Multiple Twists, Harmonious Terms

Amidst all the reading and writing, playing, viewing, listening, thinking about the regard – high and low – that greets what we do as well as that afforded to what we merely like and enjoyed, a few words from Artaud:

True culture operates by exaltation and force, while the European ideal of art attempts to cast the mind into an attitude distinct from force but addicted to exaltation. It is a lazy, unserviceable notion which engenders an imminent death. If the Serpent Quetzalcoatl’s multiple twists and turns are harmonious, it is because they express the equilibrium and fluctuations of a sleeping force; the intensity of the forms is there only to seduce and direct a force which, in music, would produce an insupportable range of sound.
The gods that sleep in museums: the god of fire with his incense burner that resembles an Inquisition tripod; Tlaloc, one of the manifold Gods of the Waters, on his wall of green granite; the Mother Goddess of Waters, the Mother Goddess of Flowers; the immutable expression, echoing from beneath many layers of water, of the Goddess robed in green jade; the enraptured, blissful expression, features crackling with incense, where atoms of sunlight circle–the countenance of the Mother Goddess of Flowers; this world of obligatory servitude in which a stone comes alive when it has been properly carved, the world of organically civilized men whose vital organs too awaken from their slumber, this human world enters into us, participating in the dance of the gods without turning round or looking back, on pain of becoming, like ourselves, crumbled pillars of salt.
In Mexico, since we are talking about Mexico, there is no art: things are made for use. And the world is in perpetual exaltation.
To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. And the old Totems are there to hasten the communication.
How hard it is, when everything encourages us to sleep, though we may look about us with conscious, clinging eyes, to wake and yet look about us as in a dream, with eyes that no longer know their function and whose gaze is turned inward.
This is how our strange idea of disinterested action originated, though it is action nonetheless, and all the more violent for skirting the temptation of repose.

Every real effigy has a shadow which is its double; and art must falter and fail from the moment the sculptor believes he has liberated the kind of shadow whose very existence will destroy his repose.
Like all magic cultures expressed by appropriate hieroglyphs, the true theater has its shadows too, and, of all languages and all arts, the theater is the only one left whose shadows have shattered their limitations. From the beginning, one might say its shadows did not tolerate limitations.
Our petrified idea of the theater is connected with our petrified idea of a culture without shadows, where, no matter which way it turns, our mind (esprit) encounters only emptiness, though space is full.
But the true theater, because it moves and makes use of living instruments, continues to stir up shadows where life has never ceased to grope its way. The actor does not make the same gestures twice, but he makes gestures, he moves; and although he brutalizes forms, nevertheless behind them and through their destruction he rejoins that which outlives forms and produces their continuation.
The theater, which is in no thing, but makes use of everything- -gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness-rediscovers itself at precisely the point where the mind requires a language to express its manifestations.
And the fixation of the theater in one language–written words, music, lights, noises–betokens its imminent ruin, the choice of any one language betraying a taste for the special effects of that language; and the dessication of the language accompanies its limitation.
For the theater as for culture, it remains a question of naming and directing shadows: and the theater, not confined to a fixed language and form, not only destroys false shadows but prepares the way for a new generation of shadows, around which assembles the true spectacle of life.

From the preface of The Theater and Its Double by Antonin Artaud, Grove press, 1958

Water wars

Between Tennessee and Georgia:

On Monday, senators from the Peach State approved a resolution that suggests shifting a miniscule section of its border with Tennessee, starting at the tristate corner, to include a portion of Nickajack’s shoreline. The move would entitle Georgia to draw water from the Tennessee River, which snakes through both Tennessee and Alabama but leaves their drought-ridden neighbor missing out on its valuable resource by a matter of feet.

This is very much about watering lawns and washing driveways but also, too, mostly all about the absolute lack of regional planning that has fueled the ‘growth’ all around Atlanta. A senseless culture of waste that now falls back on a legal option that isn’t at all likely to provide relief.

But much more to the point, this is preview of similar disputes coming soon to a country near you as a result of climate change.

Films on Fridges

You, too, can become a creative-type person:

It is Britain’s coolest new pop-up cinema and the only one inspired by a load of rubbish. Films on Fridges is the brainchild of 25-year-old American Lindsey Scannapieco and it is inspired by “Fridge Mountain”, the 20ft high pile of discarded fridges that towered over the London district of Hackney until its removal in 2005. Films on Fridges is an outdoor venue where the screen is surrounded by fridges, the bar is made of fridge parts, and fridge doors are incorporated into the seating arrangements.

Scannapieco was researching east London while studying City Design at the LSE when she first heard about the dumped refrigerators. “Fridge Mountain seemed to be part of urban folklore,” says Scannapieco. “Something which spoke to east London’s industrial past at a time when the area was changing. I thought it would be fun to resurrect it and create something that was both educational and playful.”

Fridge mountain. Kids today. Though our version of this might be some ohio teenagers doing some freelance fracking on the weekends. American creativity – that will be an awesome CNN chryon: BP sues teenagers over illegal fracturing.

Dog sues man.

Cool kids update: Films on Fridges has a site. uh huh. whadya say to that, ohio teens?

Gasoline Monoculture

Could you get to work if gas became unaffordable? To get groceries? Get the kids to school?

What is obvious is that the kind of monocultural economy that we have, based on gasoline, is unsustainable and vulnerable to price increases not to mention availability.

So many of the “controversies” we have in planning really come down to building a land use and transportation paradigm that is resilient, one that is less dependent on external inputs.

Hello? The extraordinarily limited (~1) diversity of options is not something we can suddenly retro-fit to our society in the face of skyrocketing transportation costs. And so we’ll be left to simply not go to school and work, and spend our days trekking from suburban enclaves to the grocery store and back. Well, what? Why not consider it that way? Do you actually have a perception of how far two miles is? Five? We rigidly ignore any possibility that our way o’ life will ever be interrupted. People have internalized the idea that transportation alternatives are some kind of antagonistic socialism meant for depraved urban scum or hippies or the poor (commutative property could be in order here). Now what?

link via.


The title of a post from earlier this week was a theft from nod to the philosopher and social anthropologist Ernest Gellner. The following is an excerpt from Gellner’s Nations and Nationalism, from the chapter on Culture in Agrarian Society:

One development which takes place during the agrarian epoch of human history is comparable in importance with the emergence of the state itself: the emergence of literacy and of a specialized clerical class or estate, a clerisy. Not all agrarian societies attain literacy: paraphrasing Hegel once again, we may say that at first none could read; then some could read; and eventually all can read. That, at any rate, seems to be the way in which literacy fits in with the three great ages of man. In the middle or agrarian age literacy appertains to some only. Some societies have it; and within the societies that do have it, it is always some, and never all, who can actually read.

The written word seems to enter history with the accountant and the tax collector: the earliest uses of the written sign seem often to be occasioned by the keeping of records. Once developed, however, the written word acquires other uses, legal, contractual, administrative. God himself eventually puts his covenant with humanity and his rules for the comportment of his creation in writing. Theology, legislation, litigation, administration, therapy: all engender a class of literate specialists, in alliance or more often in competition with freelance illiterate thaumaturges. In agrarian societies literacy brings forth a major chasm between the great and the little traditions (or cults). The doctrines and forms of organization of the clerisy of the great and literate cultures are highly variable, and the depth of the chasm between the great and little traditions may vary a great deal. So does the relationship of the clerisy to the state, and its own internal organization: it may be centralized or it may be loose, it may be hereditary or on the contrary constitute an open guild, and so forth.

Literacy, the establishment of a reasonably permanent and standardized script, means in effect the possibility of cultural and cognitive storage and centralization. The cognitive centralization and codification effected by a clerisy, and the political centralization which is the state, need not go hand in hand. Often they are rivals; sometimes one may capture the other; but more often, the Red and the Black, the specialists of violence and of faith, are indeed independently operating rivals, and their territories are often not coextensive.

Two Left Interwebbed Feet

The maelstrom and convulsion we entered some time ago, which we have been so slow to notice even as the  passing scenery has begun to repeat like the same bunch of clouds and mountains, documented in the incredibly shrinking newspaper sense, here. Maybe cartoon language is one of the few we still understand. It’s got to have something to do with that ‘all I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten’ sort of thing. If that’s true, good for you. Anyway, that’s an excellent piece above, so thanks, Andy.

You might wonder, and I can only hope you do, why the clockwise newspaper drain swirl, financial melt and eco/energy colossus are all coming of age at the same time. It could make you curious about what we’ve been feeding them. Born mostly at about the same time – say at or near about the time governments began insuring East India companies in their forays into the New World – all of our societal sub-structures are breaking up into mini ice floes, drifting out to Dieu knows where, as we struggle with how to tie them together again. As much as that might be an unfortunate metaphor, it can’t help but seem – even to a kindergartener – like practice for something.

To that end, and pardon the pun, it’s always better take in a geographer-anthropologist matinee:

PAUL SOLMAN: Of all the cultures you’ve studied that have tried to deal with severe economic dislocations, what’s the marker of resiliency?

JARED DIAMOND: It seems to me that one of the predictors of a happy versus an unhappy outcome has to do with the role of the elite or the decision-makers or the politicians or the rich people within the society.

If the society is structured so that the decision-makers themselves suffer from the consequences of their decisions, then they’re motivated to make decisions that are good for the whole society, whereas if the decision-makers can make decisions that insulate themselves from the rest of society, then they’re likely to make decisions that are bad for the rest of society.

That last bit via the Poorman.