A recently recovered photo from the family album, circa 1949, Mandan, ND, the “Schmoon” porch (back porch of the house on the hill, scene of several mystorical incidents). The window of the back door!
This self-portrait was painted in 1966, upon my return from Spain. It remained in Miles City, in a closet, until my mother left her home in Miles City, to move to Stevensville, MT, near Missoula, to be near my sister. When we cleaned out the house in Miles City, the few paintings from those years were shipped to Florida. Recovered from a closet recently, they document something of the feeling of that episode and paradigm: youth far from equilibrium.
If you are patient, the world provides a relay that you recognize as your own (what belongs to me): enowning. What is it like to write poetry, or even to attempt authentic communication? What is the feeling (the felt)? What is the motivation? Here is the figure: a desire; the elephant Koshik. Separated, living in isolation, Koshik learned how to imitate the sounds made by the only other living creatures it knew — its Korean keepers.
The elephant’s vocabulary consists of exactly five words, researchers report on November 1 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. Those include “annyong” (“hello”), “anja” (“sit down”), “aniya” (“no”), “nuo” (“lie down”), and “choah” (“good”). Ultimately, Koshik’s language skills may provide important insights into the biology and evolution of complex vocal learning, an ability that is critical for human speech and music, the researchers say.
“Human speech basically has two important aspects, pitch and timbre,” says Angela Stoeger of the University of Vienna. “Intriguingly, the elephant Koshik is capable of matching both pitch and timbre patterns: he accurately imitates human formants as well as the voice pitch of his trainers. This is remarkable considering the huge size, the long vocal tract, and other anatomical differences between an elephant and a human.”
The fact that Koshik talks pales compared with how he talks. When humans make an o sound, they pull in their cheeks and pout their lips out into a rounded circle. Elephants don’t have that cheek-lip structure—they long ago traded it in for trunks—so it’s anatomically impossible to make those sounds.
Koshik sidesteps this problem by sticking the tip of his trunk into his mouth and moving his lower jaw, essentially MacGyvering his vocal tract.
“He really developed a new way of sound production,” Stoeger said. “Naturally, Asian elephants don’t do this.”
Continuing inventory of relays for mystory and wide image: W. G. Sebald, After Nature. Most of Sebald’s works manifest some aspects of mystory: parallel stories juxtaposing an autobiographical tale with accounts based on biographies of figures drawn from other popcycle discourses. After Nature collects three “poems” (in translation they read like prose poems): on the 16th-c painter Grunewald, creator of the Isenheim Altarpiece; the 19th-c botanist Georg Steller who participated in Vitus Bering’s polar expedition; an autobiographical text. The mystorical Moment is expressed in this passage:
I grew up, despite the dreadful course of events elsewhere, on the northern edge of the Alps, so it seems to me now, without any idea of destruction. But the habit of often falling down in the street and often sitting with bandaged hands by the open window between the potted fuchsias, waiting for the pain to subside and for hours doing nothing but looking out, early on induced me to imagine a silent catastrophe that occurs almost unperceived. What I thought up at the time, while gazing down into the herb garden in which the nuns under their white starched hoods moved so slowly between the beds as though a moment ago they had still been caterillars, this I have never gotten over (AN, 89).
Markus Zisselsberger identifies this passage as marking the event of crossing a threshold into an imagination of disaster, a world of destruction and catastrophe that informs Sebald’s stand, his art project, or, in electrate terms, his wide image. Part of the interest in our context is the resonance with Blanchot’s Writing of the Disaster, specifically Blanchot’s epiphany, which also involves a childhood vision through a window, experienced as a revelation of catastrophe. In the term “catastrophe” in both cases we hear the meaning of “threshold” codified by Rene Thom’s topology.
Context for those working with mystory, choragraphy, and related electrate practices. Antonio Damasio, in Self Come to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, uses as “the best example” of how mirror neurons function, the way an actor inhabits a role (imitation of gesture, posture, stance, tone, movement produce specific emotions and feelings). The capacity of the brain to map one’s own body also extends to an experience of other bodies.
This bit of neuroscience confirms the utility of the CATTt used in Heuretics (1994) to generate a poetics of choragraphy. The Analogy in that experiment was Method Acting in general, and the work of Gary Cooper in particular (the selection of example motivated by Ulmer’s mystory). This Method is developed in Internet Invention (2003) with reference to impersonation (Elvis impersonators, for example), for guidance in a semiotics of imitation capable of writing Felt.
This connection may be useful in providing rationale in classroom, administrative, or grant contexts.
For those teaching mystory in whatever version, making use of the popcycle discourses (Family, Entertainment, Community, Career), it might be useful to note its resonance with the tradition (whether or not this context adds value). Revised for the popcycle informing Murphy’s Well-Being (collaboration with the FRE konsult addressing the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site), the popcycle categories are: Testimonial, Mythology, History, Philosophy. These descriptors resonate with the terms of the Ancient quarrel concerning which of the discourses is closest to Truth: Literature, History, Philosophy. Students of literature used to encounter this question when required to read Sir Philip Sidney.
The Apology distinguishes poetry from both history and philosophy. History, according to Sidney, narrates what was, but it cannot say anything much about what should be because its most successful characters are so frequently villains. To use history as moral guide, everyone would act like Julius Caesar and seize the government. On the other hand, philosophy can say what is right, but its generalized language is dull and inconsequential. Poetry takes a middle ground between the specific and the general. It constructs images that—while not historically true—elevate the mind and promote admirable conduct. The “golden” world created in the “wit” of poets can translate into a more glorious world to live in.
The purpose of mystory, as an electrate pedagogy, is to compose (and think) in all three discourses simlutaneously, and in relation to personal perception and memory (Family Testimonial).
Meanwhile, it is amusing to note the meme Sir Philip Sidney Is Not Amused.
A basic genre blend, or hybrid, relevant to flash reason, including mystory, is the fotem. There is nothing original in the composition or poetics of a fotem: image + text, a relationship between seeing and saying. The definition is: a modified image (of any sort: photograph, drawing, found document…) + text. The text may be in the image or only the title (as in this case). An important study of this mode is Michel Foucault, This is not a pipe.
This fotem consists of the modified photograph + title (“Sorry, No Reward”). The term is a portmanteau, photograph + poem, modified spelling (foto-gram), resonance with “totem” (alluding to Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind). Fotemry, fotemic, fotetics.
The drips were not original with Pollock.“Max Ernst [the great painter who was a husband for a while of Peggy Guggenheim], thought Pollock had stolen it from him, and, as [William] Rubin has detailed, poured paintings by a host of major and minor atists associated with Surrealism could claim priority….In any event, the plethora of possible sources makes any one of them less critical, and the particular ways Pollock used fluid paint – the orchestrations of quanitities, speeds, rhythms, and densities that constitute everything in his expression – look like nothing second-hand.”
Pollock was known to have urinated on some his works and Varnedoe notes that Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, Pollock biographers, “amassing anecdotal evidence that Pollock was prone to make an issue of urination, argue that the drip method essentially formalized what would be called in vernacular a ‘pissing contest’ with the memory of his father, LeRoy, who had shown his young son how to draw designs in urine on a rock.”
Although reviewers of the biography tend to dismiss this association between Pollock’s childhood memory and his stylistic innovation as an artist, it is entirely in keeping with the phenomenon of the image of wide scope used by Gerald Holton in his study of the lives of scientists. John Briggs in Fire in the Crucible (a study of creativity) collects a multitude of examples from the lives of the most productively creative people, demonstrating a connection between a vivid childhood experience and the imaginative innovation in the person’s career endeavor. It is always interesting to come across another instance of the phenomenon.
When Peter Eisenman asked Jacques Derrida for a design idea (to be constructed as a folly in the Paris Parc de la Villette), Derrida proposed chora. Chora alludes to trace, and we are approaching it now through the phenomenon of game, as part of the heuretics of avatar. The function of avatar is consultation, and our purpose is to design an Internet practice bringing to bear contemporary wisdom on individual and collective decision making (electrate prudence). The method is grammatological, discovering first what tradition knows about image metaphysics.
We noted previously that a relay for understanding and experiencing how chora functions as measure to organize region as activity is to observe or (better) to participate in any game of stick-ball. The historical prototype is polo, invented in Ancient Persia. The sacred dimension of this game as ritual provided an allegory of life: you are the ball, the club is chance, the goal is destiny, god is the player (not you, you are not the player but the object in play). The word “polo” means “ball,” derived from Tibetan “pulu.” This allegory was made most explicit (in Paul Huson’s account) in The Ball and the Polo Stick, a fifteenth-century Sufi account, by Arifi of Herat, of ecstatic, self-sacrificing love. Huson notes that the allegory is invoked also in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (eleventh-century Sufi poet and astronomer) to figure human helplessness before god.
The added value in our context is that the emblems representing the four elements making possible polo play (ball, stick, hole or goal, and stroke) are the historical basis for the four suits of playing cards, most importantly the four suits of the minor arcana of the Tarot (pentacles, wands, cups, swords). Tarot (along with the I Ching) is a major precursor for the Ka-Ching (electrate wisdom game) by means of which one encounters avatar. Ka-Ching is a search engine not for information, but for wisdom. The task is secularization and updating of these traditional image metaphysics, to do for electrate civilization what the oracles did for pre-modern cultures.
[See Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot]
(This context made me think of Bobby Bare’s “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life”).