In order to give a sense of the way entities relate to each other in Hassan’s work, we have to think in terms of the loopholes in existence. These loopholes are not part of defining causes, overriding reasons, fundamental bases or prime movers. Rather they are small, subreptitious openings that permit an observation of the lives disrupted by the forces of diaspora and exile. They can only be associated with process, with “the radical `unforgiveness’ of experience, with its openness and energy.”
The Boutros’ landscape that Hassan projects through these loopholes, is one of hope and despair, politics and soldiers, life and death, children and tomorrows. Confronted with it we find ourselves full of questions. What is the geography we are experiencing alongside Boutros’ journey? Where is this Hassan/Boutros subject located? In Canada or in Lebanon? In fiction or in reality? In life or in art? These questions do not need to be answered. Instead, the point of experiencing Hassan’s project is to hover above the rational world of given certainties, and enter into the realm of creative imagination, compassion and dialogue that ultimately leads to a relational view of space and time, a different geography already foreseen by Bakhtin where the perspectival view merges into a more general relational view of space and time:
Strictly speaking, geography knows no far or near, here or there…. And history, likewise, knows no past, present, and future…. The time of history is itself nonreversible, of course, but within it all relations are fortuitous and relative (and reversible) for there is no absolute center of value (of the kind provided by the situatedness of the individual subject).
It is therefore in such a liminal, undefined space-time proposed by Bakhtin, that the inner connections of a person’s constituent elements, can be brought about by the unity of answerability. In other words, Bakhtin responds to the questions posed above by suggesting that we – the spectators/creators of Boutros – take responsibility for our own creative act – even in the face of uncertainty, even when we stand at the verge of the threshold. A threshold where ethics and aesthetics cannot have a simple interpretation, for “value is not only conditional on the relation between the `I’ and the `other’ in space and time; it also changes according to social practices and social/power relations.”
In his essay “Art and Answerability,” Bakhtin stresses the relation of art to lived experience, to the existence of other persons, and to the complexities of responsibility in the area of discourse as well as in the area of ethics. As if she were following this idea, Hassan has literally effected the union of art and life, by incorporating the Boutros project into her own biography. At the same time, the project implies a commitment to the existence of the other, an existence whose meaning is not lost. “For nothing is absolutely dead,” remarks Bakhtin, “every meaning will someday have its homecoming festival.” (16)
Hassan’s attitude thus shares a common trait with Bakhtin’s own reflection, when he writes:
Our most immediate task is to examine those plastic-pictorial, spatial values which are transgradient to the hero’s consciousness and his world, transgradient to his cognitive-ethical stance in the world, and which consummate him from outside, from another’s consciousness of him – the consciousness of the author/contemplator.
This consciousness of the author/contemplator with its “ethical stance in the world,” is necessarily the opposite of art that removes itself from the social, and becomes a pleasing “pastiche,” as in certain versions of postmodernism. Following dialogism’s course of thought Hassan’s aesthetic “other” becomes also the social and the political on the moral and aesthetic grounds of answerability, that predicates relationships much greater than the dichotomy of self and society.