Monday, July 17, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - summer 2017 - 2

About this series:

In Münster I saw these multi-part ceramics by Ursula Commandeur. They combine the fungal feeling with the "horns of the underground" feeling. They're absorbing, listening and whispering.
In Kassel I saw several books by Agnes Denes. This is the work Investgation of World Rulers  - Napoleon overlooking Elba and Still Life #1. I'm aware that these are not mushroom related, but the similarity in shapes is striking.
In the Kassel natural history museum I saw a few dioramas with local wildlife including a few mushrooms. I wish they had such clear labels in the wild. That would be easy! (Leccinum scabrum, Macrolepiota Procera, Boletus Badius).
 Finally I saw the following mushrooms in Rotterdam. This is the reliable Leccinum Duriusculum that grows in the same place, under the poplar trees, every year. This year, after first drought and then rain they look healthy and gorgeous. They're edible but they grow in between dog excrement. So I will not try them.
This beautiful mushroom grows in a new spot under linden trees. I suspect it's some bolete. But there's only one in this spot so I don't want to take it.
During a walk in the woods near Woensdrecht we saw beautiful Boletus (I suspect Edulis) that smelled very good. We also saw many Amanitas (I suspect Pantherina, because of their pale colour. But that's totally not realiable.) Both grew by the side of the road.
It's difficult to photograph mushrooms with my mobile phone. The colours are all wrong, because it's dark near the ground. And finally some organism that might be a slime mold or a primitive mushroom.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 23

Mannequins

Text: The White Hands and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Text: Matthew 16, 24-26
Text: My Work Is Not Yet Done (Thomas Ligotti)
Illustrations: Empty storefronts in Rotterdam, 2016

Sometimes we go through life automatically. We're no better than the mannequins that we see in shop windows. Pretending to be alive, but never succeeding:
As I drew closer to the mannequin I noticed that the background hiss had acquired a new element. There were definite words amongst the static, though broken and garbled, like speech distorted by poor radio reception. I could not make out the words, but the voice seemed to speak as if in pain: almost as if it were incoherent with that pain.

It's about priorities, opportunity costs and discernment. Not easy at all:
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Finally, looking back from the deathbed of your entire life in the working world, you would be left exclaiming, ‘What was that all about!’ (In this sense the world of the company mirrored the world itself, which sometimes managed to stage a rousing first act, and perhaps even provide a few engaging scenes of a second before devolving into a playwright’s nightmare, wherein the actors either butchered their lines or entirely forgot them, scenery collapsed, props misfired, and most of the audience left the theater during intermission.)
It's about disrupting the robotic voices coming from inside the puppet:
‘You’re making too much of this,’ said one of those secondary selves that are implanted inside every one of us and that come to attention on these occasions, spitting forth idiotic clichés like a mad schoolmaster from a worn-out textbook of conventional wisdom.

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness,  16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology, 18: Ominous telephones, 19: Observation, 20: History distortion, 21: Spy stories, 22: Dead places.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 22

Dead places

Text: Teatro Grottesco (Thomas Ligotti)
Text: The White Hands and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Text: The Concrete Grove (The Concrete Grove Trilogy) (Gary McMahon)

Illustrations: Photographs from the Dordrecht art museum (Hans Broek, Colorado Blvd, 2004)

Dead places, ghost towns and derelict places are like the biblical desert. Places to retreat to and confront God, confront yourself. In cheap movies the hero's family dies at the beginning and then he's free to go on his quest. Going to dead places is a better way to shake off your chains:
It specifically announces that this is to be an excursion, and I quote, to a “dead town, a finished town, a failed town, a false and unreal setting that is the product of unsuccessful organisms and therefore a town that is exemplary of that extreme state of failure that may so distress human organic systems, particularly the gastrointestinal system, to the point of weakening its delusional and totally fabricated defenses – e. g. the mind, the self – and thus precipitating a crisis of nightmare realization involving . . . ,” and I think we’re all familiar with the shadow-and-darkness talk which follows.
Confronting your own dead organisms can lead to catharsis and regeneration:
The point is, Grossvogel promises nothing in this brochure except an environment redolent of failure, a sort of hothouse for failed organisms.
Dead places can lead you to new life:
This tower was vacant: a void. ... So completely abandoned, it seemed to me a consummation of a terrible beauty. For what was it now but a vacuum, an oasis of nothing, where all else around it was but the maddening whirl of asinine human activity? I viewed it as a vertical desert, closed off from the outside, a region without the distractions of the commonplace.
But dead places can also lead you to ruin and tragedy. It's not easy to see the difference:
These openings bled darkness; they provided small, square glimpses of something black, unhealthy and rotten. If she allowed herself, Hailey could imagine things moving in there. Strange things. Dark things. Things that lived in such forgotten places.

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness,  16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology, 18: Ominous telephones, 19: Observation, 20: History distortion, 21: Spy stories.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - summer 2017

I'm always on the lookout for mushrooms in the city. They don't just appear in nature, they also appear in culture. You see them in shops, restaurants, galleries and in the media. It's interesting to see how fungi take over the world.

This time I found a wonderful mushrooms series in the art gallery of the NH-hotel in The Hague. They're from the workshop of Warffemius. At around 3000 euro they're way above my means but they're totally worth the money.


It's obvious that the artist has done his research. He notices the spectacular fruiting bodies, but also knows about yeasts, mycelia and spores. He knows about the humus layer and about the symbiosis between trees and fungi. He has created a playful but complete encyclopedia. And a little magic world.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 21

Spy stories

Text: Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring (Pete Earley)
Illustrations: Photographs from a walk around Waddinxveen

We think we know the landscape. But we don't have skin in the game. Soldiers and spies know the landscape better, since their lives depend on it. Details that escape us, get meaning in the field of tradecraft. One chalk line on a lamppost signals a secret meeting. We topographers, we would never notice that chalk line:
John and the KGB used a series of signals to contact each other when he did have a delivery. John would fly to Washington, rent a car, and drive to Sixteenth Street, a major north-south route in the northwest section of the city. He was supposed to use a piece of chalk to mark a signal at a prearranged spot along the busy street. The signal was changed after every drop, but it always was a single letter or number, such as A, F, 6, or 7, and John always drew it on Sixteenth Street near the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on a Thursday. At various times during his spying career, John drew his signal on the wall of a corner appliance store, a bridge abutment, a stone retaining wall, and on the side of an apartment complex. The Soviet embassy also is on Sixteenth Street and John assumed that an employee drove to work each Thursday along the route and watched for his mark.
When your freedom depends on it you will become a deep topographer. You will search for remote places and get to know them well:
The locations that the KGB chose for exchanges were always remote areas and John, fearful of getting lost at night, had made it a practice to arrive several hours before the scheduled time to familiarize himself with the region. He drove quickly along the blacktop roads, picking out key sights – a small bridge, an elementary school, a grocery store – that would help him keep his bearings later that night.
We should not only visit places, we should leave our own traces there. Enhance the mystery! Drop strange books under bridges, glue strange CD's behind traffic signs, leave mysterious sigils on the roadside. Make traces that only a deep topographer would recognize:
John had begun his portion of yesterday’s dead drop – just as the KGB instructions required – by turning onto a narrow road that meandered through a sparsely populated area. He altered his speed to check for tails, just as he had done earlier during his drive from Norfolk. The Russians had placed an empty 7-Up can upright on the right edge of the road at a predetermined spot, an unobtrusive signal to John that his KGB contact was in the area and ready to make the exchange. The next move was up to him. Five miles later, he stopped to put a 7-Up can upright beside the road to signal that he was ready. He then continued on to the drop point, where he left his bundle of classified documents near a utility pole and a tree with a “No Hunting” sign nailed on it.
Make your landscape more interesting. Leave gifts for other urban explorers:
John had prepared 129 stolen naval secrets for the KGB. The eight-by-ten-inch copies of classified documents were wrapped in a white plastic trash bag to protect them from rain. Even the Soviets couldn’t control the weather. He had hidden the bundle in the bottom of a brown paper grocery bag filled with an empty Diet Coke bottle, a used container of rubbing alcohol, an old box of Q-Tips, and a soap wrapper. At the same time that John was dropping off this package, the KGB was supposed to be dropping off a package of cash for him at a spot a few miles away. The Russians would also wrap john’s bills in plastic and hide them in a grocery bag filled with trash.

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness,  16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology, 18: Ominous telephones, 19: Observation, 20: History distortion.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 20

History distortion

Text: Lying About Hitler (Richard Evans)
Text: Meaning in Absurdity: What bizarre phenomena can tell us about the nature of reality (Bernard Kastrup)
Illustrations: Exhibits in the Rotterdam natural history museum


Psychogeographic writings that focus on the oppressor <> oppressed axis can sound like revisionist historiography. This might be explained by the provenance of the genre from (leftist) situationist origins, the inevitability of mentioning (the evil) "empire" in British (psychogeographic) contexts and the paranoia caused by the ever present threat from property speculators:
All of this work tried to present its arguments as the outcome of serious historical scholarship, resting on a combination of detailed documentary research and careful scholarly reasoning. Often it was extremely ingenious and required a considerable effort to unpick and to refute. Its authors, however fantastic the theories they were putting forward, in most cases really seemed to believe what they were saying. I had reviewed a few of these books over the years and often wondered why their authors had written them. They did not seem to have any particular political axe to grind. What they were offering was more a perverse kind of entertainment to the reader. They belonged to a paranoid style of historical writing: nothing was quite what it seemed, and terrible secrets had been suppressed by mainstream historical scholarship for decades or even centuries. Unlike genuine historians, however, these writers were never willing to accept criticism, and stuck to their theses, however convincing the documentary evidence that was thrown at them. For the most part, engaging with work such as this seemed pointless. It might be irritating, but on the whole it seemed fairly harmless.
Another explanation for the weirdness of landscape writing is its provenance from the trash heap of history and the skip:
Note: The phrase "deep topography" has been coined by Nick Papadimitriou, one of my favorite authors in this genre. I try not to abuse it.
Some supporters of Kindle [e-books] are arrogant about the idea that people have a lifetime of emotions and sensations related to paper, related to the book as something that, if you wanted to, you could pick out of the trash and read.
Do you know how many books I have found for sale on the street that then became the core of my research interests because they were lovable and they were mine and they entered into my life in a specific and powerful and aleatory way? That's how memory works, and it is the irrational aspect that is impossible to argue for, but it is what makes us creative.
But how could landscape writing be realistic, when external reality is inaccessible?
Still, scientists themselves accept that all we can ever experience as human beings is bundles of sense data in our minds, never the external reality where that sense data supposedly originates from. We have no direct access to a supposedly external world and no way to prove its existence, for we are forever locked in the subjective space of our consciousness. Therefore, an external reality remains an assumption, tempting as it may be.

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness,  16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology, 18: Ominous telephones, 19: Observation.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 19

Observation, description and its abuses

Text: The End of Oulipo?: An Attempt to Exhaust a Movement by Lauren Elkin , Scott Esposito - remixed
Illustrations: Photographs from Kassel during the Documenta (13) in 2012

Ways of observing - the context switch:
Benjamin tells authors they must learn to appropriate as does a camera’s lens. A camera is a tool for taking things out of context: taking a photo is nothing more than selecting a rectangle of the world to be pulled up from its surroundings.
Ways of observing - the cubist view:
Merleau-Ponty argues that painting that adopts a classical view of things—that is, painting that attempts to portray the world “realistically”—is but one interpretation of our experience, one that makes our world precise and rational. But of course, I would not be alone in arguing that what we experience in day-to-day life more commonly conforms to Picasso’s Cubism or Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism than classical art.
Ways of observing - methodical, long-term observation:
Perec once said, “I detest what’s called psychology... I prefer books in which characters are described by their actions, their gestures and their surroundings.” ... Elsewhere he declares his ambition “to write every kind of thing that it is possible for a man to write nowadays.” ... I begin these descriptions over again each year, taking care, thanks to an algorithm ... first, to describe each of these places in a different month of the year, second, never to describe the same pair of places in the same month. The intent is to create a way of looking at these 12 places that will reveal things no one has ever seen in them before ... “Question your tea spoons,” he exhorted readers of “The Infra-Ordinary.” “What’s underneath your wallpaper?”
Ways of observing - obsessive, exhaustive observation:
[Édouard Levé says] ... “Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid.” ... one might consider his photography book Amérique, where he compulsively produces photographs of American cities that share their names with major world cities. In both books the project is clear: follow the idea exhaustively, trusting that what comes will be art. Somehow in this widest of embraces he will catch things that are new ... they simply give the details, leaving it to the reader to decide what lies beneath.
Abuse and consumerization of revolutionary (situationist) techniques:
Products, beliefs and fashions that once existed on the boundaries of society were resolutely transformed into mass-consumable versions that were bought up by the middle classes.
David Foster Wallace put forth the argument that the second half of the twentieth century was a time of two great changes: first, the development of this “no” of resistance against capitalistic culture, and, second, the co-opting this “no” of resistance into a catchy sales pitch. Wallace identified the “no” of resistance with irony—long a potent weapon of the oppressed—and then he went on to argue that the appeal of this irony had been taken over by savvy advertisers, who use it to make their products hip. The fiction of irony and ridicule, which he identified with rebellious postmodernists like Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, had been taken over by TV culture.
[Christian] Bök also strikes a polemic tone, forcefully declaring that artistic innovation has been co-opted by capitalism: Postmodern life has utterly recoded the avant-garde demand for radical newness. Innovation in art no longer differs from the kind of manufactured obsolescence that has come to justify advertisements for “improved” products; nevertheless, we have to find a new way to contribute by generating a “surprise” (a term that almost conforms to the cybernetic definition of “information”).

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness,  16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology, 18: Ominous telephones.