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Primal Scene: Curriculum

Mystory Curriculum. Mystory may be hermeneutic as well as heuretic, that is, it may be used to organize the curriculum, as part of a transition from literacy to electracy. It is persuasive in any case to find the image of wide scope as a structural principle operating in the arts. Examples of works across media manifesting wide images are assigned in a DH curriculum as exemplars and relays guiding egents in the design of their own wide images.

–Blade Runner 2049. A recent example is the Blade Runner sequel, the organizing role played by childhood memories in simulating human identity for replicants. The sequel narrative is motivated by the protagonist’s investigation of the memory of a carved wooden horse. This motif alludes formally and intertextually to the Orson Welles film, Citizen Kane-– the simulated documentary investigation into the enigma of Kane’s identity, his deathbed statement, “Rosebud.” The audience learns that “Rosebud” is the name of Kane’s sled, metonym of his childhood happiness. A konsult curriculum studies these works at several levels, to understand the relationship of lived experience to formal design.

–Intertext. The seminar reads or screens the works mentioned here, analyzing how early memories function in both formal and thematic terms. Citizen Kane, often cited as the best American film ever made, is structured around a journalist’s attempt to solve the mystery of the dying Kane’s last word, “Rosebud.” The audience learns in the final scene that “Rosebud” is the name of Kane’s childhood sled, emblematic of his moment of happiness, in the genre of Proust’s madeleine, whose taste triggered a recollection of happiness whose source it was the goal of the novel to discover. The carved horse, the sled, are vehicles whose tenor the fictional works dramatize, to form hypothetical wide images.

–Murakami. Another example is 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, one of whose characters (Tengo) is driven by an early childhood memory. “Murakami’s other protagonist, a writer and math tutor named Tengo, begins 1Q84 in something of an epileptic fit. These attacks strike regularly, we learn (and come to witness), triggered by the bubbling up to consciousness of Tengo’s first memory, witnessed from the crib: ‘His mother had taken off her blouse and dropped the shoulder strap of her white slip to let a man who was not his father suck on her breasts.’ Duly unrepressed, the memory paralyzes his limbs, cuts off his breathing, and occasions the novel’s single most eyebrow-raising sentence: ‘The tsunami’s liquid wall swallowed him whole.'”

–Leonardo da Vinci. Sigmund Freud’s biographical study of Leonardo featured the one early memory Leonardo recorded in his journals. “It seems that it had been destined before that I should occupy myself so thoroughly with the vulture, for it comes to my mind as a very early memory, when I was still in the cradle, a vulture came down to me, he opened my mouth with his tail and struck me a few times with his tail against my lips.” We will return to these examples later. The point for now is just to note childhood early memories as an important motif in literature, cinema, philosophy, as resource for our heuretic curriculum. Such works are assigned, discussed, interpreted, for their own sake, but also as relays, poetics for design of egent wide images.

2018-08-14T01:14:40+00:00 August 13th, 2018|Categories: Assignments, Curriculum, Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , |

Gest 3 (Family)

Family gesture: Nancy Kitchel provides a relay for how to locate mood or atmosphere in a local and family setting.

“Covering My Face: My Grandmother’s Gestures,” 1973 

How a particular Midwestern storytelling tradition resembles the landscape. How my aunt or my mother can tell a story in such a way that the peaks (of violence) are cut off and the low points are filled up (with details, with emphasis), until the whole is perfectly flat and contains the violence.

This family gesture may be linked with the iconic gestures found in religious art and contemporary entertainment media.

Gestures and Icons. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, Dorothea Lange, 1936

Nancy Kitchel’s “grandmother’s gesture” may be seen as a series of variations on a gesture of worry and anxiety codified in this photograph taken by Dorothea Lange as part of a New Deal project to document the misery of migrant workers, sponsored by the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. “Migrant Mother” is one of the most-cited pictorial images of our times.

A repetition of gestures of this sort opens a conductive inference path between (in this case) Family and History. If Kitchel were doing our assignment this gesture would justify a search in documentation of “the Great Depression” to find a metaphor to express the mood of her Family circumstances.

–Landscape Gest (Outer Scene = State of Mind). Kitchel provides another example of Existential Disaster (cosmic glimpse), inclulding visionary Whiteness.

“Last White (Interior Landscape)”, 1975

This idea I have that the whole inside of my head resembles this landscape (flat? nothing there?), that the particular, peculiar sense of great space, isolation in space, harshness, clarity, severity, the constant transitions, shifts, reveries, the wild swings form one state to another, forms the visual, auditory, reasoning, base for thought or action. A sense that I have been formed out of the quality of the landscape, that everything unnecessary is being slowly eroded by harsher elements. And the confidence that I will survive, denuded, or that something will survive, something will never stop.” 

Nancy Wilson Kitchel, “Visible and Invisible” Individuals: Post-Movement Art in America
Ed. Alan Sondheim

2018-07-25T21:52:55+00:00 July 25th, 2018|Categories: Assignments, Design, Device, EPS, Memory, Photography, Tutorials, Visceral|Tags: , |

Existential Disaster: Pasolini

White transparent blind. The Italian auteurist film director and semiotician, Pasolini, outlined a theory of education that is electrate, with its emphasis on the formative importance of early childhood, (the Paleo) as foundation for the other popcycle educations. Before parents, school, or television, Pasolini insists, your educative sources “are dumb, material, objective, inert, merely present. And yet they have their own language which you, like your companions, can decipher extremely well. I am speaking of objects, of things, of the physical reality that surrounds  you.” Pasolini’s education is of the same sort Blanchot associated with the writing of the disaster (the existential epiphany of his childhood window). The wide image comes out of such conditions, relevant also to the phenomenon of transitional objects interfacing inner/outer experience in a child/mother interaction (object relations).

  Our first memories are visual ones. In memory life becomes a silent film. We all have in our minds an image which is the first, or one of the first, in our lives. That image is a sign, or to be exact, a linguistic sign. So if it is a linguistic sign it communicates or expresses something. I shall give you an example. The first image of my life is a white, transparent bind, which hangs–without moving, I believe–from a window which looks out on to a somewhat sad and dark lane. That blind terrifies me and fills me with anguish: not as something threatening and unpleasant but as something cosmic. In that blind the spirit of the middle-class house in Bologna where I was born is summed up and takes bodily form. Indeed the images which compete with the blind for chronological primacy are a room with an alcove (where my grandmother slept), heavy “proper” furniture, a carriage in the street which I wanted to climb into. These images are less painful than that of the blind, yet in them too there is concentrated that element of the cosmic which constitutes the petty bourgeois spirit of the world into which I was born. But if in the objects and things the images which have remained firmly in my memory (like those of an indelible dream) there is precipitated and concentrated the whole world of “memories,” which is recalled by those images in a single instant– if,  that is to say, those object and those things are containers in which is stored a universe which I can extract and look at, then, at the same time, these objects and things are also something other than a container. . . . So their communication was  essentially instructional. They taught me where I had been born, in what world I lived, and above all how to think about my birth and my life. Since it was a question of an unarticulated, fixed and incontrovertible pedagogic discourse, it could not be other–as we say today–than authoritarian and repressive. What that blind said to me and taught me did not admit (and does not admit) of rejoinders. No dialogue was possible or admissible with it, nor any act of self-education. That is why I believed that the whole world was the world which that blind taught me: that is to say, I thought that the whole world was “proper,” idealistic, sad and skeptical, a little vulgar–in short, petty bourgeois. (Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lutheran Letters, trans. Stuart Hood. Carcanet Press: New York, 1987).

As may be inferred from the accumulating citations and references to Holton, Blanchot, Pasolini, Proust, and numerous examples of early childhood memories grounding the popcycle, the original aspect of konsult pedagogy is to recover, retrieve, this early education. By the time egents reach the age of five they have earned their visceral Ph.D.

2018-07-23T13:41:46+00:00 July 23rd, 2018|Categories: Disaster, Intuition, Memory, Mystory, Orientation, Tutorials, Visceral, Wide Image|Tags: , , |


Here is Existential Positioning (EPS) in experience.  How common is it to have an intuition of mortality during childhood? It is as if each person has to realize for him/herself individually what the sages codified in Ancient philosophy as ataraxy. Ataraxy is a state of mind in which the sage, realizing that s/he has no control over external events, decides to reduce her/his own desires. This ascetic view is associated with the stance that “philosophy is learning how to die.” Paradoxically, it may seem, philosophers insist that the realization that everyone dies is liberating. Since death is inevitable, why get so excited over one’s successes and failures in life? Of course, various response to this intuition are possible, such as carpe diem (seize the day).

The following piece is Ulmer’s pastiche of Blanchot’s epiphany. Pastiche is a useful form for mystory in which one’s own location within the discourses of the popcycle is mapped. Ulmer imitated Blanchot’s style and form, but substituted his own experience event. Exercise: compose your own primal scene as a pastiche of Blanchot’s epiphanic memory.

  A primal scene? The boy is eleven, starting seventh grade. His father explains that it is time to learn the value of work. He has arranged a job for his son with a friend whose name is Cutting and who owns a sheet metal shop. Every Saturday the boy rides his bicycle across town to Cutting’s Sheet Metal. The employees are done for the week at noon on Saturday. He has to arrive by noon so the boss can lock up, leaving the boy inside (he is too young to be trusted with a key). The job is to clean the shop — sweep the floor, gather up the tools and align them neatly in their designated places on the work benches, collect the remnants and clippings of the metal sheets scattered everywhere. It takes most of the afternoon to finish the chores. The shop is a cavernous open warehouse, with rows of heavy tables, the walls lined with shelves stacked to the distant ceiling with equipment, tools, metals. It is quiet, the stillness of dust motes swirling in the beams of sunlight filtered through the few windows high up near the roof, carving vectors through deep shadow. The sunlight catches the edges of a museum of blades, a taxonomy of every snipping snap slice chop saw hack rend rip cleave nip or severing machine. Half-shaped tin objects stand in rows behind piles of hammers and modelling frames. After so many weeks and months of Saturday noons the boy begins to lose touch with his former friends and companions, who go their separate ways.

  What happens then? The light and shadow of the industrial building open all at once onto a void, a black hole and white wall of divided worlds in this little infinite town: the official world of adults (parents, teachers, coaches, ministers, scout masters) that until then had constituted reality, and the unofficial world of his peers, whose existence he had only just discovered. Two completely different systems of virtue and vice, success and failure, winning and losing, visibility and invisibility, were enforced in these realms: systems Not only different, but opposite and in conflict. What earned admiration and respect in one was inversely judged in the other. He could not have articulated the revelation so abstractly then. The unexpected aspect of this scene is the sense of abandonment, solitary isolation, that overcomes the child, a spilling out or abjection, an absolute exhaling of substance, followed soon after by the inhaled relief of knowing that it doesn’t matter, since everyone and everything dies everywhere the same death.

2018-07-22T00:42:08+00:00 July 22nd, 2018|Categories: Disaster, Intuition, Memory, Mystory, Tutorials|Tags: , , , , , , |


5) Recognition. The kind of memory specifically supported in electracy is discussed in Konsult: Theopraxesis using the example of Marcel Proust’s involuntary memory (the event of remembrance when Marcel tasted the biscuit dipped in tea). Roland Barthes referred to the punctum or sting of recognition he experienced when viewing certain photos. This event of recognition signals the operation of intuition, the intelligence accessing deep memory formed during the visceral education of disposition in childhood. This visceral orientation is not accessed directly, but informs judgments of taste (Kant), of action in prudence (phronesis), constituting the thymotic dimension of all decision. The discovery of konsult is that mystory enables theopraxesis (integrated thought-action-imagine), mise-en-machine of visceral attraction-repulsion (passional intelligence). This logic of orientation is called flash reason, conductive inference, structured in the manner of poetic epiphany, adaptive for real-time augmented smart space. We will address this rhetoric throughout KE.

–Antonio Damasio: Context for flash reason, used in the composition and design of mystory.


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).

2018-07-20T15:25:48+00:00 July 20th, 2018|Categories: Art, Design, Intuition, Memory, Mystory, Orientation, Theopraxesis, Tutorials, Visceral|Tags: , , |


4) Anecdote Form (based on Labov)

The linguist William Labov analyzed the parts of the anecdote

1) Abstract
A short (one or two sentence) summary of the story that narrators provide before reconting the story proper. It encapsulates the point of the story.

2) Orientation
Servies to identify the time, place, persons, and their activity or situation and occurs immediately before the first narrative clause. It often includes a portrait of the main character, or context for the situation.

3) Complicating Action & Resolution
These are the core of the narrative. The former begins with the first narrative clause, and the latter ends with the last such clause.

4) Evaluation
Evaluation is the means used by the narrator to indicate the point of the narrative, why it was told and what the narrator was getting at, to ward off the question “so what?”. Evaluative comments may be distributed through the entire narrative. They may be inserted as direct observations by the narrator (external), or be embedded within the story, as dialogue, descripition of gestures, intensifiers, repetitions, comparisons. Comparators may depart from the past tense, and draw upon a background beyond the immediate complicating action.

5) Resolution & Coda
These elements mark the conclusion of the complicating action. Their effect is to create a sense of completion. They may consist of just one sentence, as a tag line, or return the account to the beginning of the narrative.

The Birthday Surprise

[Abstract] Let me tell you about the day George, the hired man at the Gravel plant, surprised Walt with a birthday present.

[Orientation] There was this huge pile, a mountain, of oversize rock that came off the side of the washer. Too big for anything, unless we had a crusher, which we could not afford. They just sat there, smooth oval mottled gray stone, and piled up over the years, always with a few rock-hounds climbing over it, lookng for agates. You could get a full cubic yard, over a ton of this rock, for two dollars in those days.

[Complicating Action] One day George came back from lunch with a present for Dad, a birthday present, something he found at the drugstore. Walt opened it and there was this box and inside the box was a pet rock.

[Evaluation] The pet-rock fad was just starting. Now there was no difference between this pet rock and the rocks in the ovesize pile, except that the pet one had a face painted on it, a frown, with knitted eyebrows, like it was angry, and it was packaged in this box like a pet carrier.

[Action continued] George says, “guess what this thing cost?” and Dad said he couldn’t guess. “Two bits?” he says. “Two dollars!” says George.

[Evaluation: intensifier] Two dollars each he says.

[Action…] Dad stared at that rock, hefted it in his hand, and this look came over his face.

[Evaluation] I thought he was going to throw it.

[Resolution] And that look was a good imitation of the frown on his new pet.

[Coda] He turned to me and says, “Go put this on the oversize pile.”

(275 words)

2018-07-20T14:48:49+00:00 July 20th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Narrative, Tutorials|Tags: , , , |


The Popcycle of James Joyce

  History (School, Community): Young Joyce’s imagination was captured by the cause of Irish freedom, whose most prominent spokesman at the time was Charles Stewart Parnell, a national hero who suffered a tragic fall. “He was accused of adultery in the divorce suit of Captain O’Shea. At first it appeared that Parnell might weather this scandal, but a coalition of political enemies and devout Catholics ousted him from leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party, and the rural population of Ireland turned against their hero with savage hatred” (Litz, 1972: 20). At Parnell’s funeral crowds tore to shreds the case in which the man’s coffin had been shipped in order to have a relic. Soon he became in the Irish imagination the type of the betrayed hero (21).

Church (Religion): Joyce’s formal education took place in schools run by the Jesuit order. His mot important religious experience occurred at Belvedere College, “when he was elected Prefect of the Sodality, “that is, “head of a group of students who banded together for the purposes of devotion and mutual help.” It was his duty according to the Jesuit manual “to excel the other members of the Sodality in virtue and to observe with the greatest diligence not only the rules of his own office but also the common rules, those especially that relate to the frequentation of the sacraments, confessing his sins and receiving the Blessed Eucharist more frequently than the others, and he should take care to advance the Sodality in the way of virtue and Christian perfection, more by example even than by words (28). Although Joyce broke with the Church, as Litz observed, this stance carried over to his “view of the artist as secular priest.”

Family (Paleo): The defining problem of Home for Joyce was his ambivalence toward his father, whose chief interst in life was “jolification.” “The declining family fortune had the greatest impact on James. The inefficiency of Joyce’s father and his wasteful habits gradually undermined family finances and family solidarity. When James entered the fashionable Clongowes Wood College in 1888, his family was quite well-to-do; by the time he had reached Belvedere College, five years later, his father had been dismissed from the Rates office on a small pension. The family had now begun a long series of removals to heaper dwellings” (919).

  Career: At age eighteen Joyce published a refiew of Ibsen’s play, “When We Dead Awaken” in The Fortnightly Review. In a letter he sent to Ibsen, the student Joyce explained that while he promoted the dramatist’s work at every opportunity, he kept to himself the most important reasons for his admiration. “I did not say how what I could discern dimly of your life was my pride to see, how your battles inspired me–not the obvious material battle but those that were fought and won behind your forehead–how your willful resolution to wrest the secret from life gave me heart and how in your absolute indifference to public canons of art friends and shibboleths you walked in the light of your inward heroism” (Joyce, in Litz, 24).

Mystory: These entries constitute a preliminary survey of Joyce’s popcyle, points of identification, both positive and negative, attraction and repulsion, by which Joyce oriented himself his existence: Parnell, Christ, Joyce’s father, Ibsen: together they constitute Joyce’s inner Board of Directors (superego).Even in these brief descriptions themata are evident, perhaps summarized in the completed sentence of Ibsen’s title: “When we dead awaken, we will see that we have never lived.” The Jesuit organization for boys, the Sodality, set the highest standards piety an virtue for lay people, perhaps too high: Parnell, Joyce’s father, the characters in the play, could not live up to them.


A. Walton Litz (1972), James Joyce, revised ed. New York: Hippocrene Books.

The image is a map drawn by Nabokov of the intertwining paths of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus around Dublin recounted in the novel, Ulysses.

2018-07-20T14:15:48+00:00 July 20th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Popcycle|Tags: , , , |


 2) Memory Palace. Konsult externalizes and augments mental modeling, including cognitive mapping, the capability of proprioception fundamental to orientation in space and time. A feature of apparatus shift is called innervation (facilitation)–referring to the neurological changes associated with brain/mind adaptation to new technologies. In Phaedrus (the first discourse on method of literacy), Socrates warned his pupil, Phaedrus (who came to his tutorial session with a cheat-sheet up his sleeve of the text he was supposed to memorize) that writing would destroy his memory. Pedagogy in the epoch of manuscript technology involved two interdependent practices: composition of a commonplace book (florilegia), organized by topics (topoi), consisting of methods for generating various genres along with archives of relevant information and resources; memory palace, mnemonic training necessary for memorizing for oral delivery the sermon, lecture, speech for the given occasion. These practices continued up to (and beyond) the era of print, which did finally render memorization obsolete. Students designed and composed a memory palace beginning with fixing in memory an image of a familiar setting, such as their childhood home and environs. On this foundation and primary level, representing their cognitive map, as Kevin Lynch calls the internal model of place and space people form of their locale, students distribute at regular intervals in significant sites a series of strong images drawn from learned and popular culture (Biblical figures, monsters, acts of violence, grotesques), which in turn are associated using poetic devices with the words of the script. Here are versions of three levels of mystory: family home setting; entertainment mythology, community history or career discourse: GPS is the first level of mapping beginning with memory images of a real place, extending into Existential Positioning formed through experience of a popular culture and community history.

 –GPS/EPS. The comparable warning today is that GPS technologies are destroying our capacity for cognitive mapping. The rule is not to lament this loss (it is inevitable) but to accept it as a tradeoff for the augmented power of navigation (way-finding) in cyberspace. Orientation thus is a central concern of konsult, with mystory as a retrieval and updating of the obsoleted (McLuhan) practices of manuscript pedagogy (to be discussed in detail through KE). Orientation is augmented in electrate konsult just as reasoning is augmented in literate dialogue. Fredric Jameson observed that the alienation of modern experience was due to this loss of EPS that was enjoyed by premodern people. In the Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian syncretism organizing Western civilization up to modernity (now being modified by further syncretism via post-colonial encounters into a global hybrid), there were four levels of meaning, in an allegorical system codified by Dante relative to the Divine Comedy. Individual believers oriented themselves (Moral position) relative to the larger allegorical pattern based on the Bible: Literal level = Old Testament, Israel coming out of captivity in Egypt; Allegorical level = life of Jesus, resurrection; Moral level (the believer’s striving against sin); Anagogical level = Theological cosmology, destiny of humanity within history, salvation. Jameson calls for a new cosmology or allegorical practice relevant to contemporary metaphysics (electracy) that restores this ability to read across the micro-macrocosm gap. Mystory does precisely this by mapping one’s position within the popcycle, and putting the pattern of repetition generated via the fourfold allegorical reading into a wide image, based on egents’s contemporary world.

2018-07-19T19:21:54+00:00 July 19th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Orientation, Popcycle|Tags: , , , , |


7) Howard Gardner: Definition of Wide Image. Gardner references Howard E. Gruber, who also studied creativity in science from the point of view of the wide image. Gruber’s examples cited below are cases of memories translated into wide images, applied as guiding figures (analogies, metaphors, allegories) used to structure otherwise unshaped archive of data.

The creative individual pursues (or is pursued by) a number of dominant metaphors. These figures are images of wide scope, rich, and susceptible to considerable exploration, exposing the investigator to aspects of phenomena that might otherwise remain invisible to him. Often the key to the individual’s most important innovations inhere in these images. In Darwin’s case, the most fecund metaphor was the branching tree of evolution, on which he could trace the rise and fate of various species. Gruber’s students have uncovered other such metaphors of wide scope. William James had a penchant for viewing mental processes as a stream or river, rather than in terms of the associationist images of a train or a chain. Any consideration of John Locke should focus on his falconer, whose release of a bird symbolized the quest for human knowledge. Finally, in conveying his own emerging view of the creative process, Gruber finds himiself attracted to the Mosaic image of the bush that is always burning but never consumed. (Howard Gardner, Art, Mind, and Brain: A Cognitive Approach to Creativity).

–Memory Glimpse. There are many more examples of memories from early childhood that resonate retrospectively with a career. It is important to note for our Exercise that these early memories do not always present themselves so clearly to the maker as was the case for Einstein or Darwin. The memory may first appear as a glimpse, an intuition, an endocept rather than a concept. The first lesson is just that the way to a pedagogy of creativity passes through childhood experience, involving eventually both memory work, and historical research, as well as some ethnographic field work. All of that comes later. For now it is enough to retrieve a memory and save it in an illustrated anecdote. Here is one more example for now.

  –Steven Spielberg. Sarah Boxer asked Steven Spielberg to recall his earliest visual experience. He found one from the age of 3.

“My parents put me into a fluoroscope, a big, horizontal X-ray machine. My parents were very friendly with the doctor, and he tested his fluoroscope on me.” They laid their toddler down “in the machine, a kind of coffin, and closed the lid on me. It was all green in there, a white-green light. That was one of my earliest and most scary memories. I guess they were looking at my bones. But my point of view was that they put me in a box, and it was all green. And I couldn’t get out. I think that might have been the beginning of ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Jaws.'” The connection between the light and “Poltergeist” was clear. But how do you get “Jaws” from green light? Spielberg didn’t miss a beat. “Just being abandoned, you know, set adrift, in the middle of the ocean, my ocean of green light.”

Before the green light came another light. “The first thing I remember was the eternal light.” He was only 6 months old at the time and was in a synagogue in Cincinnati, the city where he was born in 1946. “I didn’t know at the time that that’s what it was. I remember seeing people with long beards, handing me crackers. And a red light.” The crackers were called Tamtams, and “the red light was the eternal light, the Ner Tamid,” the light that never goes out. Given all these extraordinary encounters with light — green, red and eternal — it’s no wonder that Spielberg became obsessed with alien abductions. “I’ve been dealing with abduction ever since ‘Close Encounters,'” he said.

(Gainesville Sun, December 7, 2002).

2018-07-18T14:16:04+00:00 July 18th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , , , , |


 6) Memory Exercise: Kandinsky.  As illustrated by the careers of productive people, at some point an interviewer will ask about an early memory from childhood. Mystory may adopt such interviews–the kind of things people want to know about the sources and motivations of creativity–as a guide to identify similar resources in one’s own biography to bring into the wide image matrix. Exercise: read an interview with a creative person of interest, inventory the questions asked, and answer them in your own case.

In Pictorial Nominalism, Thierry de Duve describes the autobiography of Wassily Kandinsky, one of the inventors of abstract painting, in a way that resonates with the theory of the image of wide scope.

    • In Ruckblicke (Reminiscences) Kandinsky relates his memories of several aesthetic experiences that he judges retrospectively to have been crucial and that he endows with all the inner necessity required to have justified his passage to abstraction. […] One is a memory dated from adolescence, which deals with the being and name of color and which Kandinsky describes with a fervent lyricism that gives it the value of a true revelation: “As a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old boy, I gradually saved up enough money to buy myself a paintbox containing oil paints. I can still feel today the sensation I experienced then–or, to put it better, the experience I underwent then–of the paints emerging from the tube. One squeeze of the fingers, and out came these strange beings, one after the other, which one calls colors–exultant, solemn, brooding, dreamy, self-absorbed, deeply serious, with roguish exuberance, with a sigh of release, with a deep sound of mourning, with defiant power and resistance, with submissive suppleness… Living an independent life of their own, with all the necessary qualities for further, autonomous existence, prepared to make way readily, in an instant, for new combinations, to mingle with one another and create an infinite succession of new worlds.” This sentence is pivotal in more than one way. By its position in the book, it acts as a hinge in time allowing two other memories to fold onto one another. The first, an archaic one, is the childhood memory with which the text of Reminiscences opens and that gives to the title all the phantasmatic weight of a “primal scene”: “The first colors to make a powerful impression on me were light juicy green, white, carmine red, black, and yellow ochre. These memories go as far back as the age of three.”

2018-07-17T14:55:10+00:00 July 17th, 2018|Categories: Art, Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , , |