maandag 31 oktober 2011

Psychogeographical publications from the future: Six

The date given for the publication #4 of 'Transgressions, a journal of urban exploration' is spring 1998 and this probably means that I purchased it a year later at Camden's Compendium bookstore when I was in London for the 10 Days in Space festival organized by the Association of Autonomous Astronauts. This magazine ticks all the boxes of that time: magico-marxism (!, where has it gone), primitivism, the AAA, Luther Blissett, Stewart Home when he could still be taken serious, The LPA's Fabian Tompsett, Angry Brigade's John Barker reviewing Tom Vague's book on the AB, psychogeo field reports, Asger Jorn and rock art. What more could you possible want? This was psychogeography as it was before 2000: exclusively used and understood in activist/anarchist/left-wing Marxist terms. This is not by definition a good thing because the overall tone is one of sectarian self-righteousness gift wrapped in academically sanctified forms. 

Sometimes I check ebay to see if any of the other 4 issues are for sale, but nobody wants to flog them. 

Mosses come where the weeds are prevented from growing

Do you remember the algae incubating pond? This is what it looks like almost a year later. Weeding is still going on and the result is a basin with a green furry coat.


dinsdag 25 oktober 2011

Where is the #occupoetry ? [Draft 3]

1) October 25th

So where is the #poetry in #occupywallstreet (yes, the #occupoetry (or maybe #occupyoetry?))?
I am asking because while people are wondering what the soundtrack to the worldwide occupation movement might be, nobody seems to care what literature #ows cites as inspirational and what literature its poets and writers aspire to produce. The only thing comes to mind is Alan Moore's comic 'V for Vendetta' that inspired the Guy Fawkes masks, regular seen at occupy demonstrations, as worn by sympathizers of Anonymous.

So, you are camping for weeks or months on some godforsaken square with your friends who, like yourself, are becoming more scruffy everyday. What do you do in the evening hours when nothing much is happening: you sing. That is how it has always been, and I like to believe that originally poetry was exactly that: words to music, language measured to a rhythm, inspirational speeches given over a camp fire. Poetry originates itself - if the conditions are there. Robert Graves for instance spoke about the ground mind composing poetry in the trenches of WWI. Poetry is about expressing sentiments and emotions direct and from the heart. Objectivity, critical distance, (and perhaps even rationality itself?) belong to prose. Poetry exists in the moment and the moment for all those people on all those squares is now.  

When I saw the video of Slavoj Zizek's speech at #ows I was completely overawed with the use of the 'human microphone' or 'human megaphone' principle where the people in the front rows repeat the speaker. What a powerful way of imprinting a written text on a human mind. You can imagine some unknown poet reciting from memory a song he or she composed while his audience repeats it phrase after phrase, writing it on their souls for ever (with Gilgamesh or the Rig Veda as a 'product' thousand years later).  In our own time Allen Ginsberg marvelled about the capability of Aboriginal songman to indefinitely remember large amounts of text heard only once. 

Poetry is about mind control and I would love to see one voicing her or himself through the human megaphone. 

2) November 9th

But there is poetry at occupy (and poets at Occupy). I just missed a local poet at the Occupy Utrecht festival while the librarian of #ows has collected an Occupy Wallstreet Poetry Anthology that exists as three ring bound volumes with poetry emailed to them by amateurs and pro's alike. Here is what he writes:
Poetry illuminates the soul of Occupy Wall St. A lot of people are asking, “What are the demands” and the poets voices show just how nuanced the human spirit and impossible a set of demands truly is. This occupation is about transforming consciousness and the poetry community is a major part of that process. 
To read it you have to visit the people's library. There is also a weekly poetry reading sessions on Friday evenings. I do not know if the human megaphone comes into action.  Strictly speaking it is not yet #occupoetry in the hard definition but that can only be a question of time.

3) December 13th

Ows at Zuccotti is evicted, perhaps for the better perhaps, ready to move elsewhere, occupying houses, finding spaces, learning new things and forms of living together, away from the prying eyes of the media.

There is an interesting piece in the Nation in which people's librarian William Scott has this to say:
During the raid, Stephen Boyer, a poet, friend and OWS librarian, read poems from the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology (see aloud directly into the faces of riot police. As they pushed us away from the park with shields, fists, billy clubs and tear gas, I stood next to Stephen and watched while he yelled poetry at the top of his lungs into the oncoming army of riot police. Then, something incredible happened. Several of the police leaned in closer to hear the poetry. They lifted their helmet shields slightly to catch the words Stephen was shouting out to them, even while their fellow cops continued to stampede us. The next day, an officer who was guarding the entrance to Zuccotti Park told Stephen how touched he was by the poetry, how moved he was to see that we cared enough about words and books that we would risk violent treatment and arrest just to defend our love of books and the wisdom they contain.

4) January 11

maandag 24 oktober 2011

The Savage and the Inncocent [picture set]

David Maybury-Lewis is an British anthropologist who lived with the Sherente and Shavante in 1955/56. He did a proper anthropological study that is well regarded but I have just finished his other book: 'The Savage and the Innocent' (1965, earlier). It's a popular account of the human story of fieldwork and the subjectiveness behind the data. There are more books like this, and they follow a certain pattern, but Maybury-Lewis does it better than most and this is largely the result from him taking himself not too serious and his refusal to sentimentalize himself, the people, the rainforest or travel itself. If you ever travelled two weeks with a loved one through some strange country where no one speaks your languages and the mores are different (even if it's only Italy or Poland) this story is appreciatively recognizable. Here are some of the pictures from this book, click to enlarge.

Listening to their own voices on the tape-recorder.
The woman watch as the men dance.

A paccary caught during a hunt.
Notice the anthropologist's feet.

Woman sitting next to a earth oven

vrijdag 21 oktober 2011

A cryptoforest more beautiful than the Samothrace

Here is a tiny little cryptoforest that I first went out to take pictures of at the day I also did the car park. Most of the photos were blurry so I returned today and the pics below are taken on these two visits. 

This is a triangular wooded area at the back of the student flats that opens the Overvecht ensemble of high rises. It's next to a basketball court, a carpark and the rail track is only a fence and a blackberry thicket away.
What strikes me most is the uncouthness of this cryptoforest. It must have started out as a lawn with a few planted trees. When the willows took over the municipal mowers became ineffective. At first they tried to manage the willows (there is ample evidence of removed branches) but eventually they just gave up. The startling amount of litter added to the sense of abandonment.

I know I say this everytime but I found this cryptoforest to be a very special place, with unique elements and with a unique feel to it. I wish I could live here. 

Enigmatic for this cryptoforest.

A Christmas tree.

Hard to see: but it's a holly.

Look at the symmetry of that!

donderdag 20 oktober 2011

Psychogeography needs a zine! Call for Submissions!!

[17 november deadline update]

Yesterday and the day before, (and today as well) I came across several fascinating field reports of psychogeographic drifts. I would love to bring these together with a staple in the middle, so it's possible to rediscover them between your other stuff ten years from now. 
let's do it!

Take a look at the Wiki to see a list of (possible) contributors, add links to whatever you think you should be included.


email your field reports to wilfriedhoujebek, yahoo, com (fill in dots and @'s at the appropriate locations.)
Deadline? Half November. I want to include a field report of an upcoming walk on 27 November and this means the deadline is at the end of November.   

Thank you, this will be great.

maandag 17 oktober 2011

Earsplitting noise - excercising the jungle

In 1955 David Mabury-Lewis and his wife Pia lived with the Sherente (Xerente). On their way the were forced to spend time in some backwater Brazilian village that suffered from a minority complex exactly because it was only a backwater village. Maybury-Lewis (in 'The Savage and the Innocent', 1965) writes about the daily (and noisy) ritual of local radio-through-the-loudspeaker. 

His conclusion reaffirms that a) forests and towns in our society don't mix 2) that forest-dwelling indigenous people experience the forest in a completely different way.     
It was not until I had some experience of the eerie stillness of the bush that I came to understand why the town loudspeaker with its nightly hour (or two hours in affluent towns) of earsplitting noise was so important to the people who lived in the interior. It was their way of exorcising the jungle, of shouting defiance at the vast savannahs and claiming kinship with the cities. 
If you don't mind a bit of third rate cryptoforest pondering: I long believed in the theory that the fact that agoraphobia (the fear for open spaces) occurs much less often than claustrophobia (which I personally find easier to empathize with) can be understood as a consequence of the fact that our nervous system developed to the savannah conditions where our ape ancestors developed there human brains. Now I believe that the origin of such phobias are cultural rather than biological: forest people are psychogeographically different from us.... 

zaterdag 15 oktober 2011

Map and aerial photo of an Amazonian garden city [click to enlarge]

From the above aerial picture of the Canela village Escalvado you might think that it is the village of some isolated Indian tribe. If you look at the diagram below though you see that the spokes of the traditional village tell only half the story. The village is surrounded by a malakoian suburbia, a belt of modern utilities like a soccer field and a school and the houses of white people providing various services to the Canela. Both images are provided by William and Jean Crocker in 'The Canela: Kinship, Ritual and Sex in an Amazonian Tribe' (2004, earlier). The images are five years apart but from the book I don't get the idea that much changed in between.     

vrijdag 14 oktober 2011

Another guide to plants & trees

The most persistent effect of globalization will be biological, not economical. With that in mind my goal is to learn enough to visit some overgrown field or cryptoforest and be able to see it as a floral portmanteau that brings together species from around the world, each telling about a specific story of exploration, travel, management and adaptation. In that effort (on the cheap) I have blindly purchased a 1980 pocket in mint condition for a paltry fifty eurocent. It turns out to be a perfectly structured teaching book for the novice plant spotter. It begins by telling you what to look for (the two middle pictures) and continues with orderly pre-sorted categories that make it easy to look up the name. It is an old book and I have spotted the absence of certain pervasive weeds (Hockweed, Red Valerian, Japanede Knotweed, perhaps indicative of a changed landscape of weeds?) but it will certainly be of use. 

maandag 10 oktober 2011

Gary Snyer ate horse meat from the pet store

The 1967 Houseboat Summit (earlier) had Timothy Leary, Allen Watts, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder discussing the future of the psychedelic revolution which at that time was about to merge with/into the Back to the Land movement. Much is about drugs, religion and conciousness but a curiously large segment of the discussion deals with the need to learn the practicalities of homesteading; how appropriate it again seems now the 40 year love-affair with the city is collapsing. According to Charles Perry's book on the Height Ashbury this was quite the event at the time and while he states that not everybody may have read it, the transcript was definitly a thing to have and to keep. Against self-styled guru Leary (who appears completely out of his depth) Gary Snyder comes across as the much-respected outdoors-man with a philosophy: the dark mountain mobster who is listened to. But I may be biased.

The following two quotes by Snyder are taken from the transcript. From the first quote we learn how to live and that Snyder himself got through college by dumpster diving. The second quote tells about the need to learn from the native people, the gist of this was included here earlier.
Well, this isn't news to anybody, but ten or fifteen years ago when we dropped out, there wasn't a community. There wasn't anybody who was going to take care of you at all. You were completely on your own. What it meant was, cutting down on your desires and cutting down on your needs to an absolute minimum; and it also meant, don't be a bit fussy about how you work or what you do for a living. That meant doing any kind of work. Strawberry picking, carpenter, laborer, longshore...Well, longshore is hard to get into. It paid very well. Shipping out...that also pays very well. But at least in my time, it meant being willing to do any goddam kind of labor that came your way, and not being fuzzy about it. And it meant cultivating the virtue of patience -- the patience of sticking with a shitty job long enough to win the bread that you needed to have some more leisure, which meant more freedom to do more things that you wanted to do. And mastering all kinds of techniques of living really cheap... Like getting free rice off the docks, because the loading trucks sometimes fork the rice sacks, and spill little piles of rice on the docks which are usually thrown away. But I had it worked out with some of the guards down on the docks that they would gather 15 or 25 pounds of rice for me, and also tea...I'd pick it up once a week off the docks, and then I'd take it around and give it to friends. This was rice that was going to be thrown away, otherwise. Techniques like that.

...we used to go around at one or two in the morning, around the Safeways and Piggly Wigglies in Berkeley, with a shopping bag, and hit the garbage can out in back. We'd get Chinese cabbage, lots of broccoli and artichokes that were thrown out because they didn't look sellable any more. So, I never bought any vegetables for the three years I was a graduate student at Berkeley. When I ate meat, it was usually horse meat from the pet store, because they don't have a law that permits them to sell horsemeat for human consumption in California like they do in Oregon.

* * * * * *
If you're going to talk this way you have to be able to specifically say to somebody in Wichita, Kansas who says, "I'm going to drop out. How do you advise me to stay living around here in this area which I like?"

All right, say I want to stay where I am. I say, okay, get in touch with the Indian culture here. Find out what was here before. Find out what the mythologies were. Find out what the local deities were. You can get all of this out of books. Go and look at your local archaeological sites. Pay a reverend [sic] visit to the local American Indian tombs, and also the tombs of the early American settlers. Find out what your original ecology was. Is it short grass prairie, or long grass prairie here? Go out and live on the land for a while. Set up a tent and camp out and watch the land and get a sense of what the climate here is. Because, since you've been living in a house all your life, you probably don't know what the climate is.

Then decide how you want to make your living here. Do you want to be a farmer, or do you want to be a hunter and food gatherer? You know, start from the ground up, and you can do it in any part of this country today...cities and all...For this continent I took it back to the Indians. Find out what the Indians were up to in your own area. Whether it's Utah, or Kansas, or New Jersey.

zondag 9 oktober 2011

Material incompetence

Wonderful quote by Alan Watts, taken from the Houseboat Summit in 1967: 
Our educational system, in its entirety, does nothing to give us any kind of material competence. In other words, we don't learn how to cook, how to make clothes, how to build houses, how to make love, or to do any of the absolutely fundamental things of life. The whole education that we get for our children in school is entirely in terms of abstractions. It trains you to be an insurance salesman or a bureaucrat, or some kind of cerebral character.

donderdag 6 oktober 2011

The Approved Crystalpunk Manifesto

Inorganic Strategies / Crystalline Tactics

"I do not like that presumptuous Philosophy which in its rage of explanation allows no xyz, no symbol representative of the vast Terra Incognita of Knowledge, for the Facts and Agencies of Mind and matter reserved for future Explorers." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

*note: this is an updated version from the original manifesto first published somewhere in 2005 (?), I wouldn't normally have republished it but here it is anyway. It is related to the Crystalpunk Manifesto for Psycholudology published here earlier. 

Screenshots 1


Without prior warning, while reading or while watching television or while doing the dishes or while wandering about or while drinking beer or while doing nothing at all, it might happen that something breaks free and takes over ordinary vision as if the cuckoo is taking over the clock. Is it moving? Is it static? Is the sheep very small or just very far away? It’s hard to say. The mind automatically tries to fill in the blanks when confronted with fragments of a larger sequence of images and this Crystalpunk manifesto is a Coleridgian extrapolation from incomplete data generated by my brain into the modus operandi of a future crystalpunk movement rocking the cradle of consensus reality.

Asteroids from Inner Space

At the beat of neural matter reaching temporary boiling-point a black rectangle launches itself into a formless clutter of other black rectangles: a silent and miniscule explosion,  impossible to stop and impossible to accelerate. At the speed of one rectangle at a time, a hybrid conceptual structure is finding shape, gaining critical mass, gradually, slowly, to become a tangible sensation. These images are not caused by invading Etruscan demons nor am I hooked on some mind-expanding drugs; what I see, and seeing is for want of a better word, is a ricochet of the symbolic representations of crystal growth studied in fierce, exhausting, daylong sessions behind a computer monitor. Software as a monocle for your third eye.

The First Flash

Last summer while browsing for nothing in particular I found a copy of the survivalist-hippie classic The Last Whole Earth Catalogue that somehow ended up in the bargain-bin of a second-hand bookstore, useless to the shop-owner who liked it but couldn't sell it to his dull customers (he specializes in art-history, what more do you need to know?). Among many other goodies (Cybernetic Serendipity, eski diagrams from Nelson's Xanadu) it contained the picture of a home-grown salt-crystal on a string. It struck me there and then that growing crystals is the new punk-rock, that crystals are to a future breed of crystalpunks what the electric guitar was to punk: a cleansing of the slate, a rebooting of expectations. Revolutions produce nothing but noise at first, but slowly, while control over the instruments continues to grow, music starts to emerge, music which isn't caught up in empty exercises of style, punk allowed instinct to amplify natural rhythms lost in prevailing grand theories of yesterday and the cultural hegemony of artistic specialisation. The programmability of crystals; chaos evolving into complex physical structures hands-off, are properties to be explored in kitchen sinks and garages the world over. But the mineral world is not the only realm where crystals self-organise with aggressive carelessness, the mind too sings its tune as Thomas Carlyle discovered a long time ago:

    "As in some chemical mixture, that had stood long evaporating, but would not crystallise, instantly when the wire or other fixed substance is introduced, crystallisation commences, and rapidly proceeds till the whole is finished, so was it with the editors mind... Form rose out of void solution and discontinuity; like united with like in definite arrangement: and soon either in actual vision and possession, or in fixed reasonable hope, the image of the whole enterprise had shaped itself, so to speak, into a solid mass. "

Romancing the Stone

In all of history the crystal is the most overloaded symbol, used by writers, prophets, medicine-man and orators of all times to express otherworldliness in one clear symbolically real object. Novalis, poet and student of mining, took the crystal to be a dark, soul-eating parasite transforming the human heart into the dead cold of a stone; some believe it to be an early apocalyptic warning against the cyborg. The sentiment is easily understood; is it, after all, not true that it is with more than just amazement we listen to the stories about that Indian sect that refuses to eat anything organic and, consequently, rather suck on amethyst for the rest of their life than touch organic matter, even when it is only centipede-excrement? Mineral cults evoke absolute horror and disgust, suggesting crystal-phobia lurking at the bottom of our instincts. The crystal is an outcast food source and Geophagists  receive shudders of pathethic compassion but clay is nice and nutritional sound in many food situations: it makes lichen palatable and kills excess parasites. There is more to translation than grammar alone. At least one standard metaphorical use of the crystal, that of the crystal as object of utopian perfection, as pure geometrical-molecular-ethnicity, in most cases turns out to be a chemical fiction. One of the most interesting qualities of crystals is their ability to encapsulate alien particles. Crystals too produce noise, as one flaw entered during packing distorts tessellation for ever after. 

The Crystal XYZ

Crystals can reproduce  but unlike organic reproduction it is an unintentional process, hardcoded in chemical properties, not by means of interpretation of code as in DNA. To help understand the powers crystalpunks will learn to harness, some scripts were written as aids to mapping the bright prospects of DIY crystal growth basement laboratories. These models are by no means a scientific correct simulation of crystallisation as they know nothing about molecule-bonding and all that shit. So what do I see? Each simulation starts at n=0 with crystalline agents and their solvent in total confusion. For each step the bipolar compounds in the system move. When crystalline entities, symbolised by black rectangles, meet their kin they pack into a crystal; the solvent, symbolised by transparent circles, break the crystal when touching it. Or variations on this principle. While this universe ages (n=n+1) dispersed crystalline agents beget shape, packed in such way that the solvent can't break it. The system is stable when all crystals are packed and only a change in the rules can tear it apart. As writing code goes, it takes hours of close attention to fix minor bugs and while wrapping this up, the even more patient work of comparing different rules to their output can commence. The abnormal input of these computer images has distorted ordinary memory-packing and now this black rectangular matter is humming along with some grey matter going Harry Houdini on me.

Paul Prudence's Crystalpunk mindmap (circa 2005?)

The Origins of [the Game of] Life

Crystalphobia is an ironic phenomena in relation to Graham Cairns-Smith's theory (made popular in his book '7 Clues to the Origin of Life') that primeval life forms were replicated by crystals before evolution replaced it by DNA. The 'Game of Life', the famous Conway program with its sublime simplified representation of organic reproduction: black rectangles living, dying and being born in a graceful dance orchestrated by simple rules, remains to haunt those who once fell in love with it. One of the theorised implications of Life is that it should be possible to program this rectangle-matter into a fully functional computer. One way to do this is by isolate all rectangle-configurations that are stable and which therefore can be part of a deterministic, man-made, system: the micro-domain as a rectangle-clockwork. My crystalpunk software, (a party with a lot of noise, booze and sugar-coated Goethite to suck on, was held to commemorate its beta-release) borrows the aesthetics from Life, but the resemblance doesn't end at the GUI. Even though a different abstraction of reality is on show, a reality founded on the interaction between hostile compounds, the same sort of order as in Life can be witnessed, the same gliders, pumps and shooters are possible. The major difference is the self-organisation of large, open, pyramid shaped crystals perfectly adapted to not obstruct the solvent but rather to, you could interpret, process it. Crystalgate filters are easily engineered to emit a pulse after a certain threshold of particles have passed it. Time is a programming language. Space is a bug with a feature/future.

Translating Mud / Eating Language
"Looked at again and again half consciously by a mind thinking of something else, any object mixes itself so profoundly with the stuff of thought that it loses its actual form and recomposes itself a little differently in an ideal shape which haunts the brain when we least expect it". – Virginia Woolf 
The Jivaro and Edwin Muir are right: dreams are experiences, some people experience in them things that change the course of their lives. Dreaming is the moment the mind generates quasi-perception hands-off, like a crystal growing. Rereading the literature about automatic writing, an interesting tradition amidst poetic theory at large (and what else is poetry but non-invasive brain surgery), the parallel becomes obvious. Automatic writing is a conscious and paradoxical effort to tap into the screensaver-mode of the mind; interfacing it directly while self-assembling language, crystallizing on the paper, words like Rorschach test, traditional meaning evaporating like ink soaked-up in blotting paper. The dubious credibility of its practitioners notwithstanding, it is interesting that, during automatic writing sessions, the writer by no means writes in a language she speaks, indeed the language does not have to exist at all. It has been pointed out that all automatic writing tends to resemble each other and you might say that this is caused by all minds obeying to the same logic, just as salt-crystals all look roughly the same and for now we assert as conceptual kludge that growing crystals equals tectonic somnambulism. In the words of Virginia Woolf:

"Fantasticality does a good deal better than sham psychology."

A Bad-Ass Quasi-Poetic Semi-Chinese Arch-Romantic Super-Story

Halfway through writing his Biografia Literaria (truly spectacular, truly spectacularly unreadable) Samuel Taylor Coleridge finds himself trapped in an asteroid field of metaphysical arguments of his own making. Firing at random, hoping to blast himself  a loophole only unfailingly demands another complicated discursive manoeuvre to stay alive. He needs to get out but the shortest path to the exit always outdistances the time remaining to the Deadline. This is what happens when you search for truth, unity and all-embracing coherence: you reach for the sky and it crushes you! But (ALAS!) a Great Writer is also an Escape Artist and Coleridge has one last black hole up his sleeve: he applied Tenuki. He solved the problem by ignoring it on one level and by attacking it at another level and, (LO!) just in time (HA!) a lifesaver arrives. In the form of a fake letter saying just what Coleridge needed to hear in order he can “pull backwards from the boat in order to enter it”. The Tenuki, at the darkest heart of its art, can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: the mere suggestion of the possibility that a surrender may actually be a disguised attack may drive the opponent into a self-defeating paranoia. Or, in the words of Cao Xuegin:

"Truth becomes fiction when the fiction's true. Real becomes not-real when the unreal's real".  

CrystalPunk Cartographies of Juxtaposed Realities

On-screen and off-screen, in physical matter and in neural matter: crystals operate as synaptic agents of self-organised control, remixing pre-existing fragments of the world; if you can see them, they are successful, if you can’t see them then you should start to worry. False memories can be replaced by genuine ones, separate realms of reality can be flattened and brought to uniform size and blended into one whole presupposed by its parts. The mind can emulate the screen can emulate the laws of nature and feed them back to you. Crystalpunks are those wildstyle geniuses learning how to program crystalline molecules, pixels and neurons simultaneously. Listen to this carefully! We are the anarchohomunculi jezebels. We have come to give you little minds. Mind and matter can be synthesised in one noisy stroke and the crystalpunk movement is here to prove it. We have crystal-pistols and we are not afraid to use them.

Screenshots 2 

woensdag 5 oktober 2011

It was at this time that the Indians came here, eating rotten wood.

Canela village
Indian myths (like this one) have the dual tendency to appear to 1) amble forever in a narrative infinity without plot or reason, 2) use words with extreme economy. The following Canela myth recorded by William H. Crocker is a good example: to an unaccustomed Western reader (at least to me) reading stuff like this is like watching a 10.000 by 10.000 images filled with random black and white dots: your eyes just can't focus. But once you get the picture it is one of extreme elegance. It explains why the Indians are at the bottom of the social hierarchy of Brazilian society and it could easily be read as a fall from grace by means of original sin but this is not how the Canela interpret it. To them this myth explains why the whites, who achieved the power of the shotgun, are bound by social contract to give the Indians what they need. 
When the Indian saw the shotgun, the Devil, fully loaded, he thought that the shotgun was hostile and threatening. "It has its mouth open. It has a mouth. I'm afraid."

Awkhee ordered the Christian to pick up the shotgun and fire it to show the Indian. The Christian picked up the shotgun and fired, and the Indian fell to the ground. He felt his back and the pain spread all over his body. The lead balls had not hit him; it was just the blast from the explosion which hurt him. The magical powers of the shotgun had penetrated the Indian's body. The stupid Indian had felt pain without having been shot. The Christian had shot without aiming at the Indian had fallen to the ground in pain.

When the Indian had recovered from the pain, he said: "We don't need this shotgun. It is wild; it has powers we don't need." So Awkhee ordered the Christian to pick up the bow and arrow, but the Christian did not know how to shoot the arrow from the bow. Awkhee ordered the Indian to pick up the bow and arrow and shoot it. The Indian did so and shot off the arrow, which travelled through the air noiselessly. The Indian liked the bow and the arrow and spoke of receiving them. It was exactly this that Awkhee did not like, and he became really angry with the Indian. Right then and there he ordered the Christian to take the shotgun and the Indian to take the bow and arrow.

Awkhee spoke in the Indian language: "It is because of this that you are going away and will roam aimlessly through the world. You will travel around in the forest and dry bush, scratching and tearing your bodies, and doing little of significance. You will live any which way, any way you can, travelling throughout this world. Leave now! I'm very angry with you."

The great-grandfathers came walking here in the forests, doing pointless things, just like animals, travelling without direction. It seems it was at this time that the Indians came here, eating rotten wood. 

This was the story that the old men always told there in the middle of the plaza... I think the story goes like this and I never heard it told differently. Others told it the way I just finished telling it. So, it is only like this, the story of Awkhee.
From Crocker & Crocker, The Canela: Kinship, Ritual and Sex in an Amazonian Tribe (2004). 

maandag 3 oktober 2011

Garden village psychogeographix with Postman Pat

My first month as a member of the Postman Pat fraternity was spent filling temporarily vacant spots all over East. At the beginning of my second month I was given my own two rounds in Garden Village, which is the literal translation of this 1930ties model village (Tuindorp) that was added to Utrecht municipality only in 1953. My first experience of Garden Village was something of a cold shower, a mixture of underwhelmed alienation and hard graft as I walked endless tree-lined streets, passing uncountable ornamental mini-parks, walking up and down the deep gardens that front the three-story high brick buildings with their brown tiled roofs. The overall impression of the ambience of Garden Village is one of boring and diminutive order, a corner of maddening sanity surrounded by neighbourhoods famous for the desolate genius of their towerblocks.

In the hazy Indian summer air the end of the long street are hidden behind the curving of the earth, out of reach beyond a horizon of which the distance can't be approximated; empty space creates a richly filled time, it's part of the Situationist formula for a new urbanism but I don't buy it. I need to shake off the emptiness that follows when sterile uniformity and rational domesticity meet on the drawing table of a mediocre utopist. There are two churches, one catholic and one protestant, both located conveniently central but at polite distance from each other, there is one school and one playground, there is one garage and no shops (though there are a few corner-houses used by small business that must have been greengrocers and butchers in the past). The Catholic church is the centre of a little park with a pond with a small flock of aggressive geese. It keeps annoying me that the small electricity relay station is housed in a little building with a roof identical to the church. So thought out, so pretty, so devoid of contrast. At the nearest corner, at opposing sides of the road tree roots have upset the pavement and I need to navigate my trolley, heavy and unstable, loaded with 3 full bags of mail, around them. Oh my: the wildness, the shade, the cryptoforest.   

There is no place for poor people in Garden Village, they can't afford it. The neighbourhood is obviously affluent, its occupants all working in professions that are the pearls in the crown of the middle class: doctors, dentists, airline pilots, lawyers, architects, professors, and school directors. In comparison to most other places where houses are privately owned there are hardly any for-sale signs to be seen. Real estate is at its lowest point in decades and the number of houses that are on the market is rising visibly, but you don't notice it here. It 's another sign of its village sleepiness, its ability to ignore the insecurities of the world around it. Once you move into Garden Village you stay there for the rest of your life, it's your final destination on the housing market. Here you raise your children and spent your retirement. A house here starts at 450.000 Euro. Social demographics add to my alienation, I am just another underpaid servant servicing the living death.

Between the trees and the bushes, walking from door to door, via manicured garden to manicured garden, through streets that appear empty even when people are about, blotted out against the massiveness of the houses, the 80 year old trees, the photogenic  symmetry of its streets. At first I felt continuously disoriented and lost, following the post through a spooked ghost town free of internal contrasts and without street life, delivering post to barrister blonds and their Human Resource division leader husbands. People do not live here: they dwell comfortably in uncluttered rooms, a piano in the corner, a piece of art in the window, marriage disputed settled with an informal meeting over a coffee machine that costs more than I earn in six months. The windows are clean, the cleaning ladies are the only non-white persons I ever see.

After a month in Garden Village the front of uniformity is beginning to break. A little. I am beginning to see where the 'bad' streets are: where the gardens are weedy and the cars are unwashed. The average age of the population, as I estimate it, keeps rising, many gardens have been kept in the same state for decades, to a garden historian Garden Village must be a Rosetta Stone of thirty years of garden fashion. 

Saturdays are different: the ghost town becomes a Lazarus village. Gardens are tended, neighbours complain to one and other, fairs are organized, sports are practised. Teenagers in sporting cloths are to be seen everywhere, going to or coming from their football and hockey clubs. It's like one of those Midsommer Murder villages, albeit without the murder and the deprivation. The image is not that far fetched as Garden Village was modelled after English example.

After four weeks the sense of being lost at a place where I did not belong is making way for a gradual awareness to difference and detail. Most front doors have been opened for me by now, people great me, people start to recognize me, people begin to speak to me, I begin to see where the people are who are home all day. Next they will be offering me candy. Garden village is absorbing me, in that it is a real village as well.