Building Education for the Commons
In this talk which was delivered at UC Davis on 26 February 2015, Jeremy Fernando attempts to open the relationality between walking and thinking — movement and thought — through the all too familiar situation, scenario, of ‘writer’s block’. Starting with the scene of a walk with his teacher, Avital Ronell, in the forests of Saas Fee, Switzerland, the dossier of the teacher, thepedagogue, as a guide is opened, alongside the question ‘what is it to teach’, ‘what is it to be a teacher’. He also attempts to respond to the problems of a lack of movement in writing, of the point when the proverbial ink stops flowing. To what happens when there is a block. And perhaps even the irony of writing about writer’s block: for, it can only be written about retrospectively, when it is cleared, when there is clearance, when the path is already crossed. Which suggests that all writing about it, perhaps even all writing, is an act of memory: one that is unable to account for the possibility of forgetting — and thus also fictionality — brought with, within, it. Thus, one might well be writing about everything except ‘writer’s block’ itself. And, even if there might be a method to this passing — to even a breaking, rupturing, of this said block — it is quite possibly one that remains veiled from us, one that we might only catch a glimpse of after one has passed — and that one might perhaps only learn how to pass after one has passed, after one has learnt in the passing. And in that spirit, he offers the possibility that a painting — ‘Squid Love’ by Yanyun Chen — that is hanging in front of him, has long been before his eyes — in the space where he eats, drinks, writes — is the site through which (perhaps in ways that continue to remain unknown to him, that remain unknowable) this piece, this writing, has been inked.
Jeremy Fernando is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow and a Reader in Contemporary Literature & Thought at the European Graduate School; and a Fellow of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore. He works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the media, and has been described as having an “erudition and grasp of theory balanced by a playful approach to popular culture and, in real life, a sartorial elan that does, indeed, match his sobriquet.” (Walter Mason) His approach to thought, to thinking — a thinking that owes a great debt to many others, especially, Avital Ronell, Hélène Cixous, Jean Baudrillard, and Werner Hamacher — that results in Fernando being called “the last romantic thinker in Singapore.” (Denisa Kera)