The Metaleptic Kid

November 29, 2012

A reading from a section of William S. Burroughs Nova Express (1964). A rather wonderfully evocative reading with synchronized visuals that add extra-textual connotations, but here I just want to focus on the text and the lucid narration of the subliminal kid. We are first introduced to the notion of networked surveillance as a kind of human artery to a metropolis. Technology takes on a direct humanist extension, an allegorical network in smoothly integrated with the psyche of the subliminal kid. The visual stream of what we assume to be real-time activity manifests a narration of the actual city, on a metaphysical level the inescapable ‘sight’ of the camera equally constitutes the filmic image of the city as manifest as ‘the city itself’ (to rephrase, the city cannot escape being defined by the presence of the camera). This serendipitously moves into a narration of the city as image and the deliberate malfunctioning of fiction and reality, that become reflected back onto the actions of the city.

Why serendipitously? Well it fits theoretically smug with a list of theories. Firstly there is the obvious opinions of William S. Burroughs of state control and the engineers of technology being amalgamated with governmental powers, a clear engagement with Marxism and a rendition of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Then we may equally divulge into the Debord’s power of the spectacle, Foucaultian power structures of observation or Baudrillardian hyperrealism, all with equal measure.


I’d like to borrow from literary theory (or narratology) the concept of Metalepsis.

The Latin equivalent is transumptio meaning to assume one thing from another (for a full definition see John Peir’s definition in the Living Handbook of narratology). In literary terms it is the specific violation of narrative structure between narrator and narratee, one interjecting into the other and so merging the two levels. Metalepsis is typified in two forms, firstly through rhetorical means as a distortion on narration, and then secondly as a full violation of the ontological structure of a narrative, by which the reader or recipient re-evaluates the narratives plausibility and is drawn towards the ‘inventedness’ of narrative.

In theatre Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound two theatre critics are seen to be watching a play until they are inadvertently drawn into the play and one of the critics is murdered within the play they are assumed to be ‘viewing’. In Sally Potter version of Orlando she repeatedly has the lead actress address the audience, peering down the lens of the camera into the cinema, a technique utilised by other arthouse films and theatre that is known as ‘breaking the forth wall’ or addressing the invisible membrane between audience (although this in not strictly narrator/narratee but rather narrator/audience, it is still a mechanism to highlight the ‘inventedness’ of narrative and a structural interjection).

This passage on the subliminal kid contains a metalepsis between the ‘realism’ of the city (the ‘city’ here has a singular agency) and the fictive telescopic films of the subliminal kid. The merging of the city and the kid is complete in this passage, the citizens themselves figuratively becoming mere images of light and the total loss of material realism. The metaleptic moment is the act of violation on the ontological structure of ‘the city’ as it is narrated as a material entity.

(Note: the entirety of psychogeography is saturated in this instance by the televisual ie, ‘the city’ is manifest through the singular which is perhaps its flaw. Psychogeography as a strategy enables a remanifestation of materiality in instances that are particular and so outside the scope of being condensed into universal values).

I might here address the concept of an ‘affect of metalepsis’. In narrative terms the separation between narrator and narratee is to maintain the tenuous ‘suspension of disbelief’ that traditional narration requires. The narrator is positioned with the authorial voice of truth upon the fictive structure that it presents, so defining an ontological clarity between accepted truth and fiction as ‘falsified truth’. A violation of this structure results rather in the ‘suspension of belief’, the accepted agreement of suspended disbelief is violated. The reader/audience is made to question firstly the authority of the narrator’s voice; a voice that has committed what might be equivalent to lying, and then secondly is drawn to the ‘inventedness’ of narration.

Metalepsis highlights narrative function, artifice, the artificial and the synthetic malleability of apparent realism. It lifts up the car bonnet to reveal that the car has no engine and we that we no longer have a clear idea of what is it that is driving us about. The collapse of the diegesis upon the real, enacts a recursive diegetic fiction within the real. Thus the interplay becomes fiction on fiction, falls in on itself, becomes layers of enmeshed fiction, a mashup in which illusion and fact are inseparable.

There are ways out of this, or more so there are alternative means of approaching the issue. It requires however a reassessment of the ontological structure concerning fiction and truth that provide the basis for metalepsis to occur. The ‘suspension of disbelief’ is an invention of Western theatre, and so entangled with the Western ontology of things. Ethnographic studies have shown the ‘fictional narrative’ in some cultures is asserted as literal truth, there is no suspension of anything at all.

In contrast to most linguistic theory, Mopan do not place emphasis on individual agency and the speaker’s creativity. Instead, they explicitly stress the role of the hearers, and their obligation is to believe. Speakers must respect that intention in their hearers. (P. 4)

This quote from Peter Metcalf’s They Lie, We Lie (2002) is an example in which fiction ceases to exist. The counter example is Metcalf’s biography concerning the Berawan of Borneo, from those manner of storytelling the title is derived. This saying of ‘they lie, we lie’ is a Bakhtian ‘”stylistic aura” of the entire speech genre’ (P. 7), enabling Metcalf to propose the the Berawan of Borneo have always been postmodern when it comes to appropriating language. There is no collapse into relative fiction or nihilistic sophism, but rather the ritual of storytelling is linked to ancestoral/historical past and invigorated in the enactments of the speaker. If they lied then so do I.

This type of ‘telling-as-it-was-told’ is a kind of reverse narrator. A narrator that disavows herself as the creator of fiction, but rather the emulator, channeller, reteller, a filter or vehicle for story. Metalepsis is not a violation as the author/narrator has no authority in the first place. In the enacting of story there is an eclipse of past and present, a collapse of the temporal arrangements that does not encourage an agreed ‘suspension of disbelief’ but rather a re-manifestation of the story as it is told.

In David Blair’s faux-past, the discovery of a ‘Telepathic Cinema of Manchuria’, a take on the real Benshi tradition of Japanese actors narrating silent films is an ontological challenge to the Western notion of narrative. The film is a little obscure, makes an overt parody of exoticism on Manchuria and speaks of telepathy and unified triplets with a mystique that ridicules a Western rationalisation.


Adapting Berger

November 21, 2012

Here also is a LINK to Berger’s article A Place Weeping in which he describes his personal experience of the burial of Arab Poet Mahmoud Darwish


Pseudologica Fantastica

October 30, 2012

Pseudologica Fantastica
… otherwise known as compulsive lying, is the apparent nonsensical fantastical extension of a persons reality without intention or cause. It is the insertion of a fictional narrative within a persons livelihood that is expressed through a habituation with lying rather than any real deliberate motive to manipulate.

A brief article from The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law outlines how there is no clear definition of compulsive lying and reflects upon the difficulty of identifying compulsive lying as a diagnosable condition, it is more often attached as a symptom of those that lie out of motivation, narcissistic or borderline personality disorders. Children ‘Pseudo-lie’, they use fantasy as an ‘important aspect of self-development and self-protection, but when this persists into adulthood, it becomes pathological’. ‘Pathological lying is falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view, may be extensive and very complicated, and may be manifest over a period of years and even a lifetime. (Ibid.)

In an article concerning the compulsive liar Jeffery Archer, there is a curious interplay between the fictitious manner in which the media and the tall stories of the politician interact as a kind of mischievous competitive interplay on narration. Lies Jeffery Told Me in the guardian, Julia Langdon the writer freely admits that she feels somewhat entertained and even drawn to the confusing character of Jeffery Archer. I am reminded of Roald Dahl character of Uncle Oswald who’s numerous lies and nefarious activity would always lead him into unfortunate circumstances and the need to flee, providing an intriguing and wonderfully macabre plot.

What is it that is interesting about pseudologica fantastica (other than being a great title), that lends itself to an understanding of material and visual culture? It is essentially that a person ‘lies’ in context of how the material and social world is ‘fabricated’, that the ‘truth’ is a contextual and fluid, yet these people (some who have high achieving professional careers) might lie within their own contextual sense of ‘truth’ that is at odds with our socially accepted ‘truth’.

I am primarily interested in the production of narrative as a creative impulse within the structure of telling a lie, equating lying, fiction, storytelling and narrative fabrication all interlocked within the symbiosis of the modern individual. Far from attempting to decry that ‘lying is innate’; as it is best to defer from essentializing the issue (the job of the psychoanalyst), pseudologica fantastica it is more fascinating to approach as a distinct expression of an entangled an uncertain identity and the failure of dialectic communication to articulate the ‘double consciousness’ of personhood.

In W.J.T Mitchell’ s What Do Pictures Want? (Chicago Press: 2005) approaches the pictorial as maintaining agency within a subaltern position, alluding to the ‘power’ that the picture might achieve through the agency it attains over a beholder and the subordinate role it is as a minor representation (a Deluezian minor literature). The point that Mitchell makes is ‘…that people are able to maintain a “double consciousness” towards images, pictures, and representations in a variety of media, vacillating between magical beliefs and skeptical doubt, naive animism and hardheaded materialism, mystical and critical attitudes.’ (Pg.7) (in his footnote he makes it clear that he is purposefully echoing W.E.B. DuBios The Souls of Black Folk (Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903))

Likewise there is a reference to “double consciousness” in the Pathological Lying Revisited in the journal text cited earlier.

‘The notion of “double consciousness,” in which two forms of life run side by side, the actual and the desired, and the desired becomes preponderant and decisive, has been proposed as the mechanism underlying pathological lying.21 It has also been suggested that the mental processes similar to those forming the basis of the impulse to literary creation in normal people is the foundation of the morbid romances and fantasies of those with pseudologia fantastica.22 The impulse that forces the fabrication of stories is supposedly bound up with the desire to play the role of the person depicted; fiction and real life are not separated.’

Now it might be a little simplistic to situate these two statements that suggest that myths and images (and so by extension religious beliefs) are essentially structured as falsifying truth, that they are lies. But this is missing the point of the embodiment of ‘double consciousness’.

What I would like to suggest or propose as a critical approach is the view of ‘binocular vision’ in relation to our internal and external ontology, (It might be said that psychoanalysis is a particular ontology on the internal that yields particular results and emphasis’).

This Binocular vision is the dualistic operation of the object given agency that equally looks back at the beholder and reflects the ‘desire’ of the beholder to be held in sublimity, (although this is a rather traditional view of aesthetics based on the visual fixation of an object and not a durational aesthetic). This attachment of duality seems to proliferate itself within various discourse. I may be being a little presumptuous and ignoring the rigor of a theories substantive development but the binoculation of reality seems to explicate itself within the dramatic encounter of the psyche and mundane reality.

To map this idea quickly, in Pseudologica Fantastica there is a binoculation of ‘truth’ in the context of the lie. In the hyperreal a la Baudrillard the hyperreal overlays the real, my argument would be to refute Baudrillard and state that the identical map and the real are interlaced, entwined and our understanding of each is reliant upon the other. As in the ‘Image’ and ‘what it wants’ with Mitchell the image that seeks the power of the thing it signifies, it passive obstinacy and reiteration of its message has a dualistic affect of animism and a cold empirical border of the mundane present-ness of the image.

Binoculation? Stereo-phonic? Stereo-optic? Just more metanarratives concerning the objectification of subjective materialism? It might be best to describe it more as a dualistic mechanism in which the world is repeated, as dialectics attempts to replicate but always in some sense fails, we might find the fallacy more allusively interesting than just the real thing.

So what to do with Pseudologica Fantastica?

There is a rather touchy moral line when it comes to lying. It brings about a whole lot of questions concerning Law, Truth, Punishment and the ethical imperative of being. Reading a few articles concerning the pathological lying academic Joseph J. Ellis who created a fictitious past where he toured Vietnam to boast to his students, is has been remarked that by not resigning from his career is a moral outcry, Matt Kaufman writes in BoundlesThe Phony Professor , ‘This isn’t forgiveness; it’s rationalization. It’s also nonsense, and once you start down that road, there’s no end to the absurdity. Of course, absurdity that’s most common in academia has spilled out into the larger society.’ Firstly the moral overtones of Kaufman are laden with moralistic judgement and clearly he has no comprehension of the positive aspects of absurdity (maybe we should illustrate the flourishing of Dada after the War). What is comes down to unfortunately is a rationalization that these people are a ‘drain’ on the economic system.

Also I am appropriating Pseudologica Fantastica from it role in psychiatry, ignoring the rather serious and harsh realism’s of patients with real neurosis’ or those that have experienced physiological trauma in which lying is a symptom attributed to other causes (it seems that I have just made my own ethical position on lying as to those that could lead to harm or are products of violence, but how this eventuates will remain a gray area). I am taking rather the essential compulsion towards the anecdotal. The works of artists such as Pavel Büchler might rely on the premise of pertaining upon the artwork the structure of a ‘good story’ – a rumor, gossip, fanciful tale, a riddle, a mime (games such a ‘broken telephone are good examples) – and the structure of artwriting as part autobiographical as in Conversation Pieces, (Ed. Pavel Büchler, Tampere Artists Association, 2003). There is a scene from the film Waking Life in which two characters talk about how individuation is essentialized  through narration, we maintain an image of ourselves in retrospect, as in a photo of yourself as a child; yet as far as actual matter, cells, blood and flesh, you are a completely different being. This emphasis on narrative is reliant upon the visual as dialectical, it imitates the structure of a book perhaps, so this is what I might propose to do, but in the context of an encyclopedia (see Artists Sara Cwynar Kitsch Encyclopedia, but more on her in another post)… propose an encyclopaedic art-book of Pseudologica Fantastica…


The Spatial Visionary

April 18, 2012

The Spatial Visionary

Just to be linear I’ll start at what I think is the beginning. The 17th Biennale of Sydney and a particular work of the Shiba Tower in Tokyo by Japanese artist Yamaguchi Akira.

The work of Yamaguchi has a semblance of historical traditionalism that has has an estranging juxtaposition with the modern, over populated, smog infused landscape of contemporary Japan that he depicts.

Firstly I was infused with a riveting curiosity concerning the telecommunications tower as the high-lighting symbolism of the metropolis future. As a structure it is the material effigy of architectural achievement and also the rather strange manner in which progress is measured by the expansion of communication beyond its human means. Looking upon this landscape the clutter, chaos and smog of urban environment is unable to recognize is own state of disorder as it seeks to talk to the outer world through the incongruous telecommunications tower, a tower that saturates the state of the modern world in invisible microwaves. A narrative might be about a populace that lives in and around such a tower and is primarily employed to maintain the tower, to be the labor support of such a tower but be rather irrelevantly involved in what the telecommunications tower actually communicates. Irony and parody of the contemporary human condition that is so reliant upon the means of technology to communicate that it has lost vision of its own condition. This piece serves as a simply mirror but the traditional presentation recasts the ideas of cultural identity and historical thinking.

Why am I addressing this as a spatial vision in particular? Yamaguchi has a particular manner of recasting the dwelling environment and the inter-textual or inter-subjective relations between the contemporary dwelling environment, the clutter that we curate around us, and the conditions that the metropolis impose upon us into rather succinct possibilities. But there is also a slight over exaggeration to the realism of his work that reproaches the urban landscape as an imaginative space self reflective of how we interact with our envisaging of spatial arrangements

Functionality, necessity and innovation are tied together neatly that has a certain domestic appeal that we might look towards as comforting and reassuring.

Murukami’s latest book 1Q84 I have heard described as a tale that follows a young lady that after descending down a spiral staircase starts to live her life as if she is caught in an alternative reality, as if she has entered a realism that is not quiet the reality she existed in before.

If would like to theories that this semblance of alternative realism is actually the recognition of the plasticity in cognitive representations of our environments. The understanding the realism becomes a subjective apprehension of meaning and significance contingent upon our own cultural imaginative imperatives.

There is a kind of social myth that surround particular ‘outsider artists’, usually categorized as sculptors, that assemble large phantasmagorical environments or spatial adornments (hope that doesn’t come across as a dirty word). The myth is usually that these people are ‘intuitively’ creative, that they are creative genius’ with little formal training, and that the ‘hording’ psychology that they reflect speaks to some kind of anthropologically repressed desire to build and construct repetitive constructs around our living spaces. Charles Schmidt the ‘House of Mirrors’ as his self built home and woodstock environment might be a good example. After is burnt down he effectively became homeless.

To be blunt these people are not genius’. There are a couple of ways that one might approach this phenomenon, but I would also firstly point out that this self serving dwelling is hardly isolated. Certainly many slums that have spawned across the globe are not necessarily constructed with a temporary servitude. Indeed any dwelling is assessed by it permanence and the increasing of permanence as a measure of stability and prosperity. Firstly those that horde, might be seen more as a product of capitalist attitudes towards property and the anti-nomadic structures that the contemporary western world has enforced. That by being enforced into the position of anti-nomadism of our cultural psyche has been skewed, that we somehow have to ‘suffer’ in the circumstances that urban existence entails, and that the dwelling space becomes that place of psychic remedial retreat.

Another example might be the popularity of the street artist Slinkachu who has effectively created an alternative micro realism of human society, his work providing a kind of mythical otherness of the ‘good life’ that is lacking in the London landscape.

It is hard to summaries the development of the ‘living space’ with an aesthetic theory, is adornment purely just distraction from laziness rather than an actual meaningful investigation into how we think and interact with the world? Or are we just having fun with building things because we can?


Oulipo and George Perec

March 7, 2012

I have been reading about the experimental literary group Oulipo, whom originating in France was originally part of the ‘Institute of Pataphysics’ before splintering off and creating their own foundational identity is the writers of ‘potential literature’. The foundation of Oulipo is the integration of mathematics within literature, thus creating semi-flexible ‘formulated’ representations of literature. The foremost claim, mainly mainly by George Perec is that writing ‘is work, is labour’, which in a sense liberates the idea of the artist as being ‘inspired’ or blessedly gifted with creative ability. As work, the artist or writer is always inspired and is also free from the notion that one is totally free to create. It is paradoxical but this freedom from freedom, levels the praxis of art into the material act of creation rather than the symbolic act of ‘being creative’.

The Oulipo also distinguish two types of Oulipian literature, analytic and synthetic. The analytic transgresses the history of literature as the starting point for a new recreation or offshoot of expression ‘formulated’ upon this past work. The synthetic, which one feels is more closely related to the idea of ‘potential’ literature, is work that is claimed to be wholly and entirely new. It must of been exciting to situate oneself within the realm of creationist, as between mathematics and literature the Oulipo group seem to almost play god upon their own work, but in a sense all writers are ‘gods’ unto their own fictional narratives.

It is interesting to note that through constraints the liberation of the writer is achieved, as if this was practiced in a curatorial sense, if one could image artwork being arranged, ordered and displayed through a number of variables perhaps determined by the roll of a dice, and audience or critic would not be too quick enough to call the process careless and perhaps irresponsible towards satisfying an audiences expectations. But that may also be a question upon which how the ‘liminality’ of the process is presented, and if this reordering that must and should be made obvious in the display of the work, becomes the aesthetic of ‘liminality’ itself, and the work presented a secondary significance.

None the less I have decided to use the formula that George Perec uses in his configuration of the narrative is ‘Life: a user’s manual’ and in applying the architectural, visual and theoretical elements of the Talbet Rice show ‘Level’ to create in interesting writing exercise that could perhaps generate interesting material for the show publication. The exercise will hopefully give a unity and parallel dialogue to the show.

On an endnote, it is discernible that computer art – digital art – that relies on the mathematical extensions of the computing machine is the extension of Oulipo into the digital era and the visual arts.



March 1, 2012

Screen – Noah Wardrip-Fruin

LINK to ‘About Screen’

This installation attempts to visually demonstrate firstly how reading text is a arbitrary and relative process. The focus on particular words as they move out from a text, for me metaphorically represents the way in which particular words can have an additional attached meaning by unique readers. Instead of asking what this extra signification of a word might mean to an individual, the installation enforces the participant to physically respond to the words they float about randomly in front of them. There is a mix between the random manner in which the words are fragmented and then reformed, and if all the words inevitably become mashed into one globular form one asks the question of what impact is the participant having on the formations of the recovered words.

At the end of this video there is a dubbed over-voice explaining how memory disintegrates into forgetfulness and that the process of recovering language and meaning is an incomplete operation, illustrating quite visually the disjunction of the fragmentary language recovered. Ironically this is designed or programmed disintegration, mimicking the idea of natural decomposition. The second law of thermodynamics in text? But the text here then just becomes a visual representation, text only serves as the visual representation of memory, thus memory here is only dialectical and not photographic/visual/ or sensory. It speaks to the idea of the autobiographer in anyone that addresses a diary not only to themselves, but to some other reader that is not them, whom might uncover the digest in the foreseeable future in some imagined manner.

It is strange how  initial impression can change after analysis, but the presentation of floating words is just so visually impressive that it begs to be treated differently than just an experimental writing exercise.

Sooo right… Watched it a second time and noted that – Well the bodies  interaction with the text determines the texts ‘saved’ in the output of the senselessness of violence against text. More importantly there is a reference to this piece introducing the participant to the ‘environment of the cave’. This I would assume is a direct reference to Plato’s cave, suggesting that language and text itself are indeed the shadows on the surface of the cave wall that we have come accustomed to. We live by reading the allusions of shadows as the dialectic of the real. Thus it suggests that actual reality is outside this cave and so outside language as we comprehend it.

OK NO.. the cave is a reference to the VR environment… … something for us cave dwellers, but I bet there is something in that…


Before Saw Dust Issue #1

February 21, 2012


About Before Saw Dust

Before Saw Dust is a collective zine put together by MA/MFA students at the Edinburgh College of Art 2012. It is an endeavor to create an ongoing openly collaborative zine. It is as much a spontaneous creation as it is a shared exploration of text and image through theme.

I took that straight from the About page from Before Saw Dust, but seeming as I wrote it, I can copy it.

Before Saw Dust Issue #1 has been finished and printed and 45 of 56 copies will be available at the FAIR. I am hoping to continue Before Saw Dust indefinably. For me it fits all the differing facets that I enjoy from the production of a zine. The process of it’s production, the enjoyment of making it and the ad hoc way it seemingly comes together as a creation onto itself is vastly rewarding. The process of putting something together that is an amalgamation of elements within control and also not out of my control I personally find fascinating. Perhaps I enjoy the idea of ‘compiling’ a thing instead of actively creating a thing out of nothing. Would explain a fascination in the printing procedure and not the content.

Suggestions for Issue #2 have been thus far to maybe introduce a few simple parameters for submissions, such as to have an equal a5 of text to an equal image in a5. Or something along these lines to give the zine a little more flow or continuity, or it just might be a fun experiment, and I think we might be able to come up with something a little more interesting than this.

Also the fact that we have decided to scan and post the zine up onto Issuu and share it freely on the internet has been a great way to exposure. It certainly helps to have people knowing who we are and what we are doing. People are posting it all over facebook which is great, but I can’t help but wonder if this will effect the desire for the printed copy. The print copy is inferior to the digital copy, color versus black/white, less accessibility, so in my mind the print copy becomes a bit like a trading card or an item for collectors that horde and fetishize over the print media as the hand made and more valuable. See what happens.

Been thinking of ways of turning my blue suit case of zines into a traveling zine store complete with fold out trestle table and stool. Fun stuff, but between Yikes Lights and Before Saw Dust if I accumulate 2 issues from each I think I’ll have enough to go to zine fairs in the summer.

Well I’m now running three blogs including this one as I decided it best to set up another Tumblr account for my own zine Yikes Lights, but I haven’t put as much time into this site as yet. A the moment though you can have a look at some of my concrete poetry I did in my undergrad (back in those youthful time…), a little amateur but hey, it’s poetry.


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