To Have No Return or Recourse: Attempting to
Understand A Birth to Precence by Jean Luc Nancy,
with Manolo Lugo, Francisco-Fernando Granados,
Chaya Litvak, and John Paul Ricco, The Rivoli, 2014

Travis T Freeman

Long intrigued and confused by the work of Jean Luc Nancy, I invited Nancy scholar John Paul Ricco to explain "Birth to Presence" over dinner. This photograph was then displayed above the site for the run of the exhibition.


Dear Dr. Ricco,

My name is Travis Freeman, and I have a keen interest in your work regarding Jean-Luc Nancy.  I am a Conceptual/Performative Artist originally from Minneapolis now working and living in Toronto.  I am preparing for a exhibition at the Rivoli restaurant on Queen Street in which much of the work has grown out of my interest in the concept of presence.  I'm specifically interested in what you wrote regarding the split between Heidegger and Nancy cornering Mit-sein and Da-sein.  I first started reading Nancy's A Birth to Presence, almost 10 year ago when I picked it up while away on vacation.  On the train ride home from my trip, I struggled to understand the core theory behind A Birth to Presence.  My next art project was titled after the book and was an attempt to understand through action what in reading escaped me.  In the project I attempted to do nothing for 24 hours in a gallery.  In fact, I repeated this project twice over that year.  Yet still, I came away with a feeling of isolation.  I wanted so much for my to reduce my presence to the most basic form of "being with" but only came away with "being there."

I am writing to ask you to join me for dinner at the Rivoli some time in the next few weeks.  I would like to eat dinner with you and perhaps a few other artists/philosophers, and discuss the opening chapter of A Birth to Presence.  As an artist and human, I’m interested in the moments of epiphany in our lives.  I love an empty classroom where I can imagine all the times where a student’s mind first grasped a new concept or idea, and his or her world grew in a giant leap all at once.  I seek to create or recreate those types of moments in my artwork. I would like to photograph the dinner and display the photo in the place where the dinner takes place, thereby making the viewer aware of the presence of the past moment of learning.

I know a teacher's time in the summer is very precious, so I won't write more at this time.  If you are at all interested, please write back, or if you have any colleagues or students that might be interested I would love to be introduced.

I wouldn't ask you to prepare or speak formally at the dinner, just to open a discussion.  Nothing would be recorded other than the photograph.  On the most basic level, I'm offering you free dinner, and I'd l hope will accept.

If you have any questions at all please let me know.

All the best,
Travis Freeman