Merleau-Ponty’s ontology is an important resource for flash reason. M-P (like Heidegger) recognized that the logic of a new metaphysics was invented within modernist arts, especially (in the case of M-P) Cezanne’s painting and Proust’s novel. Just as “Being” is an effect of and happens only within alphabetic writing, so too is “Flesh” (M-P’s ontological category) an effect of thought’s encounter with imaging.
Graphic design is the grammar and syntax of this mode of articulating “wild” or brute nature of embodied experience. In the context of electracy, for operating the interface-databases of a digital apparatus, phenomenology and deconstruction (experience and language) are allies. Nature proper may not be a forest of symbols, but MUVE’s (multi-user-virtual-environments) are or should be. The immediate interest for flash reason is M-P’s retrieval of the term “element” to replace “substance” in discussing ontological flesh.
The flesh is not matter, is not mind, is not substance. To designate it, we should need the old term “element,” in the sense it was used to speak of water, air, earth, and fire, that is, in the sense of a general thing, midway between the spatio-temporal individual and the idea, a sort of incarnate principle that brings a style of being wherever there is a fragment of being. The flesh is in this sense an “element” of Being. Not a fact or a sum of facts, and yet adherent to location and to the now. For if there is flesh, that is if the hidden face of the cube radiates forth somethwere as well as does the fact I have under my eyes, and coexists with it, and if I who see the cube also belong to the visible, I am visible from elsewhere, and if I and the cube are together caught up in one same “element,” this cohesion, this visibility by principle prevails over every momentary discordance [Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “The Intertwining — The Chiasm,” in The Visible and the Invisible).
This updating of “element” suggests the appropriateness of locating the categorial potential of a disaster in its distribution of elements. Water (a ratio of Water and Earth) is the element organizing the Cabot-Koppers Superfund catastrophe in my figure. More work needs to be done to gather the resources of those who share M-P’s interest in this possibility: Bachelard, Greimas, the Surrealists, to name a few.