Professeur, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France

Written in 1987 and published in The Act, Vol. 1 No. 2, New York, 1987 English translation: Touraine and O'Hara


Morgan O'Hara loves space and fears time. She discovers peoples' personalities by identifying the places in which they have lived, the spaces through which they have traveled. Isn't it a seaman's behavior, or at least the reaction of a sea captain's daughter, to look for her roots not in a land or a tradition but in a multiplicity of places: San Francisco, New York, Japan, Paris, Sweden, in which she spends parts of her life. The space she constructs is wide open but centered. Her friends come and go on an earth oriented by a port to which they will return rather than a port as point of departure. Morgan represents men and women who at the same time need intimacy and discovery, who are both rooted and cosmopolitan. She carries in her soul and body the land and sea of Ireland as well as her tiny house on the cliff overlooking San Francisco Bay, while she discovers still more of herself in other parts of the world. She can live in Japanese or French as easily as in English.

But while she is attracted by space, she is afraid of time: she tries to master it, to transform it into a space which can be organized, divided, classified, measured, like a house or a field, so that each moment is in its right place. Colors must create a heartening impression, reassuring her that time is under control.

Last century's Europe had deep confidence in time, future, history, and was afraid of space which was divided by frontiers and wars. Morgan, like most people who will spend half their lives during the next century, has no confidence in the future and its false promises. She values change more than she values "progress." She looks at herself in time as in water she tries to stop with her hands. Conversely, she loves to stretch her body over the planet, her arms reaching far away continents over the Pacific Ocean.

Morgan is not an artist in the usual sense of the word. Since art no longer seeks merely to represent, she is more interested in presenting not the soul, the essence of a personality, but the set of actions which construct rather than represent a person. She is an artist of actions and of ideas, of relation to others more than of self expression, of desire more than possession, of absence more than presence.

There is no face, no symbol, no pronouncement in her work. She is at the opposite of formalism. Subject is everywhere present in her work through its apparent absence. It is craving for the presence of those who are absent and it is full of fear of a distressing solitude.

Morgan's work is tensely waiting for the other; it is an invitation to the encounter which alone can stop time, subordinate it to space, reconcile travel and intimacy. Social thought is awakening again after two decades of structuralist sleep. Structuralism eliminated subject, proved the impossibility and non-existence of action; denunciation replaced hope. Morgan works exactly when, at the end of this long winter, the ice breaks, when movement, desire, words, hope and fear appear again; when we take control of time and space, categories of action.

Morgan creates, after Baudelaire, a new Invitation au Voyage. After a long time of confinement in a meaningless universe she rediscovers with us seas, dreams, absent loves. Her works are full of anxiety and confidence. They are a clear and gentle call for friendship and closeness. Her consciousness is constantly awake, not to protect itself with principles and certainties, but to locate on the high seas, from the end of the pier, the ship which brings into port the face of an unknown brother.

Paris, France 1987