Literally, the term “existence” means “to stand forth” and the grace machine offers a distinctive view on stance. Via a detailed analysis of the classical figure of contrapposto in various contexts we develop correlations between movement and standstill, as well as between weakness and strength. However, not merely being a chiastic or ambiguous form of standing forth, the figure “shines forth” too, which sets it apart from other entities such as the thing, the symbol, or the object. Figures radiate, which places them in the domain of the gift, since gift exchange is run by the Three Graces, of which the first, Aglaia, signifies nothing less than shining. We will investigate this aesthetic ontology in its effects on the arts, architecture, historiography, and even on practices such as yoga that created a religion of posture. Soon we will find out that contrapposto is not simply a bunch of serpentine figures entangled in asymmetrical stance, but a loop, an essentially groundless form of standing, which immediately turns stance into the other figures. (After all, the nature of the figure is defined by tropos, the turn.)

STANDING: The Posture of Existence (part 1): realism

After an introductory discussion of things as assemblages and assemblies we proceed via William James’s “frayed things” to the gift cycle’s “shining things”. Two figural postures of realism should be merged: standing as the realism of mind-independence and hanging as that of mimesis. Our mission is to find a figure of groundless standing: contrapposto. Via Leonardo and Ravaisson’s Law of the Limbs we posit ourselves against the torso-philosophies of Bachelard, Sloterdijk and Fukuyama.

STANDING: The Posture of Existence (part 2a): figure

We start with a lengthy analysis of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus as an elaboration on the figure of contrapposto. Doing so, we reverse the classical relationship of structure and ornament, in official terms, of ergon (“work”) and parergon (“by-work”) . A journey that leads us from the caryatids of Erechtheion to Frida Kahlo’s broken spinal column, then to Flannery O’Connor’s crutches and Donna Haraway’s OncoMouse™, suddenly turns our study into one of bearing and carrying. Grace is born from disability, not from the abilities of habit. When moving to architecture the argument offers us new ideas on symmetry, the “torso-limb index” of form, and the necessity of the vegetal and floral in architecture.

STANDING: The Posture of Existence (part 2b): GRAVITY and ARRIVAL

Here we apply our ideas on bearing and carrying to two recent movies that seem to mirror each other: Gravity with Sandra Bullock and Arrival with Amy Adams. Both movies deal with mothers and their deceased daughters, and both movies deal with their pain in the same way: by inventing cyclical time. Bullock is reborn in the amniotic fluid of a Russian Space station while Adams discovers the Epicurean notion of amor fati that links birth and death. The two movies succeed in linking standing with floating, and gravity with the lack of it.