Pataphysics: translating Alfred Jarry’s Time Machine into a kinetic sculpture
Advice to Isolde
The dream is the eternal saboteur
and in the sunrise he must die
But the beautiful body you should take care of
Add it to the others on the ship with the red sail
and bid farewell to them where they lie in their green-shimmering
in their white shrouds
side by side
The ship you will send to Tristan
who awaits you on Cornwall’s coast
For the dreams have sucked the blood out of his hands
they would no longer know you
And your own face would deny the nearness of his lips
Your souls would be far apart
and strangers to each other
two blue birds
captives in the same flight
towards the same sunset’s
a meeting without limits
a death that does not exist.
Rut Hillarp, “Advice to Isolde” / “Råd till Isolde” in The Well of the Sun / Solens brunn (1946)
This illustration represents Tim Finnegan’s fall from a ladder while drunk, an episode based on the old vaudeville song about the Irish hod-carrier who plunges to his death from a building. In the wake that follows he is restored to life by a great splash of whiskey. Finnegan is to be supplanted by Earwicker, the dreamer of the book. The fall is symbolic of the falls of Lucifer, Adam, Napoleon and Parnell, and indeed the Fall of man. It is also the fall of Humpty Dumpty and Isaac Newton’s apple. An apple represents the fruit that the snake tempted Eve to eat. A ladder itself is symbolic of both falling and rising. Within a black square in the top left corner of the illustration we can ‘hear’ a thunderclap. This is the first of the ten 100-character words in the book representing thunder. The bottom left-hand image is a drawing of ‘Howth Castle and Environs’ referred to in the first line of the book.
There is the scientific and ideological language for what is happening to the weather, but there are hardly any intimate words. Is that surprising? People in mourning tend to use euphemism; likewise the guilty and ashamed. The most melancholy of all the euphemisms: “The new normal.” “It’s the new normal,” I think, as a beloved pear tree, half-drowned, loses its grip on the earth and falls over. The train line to Cornwall washes away—the new normal. We can’t even say the word “abnormal” to each other out loud: it reminds us of what came before. Better to forget what once was normal, the way season followed season, with a temperate charm only the poets appreciated.
— Zadie Smith, “Elegy for a Country’s Seasons”
Jenny Holzer - SURVIVAL, 1983-1985 (exhibited as part of Creative Time’s 42nd Street Project 1993)
She later said that she had drawn the first Moomin after arguing with one of her brothers about the philosopher Immanuel Kant. She sketched “the ugliest creature imaginable” on the toilet wall and wrote under it “Kant”.
— People complain so much about their relationships, but you have to make a little effort yourself too.
— Exactly. Just because you happen to gross each other out, you can’t forget to hug and kiss. You don’t want the kids to think they’re growing up in a loveless home.
— No, how would that look!
Much of the strangest architecture associated with humanity is infrastructural. We have vast arrays of rusting cylinders, oil rigs dotting wastelands like lonely insects, and jewel-toned, rhomboid ponds of chemical waste. We have gray and terraced landfills, 5-story tall wastewater digester eggs, and striped areas of the desert that look as though they rendered incorrectly until we realize that the lines are made of thousands of solar panels. Massive cooling towers of power plants slope away from dense, unidentifiable networks on the ground and are obscured in their own ominous fog. If there is something unsettling about these structures, it might be that they are deeply, fully human at the same time that they are unrecognizably technological. These mammoth devices unblinkingly process our waste, accept our trash, distribute our electricity. They are our prostheses. They keep us alive and able, for a minute, to forget the precariousness of our existence here and of our total biological dependence on a series of machines, wires, and tubes, humming loudly in some far off place.
Jenny Odell, “Satellite Landscapes”
Experiment in knitted animation by Sam Meech, based on Muybridge’s Horse in Motion
part of the Knitting Digital research project
A concept is worldly but it is also a reorientation to a world, a way of turning things around, a different slant on the same thing. More specifically a “sweaty concept” is one that comes out of a description of a body that is not at home in the world. By this I mean description as angle or point of view: a description of how it feels not to be at home in the world, or a description of the world from the point of view of not being at home in it. As I have tried to show in my work on comfort and discomfort (see here), so much phenomenological writing was written from the point of view of a body that “can do,” a body that is at home in the world, a body that is received by a world. … When I use the concept of “sweaty concepts” I am also trying to say we can generate new understandings by describing the difficulty of inhabiting a body that is not at home in a world. Sweat is bodily; we might sweat more during more strenuous activity. A “sweaty concept” might be one that comes out of a bodily experience that is difficult, one that is “trying,” and where the aim is to keep exploring and exposing this difficulty, which means also aiming not to eliminate the effort or labour from the writing (I suspect not eliminating the effort or labour becomes an academic aim because we have been taught to tidy our texts, not to reveal the struggle we have in getting somewhere).