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Konsulting the Border

Konsult Experiment, beginning December, 2019, Gregory Ulmer and John Craig Freeman (Florida Research Ensemble).

After collaborating on two essays addressing theory and practice of augmented reality (AR), both for collections edited by Vladimir Geroimenko, Freeman and Ulmer committed to a full-scale konsult on the U.S.-Mexico Border.

Ulmer and Freeman, Distance Table Work, Konsulting the Border.

Event.  Event refers to the experience of an egent (inventional consultant) achieving insight. Arthur Koestler showed that three fundamental modes of insight shared the same structure of bisociation (the convergence of two unrelated domains or semantic fields): a) getting a joke —Ha; b) Eureka discovery in science —Aha; c) Epiphany illumination in art —Ah.
        The important point relative to event is that this experience requires egent engagement with a practice. Incidents, occasions, occurrences happen (natural and man-made disasters for example), but to become event requires individual theopraxesis (knowing willing imagining) processing the occurrence within a form. As Heidegger pointed out about ontology, Being emerges within language (philosopher uses writing and logic to produce event of being). Or The term “anagnorisis” in Greek tragedy is moment of recognition and turning point in the drama creating the event of tragedy (Oedipus realizes his true identity). Konsult is a practice designed to support such insight native to electracy, specifically addressing creativity as such (heuretics. “finding”).

A border is a line: the Big Bend diagrams a fold catastrophe (R. Thom).

Extimacy. This is Lacan’s term to identify the nature of subject identity formation in electracy. Human identity emerges within a field condition (the Unconscious), a psychoanalytic version of Heidegger’s Dasein (being in the world), in which the inside and outside of person are diagrammed using topological figures such as Klein bottle or moebius strip. The import is that “truth” is hidden in plain sight: repression does not erase the subject’s truth but displaces, disguises, distorts it using the tropology of dreamwork, such that it may be recovered, known, reconfigured in therapy (or through practices of art or politics). The theory and practice of psychoanalysis, existential philosophy, and modernist poetics are isomorphic, functioning by means of extimate epiphanies or illuminations: the invisible spiritual affective order “inside” becomes intelligible and accessible through formal operation with and through the material concrete manifest “outside.” In short, the Border outside (US-Mexico border)—configured within konsult theopraxesis—gives insight and knowledge of “the border in me,” and bordering itself as such. Extimacy is how egents gain access to both poles of alienation—totality of global commodity forces and unconscious libidinal drives of the body (corporation and corporeality).

A semiotic square (Greimas) of outlines a border system, indicating a shift from Frontier to Sprawl.

In short, event create extimacy, and extimacy is the ontology required to complete the cognitive map (choragraphy) of electracy, reconnecting the microcosm and macrocosm registers of digital apparatus. The challenge of our project is to design and test konsut, and apply it to choragraphy of the US-Mexico border. The ambition is that the extimate experience of our konsult event educates an engaged public sphere with respect to electracy in general and remediation of border disasters in particular.

John Craig Freeman

Border Moment, Nogales AZ

2020-01-06T22:07:05+00:00 December 29th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|


Jacques Lacan, The Sinthome, Seminar XXIII, 1975-76

Lacan offered seminars annually from 1952 to 1980. Lacan’s seminars make an important contribution to the Theory in the CATTt guiding the invention of Konsult in general, and theopraxesis in particular. In this later seminar Lacan makes explicit some connections with the sources of our project that until now operated as assumptions. The first of these relationships is outlined here.


Real, imaginary, and symbolic strikes me as just as valid as the other triad from which, going by Aristotle, the juice was extracted to compose man, namely, will, intelligence, and affectivity. (Sinthome 126).

As discussed in the book, Konsult: Theopraxesis, one function of our experiment is to support a transition from literacy to electracy in education (to negotiate a passage from one apparatus to another). The pedagogy is centered on egents, the ones supposed to learn, appropriating the resources of Arts & Letters curriculum as means for students to undergo and develop their capabilities—their faculties, powers, virtues, potentiality—identified in the tradition dating from the invention of literacy in the Athenian academies as the embodied intellectual virtues: Theoria, Praxis, Poesis (theory, practice, poetics; thinking, doing, making; understanding, will, imagination). Kant’s Three Critiques take up this thread. The Third Critique promotes Aesthetics to equal status with Science and Morality, to propose aesthetic judgment as mediator bridging the abyss separating science and religion. Hannah Arendt took up Kant’s project as the best option for a Public Sphere in industrialized mass society after Auschwitz.

The importance of Lacan’s contribution is apparent in this context. His mnemonic image of the embodied virtues is a bag (the body, mathematically the empty set, the one) tied closed with cord (string, ficelles). RSI (playing on rhymes and puns with “heresy” and “airesis” or choice)—Lacan’s updating of the three faculties—Real, Symbolic, Imaginary—interrelate topologically, entangled in a way that Lacan explores through knot topology, with the Borromean knot specifically manifesting the sinthome (unique symptom). We have argued elsewhere that the sinthome helps account for the image of wide scope. One implication to be tested in our experiments is that in experience we encounter the apparatus stack (the popcycle) as entangled, knotted, in a manner articulated by topology. Lacan supplies one guide for the Kant-Arendt project, that we are calling theopraxesis: the virtues and their institutions already are fully integrated in a potential state (dunamis, but in a condition of privation, steresis). The “symptom” of this virtual condition is the polemos or seemingly irreducible conflict apparent in relations both macrocosmic and microcosmic of civilization.

HOGARTH: Line of Beauty

A second affiliation with tradition important to note in this seminar is Lacan’s reference to Hogarth’s curved line of beauty as relevant to the genealogy of his knot topology. This connection makes explicit Lacan’s contribution to the larger question of the gramme, the invention of the plasmatic line in the Paleo apparatus, in continuing service up to the present, now augmented in electracy through animation and digital FX. Sergei Eisenstein cited Disney’s animated film, Steamboat Willie (1928) as a revelation of the new order opened up in media by the plasmatic line. We will have more to say about the ontological properties of this line.

2019-01-10T15:32:44+00:00 December 19th, 2018|Categories: Capability, Diagram, Draw, Lacan, Popcycle, Sinthome, Theopraxesis, Topology, Uncategorized, Wide Image|

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 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|

Assignment: Avatar Emergency

Avatar Emergency: the book, and the condition. The assignment in AE is to compose/design your Allegory of Prudence, which is extended in KE into Theopraxesis (TPE). AE was included in the CATTt of several seminars documented in Routine. The Allegory is an exercise for egents inventing konsult.

This diagram sketch suggests a way to map the components of the exercise “Allegory of Prudence” onto some conventional dynamics of narrative semiotics:  Roland Barthes’s five semiotic codes (see S/Z’s reading of Balzac’s short story), and a part of Jacques Lacan’s schema of temporality (taken as representative of the trope of metalepsis).

The version of the allegory expressed in Chapter 13 of Avatar Emergency (AE), provides an instance.  The first two codes account for Ulmer walking along the shore of the ocean at Ponte Vedra Beach (Action Code, syntagmatic axis), and encountering a sand castle that he recognizes as built by his granddaughter (Semic code, paradigmatic axis).  This sand castle (prop) is in turn organized by a higher paradigmatic code — the Cultural Code — that is the source of readymade associations accumulated historically and preserved in various documents (the commonplace of tides washing away sand castles, evoking the ephemerality and fragility of human effort).  Meanwhile, the action of the syntagmatic is also organized in turn by a higher code — the Hermeneutic code of enigmas:  actions are arranged to create and sustain interest, to pose engimas and delays of suspense.  This narrative form is supplied in Ulmer’s relay by the story of Damascius, the last diadoch (successor) of the Academy in Athens, and his exile in Persia late in life.

These four codes provide four slots for the allegory:  an action and an underlying narrative (fantasy); a feature of the scene (the prop or seme) and its associated mythology (aura).   The fifth code is the Symbolic (alluding to Lacan’s Symbolic Order), which is the structuring or “anagogical” code of the social and civilizational context of the scene.  This code is reprsented in the diagram by a partial version of one of Lacan’s schemas, showing the temporality of language, and of the unconscious (structured like a language).  The Event alluded to in AE happens in this manner, constructing the time image of prudence.  An initial satisfaction, experienced in infancy, remains latent and potentially present (flashes up at the moment of its recognizability, Benjamin says), triggered by some chance incident (Proust’s involuntary memory). The Symbolic code synthesizes the other four codes, addressing the paradigmatic axis of selection in terms of binary oppositions (male/female, death/life…), and the syntagmatic axis of combination in terms of primary exchanges in the life world– of language, wealth, and kinship. This circuit of remembrance through senation, this triggering of memory and imagination through the activation of somatic markers (Damasio, Neuroaesthetics), is the aesthetic homology to be correlated with mobile media in smart environments, to develop an electrate konsult.

2018-07-24T22:18:40+00:00 July 24th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|

Existential Disaster: W. G. Sebald

A stunted Tatar with a red headcloth.  W. G. Sebald adds to our archive of popcycle exemplars, manifesting all the features of the genre we are learning: four levels of discourse; wide-image memory; cosmic scene glimpsed through a quotidian window. Some variation of popcycle structure recurs in most of Sebald’s novels. Vertigo, for example: “A book in four parts. The opening section is devoted to Stendhal’s memories of joining Napoleon’s army as a very young man, just when it invaded Italy. the second section centers on Casanova’s horrible imprisonment in Venice. The third part follows Kafka’s tribulations in Italy; and the fourth part chronicles Sebald’s own return to his childhood home in a small Bavarian village.”

–After Nature. The work assigned in seminar, however, is After Nature.  There are three worlds juxtaposed in this case, characterized as a triptych. The structure is thematized in the first section, about the sixteenth-century painter Matthias Grünewald, creator of perhaps the most famous triptych in art, the Isenheim Altarpiece. The second section is on the nineteenth-century botanist George Steller, and his journey into the Arctic with the expedition of Vitus Bering. The final section is an autobiographical prose poem. This section begins with testimony regarding the truth of a wide image, characterized as a memory fossil. “For it is hard to discover the winged vertebrates of prehistory embedded in tablets of slate. But if I see before me th nervature of past life in one image, I always think that this has something to with truth” (Sebald, 83). Then follows the scene of his existential epiphany (primal scene).

  I grew up, despite the dreadful course of events elsewhere, on the northern edge of the Alps, so it seems to me now, without any idea of destruction. But the habit of often falling down in the street and often sitting with bandaged hands by the open window between the potted fuchsias, waiting for the pain to subside and for hours doing nothing but looking out, early on induced me to imagine a silent catastrophe that occurs almost unperceived. What I thought at the time, while gazing down into the herb garden in which the nuns under their white starched hoods moved so slowly between the beds as though a moment ago they had still been caterpillars, this I have never got over. The emblem for me  of the scarcely identifiable disaster since that time has been a stunted Tatar with a red headcloth and a white slightly curved feather. In anthropology this figure is often associated with certain forms of self-mutilation and described as that of the adept who ascends a snow-covered mountain and long tarries there, as they say, in tears. (Sebald, After Nature, 89-90).

It is worth noting, for future reference, the figure of “whiteness” in all three worlds, this motif opening passage between the quotidian and metaphysical levels of the experience. The white hoods of the nuns links with whiteness in the Isenheim Altarpiece, the central panel’s vision of the future, “a planet utterly strange, chalk-colored behind the blackish-blue river. Here in an evil state of erosion and desolation the heritage of the ruining of life that in the end will consume even the stones has been depicted. In view of this it seems to me that the ice age, the glaringly white towering of the summits in the upper realm of the Temptation is the construction of a metaphysics.” (31). This ice scene becomes literal in the second history, of Bering’s ill-fated search for a Northwest passage.

2018-07-23T17:44:40+00:00 July 23rd, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|



3) Heuretics. In the context of differend (Lyotard) among apparatus metaphysics, electrate learning turns to the human capability of creativity. Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) differentiated between revolutionary and normal science. KE takes up the challenge of designing a pedagogy for revolutionary science (recognizing that “science” is a catachresis in this context). An assumption of heuretics is that creativity is a procedure with its own methodology and modes of evaluation, such that it may be taught with the same degree of confidence assumed in teaching methods of criticism and critique.

–Image of Wide Scope. Gerald Holton, historian of science, identified an image of wide scope (wide image) organizing the imaginations of the most productive creators in modernity (from Kepler to Einstein). Holton identified the wide image as a pattern emerging within the oeuvre of innovators. The pattern was constituted by four or five images, anchored in a scene of childhood memory. The prototype is the career of Albert Einstein, and the memory he recorded in his autobiographical statements, of the gift of a compass from his father when Albert was four or five years old. It is possible posthumously or at the end of a career for an historian to note the uncanny symmetry between the compass and the physics of electromagnetism. The wide image is just that: a vehicle and a tenor. The vehicle for Einstein is the compass; the tenor is “invariance.” Commentators have suggested that the theory of relativity might be better dubbed a theory of invariance. Vehicle: the compass needle pointing north; Tenor: the speed of light. Subsequently, analysts have identified wide images in the careers of hundreds of figures across all fields of culture (see John Briggs, Fire in the Crucible).

–Mystory. The genre of mystory was created to enable students to discover and design their wide image at the beginning of their productive lives, rather than waiting for a biographer to extract the pattern posthumously. Nor is revolutionary science a measure of the success of this genre, in that it supports learning as equipment for living (Kenneth Burke) as well as for productivity. Mystory reoccupies (retrieves)  the pedagogical tradition of Memory Palace and topical logics from manuscript culture, as a means to connect a primal scene of childhood experience with a disciplinary aporia. Mystory documents the egents’s EPS (Existential Positioning System) in the popcycle of their culture. It is a documentation of interpellation, registering the position with which one identifies in each of the primary institutions of an apparatus: family; mythology (entertainment); history (community); career (profession). These four levels constitute a mandala of civilization, and will be tracked throughout KE. Dante is famous for codifying this typology structuring Medieval metaphysics. The immediate point is that egents’ wide image is formed before they enter university and declare a major (career). Mystory as genre brings this inchoate intuitive mental model into material configuration, providing the point of departure for the design of an image of wide scope.

2018-07-13T00:21:42+00:00 July 12th, 2018|Categories: EPS, Overview, Popcycle, Uncategorized, Wide Image|Tags: , , , |