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  • The Visual Diaries of Joaquim Paiva:128 Diaries Project
  • Sergio da Silva Barcellos

In an essay about the body inscribed in the personal diary, I developed the notion of a diary as an extension of the diarist's body (Barcellos, "O Corpo"). This assertion was provoked by Michel Foucault's reflection upon "self-writing" in Antiquity, more specifically by his explanation of the letter as a means of creating "presence." Foucault argues that

[t]o write is thus to "show oneself," to project oneself into view, to make one's own face appear in the other's presence. And by this, it should be understood that the letter is both a gaze that one focuses on the addressee (through the missive he receives, he feels looked at) and a way of offering oneself to his gaze by what one tells him about oneself. In a sense, the letter sets up a face-to-face meeting.


This concept of the "face-to-face" meeting can be applied to the relationship between diary and diarist, since the diary is a repository of immediate impressions of life experiences. Moreover, the reenactment of pleasures and pains in the diary creates strong ties between the diarist and his/her writing practice. According to Emmanuel Levinas's concept of hospitality, the subject is morally compelled to accept the stranger or the other within his/her personal space. French theorist Alain Montandon unfolds Levinas's concept of the subject as a host (hôte) into the idea of self-hospitality (auto-hospitalité) by arguing that the term

refers to this phenomenon which is the reception, the reception of oneself, of oneself as another, which presupposes this founding distance of subjectivity as self-consciousness […] If hôte designates the one who hosts and the one which is hosted, the subject is obviously defined by what it is not him or her. The subject is, thus, self-consciousness of both himself or herself and the hosted one. This relationship with oneself as another opens the perspective of the otherness.

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Montandon sees the writing of the self as a way of objectification of the subject that, in this relation to oneself as another, recollects and reunites the self through writing. The argument I proposed in the aforementioned essay was that the diary can be regarded as a body that is formed alongside the body of the diarist. I wrote of

[a] body that is nothing like an avatar or a clone. This body would have its own life, laws, and rules distinctive from those applied to the physical body. If the diary is another body, a replicated body of the diarist, how can physical pain and pleasure be represented through writing? The gathering of bodily experiences through verbal and visual signs is a possible way not only to represent but also to give life to this second body.


It is in this sense of "the gathering of bodily experiences through verbal and visual signs" that Joaquim Paiva's 128 Diaries Project can be understood as a proper and more complete example of a diary as a second body.

I first met Joaquim Paiva in 2009 after publishing an article about diaries in the culture section of the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. Paiva wrote to me and invited me to meet him and to view his diaries. Back then, I had seen only a few examples of visual diaries, Frida Kahlo's being the one I remember now, but nothing like this almost literal "second body" of Paiva. We spent several hours discussing the future of his diaries, of whether they should be donated to an archive or an art museum. If any original manuscript or rare document is subject to concern about its fragility, Paiva's diaries were twice a concern. They are, in a sense, a less textual material and therefore have less of a possibility of being transcribed and published into book form without losing their essence. They also carry the stigma of the art object, the "Do not touch!" admonition blinking in bright lights.

Sixteen years ago, Paiva, who is a diplomat, photographer, and art collector, was stationed in Buenos Aires...


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