john paul ricco is author of The Logic of the Lure (2002) and The Decision between Us: Art and Ethics in the Time of Scenes (2014). He is currently completing two book projects: The Intimacy of the Outside and The Collective Afterlife of Things. He is associate professor of contemporary art, visual culture, and comparative literature at the University of Toronto, where he leads a research working group on sex, ethics, and publics.
Centered on The Andrew Project (2010–13) by artist Shaan Syed, this article is a theoretical meditation on the politics and ethics of the name, drawing, the portrait, anonymity, and the signature, as these bear on a shared sense of loss and its impossible commemoration. I invoke the figure of the urban stranger and passerby to argue for an aesthetics and ethics of social anonymity that does not rely on or demand identification and that thereby remains open to the risk, surprise, and pleasure of shared existence. In doing so, I theorize intimacy as that which remains unnameable in the “commerce” of our everyday lives.