maandag 28 februari 2011

The Fungi of justice

Yesterday I went on a walk to make some pictures of a small cryptoforest with an extremely rich plant life but when I got there I learned that the builders beat me to it. Perambulating onwards, in a completely different part of town, I spotted this fungi hotspot on top of the above sign. I have never seen anything like it. The sign is attached to the fence of the court building. Two meters away attached to the same fence was another sign but this was clean. My guess: the cleaners didn't dare to clean this hideous smiling bulbing fungi mess.   

vrijdag 25 februari 2011

Jivaro shamanic chant

Drawn by a Jivaro shaman in trance 
The main part of this post is a Jivaro shamanic anent or sung incantation recorded by Philippe Descola and given in The Spears of Twilight (earlier). There is quite a bit of neo-hippie rubbish about on Amazonian shamanic practise but surely even the most severely confused and mentally disturbed middle class American seeking for spiritual redemption does not believe that his of her illness is caused by invisible darts propelled into your body by an enemy shaman. Darts that can only be removed through various voice operations (singing, blowing, sucking) of a drugged out shaman with the appropriate spirits under his belt. There is nothing lovely or tender or wishy-washy about Amazonian shamanic practise, its dark and dramatic, gothic materialism, it deals with death directly, uncosmetic and without excuses. I can imagine that a small, properly delivered, compendium of anents like these could become a underground classic. Anyway here it comes....  

Me, Tsumai [river spirits], Tsumai ....
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me!
Tsumai, Tsumai...
Me, me, me, while I make my projectile penetrate
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, I am in harmony
Making my Iwianch [spirits of the death] spirits rise up
I make them pas through the barrier of darts
I make them penetrate the wall of little arrows
Giving them an immediate way out
Leaving them a free passage
In this way I blow, me, me, me...
Launching my blown projectile
Submerging everything, saturating everything
I am blowing me, me, me...
Tarairira, tara, tariri-ri-ri-ri-ri
You the extraordinary one
Tarairira, tara, tariri-ri-ri-ri-ri
As remarkable as you are, I am blowing
Tsunki [river spirits], tsunki, my spirits I am summoning you
Violently leaving a path, I am blowing, I am blowing
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me!
Tsumai, Tsumai...
Me, me, me...
Like a river carrying away its bank, I cover everything with my flood, I overflow everywhere,
Unmoving on this very spot
Stretching into the depths, I am blowing
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me. . .
Even when they are embedded, out of reach, I unhook the tsentsak [magic dart] with a dry tap, blowing
Clearing a path for myself, I completely beguile the stranger who has invited himself into your body, by blowing, by blowing, me, me, me, me, me, me!
Tarairira, tara, tariri
Tsumai, Tsumai...
Making my breath penetrate, making it desirable, I work hard to make them let go
I work to get rid of them completely, absolutely, by opening the exit
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me!
Tsumai, Tsumai... me, me... rari ri ri, rari ri ri...
Supai, supai, supai, supai, supai, supai, me, me...
Like tsunki himself, I know how to speak, me,me, me...
In your head that is so painful, in your painful head
However embedded the pain is, I unhook it with a dry tap
Leaving you perfectly well, I sing and sing, I blow and blow
Tarairira, tara, tariri, me, me ... ri, ri, ri, ri
The pasuk from the entrails of the earth, him too I call, me, me, me
The death that I now ward off, I am brushing it away with my sheaf, proudly
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me!
Like the pasuk [shamanic helpers] of the great trees, like the pasuk all striped, I am in the grip of natem [Ayahuasca]
Unmoving, I wear the pasuk like a necklace and death itself I beguile, carrying it far away, me, me, me, me
Tarairira, tara...
Tsumai, Tsumai...
Relentlessly drawing the pasuk from the skies, all bleeding
Wearing it constantly around me like a necklace
Death itself I sweep away with me sheaf, that's what I do with the death that inhabits you, that's what I do to the death to which I reveal myself, me, me, me
Superpowerful me, me ... tsumai ... tarairira...
With the pasuk from the entrails of the earth, with the multicoloured pasuk I make myself a necklace
Unmoving, I pass you the necklace and, repairing your lack of appetite, me, me, me, I leave you well recomposed, me, me, me ... tsumai ... tsumai ...
Pasuk from the entrails of the earth, it is you that I summon
Multicoloured one, it is you that I call
It is to you that I speak and I carry off with me all the creatures of natem
That is what I do, me, me,me,me,me,me,me!
The one that is almost unreachable, that is the one I nevertheless wear as a necklace
Unmoving, I am here on the very spot where Tsunki is preparing to do his work, there where he will unleash the floods
My Iwianch spirits, I make them turn blue in my very soul, I make them turn blue
I make them come out quivering 'puririri!', me, me, me!
Tsumai, Tsumai... 
The one called Tsunki, I make him come in that flood that roars 'shakaa!'
Relentlessly I go, unleashing my flood in his very heart, the flood of my own river, ceaselessly summoning the flood, making the waters roar, I go padding on 
I have the power of rivers in flood, ceaselessly I call for the waters to overflow
Formidable I am, like the waves rolling on the pebbles, without respite ensuring my victory, all fragrant, all perfumed, I make Tsunki roll, me, me, me
Tsumai, Tsumai... 
I become like a porcupine, wearing spines like a necklace, clothing myself in quills, I am covered with them
Your very death, I shall chain it up faraway, confident of my fearlessness
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me!
Having summoned the soul that is here, I seize it and hold on to it firmly
In the golden ink I have spread myself
Imbued with my valour, I am proud of myself
All adorned with the necklace, all arrayed by the porcupine, I sweep away death with my sheaf of leaves, intrepid and confident.  
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me!
The one called the porcupines of the heavens, that is the one I seize to make a crown of darts and definitely make death draw back from your head
By the shivers I am seized, tsumai, tsumai...
To my call Tsunki has responded
In this golden pot where your soul was enclosed, boldly I make death flee
Dressing myself in new cloths, dressed all brand new, brought by the natem, I adorn myself with them as with a necklace, me, me, me, me, me, me, me!
Tsumai, Tsumai... 
You are girded by the bow of Iwianch spirits
Twisting and turning without cease, I summon death and seize it
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me!
I summon the Iwianch spirits relentlessly and my voice makes them tremble
I make them come , brushing with my sheaf of leaves so that they leave you in peace...

At first sight this anent, as a translated text to be read in silence, may appear repetitive and unwelcoming to read. But once you get it into it you soon notice that it builds up incredible tension as the shaman, at the same time curing and telling about his cure, demands the spirits he commands to come out and help him, accumulating power(s), with each new sentence rephrasing and elaborating on a theme brought up in the sentence before it. But the shaman is not reading aloud from a imaginary book, he is performing a ritual at the edge of several colliding planes of reality, with death lingering at each intersection. He sings, pauses and whistles a melody again, emits strange sounds, deep sighs from his gut, ventriqualistic grunts as if a pack of animals hides inside his chest. It's a jam,  a DaDa performance without chicanery.

maandag 21 februari 2011

Amazonian ornaments without information

Regarding art from the Amazon and ways to present it. Earlier & earlier

Hjalmar Stolpe (1841-1905) was a Swedish archaeologist and ethnographer. From his book "Studies in American Ornamentation — a Contribution to the Biology of Ornament", a fascinating title but unknown to google books and other reference sites, Dover collected 190 rubbing of wood carvings in a book called "Amazon Indian designs from Brazilian and Guianan wood carvings" in 1974. What anybody would get from this book is a mystery: this book that lacks all information regarding the makers, the circumstances and the date of production, a good foreword would have redeemed it but no. 

zaterdag 19 februari 2011

Oh My!

Boskoi, the augmented foraging app for Android (earlier) was mentioned on the front page of the NRC.Next newspaper yesterday. It was also included in a list of apps that might be helpful to fill your weekend. I suppose the main reason for its inclusion is its novelty value because some of the actual information given is misleading. 

Everybody knows that so-called journalists are to accurate information what scabs are to a strike.

But it was funny because I just got back from Amsterdam for a productive meeting with Boskoi's Theun when I heard about his 15 minutes and for a moment I too, by sympathy, could bask in the glory of fame and respectability that national publication bestow on a project like this. 

vrijdag 18 februari 2011

Thoreau & the great forage revival

'Wild Fruit' (1991) is a collection of field notes and observations rescued from Thoreau's enormous backlog of unpublished illegible manuscripts and beautifully presented with illustrations and annotations. 

To most people this book will be as boring as watching paint dry and the comparison is apt because Thoreau is almost doing just that. With painstaking detail this book layers tons of observations on all sorts of weedy and wild edible (fruit) plants through the year,  commenting on their blooming season, taste, form and their history of domestication. This makes 'Wild Fruit' a kind of food-for-free augmented foraging guide of the Gutenberg age, informing you how to recognize plants, what can be eaten and when it is best eaten, and its place in history with quotes from 19Th century botanical sources as well as the 'classics'. 

The fruits are listed by their consecutive period of fruitation throughout the year, an interesting way of organizing the material; appropriate but unusual when you are looking for a specific plant. (Did I ever tell you about 'Six Records of a Floating life' by Shen Fu?) This is not so much a guide as a database, a Xanadu machine for fieldnotes and perambulation about species and sometimes individual plants. You could very well imagine a online version of this book, and you can very well imagine this book as a model for a story telling approach to Boskoi and similar edible city Gmaps.  

But this is Thoreau and what makes Wild Fruit essential reading as a precursor to the modern edible city / urban foraging revival is that his observations can at any moment issue and answer a philosophical question of the most basic nature: what do we know (we don't even know our own backyard) and how do we know it (hearsay and trust or direct observation and experimentation). The choice to be 'boring' is Thoreau's ultimate philosophical point.  

The Preface by Bradley Dean is worthwhile.

zaterdag 12 februari 2011

The uncivilized & the inhuman in literature [updated]

Bonobo Kanzi behind the Lexigram board.
Two trajectories have lead me to this quote from Robinson Jeffers preface to his 1948 book of poems 'The Double Axe':
The first part of The Double Axe was written during the war and finished a year before the war ended, and it bears the scars; but the poem is not primarily concerned with that grim folly. Its burden, as of some previous work of mine, is to present a certain philosophical attitude, which might be called Inhumanism, a shifting of emphasis and significance from man to not-man; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence. It seems time that our race began to think as an adult does, rather than like an egocentric baby or insane person. This manner of thought and feeling is neither misanthropic nor pessimist, though two or three people have said so and may again. It involves no falsehoods, and is a means of maintaining sanity in slippery times; it has objective truth and human value. It offers a reasonable detachment as rule of conduct, instead of love, hate and envy. It neutralizes fanaticism and wild hopes; but it provides magnificence for the religious instinct, and satisfies our need to admire greatness and rejoice in beauty.

One is remote and one is only a twitter message away. 

Gary Snyder, Zeus of cryptoforestry, cites Jeffers as one of his initial role models and this is not hard to see for someone called 'the poet laureate of deep ecology'. Apparently Snyder has an e-mail address and if I had it I would maybe send him an message. In an interview he also said that he would only mail back when the writer states his location. The old man really is a kind of beatnik Miss Marple.

The Dark Mountain project is a post-environmentalist call-to-arms to artists and writers to, hmmm, wellll, like, eeuhhmm, you know.... I find DM engaging but also infuriating vague; loud on the outside and shallow on the inside, full of ideas on the surface, muddled and confused when held up to the light. This blog is like that as well so I don't mind and I still maintain high hopes for DM. 

Anyway: DM takes its name from a Jeffers poem and his inhumanism is a direct influence on DM's demand for a new 'uncivilized writing'.           
Uncivilised writing is writing which attempts to stand outside the human bubble and see us as we are: highly evolved apes with an array of talents and abilities which we are unleashing without sufficient thought, control, compassion or intelligence. Apes who have constructed a sophisticated myth of their own importance with which to sustain their civilising project. Apes whose project has been to tame, to control, to subdue or to destroy—to civilise the forests, the deserts, the wild lands and the seas, to impose bonds on the minds of their own in order that they might feel nothing when they exploit or destroy their fellow creatures. 
Against the civilising project, which has become the progenitor of ecocide, Uncivilised writing offers not a non-human perspective—we remain human and, even now, are not quite ashamed—but a perspective which sees us as one strand of a web rather than as the first palanquin in a glorious procession. It offers an unblinking look at the forces among which we find ourselves.“
Here is my problem: inhumanism is not inhuman & uncivilization is not uncivilized. It defines a humanism and civilization with a greater scope, as if the human object just inherited a full class of non-human attributes: can I suggest extrahumanism and extracivilized as alternatives?  

As it turns out Henry David Thoreau anticipated Jeffers without needing to invent a fancy new word. In 1851, at the end of his life, Thoreau described the poetry he wanted to write as giving expression to nature: 
The science of Humboldt is one thing, poetry is another thing. The poet today, notwithstanding all the discoveries of science, and the accumulated learning of mankind, enjoys no advantage over Homer.
Where is the literature which gives expression to Nature? He would be a poet who could impress the winds and streams into his service, to speak for him; who nailed words to their primitive senses, as farmers drive down stakes in the spring, which the frost has heaved; who derived his words as often as he used them--transplanted them to his page with earth adhering to their roots; whose words were so true and fresh and natural that they would appear to expand like the buds at the approach of spring, though they lay half smothered between two musty leaves in a library--aye, to bloom and bear fruit there, after their kind, annually, for the faithful reader, in sympathy with surrounding Nature. 
I do not know of any poetry to quote which adequately expresses this yearning for the Wild. Approached from this side, the best poetry is tame. I do not know where to find in any literature, ancient or modern, any account which contents me of that Nature with which even I am acquainted. You will perceive that I demand something which no Augustan nor Elizabethan age, which no culture, in short, can give. Mythology comes nearer to it than anything. How much more fertile a Nature, at least, has Grecian mythology its root in than English literature! Mythology is the crop which the Old World bore before its soil was exhausted, before the fancy and imagination were affected with blight; and which it still bears, wherever its pristine vigor is unabated. All other literatures endure only as the elms which overshadow our houses; but this is like the great dragon-tree of the Western Isles, as old as mankind, and, whether that does or not, will endure as long; for the decay of other literatures makes the soil in which it thrives.
PrimatePoetics, my own long term project, explains my own commitment to the spectre of extrahuman literature. 

Thank you.

vrijdag 11 februari 2011

The Middle Kingdom of Weeds around my corner [Updated Twice]

The middle kingdom of weeds is a kingdom in the psychogeographonomic classification of environments, not in the regal sense of authority. These weeds are the citizens of the in-between, comrades of the cryptoforester. I went out to take these pictures two days ago, when the sun was lovely and the ground dry but somehow I managed to delete them from the camera without saving them to the computer first. This morning it had been drizzling all night and the pictures are the better for it: the leafs are now lush restaurant-salad green. 

When going over them I noticed that all grasses are missing, are they too middle-class? What a strange preconception. Must learn from that. 

To purpose of this expedition is to find out what is there & to learn the names what is now a void. 

I don't count many species. The first time I went out I found one stem of nettles but missed it this time. I also thought I found one kind of plant quite often on one side of the street that was completely missing on the other but the pictures do not corroborate this. Robert Walser's micro story is worth more than all the books of Deleuze put together. But is that really saying much?

Several times I have been looking to purchase a guide but they tend to be 
- expensive (and I rather buy another book of Amazonian anthropology) 
- too limited or too complicated
- lacking the information that I am really keen on: edibility and plant histories.

There is Wikipedia but that is not really helpful...
.. So I confess my innocence and my cluelessness about determination but with the help of you, the reader (thank you!), many of these civilians of the lumpen plantariat are now identified. The job would have been much when these plants will be in bloom.  

First I thought this plant, the most common in my street, was Dock leaf or Ridderzuringthen I thought it maybe was Sorrel or Veldzuring. But Readers Ed and Schildpad suggested Hollyhock or Stokroos.

Taraxacum officinale or Common Dandelion or Paardenbloem
This one might or might not be different from the above, and this might, as reader Petr suggests, then be Sheperd's purse or Herderstasje

A little cryptogarden growing on a heap of soil, notice the snowdrops but what is the dominating plant called? Reader Phil comes up with the answer: Ranculus repens or Creeping buttercup or Kruipende boterbloem. Thank you!

Despicable and fatty, but how do a gardeners call it. Reader Petr suggests Common Whitlow Grass or Vroegeling
Common plant, hard to make pictures of because they are very small, but what are they called? Four readers suggest Common chickweed or Vogelmuur
Lichen are just so photogenic.

Dandelion or Shepard's purse?? Reader Becky suggests Dandelion, 

Rare in my street, no idea what it is.

Dog shit unites us all.

Reader Becky suggests: Sheep sorel or Schapenzuring

Reader Becky sguggests Prickly lettuce or Kompassla

The middle kingdom of the middle kingdom.

Reader Ed suggests Hairy Bittercress or Kleine veldkers for this.

Galanthus nivalis or Snowdrop or Sneeuwklokje

What is Psychogeophysics?

The following 'explanation' I wrote for the London Psychogeophysics summit in August 2010. I am a great fan of Martin Howse and Jonathan's Kemp, the organisers, but for some reason, probably sleep deprivation, this is mostly taking the piss. But in a deep and fascinating way that will revolutionize us all. Thank you. It is slightly rewritten. My own contribution to the festival was a .walk in brainfuck

A plate of spaghetti has many beginnings and many ends, but these 'functions' are trivial, easily reversed effects of direction not products of divine teleological purpose. You can eat the plate from the outside in or from the top down, the result, when the cook is not a hack, should be the same. Cause-and-effect and psychogeography are the substance and sauce of the world.
Question: you enter a room, what happens to you?

Answer: psychogeography.

Question: what is happening to you from outside the room?

Answer: Psychogeophy.

Question: What?

Answer: Psychogeophysics!

Just as the entire weight of the earth conspires to pull down suspended objects (gravity; weak but keystone) the human condition is being shaped by the entire earth: psychogeophysics (duh) is plate tectonics of the mind (yes, go kill yourself).

Psychogeographers have deluded themselves in their petty INMB (In My Back Yard) regionalism and general lack of ambition to look beyond the city and beyond the contemporary. Cities come and go, neighbourhoods go from bust to boom in cyclical fashion. The psychogeophysical angle, which is has everything going for it, is already deluded by procedural navel gazing (the big fat belly of the google-jugend) and an irrational belief in the supreme objectivity of measurement and raw data. Leave the 'spectral ecologies' to the teletubbies; at least they come with a native antenna. Do not quote some boring ass with cheap glasses just because s/he knows how to calibrate a seismic sensor. Death to the White Coats!
Quote Vladimir Nabokov: “I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness – in a landscape selected at random – is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern – to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.”

Time does not exist: our lives are too short to 'measure' it, time has astronomical minutes and geological seconds. Time is non-human. What we experience as time is background noise 300 decimals behind the comma. Our time is part of the margin of error, a fluctuation too small to spawn butterfly effects even in geological time. The study of Deep Topology (a tail between the hind legs approach to the depths of the soul here under investigation) gets it get in so far as it rightfully takes aim at the ‘psychogeographical sneer’, the Oh-Look-At-Those-Stupid-Fucks superiority that is the birthright of those art fashionistas who for a time claimed the practice for themselves. But the Iain Sinclair’s and the Stewart Home’s of this word have moved elsewhere, in pursuit of newer fashions in predictable proper disciplines (literature and porn respectively, both equally detestable). Now we are left to ourselves, in the shadow of obscurity, unobstructed by careerists we can get back to the real work.
The conventional hierarchies of urban space (the non-urban has tended to be a dead zone to be regarded with savage contempt ever since Debord and his wife-beating minions polluted the waters of psychogeography) from rooms, to houses, to streets, to neighbourhoods and upwards; the rifts and sensation experienced through drifting along the rigged, non-seamless man-made portmanteau environments are understood by psychogeographers as critical situations to diagnose the human condition. Can't they see that this is rubbish? Or rather, can't they see that this marginalizes the human artifact (the realm of input) to the point of wafer-thin, almost invisible, absurdity? Is a flaneur defined by the street and shops s/he wanders and explores? Is a magnetotactic bacteria navigating up and down the magnetic field through crystalline magnetosomatic pathfinding-techniques defined by the compass? Ley lines draw connections between unwobbling pivots of earthen magic and this reveals their status as pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo; complexity is my jinxed sextant and I have burned my collection of London Psychogeographic Association newsletters. A weak and dirty yellow flame, smelly.

Making use of their native head-mounted antennas the teletubbies (strangers from a strange land making house in the “Tubbytronic Superdome”) are daily invaded by incoming parasitic signals beamed from a golden-skinned dome. Unknown forces are hijacking the metallic silver-azure rectangular “screens” adorning their abdomens to transmit evil images of play and fun enacted by zombie-child actors. They are psychogeophysics' iconic martyrs, defenseless against a violent and oppressing world of push-media. We are tipsy on the heroics of Dipsy. 'Uh-oh' is our battle cry as we lay siege on the Vesuvius.

 Cosmonauts returning to earth after years in space (the Russian approach) will want to take a deep breath of real unprocessed fresh earth air: what stands out is not freshness but stench. The earth stinks. It smells of pond scum and volcano snot. Earth's background olfactory may have al sorts of effects, may be chemically programming us, may be manipulated to make us do or not do certain things, nobody has researched it. Psychogeophysics takes on board the entire immaterial world of rock and stone (the salt[s] of the earth) and translates them into one big global transmutational conspiracy of selfless mind control. Hurray!
Emotions are strange things: real and unreal simultaneously, like a dream or a Chinese poem in modernist 'translation'. Reread the Crystalpunk Manifesto.
Psychogeographers are laughed at in the same streets they adore. A mountain is more important than Paris, a volcano is more important than Cairo, an earthquake is more important than Dubai, the geomagnetic north is more important than all cities in the Americas together. A billion+ years of void, Los Angeles sinks into the ocean (cataclysm), a billion+ years of void. A billion+ years of void, a garden fence falls to the ground (cataclysm), a billion+ years of void. Geophysics not geography defines us. Lat/Lon systematics can not contain earth masses on the move. Mount Fuji does not need
Quote Dogen (1200-1253):“All mountains ride on clouds and walk in the sky. Above all waters are all mountains. Walking beyond and walking within are both done on water. All mountains walk with their toes on all waters and splash there”.

The landmasses move, seas wander, 'continental drift' does not need punning by a contemporary Walter Benjamin. The Holocene is ending, the anthropocene, in which an ever expanding human realm acts as a “new telluric force which in power and universality may be compared to the greater forces of earth” is the great accelerating compliment our presence is bestowing on the planet.  But (‘Art’ always takes you back to yourself), but… behind these impersonal forces might hide another intrusive force, life itself,

Quote William Balee: “The atmosphere is partly an artifact of the unfolding of life. In this context, one may consent to the view that Earth and its Latin equivalent, Terra, are misnomers; our planet should have been called Vita - for it is life itself, rather than any single life form or species (even the human one), that distinguishes it from the other planetary bodies of our solar system, at present. Life as a total phenomenon may even have affected plate-tectonics and other supposedly organic processes…”

All these thing do not need measuring they need awe: horror and terror in stroboscopic alternation. Psychogeophyiscs revolves around the open secret of human frailty, the dark heart of finality.
Quote Joseph Conrad: ”There were moments when one's past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention.” 

woensdag 9 februari 2011

Psychogeography vs Deep Topography

Whenever a new podcast of Ventures and Adventures in Topography becomes available I listen to it as soon as I can. The podcasts, hosted by Nick Papadimitriou and John Rogers, are 30 minute radio shows combining studio discussion and field recordings, slightly tongue-in-cheek, but also, in the combination of the knowledgeable and laconic Rogers and the original and slightly crazy Papadimitriou, bursting with off-beat insights of a unique blend of psychogeography and urban exploration that Papadimitriou calls 'deep topography'. Afterwards I always want to go outside and walk the unexplored outer fringes of Utrecht, but, sadly, I never do. In the podcast on Ilford a remark about the apparently typical 'psychogeographical sneer' leads Papadimitriou to the following observation:
I think the broad distinction between psychogeography and deep topography is that psychogeography at heart is Christian. It is always dealing with the notion of fallen man in his dumpy landscapes whereas deep topography is essentially tantric, it sees a kind of joyful sexuality in all things, even sewage farms. In fact particularly sewage farms.
He is right of course, psychogeography started with a group of people who are most famous for their fundamentalist self-righteousness. & For whom the Left Bank was the centre of the world. I hope this blog is doing better, having taken the Amazon (and the Arctic) as the centre of the world. 

dinsdag 8 februari 2011

Nordic anarchism and NOMA's ethnocoockery

Redzepi with aboriginal guide in S. Oz.
Rene Redzepi's NOMA has been covered here twice before. The first post noticed that NOMA foraging breaks with the Mediterranean tradition of olive oil and fatty sauces, the second post was a rambling attempt to find something to say about NOMA and/as art. The fascination of NOMA is threefold: 1) it is obviously something different 2) the reliance on foraged goods can be said to represent a break with the culture of agriculture and the accumulation of goods and power 3) the return to Nordic traditions (and the making of them at the same time) takes a break from the old Catholic idea of Europe as a cultural zone that emerged from the south (most notably Italy) and civilized the north.

Andre Breton refused to visit Italy because he resented the dominance of Latin culture. Good man.

Looking through the '90ties urban exploration journal Transgression I suddenly realized there exists a predecessor to Redzepi, one who creates a connection between NOMA and the avant-garde traditions of the 20th century: Asger Jorn, the Danish painter and situationist angel investor. 

Let's quote Ann-Charlotte Weimarck on Scandinavian anarchism:
One of his basic ideas was that Nordic art was unique, that it together with what he called Latin art and Byzantine art built up European cultural history, which was thus based on complementary value scales, conditions and approaches. He was of the opinion that an unenslaved and undisciplined man existed in Scandinavia from the earliest times which also can be traced in the arts. Free and undisciplined living conditions were the reason that Nordic art differed for example from that of southern Europe. He based his opinion on the fact that slavery never appeared as a mode of production in Scandinavia. Here is the basis of what he called Scandinavian Anarchism. He also thought that the Scandinavian artist had a different role from his colleagues in the rest of Europe: here, our artists were neither divine nor enslaved, here, the artist was of the people and the art in Scandinavia was an integral part of the environment, it grew free and was what he termed "use-art". Furthermore, it was no primitive offshoot of classical art but was based on its own aesthetics, constructed on a "dissymmetrical" structure as opposed to the rest of European art which he believed was based on a centralized and symmetrical structure.
Did you know that foraging cultures persisted in Scandinavia long after the rest of Europe was farming? Parts of the quote, "art as part of the environment" can easily be reworded to fit NOMA: "food as part of the environment". Food as part of everyday life not something fenced in as 'art' by artistic professionals, artism. Redzepi is of course a professional's professional but as the Meemalee blog review of his London talk shows, he has an ironic sense of humour that you never get from watching Britain's Great Menu. It would be interesting to know what Redzepi (whose father is Macedonian) would make of this connection to the Danish primitivist tradition. Could you email him?

The forest in the city [The Ramble]

Recently I purchased Marie Winn's 'Red Tails in Love' (1999), subtitled 'A wildlife drama in Central Park'. I didn't think it would be much but for one Euro you can take a guess and it turned out to be money well spent. The title of the book refers to two hawks who raised their hawk children on a Manhattan balcony; yes this is a bird watchers opera. Its entertainment value is not so much because of the birds but because of the way Winn describes the birdwatchers in Central Park as an example of a successful ad-hoc community that is open, enduring and, in a modest way, able to get things done. The book closes with useful lists of the birds (190 species), butterflies (53), dragonflies (50) and edible plants (200) that can be found in Central Park on a yearly basis.

The main scene for the Central Park birdwatching community is The Ramble, which is presented in Winn's book as a, well, cryptoforest.Wikipedia describes it as a ill maintained woodland park that was popularly believed to be in the process of becoming a proper forest, a belief that the wikipedia author describes as misguided and having led to impoverishment.

The city ecologist of Rotterdam recently complained on Twitter that often when he was chasing some rare nightly animal he would end up in places where he would be invited to illicit gay sex. These were not the alpha males he was looking for. The Ramble has its own night life like that too to make up for the starry eyed birdwatchers and foragers. Simplesteps offers a slideshow of what edibles are to be found in Central Park and here is an interview with Steve Brill who has been doing forage walks in the park for at least twenty years.

Winn's book taught me something else about a psychogeographically themed Dutch picture book called 'Stimmy or the jungle in the city' by Daan Remmerts de Vries en Philip Hopman. Stimmy is a city boy who dreams of going wild and one day after school he decides to leave the beaten track in the hope of ending up in the jungle. The setting is obviously New York and the the jungle must therefore be the Ramble.


zaterdag 5 februari 2011

Announcing the 'Middle Kingdom of Weeds Festival of Psychogeography and Foraging'

Cryptoforestry is part of this, are you? 

The MK-Weeds Festival of Psychogeography and Foraging
(April - May 2011)

The Middle Kingdom of Weeds Festival is a world-wide, open-format, zero-budget festival that will take place in April and May 2011.

The current interest in ‘urban foraging’ in the ‘edible city’ is helping us to see parts of the urban landscape that have long been disregarded or missed; the Middle Kingdom. This enthusiasm for foraging as an ancient practice highly relevant to contemporary problems is also provoking the field of psychogeography, the study of how place defines us, to reinvent itself. The two disciplines are deeply entangled.

The ‘Middle Kingdom’ is the grand total of weeds that grow beyond and between us, through cracks in the pavement and in the stealth arrangements of a cryptoforest. The Middle Kingdom of Weed, unintentionally cultivated yet thoroughly wild, is a kingdom in a psychogeographic classification of environments, not in the regal sense of authority: weeds are anarchic by default and it is with them that the forager prepares the green-op behind the surface of everyday banality.

The MKWeeds festival encourages people to go out and  explore their own backyard or neighborhood; to organize walks, workshops, picnics, projects, etc, with your friends, colleagues and wonderful strangers or your own. Events are already planned in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Great-Britain, the Netherlands and the United States. The website will be the hub of announcements and documentation.  

Go on!

Join the MKWeeds Festival!

Do get in touch via: 

email:  donotsearch at fightthegooglejugend dot com

vrijdag 4 februari 2011

Periodic derangement of the senses [the twilight zone]

The anthropologist as a young man.

'Systematic derangement of the senses' is how Rimbaud's described his method to get himself psyched out into states of enlarged poetic awareness. "Long, intimidating, immense and rational derangement of all the senses. The sufferings are enormous, but one must be strong, be born a poet, and I have recognized myself as a poet". William Burroughs cited this as his aim when he wrote Naked Luch, only later with the cut-up can he be said to have fully achieved it. And in mechanized form as well.

The following quote is from Philippe Descola's study of the Achuar Jivaro 'The Spears of Twilight'. It maps wonderfully well onto Rimbaud's sensual derangement as a beneficial state. French anthropologists tend to be erudite intellectuals rather than data-obsessed fieldworkers and in this context the influence of a po├Ęte maudit on an ethnologist are actually well rehearsed. James Clifford's Ethnographic Surrealism goes a long way to explain how French anthropology is almost a fully surrealist study with Debord and Bataille hovering over it with all their intellectual dominance. The quote itself affirms the connection by linking the psychogeographic, synaesthetic effects of twilight with Baudelaire, but what aesthetics was Descola thinking of exactly?   
Submerged in its green monotones, nature here is not of the kind to inspire a painter. Only at twilight does it deploy its bad taste, in line with Baudelairean aesthetics, exceeding the artifice of the gaudiest of coloured images. The inhabitants of the forest become exceptionally agitated during this brief debauchery of colour. The animals of the daytime noisily prepare for sleep while the nocturnal species awaken for the hunt, their carnivorous appetites whetted. Smells are almost definable now, for the heat of the long late afternoon has given them a consistency that the sun can no longer dissipate. Dulled during the daytime by the uniformity of the of nature's stimulants, the sensual organs are suddenly assailed at dusk by a multiplicity of simultaneous perceptions that make it very difficult to discriminate between sight, sound, smell. Thanks to this brutal onslaught on the senses, the transition between day and night in the forest acquires a dimension of its own as if, for a brief moment just before the great void sleep takes over, the human body is no longer separate from its environment.
Further commenting on the monotonous jungle where time seems to be non-existent Descola manages to write about the virtues of the bugs and pains as a form of home-making:
Time seems to be standing still, with neither depth nor rhythm, waiting for something to happen. Biological routines are all that lend a small measure of animation to our uneventful existence. The changes that they bring sometimes introduce a note of originality. An asphyxiating spice, a pretty caterpillar that inflicts an acid burn, mosquitoes that prevent you from sleeping, jiggers that eat your legs and abdomen, infected insect bites that suppurate, lice that infests your head, athlete's foot that makes your feet stink, colic that wrenches your entrails - in short, all the minor infirmities customary to the tropics combine to draw attention to, as it were, the alien nature of our own bodies in which these successive aches and pains find a home.