I am so pleased to have my essay “The Commerce of Anonymity,” published in the latest issue of Qui Parle. Here’s the abstract, followed below by a short excerpt. You can access and download a copy of the entire article here: Ricco, “The Commerce of Anonymity” (Qui Parle, June 2017)




Always “within distance of” oneself and others: this is our place,

and to write or to draw is to discover and sustain (to varying degrees

of duration) that distance. In its proximity this distance is the source

of pleasure and the mark of intimacy—but it is also the measure of

the exact equality between one passerby and another. No longer

even in terms of the being-other of the stranger, this is more a matter

of the spacing of passage in its passing, the place that is abandoned

by and that abandons the passerby, in his or her passing, to the outside,

including the outside of identity.


There, where the studio meets the street and the street meets

the study, and the desk meets the drawing table and the drawing table

meets the urban signboard, “each face has value and refers—or

leads—to one human identity that is equal to another” (Genet). To which

we might add: each face leads toward an exact and absolute equality

that renders each of us not identical but incommensurable. Each

time with each other, it is an experience that affirms the essential anonymity

of being-together and the risks and pleasures of our ethical

and aesthetic commerce.



On March 19th, I presented a talk titled, “Edging the Common” at the conference “Aisthesis and the Common: Reconfiguring the Public Sphere,” that was organized by the research group Media@McGill, and held at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, March 18th and 19th. Other speakers included: Jean-Luc Nancy, Santiago Zabala, Pierre Dardot, amongst others. Videos of all of the presentations are available at:



I was invited to deliver one of the Keynote Lectures at the 26th Annual International Comparative Literature conference, by the graduate students in Comp Lit at the University of Toronto. The other Keynote speakers were Linda and Michael Hutcheon, and W.J.T. Mitchell. My talk, “Edging, Drawing, the Common,” took place on March 5th, 2016.

John Paul Ricco, “Edging, Drawing, the Common,” Keynote Address at the 26th Annual International Comparative Literature conference, University of Toronto, March 5, 2016.

Here is the link to the audio file on YouTube of my Lecture, On the Commerce of Anonymity, that I presented on November 20, 2015, as part of the Emerging Research in Comparative Literature Series, at the University Toronto.

I want to thank Fan Wu and Jesscia Copley for the invitation to present some of my current work, and to all those in attendance that evening for their engaging questions and responses. I also want to thank Bao Nguyen for his editing of this audio recording. Finally, my thanks to Shaan Syed, whose work—the focus of this talk—continues to be such an important provocation and inspiration for my own.

For the final section of the paper that I did not have the time to present, see my earlier post on “anonymous and neutral mourning.”

06FFG2011spatialprofilingVanFrancisco-Fernando Granados, spatial profiling – after Margaret Dragu’s Eine Kleine Nacht Radio  (2011). Performance, site-specific drawing; performed at VIVO Media Arts Centre for the LIVE Biennial of Performance Art, Vancouver. Photographs by Jesse Birch and Francisco-Fernando Granados

Here is a short description of a paper that I will be working on for the next few months, as a keynote that I have been invited to present at a conference on “Aisthesis and the Common: Reconfiguring the Public Sphere” to be held at McGill University, Montreal, in March 2016.

Bodies are exorbitant extremities, and not enclosed and discrete or “embodied” entities. This is just one of the reasons why we do not speak of a body having a center or margins.  Ontologically speaking, any material-physical thing that is open and always in excess of its limits is a body. Thus not only are there non-human and inorganic bodies, just as there are human bodies, but the matter of bodies and how they come to matter and mean, happens in those indeterminate and undecidable zones where it is often impossible to know where one body begins and another ends. Edge is the name that we might give for this shared spacing, there where bodies partake in a sense of the intimacy of the outside. In my paper I consider works by three contemporary artists: Francisco-Fernando Granados, Shaan Syed, and Sarah Kabot, in which a performative praxis of drawing traces the non-mediating line of the edge as the space-time of the common—its tense, tension and extension. In the public performance of repetitively tracing a facial profile (Granados), or a portrait of lost lover posted on city streets (Syed), or in which all of the lines in a public bathroom are shifted by half-an-inch (Kabot), these works peri-performatively open up spaces around bodies, and places and things. Spaces that are virtual rather than possible, inoperative rather than productive, anonymous rather than identitarian. Indeterminate zones but never empty voids, these edgings are where appearing and disappearing, becoming and unbecoming persist as the immeasurable infinities that they are. The sense and experience (aisthesis) of the common lies in the pleasures and risks of our affinities to these edges.

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