Two edges of the painting, along an oblique line, are unpainted (see the small painting done by a young Picasso in Barcelona). There are works of classical painting with areas left unpainted, but in this case the whole painting seems offset from its medium: it no longer coincides with the medium in the primary—geometric—sense of the term, where lines or surfaces align exactly when superimposed. In this painting we can detect a new possibility—as yet only hinted at—that begins to sap the whole edifice of what had come before in painting. The close-fitting adjunction, familiar and adequated, is undone, and in the undoing something unexpected and unthought-of surreptitiously emerges and comes to be. Such is the power of de-coincidence to unfurl.

Artists ever since have been methodically applying themselves to the enterprise of de-coincidence. They have striven to undo the capacity for coincidence that lies at the core of art's previous apparatus—and specifically of representation (the observance of shapes and proportions as well as the demands of perspective, the reproduction of colors, and anything that produces resemblance), which they denounce as an illusion. The purpose of the enterprise, however, is not merely to establish a rupture with the past, to break free from constraints and norms, to mark out deviance or assert dissent—i.e., to denounce an adequation that smacks of conformity. As a concept de-coincidence goes back further, to the origin of the écart that made modernity and elucidates it in its principle. This while demonstrating that "coinciding" (entering into complete adequation), although it satisfy and perhaps even amount to an exploit, is not viable and, at bottom, lacks exigency: it is at once fake and sterile. Thus de-coinciding returns our attention to, and legitimizes, the other meaning of coincidence: that of the purely adventitious encounter ("sheer coincidence"), the encounter with no apparent justification. In the play (jeu) of this single term's opposite meanings—the fortuitous or the adequated, the accidental or the adapted—can we not discern the very possibility, the more primal possibility, from which art and existence come to us?

De-coincidence undoes the enterprise of coincidence on which classical art rests (did perhaps the great painters of the past not have a secret sense of such a de-coincidence and its exigencies?), but a parallel de-coincidence just as thoroughly undoes the ontological enterprise that establishes truth as adequation (between "thing" and "mind"). Or, indeed, undoes the moral of wisdom: living "in conformity with nature." Modernity founds itself on this new suspicion that there is no "nature" or Being to serve as possible substructure and foundational order anymore. To de-coincide, however, is to open an écart with respect to a congruity that brooks no further latitude or initiative; it is to extricate oneself from an order that, in its fulfillment, inhibits its possibles and sterilizes. Coincidence is death. To coincide is to bog down, whereas to de-coincide is to promouvoir (elevate and valorize) and dégager (extricate, extend, and develop).

What elevated (s'est promu) as "man" had already de-coincided with previous animal forms (with other "hominids") by introducing an écart with respect to their preceding adaptation (by "ex-aptation," one might say). Whereas coinciding buries the possibility of consciousness, it is, on the contrary, by de-coinciding that consciousness can, by dis-adhering, break free and unfurl its capacity. (Zen too makes use of this effect.) Or, in still other words, the subject elevates by de-coinciding with its integration in a world. If to ex-ist is precisely to "opt to remain outside (se tenir hors)," then what one remains outside of is, first of all, the coincidence that constitutes the world. It is because they have been exiled from the perfect coincidence of terrestrial paradise that Adam and Eve can begin to exist as subjects and gain access to a History. If "man alone ex-ists," he does so insofar as he can de-coincide with the world and thereby introduce a margin of initiative or liberty. This de-coincidence is something art is duty-bound not so much to express as to activate.


Where do art and existence come from?