Posted by: glue | July 6, 2011

Be the Polo

Playing Chora

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”).

Posted by: glue | July 1, 2011

Playing the Gap

Chora (Measure)

The Real is immanent.  It neither conceals or reveals but intimates.  It (Es) is t/here in everything we do.  We celebrate fundamental ontology every day. We live it without (necessity of) knowing.  It is given There is (es gibt, il y a) a hole, primordial gap.  Is the gap chaos brought into order, or a clearing opened in plenitude?  Both and neither, or rather a dynamic breathing, rhythm (ruthmos).  Chora names this dynamic disclosive withdrawal, whose organizing virtue is experienced in one of its purest forms in any sport involving the configuration of hole, ball, pole, strike (stroke, throw, gesture).  The strike zone in baseball is prototypical, manifesting the templum marked in air, in imagination, around it appearing the region of the game entire, field drawn out as choros (the dance floor at Knossos designed by Daedalus), the rules and the umpire adjudicating the event, the players, fans, the institution, the way of life ramifying out into culture and society.

Posted by: glue | June 22, 2011


The Turn

 A story in the news this week, about an Emperor Penguin, a youth who made a wrong turn while chasing dinner, and ended up in New Zealand, rather than in Antarctica with his mates. He is only the second penguin to come to Zealand on record.  That this story made it into international news shows the virtue of empathy that is an important capacity of imagination. It is not difficult, even if only glimpsing the poignant photograph of the penguin alone on a vast beach, to identify with the scene as a figure of something felt, an isolation, the alienation of the modern human condition.  Aby Warburg developed empathy as an art historical methodology, using it to understand how the humanists and artists of Renaissance Florence selected and updated the monuments of Antiquity.  Modernist literature is defined by the poetics of epiphany, anticipated by Romanticism’s negative capability in the English poetics, the prototype set by Baudelaire’s correspondences, to Eliot’s objective correlative, and various other versions.  Existential phenomenology applies a philosophical version of the poets’ “worldinnerspace” (Rilke), with intentionality naming the operations of ontology, as in Sartre’s being-for-itself intending a material being-in-itself.  It is Merleau-Ponty’s chiasmus, the intertwining of outside-inside:  the human inner world of invisible spirit is constructed through engagement with an external material circumstance.

Flash Reason develops this natural capacity for identification into a mode of inquiry.  The Avatar effect of consultation is mediated through just such an effect, augmented into a filter for global information.  It is important to note in the first place that the quality of the feeling available in the scene is not arbitrary, but derives from the features of the situation immediately legible through the common experience of embodiment (to be isolated, alone in a strange land, a singular figure upright in a vast and forbidding landscape).  The natural qualities are enhanced by cultural anthropomorphisms, in part through the tradition of animal fables, enhanced by the recent popular documentary, March of the Penguins.  A fact intensified for identification in the life of the Emperor Penguins is that they mate and produce offspring in the perpetual night of Antarctic winter.  Love finds a way, as the commentators observed.

Instructions:  reading strategy (scan the news for potential fables).

Posted by: glue | June 16, 2011



Antonio Damasio’s inquiry into the human capacity to recognize one’s own being in features of the external world is a scientific (neuroaesthetics) account of a fundamental principle of art.  One prominent example is Van Gogh’s self-portrait as chair.

In 1888 Vincent van Gogh painted Van Gogh’s Chair as one of two unusual portraits depicting himself and his friend Paul Gauguin. For his own portrait, van Gogh used one of the twelve simple chairs he had purchased when he furnished the Yellow House. His pipe and a pouch of tobacco on the rush seat and the box of onions that bears his name serve as rustic attributes that contrast to the more elegant items he chose to represent Paul Gauguin. The predominant hue in Van Gogh’s Chair is yellow, which van Gogh now regarded as his signature color.

Van Gogh knew English as well as French, which adds a possible motivation to a legitimate puncept in any case:  “chair” is “flesh” in French, opening a conductive link with Merleau-Ponty’s image ontology.  The compositional device involves anthropomorphism (assigning human qualities to an object in this case).  The full effect is better appreciated when “Gauguin as chair” is included for comparison.

Gauguin as Chair


Posted by: glue | April 30, 2011

Puente Trajan @ Alcantara

Pontem perpetui mansurum in saecula

How does memory serve (1966)?  Waking in the olive grove covered with flowers dropped during the night occupied the scene entirely.  When I finally searched for the site online, the few images featured an enormous bridge, built by the Romans around 106CE on the orders of the Emperor Trajan.  The ceremonial arch (forming a gate) bears the inscription in Latin: “I have built a bridge which will last forever”.  I remembered at once our hike to the river Tagus, rolling up our jeans to wade in the heat of the afternoon.  Standing 233 feet high, the spans towered over us.  Looking up, we saw several people watching from the bridge.  How could I have forgotten about this bridge?  Any reading of the Spanish memory as allegory today (Moment, Time) must take into account this bridge, whose very scale shouts next to the orchard (look at me!).

Sartre said “knowledge” is the bridge between consciousness (Being-For-Itself) and world (Being-In-Itself).  Could my decision have been that simple?  Kant proposed “imagination” as the bridge between Pure and Practical Reason (aesthetic judgment, taste).  Freud’s shorthand for primary process (conductive) associations in his patients was the “rat bridge” (the Rat Man case).  Find the bridge, or make one? Is that the instruction?

Posted by: glue | March 26, 2011

Quale Morphics


Merleau-Ponty is not the only one to use Bachelard’s Water and Dreams as a relay for developing element as a replacement for “substance” in an image metaphysics.  Sartre (M-P’s one-time friend and collaborator) takes Bachelard’s psychoanalysis of things as a point of departure for summarizing his own existential psychoanalysis, in the final section of Being and Nothingness.  In the context of flash reason, we may consider this enormous  text (798 pps in the edition I have) to be a philosophical analysis of the implications of the epiphany dramatized in the novel Nausea.  Sitting on a park bench, the protagonist receives the event of Being, of Dasein (there is, es gibt, il y a) recognized in a tree root.  The material quality (and “quality” is the operant term) associated with the root is viscosity, stickiness.  The term used in B&N is visqueux, and the translator notes his choice of “slimy” could just as well have been “sticky.”  Sartre’s phenomenology is on display here, in his claim that such qualia are ontological, constituting objective revelations of what is there, of being-in-itself.  Being-for-itself (consciousness, the cogito) becomes what it is, self-aware of its own project, its passion, its direction, its intention within a situation, through the appropriation of qualia.  It is the effect of extimacy, of poetic correspondences central to flash reason.

The evidentiary effect for me is augmented by the conductive dimension of the relationship between the theory and its example in Sartre’s argument.  It begins with the fact that Sartre’s ontology is grounded in taste, literally, using one’s preferences in flavors to note the axis of attraction-repulsion (pleasure-pain), the aesthetic axis, constituting the measure.  The claim is not that being-in-itself has the same feeling for everyone, but that Sartre’s first-person undergoing of Being occcurred through his repugnance for stickiness.  The relevance of this argument for me is not only scholarly (the elaboration of another instance of the categorial potential of “element”), but because one of the primary examples Sartre gives of a viscous substance is “pitch,” or pine tar.  “A [viscous] substance like pitch is an aberrant fluid” (774).  An implicit link between Nausea and B&N is the fact that pine tar is usually produced through the processing of pine tree roots and stumps.  The term “gluey” (my signature) even appears in one description of this metaphysical element.

The instructions for flash reason become clear in the context of consulting (the EmerAgency).  The Accident of the Superfund site in Gainesville (Cabot Koppers) that is the test case for my experiment, involves precisely pine tar (pitch), produced at the Koppers site since 1911, for the treatment of wood.  Paul Virilio advises us to treat the Accidents in our consultations as a sign, expressing the intersection of literate metaphysics with the emergent ontology of technics:  the Accident is an intersection of culture and technics, revealing an electrate measure of the Real.  The instruction is to look in your event, the field of the accident, for the quality of the material you recognize.  The conductive vortex in my experiment joined the Koppers pine tar with Sartre’s ontology, but the instruction is “identify your quality.”  This quality is the sign, or rather, the intimation.  It is not sent, but received by the addressee.  This logic of quale morphics (arts equivalent to quantum mechanics) is under construction.

Posted by: glue | March 10, 2011


Categorial Imaginary

Opening the thread of element, to probe Merleau-Ponty’s “Flesh,” derived from Cezanne and other modernist painters, as a way into image metaphysics.  M-P offered “element” to do for recorded images what “category” did for written words.  M-P picked up the usage from Gaston Bachelard, who in turn refunctioned the principles of ancient natural history as archetypes animating poetic reverie.  Plato’s chora is evoked, as the space sorting chaos into the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water).  Alchemy, astrology, psychology of humours, and the Neo-Platonic and hermetic traditions come with this association.

The advantage of appropriating this obsolete history for metaphysical invention is clear, since it allows our project of flash reason to learn from a rich heritage of imaging, extracting the categorial practices from the particular source domains.  M-P’s move was anticipated by psychoanalysis, not only in Jung’s archetypes, but more importantly in the appropriation by Freud and Lacan of the entire Neo-Platonic humanist archive, including the tropology of rhetoric, repurposed as the discourse of the Unconscious.

The purpose of this thread is to take up M-P’s suggestion, by separating “element” from its entanglement with literate metaphysics, to use it as a relay for learning a manner of information organization native to imaging.  Flash reason is not science, but a rhetoric for deliberative reason in dromosphere.  Image mysteries are obsolete as physics, but still relevant as interface operations

Posted by: glue | January 22, 2011



In his most recent book (Self Come to Mind), the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio discusses the human capacity to recognize one’s  own being in features of the external world (natural and cultural things, events, works).  The world offers us a mirror in which to track the turns of our identity.  He offers an example of his own experience of this capacity.

It is an object that has helped him construct, interpret, ponder and crystallize his identity, or at least his idea of it. It came to him in the early 1970s, when he was in medical school at the University of Lisbon. The sculpture, made by a woman he had just begun dating (a fellow neuroscience student and a sculptor named Hanna Costa), is a little terra-cotta figure of a man seeming to fight his way forward in a storm. And it all but cried out to Dr. Damasio with a mysterious urgency.

“Somehow I felt that it was me, or belonged to me,” he recalled. “Even though she had done it before we met.”

The doctor was even more convinced that it was a sculpture of his favorite boyhood hero: Tintin, the boyish blond reporter and detective whose comic-book adventures, written by Georges Remi (a k a Hergé) from the 1930s to the early 1980s, delighted generations of European children. Dr. Damasio was one of them, having found endless inspiration in Tintin’s feats of derring-do and the restlessly inquisitive mind that dispatched mystery after mystery with faultlessly astute reasoning and a killer right punch.

In a review of Damasio’s book, Ned Block pointed to one significant area of disagreement, not with Damasio’s example, but with how the capacity  is interpreted.  It reflects not so much “self-consciousness” as “phenomenal” consciousness, related to Merleau-Ponty’s “flesh.”

But there is also a different kind, as anyone who knows what it is like to have a headache, taste chocolate or see red can attest. Self-consciousness is a sophisticated and perhaps uniquely human cognitive achievement. Phenomenal consciousness by contrast — what it is like to experience — is something we share with many animals. A person who is drunk or delirious or dreaming can be excruciatingly conscious without being wakeful, self-aware or aware of his surroundings. (Block)

For the purposes of flash reason this disagreement is beside the point.  It is important rather to mark this capacity as precisely the capacity augmented in the electrate apparatus, whose skill set is flash reason managing dromosphere information sprawl.  The funtion of measure in image metaphysics is this event of recognition (belonging to me).  Avatar is activated from the side of the mirror (the interface, N Life):  It recognizes me.  I am the orchid, avatar the wasp (here is the lesson of rhizome).

Posted by: glue | November 14, 2010


Merleau-Ponty’s ontology is an important resource for flash reason.  M-P (like Heidegger) recognized that the logic of a new metaphysics was invented within modernist arts, especially (in the case of M-P) Cezanne’s painting and Proust’s novel.  Just as “Being” is an effect of  and happens only within alphabetic writing, so too is “Flesh” (M-P’s ontological category) an effect of thought’s encounter with imaging.

Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire (watercolor)

Graphic design is the grammar and syntax of this mode of articulating “wild” or brute nature of embodied experience.  In the context of electracy, for operating the interface-databases of a digital apparatus, phenomenology and deconstruction (experience and language) are allies.  Nature proper may not be a forest of symbols, but MUVE’s (multi-user-virtual-environments) are or should be.  The immediate interest for flash reason is M-P’s retrieval of the term “element” to replace “substance” in discussing ontological flesh.

The flesh is not matter, is not mind, is not substance. To designate it, we should need the old term “element,” in the sense it was used to speak of water, air, earth, and fire, that is, in the sense of a general thing, midway between the spatio-temporal individual  and the idea, a sort of incarnate principle that brings a style of being wherever there is a fragment of being. The flesh is in this sense an “element” of Being.  Not a fact or a sum of facts, and yet adherent to location and to the now.  For if there is flesh, that is if the hidden face of the cube radiates forth somethwere as well as does the fact I have under my eyes, and coexists with it, and if I who see the cube also belong to the visible, I am visible from elsewhere, and if I and the cube are together caught up in one same “element,” this cohesion, this visibility by principle prevails over every momentary discordance [Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Intertwining — The Chiasm,” in The Visible and the Invisible).

This updating of “element” suggests the appropriateness of locating the categorial potential of a disaster in its distribution of elements.  Water (a ratio of Water and Earth) is the element organizing the Cabot-Koppers Superfund catastrophe in my figure.  More work needs to be done  to gather the resources of those who share M-P’s interest in this possibility:  Bachelard, Greimas, the Surrealists, to name a few.

Posted by: glue | October 3, 2010

Augmented Conscience

Limit (die Grenze)

Hannah Arendt’s project to rewrite Kant’s three Critiques for a twentieth-century public sphere is a relay for avatar.  The proposed functionality addresses the condition of experience that Arendt stated with the greatest clarity and authority:  “Whatever the source of moral knowledge might be — divine commandments or human reason — every sane man, it was assumed, carried within himself a voice that tells him what is right and what is wrong, and this regardless of the law of the land and regardless of the voices of his fellowmen” (Arendt, “Some Questions of Moral Philosophy”).  Socrates understood this voice as his daimonion, and Kant formulated it as the categorical imperative.  Arendt’s point is that this assumption has been refuted by contemporary history, in which the Camps and Bomb constitute emblems for the possibility that human conduct could eradicate not only Justice, but Life itself.  Kant believed, she reminded us, that a world without Justice was not worth saving in any case.  Kant’s measure was self-respect, a pre-electrate stand.  The proposal of avatar is to design a practice, within the electrate prosthesis, that returns this voice (daimonion) to human experience.  Online citizens by means of avatar undergo the event of measure, of limit.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »