Walking along a high cliff path, you are gripped by a terrifying urge to leap. As an express train hurtles into view, you itch to fling yourself in front of it.
People talk of a fear of heights, but in truth anxieties about precipices are often less to do with falling than with the horrifying compulsion to jump. The French have a name for this unnerving impulse: l’appel du vide, “the call of the void.”
As Jean-Paul Sartre recognized, l’appel du vide creates the shaky sensation that even our own instincts are not always to be trusted.
Blue Corvidae, MFA in Visual Studies + MA in Critical Studies Candidate ‘25