that of which it is the image (the idea) does not belong to it, and that it is the fleeting ghost of something else, can for these reasons only come to existence in something else and acquires in such a way some kind of existence, for fear of being nothing at all.”1.

It is within this third term that the image consists, and the place where the demiurge introduces it is the Khora which is also called the nurse of images.

“There is a third species which is always that of the “material” which does not admit destruction, which provides creation to all that is born, a reality that can only be grasped after a hybrid reasoning and which does not lean on sensation, one can barely believe in it. As soon as one directs one’s attention to it, we dream with open eyes and we declare, I suppose that is necessary that all that is, is found somewhere and occupies a place, and that there is nothing that is not found on the earth or somewhere in the sky .”2.

Khora is also called “the nurse of becoming” because the Demiurge’s task was not only production, but essentially an orientation of this creation directed towards maintaining the unity of the whole and perpetuating this creation. 3. Once the demiurge achieved this work and withdrew from his charge, his task had to be relegated to the soul of the world represented by the motion of the celestial’s spheres and further to the souls of men. Tied to this image there is then the idea of a movement, including a becoming, a continual transformation, a mutation and even a reversal. The image is no longer like a stilted, fixed appearance.
Recently, like a vision, 4, the configuration of the maze with the labyrinth appeared to me as an image of the Khora . Indeed it contains the unity of the whole, symbolized by a knot and a path leading the creature to freedom and towards the power of creation that is symbolized by the labyrinth. The description of the Khora by Plato also explains the orbital motion of the knot (similar to that of the sky as soul of the world) of which I could not previously understand the reason .5.I will not try to convince the reader that this obviously subjective view is correct, but it happens that the labyrinth is the invention of Dedalus, who, as arch-architect, represents the human aspect of the demiurge.

Besides, subjectivity ought to be restored to its very essence, that is; its perceptive roots. For the painter, the freedom symbolized by the labyrinth is the freedom to create, and in turn creation is freedom. With Khora I had at last found a meaning for what I was constructing but could not define. The combination of several symbols creates a new symbol whose meaning, which may seem obscure, remains to be discovered. More over the enigma presented by the symbol became more precise. With Khora, the question symbolised by the labyrinth: Where do I come from? Who am I? Where do I go? is inflected to become: I come from creation and as such, I am a soul in gestation whose destiny is to continue the creation. Conversely, the image inspires a vision of the Khora that the text alone could not provide. One can think that this symbol and hybrid presentation of the Khora cannot correspond in any way to reality, but it is just this mixture that causes Jacques Derrida, who devoted many works on the Khora, to see it as a source of hope.

” Khora… between two originalities, between two sources, let’s say by indicative economy, between the order of what is revealed and the order of what could be revealed, is it not altogether a chance for all responsible decision and of an other “reflective faith”, of a new “tolerance”… Khora of tomorrow in the tongues that we do not know anymore or those we don’t talk. This place is unique; it is the One without name. It give rise may be?”

Plato uses the demiurge figure to distinguish an essential component of all creation that is “the relation between the sensible and the intelligible and the necessity of an articulation that binds them together” “the demiurge figure is that of a knot.” 6.  It is also a question of a place, a “topos” that cannot be situated anywhere, but where one can access Being and the materialization of the idea. It is therefore doubly a question of knot topology.” The optico-geometrics constitute the specific contribution in matter of schematization of the stakes relative to “the image” 7. “But what does the khora gather as a receptacle? In which manner does this reception become formalized so that it takes, as well as gives, shape? The manner is that of the seal’s imprint ….. Expressly designated as ‘tupos’  8", a word which encompasses the meaning of type, model and sketch. But how is this model presented and conceived? From the philosophical point of view it would seem “it does not appear itself”. If it does not appear itself or by itself, an exterior agent must offer its view. It is precisely the task of art and topology to reveal it. This indicates anew a secret link between the structure of myths and topology. Here, with this hypothesis, I am not concerned with being right or wrong since myths do not care about that either. What intrigues me and captures my attention is the fact that some links indicate new ground to uncover. It is from them, if they emerge that a new perspective, a new truth will appear.9. “For what fell into a bottomless void is the seat of all things”10.

It remains to define and show those images which the Khora did or might produce. It is the next step one must confront here, either in writing, in painting, or in joining the two. This text is only an introduction. To help us, it happens that Plato describes how the Khora, agitated by the elements “offers to the view an appearance infinitely diversified …. submitted from everywhere to a regular sway, it found itself shaken by the elements that the” nurse of becoming” shook in their turn by transmitting the movement. The elements, thus put in motion, were brought to one side and the other and were separated in the same way as if they were shaken and winnowed under the action of a riddle”. 11.

This agitation, rocking and swaying the maze's map, like the surging surface of the sea, can be represented. Thus the knots, composing the maze, also folded and looped appear as cats’ cradles or interlaced primitive drawings like the nahals of Malekula, (Fig H). With these cat’s cradles, we find ourselves at our point of departure, with a confirmation of our first intuition. These cat’s cradles, or related designs, now represent the heritage of creation; an intermediary world between the intelligent and the sensible: it is the invisible world of the soul.
It is interesting to compare these results to those of the string theory in physics. (Of course the designs of string theory do not really provide an image of what is matter, they rather represent the physico-mathematic approach to the problems posed by matter as a container of energy.  It seems the same with the images produced by khora vis a vis the material of the third term which constitutes khora.)
With the cat’s cradle, the image, with Khora integrated as the third element becomes also like it, somehow a recipient. This recipient receives appearances that surge like epiphanies and confronts us with a presence. Furthermore, in the opposite direction, the motions and the combinations of loops in the cat’s cradles recall the combinations found in the art of Raymond Lulle. An art which Giordano Bruno had also made his own. An art describing the influence of first principles on creatures. An art that Lulle considered infallible and supreme because it was based on the structure of reality. Here, one finds an aspect which takes the place of Plato’s ideas or forms. In this way the images of the cat’s cradle may represent the link between the intelligible and the sensible.

Searching for and portraying the possible evolution of these images offers a way to fight the inertia, proliferation and pollution of these empty image-idols proffered like publicity to the “voyeur consumer” The indignity of this pollution provokes a need for recovery and rebirth. Indeed, it is not only a matter of the sanity of real art; it is through their images that we relate to things and because of them, things conjugate with the verb “to have”… to have a little more. They are the causes for the real values to fade. It is certainly a bit naive to believe that today art can reeducate us and that with more authentic images we can find anew a familiarity with Being. This is, however, what the ecologist ought to promote. The fundamental ecology is that of the mind and of culture’s sources, not only that of maize. “If the spirit does not become image, it will be annihilated at the same time as the world” 12.

Would the new cat’s cradle break and mingle or intertwine with snatches of figures contained and disrupted in the knot, as symbol of the whole, to produce hybrid images like those of the Cretan seals or of the Nordic Iron Age? Since the movement, the churning is incessant, It leads to a treadmill of combinations; a bushy growth, or to a never ending and indecipherable palimpsest; a complete chaos of graphic puns. It leads to a new kind of whole made of relations and ellipses, like in ‘The Unknown Masterpiece» by Balzac.

Representation can then become as unrecognizable and incomprehensible as the ideas expressed in a child’s scribbling. It is precisely then that we must remember that the representation addresses the senses and that it must be presented to the senses as if they were children. It is here as mentioned by Plato, that what is fundamentally illusion and “affiliated to the dream with open eyes” comes into play. This obscure representation must be purified, selected, winnowed out, and translated. This can only happen successfully through a vision, but a vision based on a certainty.
Furthermore, in the construction of the labyrinth, the motion of the knot and of the string is continuous. To represent this essential movement one must transform the image of the string by that of a membrane, (which represents the wake of the rope).13.The result is that the image, always temporary, becomes, if not erased, at least hidden inside and invisible. What will subsist is the appearance of an envelope with its folds, wrinkles and undulations. As the philosophers asserted, the “typos» or models of the images produced by khora do not appear anymore, they remain invisibles.
Of course, what I imagine and express here is not new, Klee and above all Pollock , offered us images similar to those I can contemplate ( thanks to them). But precisely, the image of the Khora, which can resemble a Pollock when the string of the knot is frayed and the regular motion of the knot is shaken, can reveal what Pollock aimed at subconsciously and what haunted modern art in general.
If art is to animate and enliven this sort of content, what is missing today is the umbilical cord, the link or path joining the embryonic or mature image to their matrix This necessity of a link with a “matrix” is what Klee taught, but what kind of matrix was he visualizing? Would it not be taking a step forward to glance behind in order to find an image of this matrix? Would that enable us to evaluate the bonds tied to it?

To understand the role of art in relationship to a pertinent theory of images, some notions must be clarified. In the Platonic tradition, and for example with Plotinus, the image is above all an inner image, a visualization that aims at the contemplation of beauty, truth, life. An abstract is produced; an indescribable image, impossible to represent, that no longer belongs to the spoken language. One might say a white image. These images belong to the soul that must divest itself from the input of the senses in order to evolve. What is the contemporary soul if not an image, a vision, a movement ? Art can then serve as a guide in presenting images to prepare and educate the soul to see the invisible and to become itself vision. “All new valorization has always been conditioned by the structure of the image.” .” The new valorization was in some sort conditioned by the very structure of the symbolism.”14. Giordano Bruno thought of reforming his contemporaries and fight against a sterile and petrified Doxa by proposing they memorize and interiorize a series of images placed in different places and thus linked by an imaginary path. It is the magic of the link between the images that was to awaken them. Finally, what is brought into play is the interior image when it is produced by exterior ones; the transition and the jump between the two. If everything is movement and if everything brings up something else, it is finally the void, the gap; the moment of passage between two things that becomes the image of our life.

If we define the images from the movement of creation, then we must redefine the status of appearances and their imitations, albeit distorted. Are they the product of our limited view and the mirror of our condition? They are then useful to study to know ourselves, if we know how to read them by connecting them to our visualisations and ghosts. This is the point of view of Warburg. If Giordano Bruno was considering a labyrinth, Warburg contemplated a maze. These two visionaries are complementary in the same way as the maze is to the labyrinth. The connection between image and appearance is as intriguing and mysterious as that between soul and body - both of which may be as one.



1Plato, Timaeus 52b-e
2 Plato, Timaeus 52b
3  Le Tombeau du dieu artisan, Serge Margel
4What subconsciously inspired me is it seems a certain familiarity with cretan seals. Carved in precious stones a great multiplicity of seals represent and join figures of knots, geometrical figures similar to those found in the labyrinth geometry, constellations, khaotics sketches and figurative images. Those seals can then represent the simultaneous birth of the labyrinth and the images, thus of the khora anbd of the images born within. The organisation of these seals contains a hidden knowledge. Plato who must have been familiar with these images which could have inspired him.
5 We must realize that on one hand the maze, and in particular that of Chartre can be interpreted as a map of the solar system and that on the other hand for Plato, the solar system as soul of the world, once created, incites the pursuit of creation itself.
6  Aram Mekhitarian :  Chora et typos  in La Part de l’œil, n° 13.
7 Idem
8 Idem
9 Since the labyrinth is also a journey into the hereafter, there would be a relationship between the process of creation and the journey of the dead. Is this trip basically the same as the one leading from the sensible to the intelligible world?
10 Georges Bataille
11 Plato, Timaeus 52 e
12 Simon the magicien.
13In physics also, after the string theory came that of “branes” for menbranes
14 Mircea Eliade




n°61 Le minotaure


n°59 Le bruit du monde


n°60 Le bruit du monde