2010 Rother EN

Ralf Rother
Folds Folds

What is folded into any individual soul will become perceptible only through time, as the soul develops;
but if we could unfold it all at once right now, we could see the beauty of the universe in the individual soul – any individual soul. 1
G. W. Leibniz


The soul lies folded within itself without a window, reflecting the entire universe. It turns, twists, unrolls and folds itself together again. The entire mirror of the soul cannot be unfolded at once. The ongoing unfolding of the mirrored, infinite universe takes place in a finite way. Thus much remains hidden in the folds of the soul. Almost nothing is revealed with the universe of the soul being almost completely concealed. The individual folds deny the soul insight into the universe the folded soul carries within itself on its mirror walls. A mirrored universe that lies folded together in the pleats of the soul. Folds that can extend into infinity. Sometimes the folded soul grasps only a minute reflection of the beauty that could be displayed by the universe in its reflection if the folds could be unfolded again.

The folds cover and conceal the beauty of the universe. The revelation of the folded universe in its partial, momentary unfolding – presenting and (re)presenting can be understood in this sense – coincides in the self-concealment of the universe in its folds. The universe certainly does not reveal itself, its beauty in unfolding. Revelation is accom­panied by a concealing. Presentation always is accompanied by a distortion and obstruction, by folding. The unfolding universe does not so much show itself than create other folds and moves into oblivion. Ruptures and openings represent the unfolding of the hidden universe, which, in opening itself, simultaneously shuts itself in folds. In displaying itself, in revealing a perspective appearing on the mirror wall of the soul, at the same time the universe withdraws. An opening that keeps pace with closing and concealing. The presentation of the fold – its opening, its unfolding – happens in the moment the universe encloses itself. The revelation is a further fold of concealment, the presentation a further folding of folds, a repeated rupture, a clearing, a line, a boundary of the fold. The universe resides in the folds, the universe that has gone into hiding in them. With every unfolding the fold unrolls anew and shuts almost everything in its folds.

In § 61 of Monadology Leibniz mentions this folding of the soul that extends endlessly. What lies folded here as the soul is perceptions – an endless diversity of perceptions in the simplicity of the monad. The monad – autarkic, indivisible and self-contained, yet within it we find the mirror – the imprint – of the external. Windowless: Without an opening into which one could enter. Windowless: without any way out. Without eyes. Without mouth. Without nose. Without ears. Without hands. No breathing. No incorporation. No excretion. No anus. And yet a monad is always endowed with a body, which in turn relates with other monads whose bodies can have all of the following: eyes, mouth, nose, ears, hands. Not the monads but a complex of monads along with their bodies bear the organs of the senses. The individual monad by contrast is the folding of infinite perceptions that say nothing, speak nothing, smell nothing, hear nothing, touch nothing, taste nothing. The folding stems from experiences, touching, that the fold the perceptions. Insights into mirroring imprints. Insights into the unfolding self-revelation without the sensual perception offered by the eyes. Internal walls, blind sight. Even though the monad is indestructible and cannot be annihilated its perception folds on the inner walls are inflicted imprints: imprints of a universe. The discreet imprints of a universe seen from a distance. Imprints of what cannot penetrate. Imprints that do not stem from impression or penetration. Imprints of an original absence. Still each imprint changes the interplay of touch and distance so that the relation of the present to what is becoming and has been as well as the constellation of the universe is constantly being newly formed and refolded. 2 Leibniz shifted everything that he had once perceived from the outside into the body. The body is now individualized and born of a moving force.

In the universe that reflects every monad, every soul, everything is interlinked and connected so that each body more or less has an effect on each and every other body. Through this reciprocal impact of all bodies on the others, even on the most distant bodies. Imprints of absent bodies, each monad creates in uniquely effect inflicted on it by the other bodies. A universe reflecting its perceptions in perspectives. A blind perspective of singular / plural. A folded mirror of being-together and of plurality in the self-contained space of the monad. Deleuze emphasizes that according to Leibniz the world must have its place in the subject so that the subject can be for the world. 3 The imprint – the mirror – is the completed, unique approach to a world beyond the monad. Each monad carries within itself not just the universe but is also nothing other than the singular trace of a universe from a distance. The discreet effects on the monad fold the perceptions in a singular way in the monad. Since each monad has a different position in the universe which also constantly assumes a different constellation each monad is uniquely folded on the inner walls. A singular trace of a global being-together. A singular fold on the inner walls as a trace of the external: Fold of the outside on the inside which as interior also constitutes the surface, the imprint of the exterior. Not fold of a world, not a reflection of a whole but without any external reference, a mirror world, a mimesis of nothingness, a folded nothingness which indicates its being.

The fold is the surge of perceptions in which the universe is stored. A wave of what is concealed. Since the universe is not just the sum of all monads but represents the constitution of the whole, the constellation or the structure of the universe only emerges in the monad – as an imprint – as a copy and as an image – which is only stored in distorted and folded form within the monad. The universe as an original copy. A universe which has folded itself in the monads. In each monad a separate world resides. A singular plurality. The world has its actuality only in the individual monads. A actualization: not all of which could be possible. Actualization is only what stages itself acutely as concealment and original imprint in appearance. Actualization as a hem, as a garment, as a fold of the universe. Showing is always a non-showing. This folded non-showing is the obscene act of the universe. Yet how can one not, as Leibniz does, speak of the beauty of the universe which lies spread out in its clarity, if all folds could be unfolded? From whence this certainty? From where the conviction of the existence of a hidden beauty, as opposed to the obscene act of the not-revealing-itself wrapped in folds?

For Leibniz the fold of the universe can only be the concealment, the disguise of the beauty of the universe. Only in concealment can the fold be a finiteness of infinity. The universe is what performs this concealment. Folding in itself. A beauty that makes itself invisible, imperceptible, unnoticeable and finite, but also mortal. In spite of everything the beauty of the universe could be experienced if all its folds were smoothened and it could spread out endlessly. In this sense the beauty of the universe is not visible in the fold but still the universe that bears the monads in its folds is supposed to be the best of all worlds. A world shrouded in robes. A wall in folds. Folded wall in transformation.

For Leibniz the folds testify to a hidden beauty. The entire universe resembles the Baroque gowns, draped clothing, scarves, curtains, a mountain of fruits, covered tables, a sea of diversity. “It is like what happens when I walk along the seashore: in hearing the roar of the sea, I hear – though without distinguishing them – the individual little noises of the waves out of which that total noise is made up. Similarly, our big confused perceptions are the outcome of the infinity of tiny impressions that the whole universe makes on us.” 4 The opulent world of abundance reveals sparse fields of clarity in the world of colors. Details, faces, portraits of beauty, surrounded by ruffs, canopies and capes that have been wrapped and folded.

Like every fold, like every fold of perceptions, each existing world is coincidental. By the same token, in the infinity of chance an infinite number of other worlds are possible like other folds. The relation of potential worlds and an actualized but best world requires a decision regarding the selection and thus calls for a clarification of the relation between God, the creator of the universe and the evil in the world. As potential worlds that are not actualized, these infinite possibilities lie hidden in the shafts of the pyramid. Leibniz narrates this parable of the pyramid in his studies on Theodicy. 5 The pyramid is an enormous tomb with innumerable burial chambers at the top of which the real world is visible but whose foundation continues to grow endlessly. In each of the individual chambers below the chamber that bears the real world in it one finds another world that would be possible but was not actualized. Thus endlessly many worlds lie buried in their non-being in the tomb shafts of the pyramid(s). The best of all worlds is the world that is there and thus represents the actual moment of the spatially and temporarily infinite universe. This world does not exist because it is the best one but it is the best because it exists.

Hegel delivers a mocking verdict on Leibniz’ Theodicy, arguing that it is only God’s legitimation for the existence of evil in the world 6, based on the optimism of a pre-established harmony that follows on the heels of a development of folds. As opposed to the universe in Leibniz which develops and unfolds and in which the soul seeks to find insights, the world of the absolute spirit in Hegel, the only possible and necessary world, emerges from the dialectic movement of the self, from its action, a finite work of negation, an illustrated process of self-digestion. “This way of becoming presents a slow procession and succession of spiritual shapes [Geistern], a gallery of pictures, each of which is endowed with the entire wealth of Spirit, and moves so slowly just for the reason that the self has to permeate and assimilate all this wealth of its substance. Since its accomplishment consists in Spirit knowing what it is, in fully comprehending its substance, this knowledge means its concentrating itself on itself [Insichgehen], a state in which Spirit leaves its external existence behind and gives its embodiment over to Recollection [Erinnerung]. In thus concentrating itself on itself, Spirit is engulfed in the night of its own self-consciousness; its vanished existence is, however, conserved therein; and this superseded existence – the previous state, but born anew from the womb of knowledge – is the new stage of existence, a new world, and a new embodiment or mode of Spirit.“ 7

Nothing is without reason. In the lecture that Heidegger gave in Freiburg in 1955 / 56 – The Principle of Reason – he recalls that Leibniz did not gain renown just with his texts on Monadology and on Theodicy. The principle of sufficient reason stems from Leibniz, the principle of all principles. In addition to the statements of contradiction, of difference and of identity, the statement on the grounds belongs to the great principles of reason. The statement of ground – “Nothing is without reason” – states first that the human mind is constantly and everywhere seeking a ground, i. e., a cause, for the ideas of its perception. Conceiving an object or an insight that can be seen as a sort of idea involves in each case that a reason be supplied or added to the idea. In this sense the basic principle of causality states in positive terms: “All being is grounded on something.” Accordingly, the principle also claims that all being that is has a ground and is thus necessary within the universe.

Drawing on Angelus Silesius’ lyrics Heidegger shifts this reading, adding a differentiation of ground and being to this principle of sufficient reason. According to Heidegger the principle can be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, as “Nothing is without reason” which basically boils down to: “Everything has a grounding.” And on the other, “Nothing is without reason” which means: “All being is grounded.” In the normal reading a statement is being made about being with this principle and not about the ground or the being of that which is. Whereas in this version the statement about the ground of being is identified as an object which has its ground and its fixed place (at least at a certain moment) within a causal concatenation, the existence of being as well as the ground (the essence of the ground, as Heidegger writes) remains completely undetermined. The ground neither has a ground (just as being has its ground), nor does the existence of being have a ground.

In his interpretation of the principle Heidegger concludes: “There is in the nature of things a reason why something is rather than nothing. As the first existing cause of all beings, God is called reason.” 8 Without ground all being would fall into the groundless. Any potential world would collapse into an abyss without a prospect of being the best of all worlds. The principle is that of the principal which decides on the world in its best state. In Theodorus’ pyramid dream in Leibniz we can read that prior to the beginning of the existing Jupiter looked at all existing worlds that were stored in the groundless pyramid – the “the palace of the fates” – in chambers and reflected on them to ultimately select the best of all worlds. “He comes sometimes to visit these places, to enjoy the pleasure of recapitulating things and of renewing his own choice, which cannot fail to please him.” 9 When God plays in the palace of fates and takes into account all possible worlds like the pieces of a board game, then he calculates and world emerges.

Sometimes the principle as a formulation of causality requires a knowledge – that of a rule of the game – that remains unreflected. In keeping with the new interpretation of the principle neither the essence of the ground, its happening, nor the existence of the being as object can be observed. The being, is however not the existence. Heidegger says that being takes place on the basis of reason. Being alone is grounded. Only that which is has a ground. Being is without ground, a groundless abyss.

In the shift of focus that Heidegger performs in his interpretation of the principle of sufficient reason he is no longer interested – as Leibniz still was –in that which is, which would have to be taken into account in a universal causality. He is not interested in observing the unfolded folds that we can see but in the moment of grounding, existential grounding, in the moment that is the fold and the act of folding. A turn of fate that by itself proceeds to fold, in the moment of folding. A moment of difference which is neither one thing or the other – lying neither before the fold nor aiming at unfolding – but rather concealed in the twofold of what is in between. Throw, leap, movement in rest, without being the fold of being. Instead the fold is existence: a first draft, revelation as existence that reveals nothing: No being, grounding that has nothing grounded.

Why folds? For no reason. Because nothing is not. Quasi-existence with depths and heights. Groundless folding. Nothing but folds. A riskier and groundless semblance of arching upwards and immersing. “Not the surface is placed on the ground, it is the ground that appears that really becomes the surface. The foamy surface is the birth […].” 10 In his essay Paean for Aphrodite Nancy shows how the beauty is born out of the foamy surface of the sea. Aphrodite, the goddess. The depths rise up to a diverse surface. Beauty is nothing hidden which could only be identified – never in here and now – in an endless process of unfolding. Beauty is also not something has become, which would have to develop in a trajectory befitting it within its divine history, its internal emergence. For Nancy the beauty of the ground is the foam of the surface: the fold, the wave, the ground that has been born as surface. Breaking open the abyss: without elevation, without phallus but also without depth. A beauty that cannot be penetrated to its depths. It is the disappointment of erect and generating love.

“The fold is not the fold of being. The fold is being itself. / At the tip of the breast [Aphrodite’s breast] everything folds. At all tips, all groundless elevations of anadyomenic depth everything folds, folds anew and unfolds, fluted and flooded columns, soft graininess of this skin-leap, milk-soul.” 11 Birth of breasts. Birth of the lifted surface. Unfolded folding and folded unfolding. Multiplied and diverse. Skin. Boundary. Tip. Externality. Folding without grounding or foundation. The beauty of being cannot be recognized in unfolding. Beauty is the folded veil, the graining of skin, the wavy surface. It is the age of birth and the birth of age. Beauty and the veil, beauty and age are reality mixed. What is revealed is without a present internality is without a hidden unfolding, is always this reality and mixture of beauty, folding and age. Its obscenity is not the possible and smoothened nudity. Rather what is obscene is that the veil is nudity. Even nudity – Aphrodite’s explicitly – is still a veil. A sort of cover. Being, exposure, the fold is always concealment. Sublime nudity: “What comes to the surface and what foams [foam of the foam-born, goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite] is a fissure. The fissure is not a recess, it’s a bifurcation of algae, it’s a fruit, a semi-opened fig on moist foam. These are the lips licked by the swell wave. To be born; The name of being. To be delivered, to open up to a place.” 12

In the book Dissemination – to be more precise: in the second part of the section that is titled The Double Session – Derrida addresses the fold. In a comment regarding Mallarmé, which revolves around literature, the white, the center, the hymen, etc., we can read that the fold is no longer found in the veil. The fold is not the fold of a veil, a text that is folded and has to be unfolded or remains to be unfolded to the extent this veil exists. Rather the fold is in a doubling, a doubling of itself: “The fold renders (itself) manifold but (is) not (one).” 13

The fold of a doubling first implies that the fold carries within itself its exterior – its being outside of itself – in its cavity which is also the outside within itself, in which the outside enters the inside, just as the inside is sunken within its outside. In this sense the fold is always the other of itself to be different in this reversal and change. Fold is neither intrinsic in itself nor extrinsic as other. Primal contamination, reproduction, dispersion. Neither being one with itself, nor torn by penetrating the other, the outside. The fold is then also already affected in its primordial sense in an unaffected way and torn by the outside within. It is the indestructible that violates it. The violation has already taken place and was at the same time never committed. Never in presence is the fold its event, nor another ones. The fold is the intermediate act of an intermediate time in an intermediate space. A center, a milieu, transcended in flowing and drifting.

In the unfolding the fold folds back. In the movement of a fan. 14 The flowing movement of unfolding and folding back the folded fan and dispersed, revealing and covering its manifestations (the infinite number of folds, fans, angles, corners, wings, veils, thresholds, hinges, drapery…), its phenomenological structures, its tropic movements (metaphors, allegories, metonymies, symbols, parables …) and its semic parts and units. A surplus of folds which folds the folds again and again in a different way. Neither the fold nor the unfolding is the truth of the fold or that of its unfolding: “There is no alētheia, only a wink of the hymen. A rhythmic fall. A regular, (w)inclined cadence.” 15 Disseminated woven folds, folds of nothingness. A virginity that is what always injures itself in adding a further turn and is not.

Folds bear on the representation. Just as for Leibniz the folds bear the reflections of the entire universe on its walls, the figurative and abstract art mirrored, imitated, meant for the naïve beholder something that is not the represented (canvas, color, line, point, surface, etc.) The folds of the monad like the imitating art should carry within their fold, representing that which lies independent and beyond it. Representation of something that was also present irrespective of the artistic representation – and could be experienced, seen or conceived as this something, or existed as God’s best world to which the monad belonged along with its folded repre­sentation only as a part of the world, as a perspective.

In the understanding of pre-abstract art the artwork meant in each case something. In its consummation the artwork alluded to by imitating, presenting, representing, reproducing, depicting or constructing to phenomena in order to produce mimetic, symbolic, iconic or allegorical meaning. Continuing this line of though Hamacher writes the following in his text Maser: “In the new ‘abstract’ painting there is no longer ‘reference’ to referents of social or religious conventions of reality – as canonical as they may be, they have proven to be artifacts –, there is no ‘reference’ to intra-temporal and intra-spatial formations already existing is some form or other; reference becomes absolute. Imagery no longer means something to the naïve gaze, something that could be could in some way be given a name – objects, functions, concepts –, they do nothing else but signify.” 16

Signifying without that which is signified is present. Representing without that a given something is being represented. Naming without what is named already existing. The artistic representations are not meaningful because they reproduce or point to something that is given to them. The representations have meaning or are meaning by being this movement: signifying, naming, referring, showing, creating, etc. The portraits are creations in movement: There, away, to, towards, etc. A movement of portraits that cannot “in principle be regulated, do not come to a halt in any other and do not depart from basically any superior authority. Their movement does not run in the dimensions of a pre-established space and a time that is predetermined but only creates the temporal arena, initiating the play of the temporal space, dismissing the space of the play time and is nothing but this dismissal, the play.” 17

Elsewhere Hamacher writes that two traditional definitions of space are incorrect. These are the definitions based on the extension of space and its divisibility. 18 The movement of imagery that opens up the temporal realm has nothing to do with a movement within the three dimensions of an extended and divisible space already established before the initiating movement. The portraits do not move in a space that is composed and would have to be broken apart. The space of portraits is not made up of points or places. This space requires no inside which would be moved to its outside by extension or expansion – an outside in which the portraits move provided they signify, designate, name, refer, show, create, etc. It is only in the movement of the portraits that the temporal arena, the exteriority of themselves results. The movement of portraits opens the space, which is open and free, which does not have its boundary where it delineates itself and finds its outside. The space is not territorial. Space has no boundary to delineate itself from non-space. The space resulting from the movement of art imagery is a boundary and finds its essence in the boundary. The space is the opened realm of the movement of designating, referring, conceiving, revealing, etc. The movement of the representation is intermediate space. This intermediate space is not part of a space that is seen as given, but is itself the separation and the in-between. The space of representation is the free boundary area created by the movement of opening – the fold. Neither is the space opening representation the pure immanence of material, the presence of an unfolded intuition or the meaningless work, nor the reproduction or imitation of an external something. Representation is more: “Excedence to something and in this already something different itself.” 19

The movement of representation is not an abstraction stripping the form from material or matter from form in a process of reduction. Representation is only the movement that gives room to forms and matter. In this sense the movement of representation is not concrete, since it will only give what is to be called the concrete. Representation does not reach an end in its signifying movement, in order to be intuitive, objective, tangible, definable and real in an unfolded state. Its signifying is never being-s, a concrete being. It is neither concrete, nor is the abstraction of its concretion. In the movement of signification the representation is neither its concrete being-itself, nor an imitation of a given otherness. In signifying representing is a gesture, which points neither to something given nor to something to come or shows itself as something concrete. The gesture of artistic representation is folding and delineating. As this fold and boundary the gesture is not at all about dividing space but rather the distinction of what it will open up. It also testifies to the coming relatedness to what does not belong together. In addition to the moving oscillation the fold is always multiple. It doubles. It reproduces itself. Shifts. Repeats itself, divides itself, changes. Becomes serial. Fold in fold. Folding in folding. Boundary in boundary. As Hamacher writes: “The fold is not one –: it is not an entity, be it of intuition, be it of conceptuality, and in this sense it is no fold, its non-realization, its non-appearance is part of the structure of everything that appears”. 20 The fold is no object, neither a material nor an ideal object. The fold places the visible together in an unassuming manifoldness. Fold is not, is more, is different.




1        G. W. Leibniz: Prinzipien der Natur und der Gnade, auf Vernunft gegründet, § 13, quoted: after ibid.: Monadologie. Stuttgart: Reclam 1982, p. 64.

2        Cf. Georges Didi-Hubermann: Ähnlichkeit und Berührung. Archäologie, Anachronismus und Modernität des Abdrucks. Cologne: DuMont 1999.

3        Cf. Gilles Deleuze: Die Falte. Leibniz und der Barock. Frankfurt / Main: Suhrkamp 2000, p. 48.

4        G. W. Leibniz: Prinzipien der Natur und der Gnade, loc. cit., p. 63.

5        G. W. Leibniz: Die Theodizee II. Philosophische Schriften, Band 2.2. Frankfurt / Main: Suhrkamp 1999, p. 247.

6        Cf. G. W. F. Hegel: Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie III. Werke 20. Frankfurt / Main: Suhrkamp 1986, p. 236 f.

7        G. W. F. Hegel: Phänomenologie des Geistes. Werke 3. Frankfurt / Main: Suhrkamp 1983, p. 590.

8        Martin Heidegger: Der Satz vom Grund. Pfullingen: Neske 1978, p. 55.

9        G. W. Leibniz: Theodizee II, loc. cit., p. 261.

10      Jean-Luc Nancy: Das Gewicht eines Denkens. Düsseldorf, Bonn: Parerga 1995, p. 65.

11      Ibid., p. 78.

12      Ibid., p. 76 f.

13      Jacques Derrida: Dissemination. Vienna: Passagen Verlag 1995, p. 258.

14      Cf. ibid., p. 282.

15      Ibid., p. 293.

16      Werner Hamacher: Maser. Bemerkungen im Hinblick auf Hinrich Weidemanns Bilder. Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler 1998, p. 52.

17      Ibid., p. 293.

18      Cf. Werner Hamacher: Amphora (Extracts). In: Assemblage. A Critical Journal of Architecture and Design Culture, no. 20 (1993), p. 40.

19      Werner Hamacher: Maser, loc. cit., p. 53.

20      Werner Hamacher: Maser, loc. cit., p. 64.