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Objects being singled out: le ballon rouge

Being oriented to objects - to the point of singling out one among all the others. In Le Ballon Rouge (Albert Lamorisse, 1956), a kid pets a balloon and the balloon responds by following the kid - that ends up being known by the balloons as a balloon-protector. The force of singling out is such that the object is ascribed with an integrity - the balloon together with its string composes a body capable to preserve its integrity and to be challenged. The film upgrades balloons to a status of a being that cares for their borders, and who's life could be chosen against all other objects. These objects are brought to the realm of politics because they receive singled out ethical attention. When other kids capture the balloon to destroy it, they attach a second string to it - this string is the string of capture, not part of the balloon's body. It is not animated like the first one - it is external to the body of the balloon and holds it. Ethical attention, like an alliance, determines the borders of the object. Singling out cannot be general and indiscriminate because a world where everything is singled out is undifferentiated, it is a world of white ethical blindness. A world requires indifference. Singling out means being indifferent to the background around. What is not object of attention is object of disattention. Something has to be a mere object for another object to be the focus of an effort of orientation.

The short film is not about orientation towards objects, but rather of orientation towards balloons. Balloons could be treated like pets or fellow humans - and become such (for us). But this is not like a state of flat ethical attention where everything is equally important. The very idea of such a re-enchantment of the world would require rethinking or rejecting the idea of importance - and of singling out. It would be attention itself that would have to be challenged.


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