Monday, December 26, 2005

Links 001 - Pataphysics: individuals.

Exploits and Opinions through a land of bookmarks

Third part of pataphysical links, this time dealing with individuals with a 'pataphysical lifestyle and a website.

001-02. Individuals.
  • 'Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home ..’
    Maxwell’s Silver Hammer - Paul McCartney

Andrew Hugill

studies Nouvelles Impressions d'Afrique, Cantos not by Pound, but by french patacessor and pre-surrealist Raymond Roussel. Another page,The imaginary Music Studies I found the most thrilling, with losts of references to books and websites and illustrations of extremely bizarre music instruments. A must.

Andrew Hugill (b.1957) is a composer, writer and Professor of Music at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Hugill has also composed pieces inspired by the writings of Jean-Pierre Brisset: Les Origines humaines (1996), a large-scale choral work for 36 unaccompanied voices, commissioned by the Elysian Singers; Brisset Rhymes (1990) for soprano and early instruments, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 1993; Catalogue de Grenouilles (1988) for massed frog recordings and George W. Welch, first broadcast in 1991. Aside from Brisset, Hugill has worked on other aspects of French surrealist and pataphysical literature and is an occasional translator and editor for Atlas Press. he has been a member of the collège de 'Pataphysique for 20 years.

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I've got the book "L'Afrique des impressions" by Jean Ferry, satrape, published by the collège in 90 E.P., analyzing Roussel's bizarre masterpieces Impressions of Africa and New impressions of Africa.

Cal Clement's pataphysics and my own stories

I didn't now mr Clements, but the stories from this nomadic thinker are worth reading. This site includes the dirkgentlyesque stories of "a certain detective named Ptarmigan who uses gnus rather than clues to apprehend lawlessness. A gnu is less solid than a clue--and it gets stickier the more it dries. Ptarmigan pours them generously along all the dimensions of the case and then squeezes the planes together until they hold." Also charts listing 28 emotions, yoga, art cases with freaky teddybears and the nine laws of bohemia. A serious case of themersonite with traces of flann-o-briania, but above all an individual I can very much relate to.

Apart from his collected writings online, he also publishes the paper magazine 'Pataphysica' which seems a very good idea. From the description of n° 2: Image hosted by

"In the great tradition of Nicolas Flamel and Fulcanelli, the immortal Dr. Faustroll returns to introduce this collection of writings on alchemy, that "secret science" no less mystifying and marvelous than our own art and science, pataphysics. Opening this anthology is Part 1 of Alfred Jarry's delightful last novel, La Dragonne (1907), translated from the French as The She-Dragon, and annotated to highlight some of Jarry's many alchemical allusions."

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André Joyce Fanclub

Apart from some very strange pages from a "Franco-American mathematician-cum-creative-writer who coined such words as "oogol" and "dibious"", this site gives a good overview of pataphysics, Oulipo with lots of other resources (Dom De lillo, Ballard, Kosinski…), wacky metamathematics, Jarry's 'How to Construct a Time Machine' and a 'pataphysical calender. "It "rests on the truth of contradictions and exceptions" (Shattuck), on the Law of the Equivalence of Opposites, (in Polish notation: KCpNpCNpp.) Opposites neither cancel each other out nor exist statistically as contraries. A postulate proved by Goedel. Nor are their differences resolved in a dialectical analysis. Rather, they shuttle back, forth, and around in an open-ended spiral. (gidouille)."

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André Martel

He used to be Dubuffet's secretary before inventing an own language, the 'paralloïdre' which he used to write several books. Probably the most elaborate french-speaking author of Joycean inspiration. I already mentioned him in the Conlang post.

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Lothaire Liogieri

Probably a pseudonym for Claude Ognois, this constantly expanding huge site called 'Philosophie pataphysique - Gestes des opinions du docteur Lothaire Liogieri' seems to me to house some of the most amazing pataphysical contemporary texts. The erudition here reaches levels In seldom dicoverde on the net.

The site is only in French, I found the free web translator Freetranslator did a rather good job, bringing up an English at least as bad as I do, but a way for the linguistic impaired to grasp some perls.

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Vincent Puente

This fanzine artist publsihed some very strange books at Le Paréiasaure Théromorphe, my favourite bizarre smallhouse editor. His publications? 'Portraits Anarpatagraphiques'; 'Souvenirs, gestes et opinions de quelques iconoclastes'; 'De la Fourchette au Pied'; 'Ubu et la manivelle à rien'; 'Edmond Réaliste un savant dans son siècle'. At les Editions des Cendres he published 'Catalogue d'une très riche mais peu nombreuse collection de livres provenant de la bibliothèque de feu M. le comte Fortsas'. A true master of miterary lystifications.

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Eric Heilmann

Probably the most prolific fanzine creator (under the alias 'Hilare Moderne') and collector in france, he developped the science of pansemiotics which has a very pataphysical twist.

In pansemiotics, language is ripped open in its components, meaningful anagrams are produced in a way Jean-Pierre Brisset would have liked, similar sounding words are associated in the same way Raymond Roussel wrote some of his texts.

Pansemiotics evolved into something quite strange, either a magnificent hoax or the Nth new age fad I couldn't make out. There is a 'Association française de pansémiotique' which seems only half serious: "Everything in the universe is a sign which the unconscious loads with meaning and sends further to the consciousness". I would like to think they're 'deadpan' seriously playing but wouldn't bet on it. As said on this site in an uncomprehensible scientyslang: "The sign, its object and its interpretant are universal categories, which existed (eventually in degenerate form) even before the origin of life. The pansemiotic thesis may be read as a version of panpsychism; the idea that matter is effete mind, or that the qualities of experience, sensation, pain or feeling come in degrees, and that even inorganic systems may have, eventually to very small degrees, such qualities." Yucchhhhh. Where's my horse.

On the other hand, the bizarre obsession of Heilmann to see stylized representations of Mickey Mouse everywhere returns in books of painter Lafcadio Mortimer aka mail-artist Daniel Daligand aka Stéphane Chaumet, who is mentioned on this (fucking ugly) site. There was a magazine called 'PAN c'est myotique' whose covers reminds me of the Annals of Improbable Research, Marc Abrahams' magazine which examines exceptional situations in a scientifical manner - one of the definitions of 'pataphysics.

I've got some of Heilmann's old zines somewhere, if I find them between my tons of books I'll scan some pages here.

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The Optimate's corner.

Below the websites of some famous satrapes and other high dignitaries of the collège..

Stefan & Franciszka Themerson

Polish writers, artists, film makers and publishers. Their own Gaberbocchus Press published some of the greatest patabooks in English. I can't say enough good about Stefan Themerson. His writings opened my mind as much as Robert Anton Wilson's did. And that's a lot.

From the publisher's site, these descriptions of some of his books: Image hosted by

"The adventures of Peddy Bottom, 2002

Peddy Bottom knew he was Peddy Bottom. But humans thought there was something doggy about Peddy, while dogs thought there was something human about him.

"You're the world minus the-world-minus-you. Didn’t you know that?".

Bayamus, 1965

Bayamus recounts the adventures of a self-proclaimed mutant with three legs (one is attached to a roller skate) and his efforts to propagate a new species; it includes an instructive visit to the ‘Theatre of Semantic Poetry’

Cardinal Pölätüo, 1965

Cardinal Pölätüo is the biography of Guillaume Appollinaire’s anonymous father, who turns out to be an ecclesiastic with a murderous interest in modernist poetry, a faith based on science, and a dreamlife so frankly obscene that only a dictionary of Freudian symbols can explain its innocence.

The Mystery of the Sardine, 1986

A Great Man of Letters, a child genius, two dancing ladies, the Minister of Imponderabilia, Captain Casanova - to say nothing of the black poodle or the sardine.

Professor Mmaa’s Lecture, 1953

Life in a termite colony is described in terms that we quickly identify as contemporary: we are plunged into the struggle of the individual against a stultifying social order for a few crumbs of integrity, a few simple pleasures. Preface by Bertrand Russell.

Another book "Special Branch" is disguised as a crime novel in dialog form but deals with complex philosophical problems. The one book of his that rocked my world though is called 'Logic, labels, and flesh' which I would recommend to anyone that wants to learn how to think. Unhappily totally out of print in English nowadays (I read it in Dutch).

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I did write a bit enthousiastically about this book back in January in the Quantum Psychology course on MLA:

My (Dutch) copy of "Logic, Labels and Flesh" is a bundle of ten essays. I'll do my best to resume the first one which bears the same title. Not only seems it pointless to retranslate a Dutch translation of an English text, but Themersons writing can be considered so dense that any summary becomes longer than the original… a bit like Borges’ texts really. On with the pointless:

1. Filosofia is considered as the greek mother of the muses. At first dealing with almost everything, when her daughters left her, she was freed and delt only with herself anymore. Though her name 'love of knowledge' would be more precisely called 'love of knowledge of love of knowledge'. Themerson asks himself if she guards all concepts: who is the guardian of her own concepts?

2. His first answer would be what he at first calls 'Naive realism': the belief of the common people that objects exist independently from our perception. According to him it is only naive to believe that things 'are' what we percieve of them, but it is not naive to know that this is what we perceive consciously. He thus differentiates existence, a matter of belief (faith); and consciousness, a matter of knowledge, defined as a starting point to percieve or to think about anything. Most people seem to confuse the existential with the conscious. Also, in his opinion, 'consciousness' should act as a verb linking subject and object; only then has it any meaning (he compares it to the square root of minus one, meaningless taken alone but very much useable as an operator in mathematics). To 'consciousize' something, similar but not equal to the verb 'to realize', not only as a way to express its differentiation in one's mind, but also its invention in one's symbolic realm.

Themerson then differentiates realism based on faith (existential) and one based on knowledge (consciousness). [This seems to me a very different way of categorizing reality as is done with the terms “Emic” and “Etic”. There could be parallels in that emic reality could be regarded as something that passed through the filter of dogmas, and etic as the first impact of reality on the senses, the primal way of differentiation - and invention in this perspective seems closer to emic.]

The realism that interests him most, the conscious, can be approached in several ways. One is common sense (as: common to all the senses. But also, as common to mosbunall's perception - which I'd call consensus reality). Another term is 'healthy intelligence', coined by Leon Chwistek , which goes a bit further and needs a logical apparatus freed from emotions. The last one is defined negatively: the 'mens sana' could be regarded in the same way as doctors would evaluate 'corpore sana'as that which is left after eliminating all possible diseases and injuries. The ‘mens sana’ is not under any influence nor deranged, free from prejudice or emotions.

3. Many philosophers, artists and religious figures seem to be eliminated by this last idea, and indeed, according to Themerson, many faiths, philosophies and poetry feel intellectually obscene, comparable to crime; as the man who shot his father: he may be an excellent shooter, it doesn't necessarily make him a decent human being. There is no conflict between ‘real art’ and mens sana, except for whom is blind to the beauty of any of them.

Perception is more than data from the senses. Consciousness is needed. We can 'realize' something that already has a name in a dictionary, or something new, maybe a poem, which becomes itself the words to express that which has been percieved.

4. Walking through town the narrator meets with two slogans: "Man is the tool of his mind" and "Do not adjust your brain. It's reality that is malfunctioning". The narrator agrees: reality is everything that is told of it, all the different maps, all the reality tunnels (Themerson calls this 'coordinates') to which anyone with a clear mind, with 'mens sana', doesn’t need to adjust.

5. The narrator goes to a pub and tells the girl behind the counter he is thinking about thinking. She says that you have always to start thinking about something that exists in consensus reality, that you cannot have a thought about a thought about a thought… One always start a thought with something that is not a thought. When the narrator is told by her she thinks he's mad, the narrator thinks she's right. She tells him to watch his words. He goes to pee, and writes on the wall "the barmaid has mens sana". Another customer comes to pee and says that what really matters is, not how you write something, but how you read it. When the narrator is told he must be mad to write that sentence, he feels insulted. Which makes even more clear to him that the man is right also. His conclusion at this point is, any system can be elaborated as much as you want, if empirical consistency (the barmaid) sees a rectangle where you're trying to show a triangle, the only meaningful thing that can be said is that she says she sees a rectangle. [Which seems to me to corroborate the second Copenhagen interpretation.]

6. Our perception has been separated from nature. Where is the point where a scientist in the course of his research, suddenly looks into the eyes of nature? And if your science has any empirical consistency, what sense is used? Mosbunall researchers would probably answer 'visual', though what they see is not nature anymore but numbers. The apparatus used in empirical examination today only gives back numbers, as opposed to dead birds in a vacuum cell in the past. In the past we always thought a measurement was a part of the object of observation, but now the numbers we attach to it seem more to participate of our mind than of the object of study. In the way they are used, numbers seem to refer to something from the world which doesn't exist out of numbers, and in such are comparable to written or spoken language. Both refer to something outside of their internal logic or grammar.

7. What the barmaid said. There seem to be two problems with philosophy out of language: first of all we must start from something that is no thought (the soil), think about it, and for the sake of empirical consistency control it with other things that are no thought either (the farmer). The second problem consists of the need to watch our words.

Themerson specifies two aspects in the awareness of language: formal and conceptual consistency. Formal consistency has been studied extensively for the last 100 years in the form of logic. We should be rather safe on that part. Conceptual consistency on the other hand has been widely distributed between all kinds of disciplines. Most of the concepts have become meaningless nouns in the shitpool of ideas: free will, authority, race, society… and this, he senses, is the biggest problem of philosophy.

8. Downwards to non-philosophy. The empirical ladder could be considered an essential part of the scaffold supporting the heavenly platform of pure logic; maybe it’s essential for any piece of human understanding to continuously climb up and down this ladder [sounds like Satan’s or Samaël’s burden in the kabbalah to me: climbing up and down Jacob’s ladder to test the lower parts in their ascension to the higher parts]. Some call the climbing down ‘applied logic’. For Themerson, most thinkers don’t go far enough… down, back to the rock on which every thought stands.

9. What Themerson tries to demonstrate is the following:

- It’s best not to leave philosphy in the hands of ideologists

- It is wrong to suggest that the perceptual world has no place in philosophy. We need in the first place to clarify things, not as much as to evaluate them.

10. The difference between Form and Content is imaginary.

- What we percieve with our senses, the raw physical material, has been translated immediately from the moment we percieve. [cfr. etic and emic realities]. Form considered as perception, and content considered as knowledge, seem to be unseparable. As Richard L. Gregory said, “for philosophers the question is whether knowledge exists before perception, but for psychologists whether we can percieve before we learned how to percieve”.

- Imagine a slab of stone of about a ton. A physicist could write down a description of it, a formula like 1000 kg X 9,8 m per second squared. This we could call a form, to which the piece of stone is the content. The physicist could generalize further, to an expression dealing with general gravity. Would this second formula not be the form for which the first one would be the content? A mathematician could “form” it even further. An seemingly infinite chain of forms becoming content to the next form.

-An artist would reverse this process. He would make a sculpture from the stone, so the physical object (the stone) would become form for a new content (e.g. a pieta). This content (the mourning virgin) could be the form to a more general content (the mother with the dead body of her son), itself form to a more metaphysical content. So the order in the artist’s workshop is reversed.

- This seems confusing. To confuse even more, some have considered art in the same way a scientist would describe the world: namely, by considering object with the painting ont, the piece of paper with the poem on it, as the content. We could easily consider some forms of so-called ‘abstract’ art, concrete poetry etc. in this way.

- Other thinkers prefer to consider science similarly to the description of art. Here the percievable ‘thing’ is considered form in which the transcendent, non-percievable higher reality finds its expression.

11. The world of symbols (mathematics) isn’t free from the world. Sometimes new concepts are introduced by scientists and need to be confronted to everyday reality. In this matter, Themerson would prefer not to use the expression”the real existence of a concept”; instead he uses something like “theoretical musings “consciousized” this thing in the physical world” [doesn’t it sound like Von Neumanns quantum Reality, nr. 7: to realize (to grasp, to percieve) is to make some thing real].

The relationship between form and content seem very complex: several mechanisms take plake simutanuously:

- A new content triggers the appearance of a new form.

- Transformations in the surroundings cause new language, with new formal problems.

- New media offer new translations.

- New forms seem to have the inclination to become new contents (eg the political form of democracy became the content for the next political form). To clear things up: when ‘green’ becomes ‘spring’ due to the art of the painter, form becomes new content. When human drama becomes a cartoon, content becomes new form.

The differentiation between form and content in our thinking harms both. [i’d associate this with the ideas of Ames in perception psychology, see—ames_room.html , also a main tool for the SFX in Lord of the Rings]

12. The expression “if no A equals B, and all C’s equal A, then no C equals B” has no meaning in a world where A, B and C are no separate identities. It seems that we all live in such a world… yet our language is based on separated nouns, pointing to related objects in the perceivable world. [Quantum logic? ]

13. Conclusion. There is a no man’s land between form and content, perception and knowledge, axiomatical and ampirical world, syntax and semantics. This is the place where the undefinable consciousness hides, where new wordless thoughts emerge and slowly matures to language.

14. Themerson brings forth a dialog between a father and his little boy about one of Peano’s five postulats that form the very base of mathematics. There seems to be two kinds of languages: the “everyday tongue” and several symbolic systems of signs and rules, which are axiomatical and non-empirical. But in order to communicate there seems to be a point where every information needs to be translated to ‘simple words’ and from there to concrete situations. If the basic concrete situations differ, the maths (the rules of logic) could very well differ entirely. Scientist who forget this are here called ‘naive formalists’, who think they own the “ultimate word”. While in ths story, the little boy owns the ultimate word, using simple language, able to describe anything with it from any other system. But no theoretical discipline has the ability to describe him: this would result in Eubulides’ paradox of the lyer: if A says that B tells the truth, and B says that A lies, a paradox is born. Anyway, many meaningfull words in the simple language have no equivalent whatsoever in any symbolic system. The most obvious word missing in these would be the word ‘I’. And “the way how you explain what any droodle means, takes itself part of its meaning”.

Boris Vian

This literary misunderstood genius (he died at 39 years) was an erudite, open-minded polymorph poet and writer of the legendary Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. He was an ingeneer by formation and worked for the French standardization institute (AFNOR). Quite a paradox for a pataphysician!

He was also for several years (together with fellow satrapes Jacques Prévert and Raymond Queneau) one of the main pillars of the collège de 'pataphysique. He tried to write in all literary genres possible. As Vernon Sullivan, he wrote some populist books with lots of sex and violence, one of them was filmed and named 'I'll spit on your graves', the American production of which he was left out. He asked for his name to be removed from the titles and bizarrely died watching the movie in a Parisian movie theatre.

Vian was also a famous Jazz collector and expert. He played trumpet himself.Image hosted by

This beautiful site can pleasure French readers, while this one will introduce English ones to vian's writings.

It seems hard to translate this master of words, but I'd suggest trying to find 'Froth on the Daydream' published in 1967 and translated by Stanley Chapman. Other traductions of the same book were called 'Mood Indigo' and 'Foam of the Daze'. This novel is a masterpiece, although the simple description doesn't give it the honour it deserves: "This is a tale of two couples: Colin, a rich and rather superfluous man, and Chloe, a woman dying from a lily growing in her lung; Chick, whose life is ruined by his collecting of Jean-Sol Partre's books and memorabilia, and Alise, who tries to save Chick from himself by murdering Partre. As the lily grows in Chloe's lung, Colin does all he can to keep her alive. But her bed sinks closer to the ground and the room grows ever smaller. Because Colin has no money left to pay for burial, Chloe's coffin is simply thrown out the window."

In Vian's world paradoxes are everywhere. Nothing may be taken for granted. "The story is completely true, since I imagined it completely"

Boris Vian

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Dario Fo

The Italian jester, playwright, director, stage and costume designer and sometimes music composer got the nobel prize of litterature in 1997. In his biography you can read that he strangely was conscripted to the Salo republic (of Pasolini fame) during WW2 before managing to escape. He would be an anarchist ever after ('Accidental Death of an Anarchist' is probably his most famous play). I saw a medieval monologue of his once with excellent flemish actor Jan Decleir but can't remeber the name. There where rivers of shit flowing through the whole storytelling, that I can remember…

Dario Fo is a satrape of the collège and recently entered politics in Milan.

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Fernando Arrabal

Sadly I dare say I've never read much from this master chess player, playwright, writer, poet, painter, in short multiple artist. You can muse around on his excellent website though. Today in his seventies, Arrabal is the leading figure in the corps des Satrapes of the collège.

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Other famous satrapes of the collège include Jacques Prévert, Marcel Duchamp, Eugène Ionesco, Man Ray, Max Ernst, M.C. Esscher, Umberto Eco, Jean Baudrillard. Their fame needs no introduction.

More people are creatively active in pataphysics, more precisely in Ou-X-Po (Ouvroir de … potentiel) with its literary flagship OuLiPo. More on those (Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino etc.) later on.


mIEKAL aND said...

'pataphysical sobriety test

borsky said...

Keep up the good work Miekal.
I liked your dada-patatribe and the two stacks of Mac-PataCard.
Cornegidouille, the Science seems alive and well in Wisconsin


just discovered you blog!
very fine impression(s), will come back...
best regards
sam renseiw

borsky said...

Sam's "Spacetwo:Patalab" is a large experimental visual laboratory, with intriguing movies from Denmark. Stuff that sugardreams are spun of.
A bit like the Copenhagen interperetation of imaginary solutions!

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