THE BODY IS NOTHING but the outside: skin exposed, a network of sentient receivers and transmitters. All outside and nothing like “me” that would be held inside that wrapping. There is no ghost in the machine, no dimensionless point where “I” feel or feel myself feeling. The inside of the envelope is yet another outside, developed (or de-enveloped) otherwise, full of folds, turns, convolutions, and adhesions. Full of invaginations, small heaps, and conglomerations.

It senses just because everything touches it throughout its continuous thickness. Everything is touched and mixed; everything slides into the silence of the organs that provide neither sights nor tastes nor smells nor sounds, but only touch, because the outside is so constant, so thick, so caught up in a compact and solidary mass that the interior body is without organs. Being outside myself as this inside, prohibiting penetration (except by disemboweling or suffocating me), the outside is indefinitely wrapped, absorbed, sunk in its own magma, both fitting it so well and absolutely foreign to that which this magma fills, to that which it sustains and animates, to all this skin exposed with its orifices, mucosa, pores, and hair, all its contacts and communication, all the vibrations of the world, of matter and images, of timbers and resonances, all these gases and squirts, these air currents, these mirrors, these pieces of metal, these other skins, these words, these impressions, depressions, and expressions.

Everything the outside-within sustains with its buttresses, columns, cages, tubes, and membranes, however, also makes an impression on it. Such impressions are expressed in it, and nowhere else. The exposed outside has no other place than this inside to stick its sensations in, as well as its food, the air it breathes, the kisses, the knowledge it sucks in. It is there that it feels and feels itself feeling: it is in the stomach, the intestines, heart palpitations, the filling of the lungs, not to mention the deaf infiltrations channeling nerves in the muscles, the lymphatic vessels in the liver and in pancreatic islets. The skin feels under the skin, the eyes seeing in a frozen socket under the meninges.

But I have said too much, much too much, by saying these words that I have learned from another exterior, that of medicine, physiology, or anatomy, through which the vesicles, tendons, and peristalses receive a determinate, functional sense. As soon as these are presented to me, they signify something completely different from my body, whether inside or out: an apparatus, a piece of equipment plugged into a network of tubes or of chemical products, dissociated and desiccated by a scalpel or needles. It is always intriguing, distracting, or disturbing to see an echography image of one’s arteries or of the coronary network, set in a contrast thanks to a special solution and projected onto a screen after a catheter has been introduced into a vein in the groin. But, in the end, this is a representation similar to the results of a blood test or a spirometric measurement that belongs to the complex of physiological representation, computation, and instrumentation.

This complex has to do with something other than that which keeps itself underneath — sub-jectum, sup-positum, sub-stantia — and that, in this underneath, ingests along with the nutrients their tastes and, with them, the tastes of all the things, the shocks, the frictions, the bells and the trumpets, the moods and their pulsations, the air, spirit, warmth, tenderness, boredom, desire… That subject seems to be subjected to the other, namely, to the character who says “I”, and yet it is only a thin contact sheet, almost nothing, an interval between above and below, between these two outsides that make him believe that he can say “inside.”  But there also, on the inside, it relates to itself, it feels itself, it growls or it bothers, it tightens or it relaxes. Here it makes rumbling sounds; there — the wheezing ones; and there it stands up in erections. At all times, at every opportunity, the skin imprints on its reverse side (muscles, fibers, facial nerves) all the messages (images, foliage, clouds) signaling to me nothing more and nothing less than my presence in the world. But this presence, too, is exposed to my very entrails, to my very intestines that are, according to their name, the insides themselves, not so far from the most intimate, not far at all from the Augustinian interior intimo meo and not far from the interfeces et urinam from the same book, very close indeed to the perfect god as a flaming excrement. That which comes out and that which enters, shit or thought, speech or saliva, excitation, excoriation: everything goes in pairs and keeps the one outside the other in a constant rustling and movement of the same ensemble in itself, completely outside of me. As for me, I remain an intimate null point of spirit nowhere to be found in this entanglement smeared with pulp, tissues, and fluids that, in their entirety, give place to the soul, which ought to be conceived as extended along the vessels and the teguments, knotted into the lymph nodes, and bathed in plasma.

There is no representation of the outside that is swarming within, except for these cuts on a cover glass, the imagery of magnetic resonance, or whatever issues from tomography scanners. Nonetheless, let us not rush to challenge anatomies, histologies, or physiologies. Their technical strangeness does not allow us to forget that this is still us. In some way, it must be the case that my eye is glassy, watery, iridescent and that my finger is bony, tendinous, ungulate. These things are not quite things, and anatomical models play the role of a secret mirror. How is it possible to ignore what the skin molded of orange-red, brown or blue rubber, or the skeleton made of pale plastic with 367 bones stitched in order, tell me about myself or how they paint me to myself? How, therefore, to ignore to what point I am far away and to what strangely disquieting point I am unrecognizable?

Translated by Michael Marder