The World as it is

"Where do you feel grief?" -In the mind- What kind of consequences do we draw from this assignment of place? One is that we do not speak of a bodily place of grief. Yet we do point to our body, as if the grief were in it. Is that because we feel a bodily discomfort? I do not know the cause. But why should I assume it is a bodily discomfort ?Ludwig Wittgenstein, Zettel n°497

It was after the death of the Austrian philosopher Wittgenstein that they found a box of notes, fragments of texts, and questions written by him between 1945 and 1948. These documents, sorted by Peter Geach, became a book published by Gallimard under the minimalist title Fiches... This book which Wittgenstein never truly wrote has always accompanied me on my travels. I still remain intrigued, fascinated by the depth of philosophical thinking and word play to which this philosopher held the secret. Specialists have spent years studying it, most often concluding that he must have intended to incorporate some files into already completed texts. Hence the title of his true false posthumous book, the image of his incredible energy, composed of over seven hundred fragments of texts which question the philosophy and our relationship with life. One of my favourite exercises is to take one or other of the fragments, like that, and try to use it to understand the great disorder of the world. The chaos that surrounds us everywhere. Over the years, I came back to these Fiches again and again. Looking for answers. This is not to say that I understand Wittgenstein's philosophy perfectly. I admit I struggled to make sense of his most famous book, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which I have read and reread. Moreover, in the first sentence of the foreword, written by the philosopher himself, he wrote: This book will not be understood by him who has already thought the same thoughts that are expressed it - or at least similar thoughts. Then there are the first two sentences: 1. The world is everything that is the case. 1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things. At last an answer to my headache, my unhappiness, or, to be more accurate, my discomfort. The facts, not things - not even concepts and theories, just the facts.

The day after the 13 November 2015 attacks, I received a call from a reporter asking me my impressions of the previous day's attacks in Paris. Surprised by the request, I suggested that he call me back. I had no words to express my grief, my discomfort. I then thought of Wittgenstein and the question that always concerned him; how to solve the problem that presents itself to our spirits when we use language with the intention of meaning something? What exactly does the verb "mean" mean? Levi-Strauss was asked the same question in his book, The Jealous Potter. And I'm not sure that he and Wittgenstein have found the answer.

No, I told myself after the phone call, I had nothing to say, nothing to communicate about the events of the evening of Friday 13 November. But then the phone rang again and the reporter asked me my opinion. I did not think. I spoke to him about this world we do not want to see; One of facts and not things. The attacks are facts. They are part of our world, our life, our death. It is this world that we have created and we do not want to see it, as it has become so complex, incomprehensible, illogical and barbaric. I told him that my job requires me to open my eyes to see, to display what I should not want to see or show. Because when I create, I do not allow any concessions, not to see or to show. My memory, which I would love to be completely empty, appears full of these facts. It is full of everything until it's saturated, nauseous, overwhelmed, deeply disgusted; nothing is left out. I'm not pretending. It's just that I do not look elsewhere when we need to see the world.

The afternoon of 14 November, I met my friend the novelist Abdellah Taia in the Brasserie Wepler. We were both shocked, trying to understand, analyse, and link it together. We talked about freedom. Simple freedoms, like having a coffee on a terrace, going to a cinema or visiting an exhibition. We are so afraid of losing what little we have left. I had to go back to see images on television, the Internet, read blogs. Abdallah had to go too, and think about a text that the New York Times asked him to write. To give his impressions of what happened. We said goodbye. I hugged him. In my heart, I say to myself: I could have lost him if he had been on a terrace next to the Bataclan on the evening of 13 November. This is a fact and I realise that.

The facts, just the facts. A few weeks before the terrorist attacks in Paris, I participated in the exhibition "Memory and Oblivion" in Beirut with my friend the photographer Leila Alaoui. Beirut had just suffered a terrible attack. Several injured, many dead.Two weeks after the opening of the only biennial of African photography in Mali where I showed a project in tribute to John Howard Griffin, I saw on the news that an attack at a hotel in Bamako had occurred and hostages were taken. More deaths and injuries. A few months later, terrorists struck in Tunisia; I was in another exhibition at the same time, again with Leila Alaoui, at the Ghaya gallery. More dead and injured. The facts, just the facts.

Friday 15 January, Leila Alaoui, on a mission with Amnesty International, is at table in a restaurant in Ouagadougou; she fell victim to the terrorist bullets of Al Qaeda. Dead at 33. Leila's death took place. This is a fact and we have to live with it. So although we thought her safe, and we were all waiting for permission to have her fly to France, she died Monday 18 January 2016. Where to find words that mean anything? I feel such sorrow at heart; I feel that bodily discomfort which Wittgenstein spoke of in file No. 497. There are no words to express the pain of five bullets in the body I feel an emptiness inside me, I'm unable to think, and then tears fall as the only answer to human barbarity.Language is of no help to me. Neither to explain nor to understand. Language is a virus, language is the prime suspect.

Language is incapable of expressing the facts that make up the world in which we live.I struggled to write these few words for this issue of Multitudes. I struggled to choose the images.

I struggled to think. I tried to locate the pain in my body to heal, combat, and force it out. The pain prevented me from seeing the world; I'm no longer sure I can face it anymore. I think about every minute of silence that the attacks forced us to keep. These breaks in time that force us to think and see the world as it is. All these minutes where our language was incapable of expressing the horror.

The last sentence in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

I'll remain silent; perhaps silence will heal my grief.

mounir fatmi

February 18th, 2016