Locks.  How did the word for “a mechanism for keeping a door, lid, etc., fastened, typically operated by a particular key or combination” ever come to mean the same thing as the word for “a piece of a person’s hair that coils or hangs together”????  It beats me.  The only thing I can think of is both are connected to something private.  I lock on a door protects your privacy and things that are private to you.  A lock of hair, especially when given to someone is a private, intimate gesture or touching a lock of someone’s hair can be a sensual and private moment between two people.  Touching a lock of someone’s hair behind a locked door, well…

My sometimes housemate, Jerzy gave me a book to read by the artist collective, Claire Fontaine.  It has the curious name of Some instructions for the sharing of private property.

The back cover reads as follows:
This book is a tale of seduction. It reveals how to win the resistance of closed doors that we all face each day. We can read that a lock is not a hostile obstacle to our desire but a new potential lover, whose interiority we have to see with the eyes of the soul and whose qualities and defaults we have to imagine. A world of silent dialogues between unanimated beings and humans discloses itself in these pages. Chapter after chapter, a disquieting light is shed on the triad of the artist, the consumer and the lock-picker, all belonging to the same confraternity of bilingual creatures, fearless explorers of the deserts of reification, able to communicate with and through objects.

Smelling, touching, listening are to be learnt again by the ones who might want to succeed in lock-picking, and if they do – they are warned – they shouldn’t think “I made it” but wonder “what exactly happened?”. Because the point isn’t why resistance leaves the place to openness, but how that happens.

There is a science of quality that defies logic, it rules the domain of the love conquest whose champion is Don Giovanni, restless wrecker of moral boundaries and petty bourgeois common sense, moved by the mere pleasure of adding another name to his list. There is a use value that ruins all exchange value. And there is an accumulation of competence that threatens all other possible accumulation.

If this manual contains information, it must be said that it can only be used in the way one would follow directions for spiritual exercises. Never think about yourself and never think about the lock: ego gets in the way of lock-picking as much as it does for any Zen practice. Visualizing the invisible, evaluating the con-sequences of the least of our gestures, reaching a state of concentrated relaxation are parts of the process, whose unspoken aim is becoming something between flesh and metal – like Odradek is both a bobbin and a begging creature, but he is neither of them.

Some instructions for the sharing of private property is a story of asceticism told by various anonymous voices. Because the morality of the lock-picker resembles the one of the fidèles d’amour: there are many easy ways to break into places, but picking a lock is the more virtuous one. Cultivating this virtuosity involves sensing the world more intensely, sanding one’s fingertips until each grain of sand paper can be distinctly felt, making oneself as rigid and cold as a key until perfectly understanding what every clicking noise means, being aware of the infinite states that exist between closed and open, all to be inhabited and influenced.

Lock-pickers belong to a clandestine congregation, which has the means to enter our houses and our hearts, but here a choice is presented to us: becoming one of them or taking closed doors for an answer.

Claire Fontaine, March 2011

My favorite passage in the book is:

Economics are always a controlling factor where physical security is concerned. Economics affords us with material possessions. Sometimes for economic reasons, other people want to relieve us of those possessions.  For economic reasons manufacturers provide us with devices to protect our possessions. Lock manufacturers make locks for one basic reason – to make money for the owner or the stockholders of the company. Fighting crime is nice but it is so much nicer to make money while doing it.

Let us not forget, we all need to make money.

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