TPE: Emblem, Wabi-Sabi

The Expanded Image. Hypermedia students composed an image of wide scope in four steps, extended over a semester: 1) Family Memory, read John Briggs, Fire in the Crucible, on the wide image; 2) Entertainment narrative, read Zinsser, Worlds of Childhood; 3) Community History, read Momaday, Rainy Mountain; 4) Emblem, read Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. Japanese enjoys a rich vocabulary of aesthetic terms, with Wabi-Sabi one of the most important. Introducing this book to students (which they invariably liked), I asserted that it was the best single book on the poetics of “image” that I had ever read. There were certain books I introduced with some fanfare, using hyperbole as a substitute for experience, to overcome the insecurity of thinking that while Koren’s book was good, there must be other books that were better somewhere else. University of Florida is rated as a “good bargain,” since it has one of the lowest tuitions of any AAU school: $6500 a year. My introduction claimed that this book was as true at UF for $6500 as it was true at Stanford for $45,000. Helen Cixous’s Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, I continued, is true for $6500. At Stanford for $45,000 there is no fourth step. Similarly Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium, still lacks the sixth memo (the lecture series one short at Calvino’s death) at Stanford, as it is at UF. The motivation for the hyperbole and performative framing was part of introducing students to theopraxesis, the three capabilities received from Avatar, that Koren made explicit in his exposition of Japanese traditional culture and aesthetics.

–How an Image becomes Wide. Koren demonstrates how a detail of the world is selected as a vehicle for a poetic image: for example, a worn shingle on an old hut, with a streak of rust descending from an iron nail. The tenor (theme) of this vehicle is coded in Japanese traditional culture, relative to the wisdom metaphysics of Buddhism, to express an existential insight into time and entropy known as wabi-sabi.  “Wabi-Sabi can be called a ‘comprehensive’ aesthetic system. Its world view, or universe, is self-referential. It provides an integrated approach to the ultimate nature of existence (metaphysics), sacred knowledge (spirituality), emotional well-being (state of mind), behavior (morality), and the look and feel of things (materiality)” (Koren, 41). The instruction was not to seek Wabi-Sabi in one’s own experience, but the equivalent, the mood and atmosphere, to find one’s personal version of what was modeled in Japanese tradition. The folk traditions of Blues into Jazz in global Creole syncretism (mufarse into tango, saudade into samba) is central to the thymotic and erotic dimension of world materialized in digital electracy. Koren’s analysis demonstrates how to expand the two-part vehicle and tenor of image into a six-part inventory. Students generated their emblems productive of wide image by answer six questions posed by Koren: three for vehicle; three for tenor. The three questions addressing tenor (themata) are the same three articulated in the catechism of modernism, directing theopraxesis. One implication, to be developed further, is that the system of capabilities is not confined to the Western Tradition, but functions globally across cultures and civilizations.

–Poetics: Image expanded into Emblem. The expanded image consists of two registers: material; metaphysical. Working with the narratives generated in composition of mystory, students must commit to one pedagogical object (magic tool), some detail found in at least one of the diegesis of the popcycle, to serve as logo or brand icon for the wide image. In Ulmer’s case (Noon Star), the repeating detail (like the dogs repeating in Momaday’s section III) was a five-pointed star: Family memory (the red star on his sheet music of the march, Garry Owen; Entertainment mythology (the film High Noon, Gary Cooper as Will Kane, discarding his sheriff’s star in the dirt after the gun fight); Community history (“General” Custer’s badge of rank, and Indian name, Son of the Morning Star). The three material questions are: 1) what is the prop/ icon? Ulmer chose the tin star sheriff’s badge to represent this materiality. 2) What are its attributes? (what mood or atmosphere is expressed that distinguishes this icon from its archetype, configuring it specifically for me. The context of High Noon star thrown in the dirt expresses rejection and disgust with the  hypocritical authority symbolized in the badge. 3) Archetype: what is the conventional meaning associated with this icon in the archive? (the five-pointed star has an extensive presence throughout many cultures).

2018-07-30T00:51:55+00:00 July 30th, 2018|Categories: Assignments, Device, Theopraxesis, Tutorials, Wide Image|Tags: , , |

TPE: Emblem, Haiku Reason

Haiku Reason. Spring Break of 1980 I went to Europe and met Joseph Beuys in Düsseldorf and Jacques Derrida in Paris, protagonists of Applied Grammatology (1985).  The other adopted mentor I wanted to meet, Roland Barthes (inspiration for Teletheory, 1989), was fatally injured in an accident just a few days before I arrived in Paris. On the strength of reading Barthes’s Camera Lucida, published late in his career, in which he theorized image logic by analogy with Japanese haiku poetry, I based my introduction to image thinking in Internet Invention on haiku reason (synonymous with reasoneon). What I didn’t know was that at the time of his accident Barthes had just completed a seminar in which the fall semester was devoted entirely to haiku poetry as a foundation for thinking about imaging in general: The Preparation of the Novel, English, translation published 2011. We will return to late Barthes, whose A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, is a relay for mystory (in Teletheory). Japonisme in any case played a major role in the invention of modernism in France, a symptom of the syncretism underway throughout the colonial period forming a hybrid of Western and Eastern civilizations, with artists creating the cyberpidgin language made necessary by the trade routes opened by the corporation, the new institution of electracy (East India Company, 1600). In this context, Barthes’s example motivated a closer look at Japonisme in particular and Eastern resources in general.

Haiku Prose

Roland Barthes’ Empire of Signs not only gives a theory and description of Japan as a haiku civilizatin, each entry (“sign”) is composed using Barthes’ own version of haiku poetics. This style is neither definition nor description in the Western sense of these terms, but “pure designation.” Barthes’ signs are not exactly brief, but they are closely observed “impressions,” staying in the moment, focused on the material signifying details of some feature of the physical world. This style is an excellent relay, useful for prose documentation of the exhibits in each discourse of your mystory. For example,

Pachinko
Pachinko is a slot machine. At the counter you buy a little stock of what look like ball bearings; then, in front of the machine (a kind of vertical panel), with one hand you stuff each ball into a hole, while with the other, by turning a flipper, you propel the ball through a series of baffles; if your initial dispatch is just right (neither too strong nor too weak), the propelled ball releases a rain of more balls, which fall into your hand, and you have only to start over again — unless you choose to exchange your winnings for an absurd reward (a candy bar, an orange, a pack of cigarettes). Pachinko parlors are extremely numerous, and always full of a varied clientele (young people, women, students in black tunics, middle-aged men in business suits). It is said that pachinko turnovers are equal (or even superior) to those of all the department stores in Japan (which is certainly saying a good deal)

You need to use prose in each installment of your widesite, as well as graphics. I have used Empire of Signs in my courses as an analogy (it has a hypermedia feel). What Barthes does for the world (“diegesis”) of “Japan” you should do (at least to a degree) for the diegesis of the worlds of your Family memories, Entertainment work, and Community History.

2018-07-30T02:00:02+00:00 July 29th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|

TPE: Emblem 3, Readymade

Readymade: Found Emblems. Modernist experimental vanguard arts invented the operating practices (logic) of electracy– collage montage, cut and paste, creating meaning through appropriation and arrangements drawn from the archive of popular and commercial media circulating ubiquitously in the recording technologies invented as part of the industrial revolution. Konsult extends this formal practice (Dadaism, bachelor machine) into education and pedagogy. Egents designing wide images may learn from the likes of Marcel Duchamp how to author and design with image apps.

–Fable: What resources are available for inquiry and expression in the conditions after Nietzsche, the history of an error, after the simultaneous withdrawal of the true world and the apparent world along with  it?  The time is noon (the  shortest shadow).  What remains is fable, Nietzsche said.  What are the possibilities of fable as genre?  Duchamp improvised one approach, perhaps not even yet fully appreciated. His Readymades are fables, albeit weak (faible) fables, in that they provide the illustrations only (the emblems, impresas).  He intimated his variation on the mode with his most notorious instance, whose title “Fountain” translates “La Fontaine,” antonomasia between common and proper noun, evoking the name of the author of many fables in the common “fountain,” itself a euphemistic title for a urinal.  Ulmer’s collage of the urinal with a cover of La Fontaine’s book make the joke explicit. Duchamp’s commitment to the punning bachelor machine logic central to modernism is well known.  He acknowledged his attendance at a performance of a stage adaptation of Raymond Roussel’s 1910 novel Impressions of Africa as a turning point in his career (Roussel’s method of composition used generative puns).  It has been suggested that some of the Readymades at least are comments on dreams described in Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, hence that they use rebus methods (visualizations evoking words).  Freud noted, for example, that many dreams are triggered when sleepers experience the need to urinate (the dream allows sleep to continue briefly). The text of the fabled fountain is provided by its history, being as it is the most influential (if not the “best”) art work of the twentieth century, including its status as a prank, and all the manipulations Duchamp performed to put the image of La Fontaine into circulation, recorded in Thierry De Duve’s Kant After Duchamp.  What is the moral of the readymade fable?

____________

–Martin Kippenberger, “Rameau’s Nephew,” 1988

A few minor changes and some careful wallpapering are quite enough to lend a mundane and utilitarian item a touch of sophisticated polish or at least a bit of homely comfort. The result of these efforts arouses ambivalent feelings of embarrassment and admiration. The beautiful wallpaper heightens the esthetic ineptitude of the box to the point of unbearable bleakness and yet a conciliatory glow seems to emanate from the depths of its decoratively enhanced ineptitude. The man in the wallpaper obviously has no such ambivalent qualms; he only wants to to eat (his noodles?) in peace. Perhaps he mirrors the imperturbability that Martin Kippenberger highlights in his art as a means of reconciling us with the ubiquity of embarrassing banality.

According to literary history, Rameau’s nephew was a Bohemian without character but not without talent, who was plunged into misery upon the death of his wife and children. Diderot’s novel of the same name depicts him as a cynical parasite and a brilliant failure, in short, a paradoxical protagonist beyond good and evil.

Patrick Frey, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should not be silent,” in Parkett. 19 (1989). Observe in Kippenberger’s example the enigma created in what he called the interval–the art of Readymade composition is to create an interval between a title (functioning as motto) and an image or object; in this case between the evocative “Rameau’s Nephew,” and a packing box lined with wall paper. The instruction from the artists is not “look how beautiful,” but “everyone an artist” (literally the motto of Joseph Beuys).

2018-07-29T18:58:12+00:00 July 29th, 2018|Categories: Assignments, Device, Terms, Theopraxesis, Tutorials|Tags: , , , , , , |

TPE: Emblem 2

ICONOLOGY. Learning to capture the identifying gesture and attributes of the wide image in an emblem has as relay an ancient tradition.

This pictorial tradition can be traced back to an engraving by Marc Antonio. It shows an almost naked woman of Giorgionesque type watering a flower. This enigmatic motif can be explained with the help of the literary tradition. It is a symbol of “Grammatica.” As the plant grows through watering so the young mind is formed through the study of grammar. In late antiquity grammar became the foundation of the liberal arts.
Rudolf Wittkower, Allegory and the Migration of Symbols, Thames and Hudson, 1977.Wittkower inventories some of the related features associated with Grammar in her allegorical representations: “an old woman carrying a vessel which is supposed to contain medicine for correcting the children’s pronunciation and a knife for sharpening their defective tongues. She also holds a file, with which the grammatical mistakes can be removed.” Ultimately, the watering of the flower became the chief motif of the allegory.

_________

–Artist Appropriations.With the renewed interest in allegory associated with postmodernism, contemporary artists have brought photography to bear on the tradition of iconology, as in this work.

“The Tears of Concupiscence”
from the series Imprese by Olivier Richon
Other Than Itself: Writing Photography Eds. John X. Berger and Olivier Richon, Cornerhouse Publications, 1989.

How would you picture “ardent, sensuous longing” (lust)?

–From the Archive:

Here is one example of an emblem, taken from Geffrey Whitney’s Choice of Emblemes, published in Leiden by Christopher Plantin in 1586. It is the first full-fledged English emblem book in the continental style, and uses woodblocks from a number of other emblem books, the most important of which is Alciato’s Emblematum liber. (www.mun.ca/alciato/wcomm.html)


Dissidia inter aequales, pessima
(Disputes among equals are the worst)

The Swallowe swifte, dothe beare unto her neste
The Grasshopper, that did no daunger feare,
For that shee thought, the lov'de togeather beste,
Bycause they both, observ'de one time of yeare,
  And bothe, did joye theire jarring notes to sounde,
  And neare the house they bothe, theire dwellings founde.

Yet time, and tune, and neighbourhood forgotte,
For perfect frende, a tyrant shee became,
Which taxeth those, whome God dothe heare allotte
Like gifts of grace, to winne a lasting name,
  Yet Envie soe theire vertues doth deface,
  It makes them foes, to them theie should imbrace.
2018-07-29T19:01:34+00:00 July 29th, 2018|Categories: Art, Tutorials, Wide Image|Tags: , , , |

Theopraxesis: Emblem

Catechism: Wide Image. The catechism of modernism (drawing on the Western Tradition) is articulated in Kant’s philosophy and Gauguin’s painting. The answers to the questions are specific to each person, and are generated during the composition of the wide image. Several posts are required to unfold this poetics, by means of which egents learn to actualize in their own projects the intelligence potential (latent) in the cultural archive. This archive in its global version functions for electracy the way Avatar functioned for orality: source of absolute knowledge (the project of Avatar Emergency was learning to receive this communication of Avatar). One of the first things that happens in transition from one apparatus to another is the mise en machine of the previous apparatus. As McLuhan observed, the content of the new medium is the old medium (literacy put oral mythologies into writing; electracy digitized the libraries). The remainder of the apparatus epoch is devoted to invention and diffusion throughout society of the new metaphysics (operating practices).

–Emblem. The translation of mystory into wide image is mediated by emblematics. The emblem (having the same structure as a generic advertisement), considering its historical relationship with allegory, expresses in condensed form the image of wide scope ( sinthome, Lacan) that emerges in the making of a mystory (it embodies the pattern of signifiers that repeat when the makers situation is mapped across the popcycle). Studio and Textshop exercises explore the form, including its history from its introduction in the Renaissance through to contemporary advertising. An advantage of the form is just this combination of archival presence and pop familiarity. Ulmer designed this emblem based on his mystory: Motto is “pithy,” aphoristic, allusive, to produce an evocative connotation when combined with the picture. The epigraph is informational, clarifying what is suggested in the motto-picture juxtaposition.

–Advertisement.The Marlboro Cowboy
In 1954 Philip Morris Corporation sought an advertising agency to design a campaign that would allow men to smoke a filtered cigarette in public without embarrassment. Leo Burnett (The Burnett Agency) did some research to determine the most “virile” male image in American culture, which not surprisingly turned out to be the “cowboy.”

2018-07-29T18:09:54+00:00 July 29th, 2018|Categories: Design, Device, Overview, Theopraxesis, Tutorials, Wide Image|Tags: , , |

Theopraxesis: Apparatus

Apparatus Orientation. Gauguin’s visualized catechism exemplifies the orientation (EPS) organizing the Western Tradition. The table on the left charts the isotopic alignments of Capabilities across the microcosm/macrocosm, individual and collective registers. The Western Tradition in our heuretic curriculum is configured to make explicit this system of relationships among the virtues and the popcycle. The theme takes many forms, one of which is the legend of the Golden Apple Paris awarded to Aphrodite in the context with Athena and Hera regarding which power was most desirable. The three goddesses represent the three virtues: Athena (Wisdom and War); Hera (Social and Political Power); Aphrodite (Sexuality and Fertility). Plato addressed the relationship among these powers in the Republic, advising a hierarchy of Head (Rulers), Heart (Guardians), Viscera (Workers), in that order. Education of the individual begins with Aphrodite (sexual desire, appetites), and follows the power of attraction upwards through the virtues to Hera’s realm of social custom, and finally on th Athena’s wisdom, knowledge of the Forms (Ideas) themselves: Beauty as such.

–Kant’s Critiques retrieve Aristotle’s Theoria, Praxis, Poiesis, Circumscribing the limits of each Capability: Pure Reason, Practical Reason, Judgment of Taste, with the Third Critique constituting an innovation that marks the beginning of Electracy–the promotion of the faculty of imagination (poiesis, aesthetics) to equal status with the other two faculties, which up to that point it did not have. Kant proposed his own version of the catechism, relative to these three powers: What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope?  This system informed Alan Kay’s design of computer interface when he worked at Xerox Park. Navigation of information space should engage all three of the virtues (theopraxesis in our terms). The three inputs: Keyboard (Symbol, highest order conceptual, linguistic) = Athena; Mouse (enactive doing) = Hera; Windows (image, icon) = Aphrodite.

–Nested levels (mise en abyme): The table helps clarify that, however dispersed our exposition may become, this system configuration is consistently present, governing the transformation from potential to actual.

  • Collective: Apparatus–Paleo, Oral, Literate, Electrate
  • Collective: Popcycle Institution–Family, Church, School, Corporation
  • Individual: Capability–Language, Will, Thought, Imagination
  • Individual: Theopraxesis (Mystory Wide Image generate hypothesis from disposition)
  • Meta: Mandala, Game, Engine, Drive [not yet discussed]
2018-07-28T17:15:19+00:00 July 28th, 2018|Categories: Capability, Orientation, Overview, Theopraxesis|Tags: , |

Theopraxesis: Gauguin

Capability.  As these posts accumulate across an expanding set of categories, it is important to recall the focus of KE. Konsult learns the writing of the disaster in three dimensions: heuretics (invention), wide image (mystory), theopraxesis (capability). So far we have assumed some disaster addresses us, and devoted our attention to the heuretics of mystory, learning how to design an image of wide scope, source of our original hypothesis responding to disaster. Konsult takes up for electracy an ancient, even primordial drama: the striving to persist in one’s own being (to live), that Spinoza called Conatus, against the Overwhelming force of resistance, entropy, death. Heidegger characterized the drama as Riss, exploiting as was his craft German vocabulary, finding a term that means both Rift (split, break) and design (drawing). The drama of living derives from an irreducible opposition between Earth and World (nature and culture). Konsult is rift design (an assertion that must be developed elsewhere), taking up this enigmatic primordial experience of resistance encountered through living. Norbert Weiner, one of the inventors of cybernetics, defined life simply as anything that was negentropic, whether man or machine. We need to include in the drift of our posts a review of human capabilities, virtues, powers, the potentiality of egents which through education is realized in the service of well-being, thriving, living against disaster.

–Gauguin in Tahiti. An important part of KE is advisory to colleagues experimenting with transitions from literacy to electracy, adapting alphabetic curriculum and pedagogy to digital metaphysics. Posts up to now have referenced various canonical figures practicing the poetics of popcycle, mystory, wide image. The basic proposal for transition into electracy is just to reframe the curriculum within heuretics, to engage with it (following the advice of Roland Barthes)  not in terms of what it means, but how it was made. This is the fundamental lesson of the avant-garde arts, relative to the new purpose of electracy which is not to communicate a meaning (literacy does that), but to access a visceral memory that otherwise remains inchoate. The practical point is that the entire curriculum manifests a continuous engagement with the three fundamental capabilities, intellectual virtues, human faculties, first defined by the Classical Greeks (Aristotle). These are the negentropic faculties or powers that are potential in every person, beginning in a state of impotence, with the mission of education being actualization of world.

–The Three Questions. Gauguin, for example. Literate schooling studies the likes of Gauguin, Momaday, Sebald, Heidegger. The heuretic frame shifts the role of these exemplars to relay: egents are positioned not as students observing from the outside some body of information, but as receivers of a tradition (tradition is Avatar, konsult is Gita (Song) by means of which egent receives the totality of what tradition knows). Let Gauguin’s masterpiece serve as emblem for a catechism fundamental to the Western tradition (Hal Foster in Prosthetic Gods proposed that this work represented the catechism of Modernism). The title consists of three questions: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? These questions anchor our fundamental theme: orientation, and how it is modalized in electracy. The work must be placed in its situation, since the implicit question always is: what is that for me? Gauguin’s state of mind in Tahiti in 1897 was despair, disillusionment exacerbated by debt and illness (the primitive paradise he had imagined disappeared a hundred years before he arrived). Gauguin decided on suicide, but wanted first to paint a testament. The scene of this wall-sized tableau is a narrative, developing from right to left, the movement representing the vector of life and death (Derrida’s trace).

The upper corner chrome yellow (like damaged fresco). To the right below sleeping baby three seated women, two figures dressed in purple confide their thoughts. Enormous crouching figure (intentionally violated perspective) raises its arm and looks in astonishment at these two people who dare to think of their destiny. A figure in the center is picking fruit. Two cats near a child. A white goat. An idol, both arms rhythmically raised seem to indicate the Beyond. A crouching girl seems to listen to the idol and lastly an old woman approaching death appears reconciled to her thoughts. She completes the story. At her feet a strange white bird holing a lizard in its claws, represents a futility of words. The setting is  the bank of a stream in the woods. In the background the ocean, and beyond, the mountains of a neighbboring island. In spite of changes of tone, the landscape is blue and veronese green from one end to the other. The naked figures stand out against it in bold orange. If anyone said to the students competing for the Rome Prize at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the picture you must paint is to represent Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? what would they do?  (Paul Gauguin, in a letter).

Yes, that question is addressed to us, egents of the EmerAgency.

2018-07-28T15:28:22+00:00 July 27th, 2018|Categories: Art, Capability, Orientation, Theopraxesis|Tags: , , , |

MYSTORY: N. Scott Momaday

The Way to Rainy Mountain. Son of a White mother and Kiowa father, Momaday was raised on a reservation. His novel House Made of Dawn won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969. His autobiographical The Way to Rainy Mountain was assigned as relay modeling the micro form and overall structuring by means of signifiers repeating across levels of the popcycle. Rainy Mountain juxtaposes Kiowa myths Momaday learned from his grandmother; the actual history of the Kiowa symbolized in the myths; his personal recollections of his childhood on the reservation. The text manifests identification (with his grandmother Aho and his grandfather Mammedaty); the use of pattern (the unity of each section is created by the repetition of a detail within the exposition across the three discourses); the use of setting to express feeling (the memories of scenes from the reservation). Most important is the location of Momaday’s memories of childhood in the context of the traditional stories and actual history of his Community (Kiowa), thus bringing the three levels of his symbolic experience into contact–personal, historical, mythical (entertainment fictions in a modern point of view). The book is a collection of thirty-four three-paragraph units (plus introduction and epilogue) illustrated with drawings by Momaday’s father. Unit 3 is cited as example: the popcycle sequence is always the same: Mythology; History; Memory.

III

Before there were horses the Kiowas had need of dogs. That was a long time ago when dogs could talk. There was a man who lived alone; he had been thrown away, and he made his camp here and there on the high ground. Now it was dangerous to be alone, for there were enemies all around. The man spent his arrows hunting food. He had one arrow left, and he shot a bear; but the bear was only wounded and it ran away The man wondered what to do. Then a dog came up to him and said that many enemies were coming; they were close by and all around. The man could think of no way to save himself. But the dog said: “You know, I have puppies. They are young and weak and they have nothing to eat. If you will take care of my puppies, I will show you how to get away.” The dog led the man here and there, around and around, and they came to safety.

A hundred years ago the Comanche Ten Bears remarked upon the great number of horses which the Kiowas owned. “When we first knew you, he said, “you  had nothing but dogs and sleds.” It was so; the dog is primordial. Perhaps it was dreamed into being. The principal warrior society of the Kiowas was the Ka-itsenko, “Real Dogs,” and it was made up of ten men only, the en most brave. Each of these men wore a long ceremonial sash and carried a sacred arrow. In times of battle he must by means of this arrow impale the end of his sash to the earth and stand his ground to the death. Tradition has it that the founder of the Ka-itsenko had a dream in which he saw a band of warriors,, outfitted after the fashion of the society, being led by a dog. The dog sang the song of the Ka-itsenko, then said to the dreamer: “You are a dog; make the noise like a dog and sing a dog song.”

There were always dogs about my grandmother’s house. Some of them were nameless and lived a life of their own. They belonged there in a sense that the word “ownership” does not include. The old people paid them scarcely any attention, but they should have been sad, I think, to see them go.

Each numbered section is unified around one “pedagogical object”: arrow, spider, horse, hunting and the like. The importance of Mammedaty in this world is documented in unit XXI, in which Mammedaty appears in all three of the popcycle levels. The Disaster governing this world is that of the reservation itself, the destruction of the Kiowa people.

2018-07-27T14:57:57+00:00 July 27th, 2018|Categories: Device, Draw, EPS, Mystory, Narrative, Popcycle|Tags: , |

MYSTORY: Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak is best known for his Caldecott Medal winning illustrated children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are (1963), made into a film by Spike Jonze. Given the importance of childhood experience and how it is remembered to the Wide Image, Ulmer often included in the Hypermedia course a book of short essays by authors of children’s books on the art and craft of writing for children: Worlds of Childhood, edited by William Zinsser. (1998). Sendak’s essay, “Visitors from My Boyhood,” is organized as a mystory, addressing each of the popcycle slots in order to explain the source of his poetics, which suggests there is something intuitive or inherent in the popcycle as a matrix of imagination. Two other features recommending Sendak’s craft as relay for an Exercise is that his stories were rarely more than 300 words (the length of one micro fiction, the narrative  building-block of mystory documentation), and the drawings did not merely illustrate the words but developed the diegesis of the world in their own terms. Students used Sendak’s essay as a relay: making an inventory of his popcycle; extracting a template of examples for each slot; finding equivalents in their own experience.

–Family (Personal): Composition of mystory usually begins with a memory from early childhood, life with the family. Up to three such memories are allowed, to avoid getting stuck deciding on one that is most important (that dilemma if it arises is resolved when the remaining slots are filled, following the rule what resembles assembles). Sendak proposed two memories: the first was one of his earliest, an encounter with one of the pedagogical objects Pasolini mentioned, a book his older sister received from her book club. The book was very thick with a hardcover of pale green with gold lettering. Although not yet able to read, Sendak was fascinated with the book and demanded to have it, creating so much commotion the parents made his sister give it to him. When he finally returned it to his sister it was in bad shape, including suffering from being licked all over.

–Entertainment (Mythology): The popcycle premise is that identity is configured through identifications with people, places, and things during formative years: just as one has a capacity (potentiality) for language in general, with one’s native language depending on the chance of birth; similarly one has a capacity for imagination, and one’s native imagination (wide image) is formed within uniquely particular circumstances (visceral learning). A shortcut to determine which identifications took is just introspection: what remains in memory? Writer’s are good relay resources modeling these shaping identifications of which they necessarily become aware in learning their craft. For Sendak the memory was of The Wizard of Oz, and one scene in particular that he said “stole into my life in 1939 and has been flooding my work continually ever since.”

I was eleven when I saw the movie, and I remember it vividly because of how intensely in frightened me. The moment I am talking about is the one when Dorothy is trapped by the Wicked Witch of the West, and the witch takes an hourglass and turns it over and says something horrible like, “When the sand runs out, you’re dead, honey.” Judy Garland is left alone in the room, and one of her best moments ever was her way of saying, “I’m frightened,” and then, as though that realization has just actually dawned on her, says it a second time, “I’m frightened.” I still remember how her hand went to her head–the way she had of fluttering her hand, her desperation was so convincing. There was no way out of that room, nothing she could do. And suddenly, in the witch’s crystal ball, she sees her Auntie Em, back in Kansas, standing in the yard and calling to her. And she rushes to the crystal ball, and stands over it and screams, “Auntie Em! Here I am!”

–Community (History). Family and Entertainment memories are personal and convincing because they “belong to me.” The assumption of the History slot in the popcycle is that identity is formed within a social habitus, which is a major source of education (interpellation) received uncritically and internalized. To access this level of distracted education students first must decide with which Community they identify. Not everyone grows up in a home town. Community could also be an ethnic group, religion, race, military branch, nation. Whichever Community chosen, the story told must be one the Community tells about itself (what the Community remembers). Many students actually knew very little about their communities, so that some research was required. A shortcut was just to recall street names, festivals, memorials, school names and the like, to make a short-list. At that point some personal connection may help the selection. Sendak’s relay is somewhat awry, in that he did have a strong emotional association with his History event (as did James Joyce with the history of Parnell). The particular contribution of the History story is register a Value important to the Community. The Event documented by Sendak was the story of the Lindbergh baby.

The major event of my childhood was the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932. That nightmare was probably the origin of my conviction that children can’t be shielded from frightening truths. Although I was only three, I remember intensely the details of the Lindbergh case. Lindbergh was our Prince Charles, and his wife was our Princess Di. I particularly remember a newspaper that had the front-page headline LINDBERGH BABY FOUND DEAD and a photograph of a scene in the woods with a black arrow pointing to something awful. I’ve since learned that Colonel Lindbergh threatened to sue if the New York Daily News didn’t have the morning edition pulled off the newsstands, so I guess not many people saw the  picture.  But I saw the picture.

The first phase of composition is to document each of these scenes (in your own popcycle): use micro fiction form, three micros (900 words) for each register, focusing on the diegesis of the event. The goal is to capture and annotate details of the scene, since wide images emerge in patterns of repeating signifiers.

2018-07-26T21:54:27+00:00 July 26th, 2018|Categories: Assignments, Design, Mystory, Popcycle, Tutorials, Wide Image|Tags: |

Gest 5: Visceral Fallacies

Conduction (the fourth inference) is visceral. The image logic (reasoneon) we are developing as Gest suffers fallacies just as does the reasoning of abduction, deduction, and induction. Physiognomic inference operates in the type-casting of cinema, exploiting the same emblematics as racism, as in Nazi propaganda. This danger is a reminder that electrate rhetoric articulates the visceral dimension of intelligence (racists are physically repulsed by miscegenation, for example). This effect of concrete logic should not be denied or euphemized, but addressed as a resource in understanding the thymotic force operating in personal and public discourse.

The existence of polysemous meaning has been noted throughout history–the repetition of patterns, the isotopies relating the different registers of the semiosphere (Lotman). Learning how to read these patterns is part of theopraxesis, since in the condition of the General Accident (that happens everywhere simultaneously [Virillio]) judgment and decision must be capable of registering macrocosm from details. That recognition of patterns does not dictate interpretation directly, to which may be added the Casandra effect. One of the better known examples of anticipation of disaster is the novel Futility, or The Wreck of the Titan, the 1898 novel by Morgan Robertson that foretold (in retrospect) the sinking of the Titanic (1912).


There is a pattern of imagery forming currently between the Zombie Apocalypse genre, and documentary scenes of migrants and refugees fleeing Syria and the Middle East attempting to gain asylum in the EU. The most immediate isotopy is triggered by the refugees walking from Hungary to the Austrian border. The trigger word is “Hungary” (Hungry). The zombie motif is a symptom, meaning that it expresses an Unconscious attitude manifested under repression or denial (those who engage in zombie play deny insist it is all in good fun). The “horror” theme of Night of the Living Dead evokes attraction/repulsion (fundamental reality of electracy). Richard Slotkin in his three-volume study of the myth of the Frontier in America reported on how the massacre of George Armstrong Custer at the Little Bighorn in 1876 was used by conservative powers in the East to fan fear by associating the swarming Indians with the rising tide of freed slaves and immigrants.

Recent reports show that Syria was destabilized in part by the effects of climate change on the region (drought). Many reports indicate that many millions of people will be displaced by these conditions globally. The present crisis is advanced warning of what is to come on a much larger scale. What policy response is in keeping with the imperative of well-being against disaster? The Zombie scenario warns of total war. Philosophers such as Jacques Derrida urge the self-described impossibility of Hospitality. It is important to note that left theory long ago identified our horror motifs as icons and emblems of life under Capitalism. Politics in any case concerns the just allocation of finite resources. The General Accident of climate change demands a holistic response.

2018-07-25T22:26:15+00:00 July 25th, 2018|Categories: Disaster, Intuition, News, Terms, Visceral|Tags: , |