Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Yantralicious 01

a two- or three-dimensional geometric composition used in sadhanas, or meditative rituals. It is thought to be the abode of the deity. Each yantra is unique and calls the deity into the presence of the practitioner through the elaborate symbolic geometric designs.

1) very appealing to the senses, esp to the taste or smell 2) extremely enjoyable or entertaining
Origin, C13: from Old French, from Late Latin dēliciōsus, from Latin dēliciae delights, charms, from dēlicere to entice; see delight

Thursday, 16 May 2013


The mass of functions contained within a limited, finite volume has increased so exponentially that the point has been reached where it finally collapses into its own singularity of meaning: a collection of potential uses so vast that they are crushed under the weight of their own potential, cancelling each other out, eating each other up, imploding into an intimate black hole whose sole object of gravitational pull appears to be the human gaze, the mind’s attention, which it pulls in beyond its event horizon of formlessness and obliterates under the infinite weight of functional apotheosis.

The other day his iphone stopped working. It sat there on his table looking for all the world like the opposite of a thing, not really a nothing, more a void, like a piece of the room was missing, like it’s beveled black anti-matter was ever so gently absorbing the light, energy and air, or some other imperceptible but vital force out from the space just around it on the table. He hadn’t noticed that particular aspect of it before, but then he was usually too busy playing Angry Birds Star Wars on it. The next morning he came downstairs to find that it was quite clearly bleeding, melting, or rotting, doing something biological, something very un-iphone-like. Swirls of magenta, ochre, ultramarine, rainbows like gasoline leaks were softening its edges, its insides were swelling and the corners of bright, dripping shapes were beginning to protrude from its now diaphanous, bent and punctured skin. He made himself coffee and stood in front of the table watching as his old phone burst, grew out, spread up and flowered forms so loud, abundant, riotous and intricate that standing there, feebly clutching his favourite mug with both hands, he was spellbound. Where the carcass of his iphone had been only the night before was now a mad little totem of wildness, a feast for the eyes that was just as silent as its inert predecessor, but which rather than negating itself, was bleeding itself into the air around it, spilling its colours gently out into his tablecloth, sparkling chromatically with the flecks of sunlight that reached it through the window. Its abundance was too great for its tiny size and it was giving itself up to the room around it, to him. He was late and needed to leave, and instinctively reached into his pocket to take a picture with his phone. Realising, he stood for a minute longer then ran for the door, assuming it wouldn’t be there when he got back.

Friday, 10 May 2013


^Rachael from the movie Blade Runner (source)

Two extracts from Donna J Haraway’s 'A Cyborg Manifesto', a text in which she lays down the Cyborg as a driving metaphor for illuminating a much more nuanced, immersive approach to technology, the body, and identity, one that neither recoils in fear from monstrous new developments nor worships progress, but which rather entirely sidesteps the archaic, totalitarian dualisms of culture/nature, self/other, male/female, civilized/primitive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, total/partial, reality/appearance; instead asking us to construct our reality as we move, on the go, responding to, ironically incorporating and utilising multiple new viewpoints and states of being in ways incommensurable with the old, given identity groupings. Irony here has nothing to do with a bitchy cynicism that lets you appropriate at will without commitment, it is not the post-modern tactic of relinquishing any attachment to those multiple things you use and make with a disgustingly, violently condescending, knowing wink; it is instead poetic irony, the ability to embody multitudes, a complex approach to existence, design, politics, and life in which multiple viewpoints, numerous approaches and conflicting and incommensurate values can, by virtue of the singularity of the human will, compress it all into the razor’s edge of a broad creative existence in thrall to no reductive dogma, but allied to everything and all that can, and might, broaden our horizons.

“For excellent reasons, most Marxisms see domination best and have trouble understanding what can only look like false consciousness and people’s complicity in their own domination in late capitalism. It is crucial to remember that what is lost, perhaps especially from women’s points of view, is often virulent forms of oppression, nostalgically naturalized in the face of current violation. Ambivalence towards the disrupted unities mediated by high-tech culture requires not sorting consciousness into categories of ‘clear-sighted critique grounding a solid political epistemology’ versus ‘manipulated false consciousness’, but subtle understanding  of emerging pleasures, experiences, and powers with serious potential for changing the rules of the game.”

“There are several consequences to taking seriously the imagery of cyborgs as other than our enemies. Our bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity. Cyborgs are no exception. A cyborg body is not innocent; it was not born in a garden; it does not seek unitary identity and so generate antagonistic dualisms without end (or until the world ends); it takes irony for granted. One is too few, and two is only one possibility. Intense pleasure in skill, machine skill, ceases to be a sin, but an aspect of embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they.”

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Collapsed Time in Collected Space

This is a scene in an Antique Dealer's collection, taken from Honoré De Balzac's philosophical novel "The Wild Ass's Skin", where he outlines the uncanny and alluring effect of a multitude of collected objects -not yet divested of historical allusion or meaning, nor icily institutionalised- contained in a small, compressed private space, and set upon by an eager imagination.

“At first sight the showrooms offered him a chaotic medley of human and divine works. Crocodiles, apes and stuffed boas grinned at stainless glass windows, seemed to be about to snap at carved busts, to be running after lacquer-ware or to be clambering up chandeliers. A Sevres vase on which Madame Jaquetot had painted Napoleon was standing next to a sphinx dedicated to Sesostris. The beginnings of creation and the events of yesterday were paired off with grotesque good humour. A roasting-jack was posed on a monstrance, a Republican sabre on a medieval arquebus. Madame du Barry, painted in pastel by Latour, with a star on her head, nude and enveloped in cloud, seemed to be concupiscently contemplating an Indian chibouk and trying to divine some purpose in the spirals of smoke which were drifting towards her.

Instruments of death, poniards, quaint pistols, weapons with secret springs were hobnobbing with instruments of life: porcelain soup-tureens, Dresden china plate, translucent porcelain cups from china, antique slat-cellars, comfit-dishes from feudal times. An ivory ship was sailing under full canvas on the back of an immovable tortoise. A pneumatic machine was poking out the eye of the Emperor Augustus, who remained majestic and unmoved. Several portraits of French aldermen and Dutch burgomasters, insensible now as during their lifetime, rose above this chaos of antiques and cast a cold and disapproving glance at them.

All the countries on earth seemed to have brought here some remnants of their sciences and a sample of their arts. It was a sort of philosophical midden in which nothing was lacking, neither the Red Indian's calumet nor the green and gold slipper of the seraglio, nor the yatogan of the Moor, nor the brazen image of the Tartar. There was even the soldier's tobacco pouch, the ciborium of the priest and the plumes from a throne. Furthermore, these monstrous tableaux were subjected to a thousand accidents of lighting by the whimsical effects of a multitude of reflected gleams due to the confusion of tints and the abrupt contrasts of light and shade. The ear fancied it heard stifled cries, the mind imagined that it caught the thread of unfinished dramas, and the eye that it perceived half-smothered glimmers. Lastly, persistent dust had cast its thin coating over all these objects, whose multiple angles and numerous sinuosities produced the most picturesque of impressions.

To begin with the, the stranger compared these three showrooms, crammed with the relics of civilizations and religions, deities, royalties, masterpieces of art, the products of debauchery, reason and unreason, to a mirror of many facets, each one representing a whole world. After registering this hazy impression, he tried to make a choice of specimens he enjoyed; but, in the process of gazing, pondering, dreaming, he was overcome by a fever which was perhaps due to the hunger which was gnawing at his vitals. His senses ended by being numbed at the sight of so many national and individual existences, their authenticity guaranteed by the human pledges which had survived them.

The longing that had caused him to visit the shop was satisfied: he left real life behind him, ascended by degrees to an ideal world, and reached the enchanted palaces of ecstasy where the universe appeared to him in transitory gleams and tongues of fire; just as, long ago, the future of mankind had filed past in flaming visions before the gaze of Saint John of Patmos.

A multitude of sorrowing faces, gracious or terrifying, dimly or clearly described, remote or near at hand, rose up before him in masses, in myriads, in generations. Egypt in its mysterious rigidity emerged from the sands, represented by a mummy swathed in black bandages; then came the Pharaohs burying entire peoples in order to build a tomb for themselves; then Moses and the Hebrews and the wilderness: the whole of the ancient world, in all its solemnity, drifted before his eyes. But here, cool and graceful, a marble statue posed on a wreathed column, radiantly white, spoke to him of the voluptuous myths of Greece and Ionia. Oh, who would not have smiled, as he did, to see upon a red background, in the fine clay of an Etruscan vase, the brown girl dancing before the god Priapus and joyously saluting him? Facing her was a Latin queen lovingly fondling her chimaera! The capricious pleasures of imperial Rome were there in every aspect: the bath, the couch, the dressing-table ritual of some indolent, pensive Julia awaiting her Tibullus. Armed with the power of Arabian talismans, the head of Cicero evoked memories of republican Rome and unwound for him the scroll of Livy's histories. The young man gazed on the Senatus pupulusque romanus: the consul, the lectors, the purple-edged togas, the fights in the Forum, the plebs aroused to wrath. All this filed past him like the insubstantial figures of a dream.
Then Christian Rome became the dominant theme in these presentations. One painting showed the heavens opened and in it he saw the Virgin Mary bathed in a cloud of gold in the midst of angels, eclipsing the sun in glory, lending an ear to the lamentations of the sufferer on whom this regenerate Eve smiled gently. As he fingered a mosaic made of different lavas from Vesuvius and Etna, in imagination he emerged into sun-drenched Italy: he was an onlooker at the Borgias' feasts, he rode through the Abruzzi, sighed after Italian mistresses, worshipping their pale cheeks and dark, elongated eyes.

Espying a medieval dagger with a hilt as cunningly wrought as a piece of lace, with rust patches on it like bloodstains, he thought with a shudder of mighty trysts interrupted by the cold blade of a husband's sword. India and its religions lived again in an idol dressed in gold and silk with conical cap and lozenge-shaped ear-flaps folded upwards and adorned with bells. Near this grotesque figure a rush mat, as pretty as the Indian dancer who had once rolled herself in it, still exhaled the perfume of sandalwood. The mind was startled into perceptiveness by a monster from China with a twisted gaze, contorted mouth and writhing limbs: the creation of an inventive people weary of unvarying beauty and drawing ineffable pleasure from the luxuriant diversity of ugliness.

A salt-cellar from Benvenuto Cellini's workshop brought him back to the bosom of the Renaissance at a period when art and licence flourished together, when sovereign princes found diversion in torture and prelates at Church Councils rested from their labours in the arms of courtesans after decreeing chastity for mere priests. He saw the conquests of Alexander carved on a cameo, the massacres of Pizarro etched on a match-lock arquebus, the wars of religion -frenzied, seething, pitiless- engraved on the base of a helmet. Then the charming pageantry of chivalry sprang up from a Milanese suit of armour, brightly furnished, superbly damascened, beneath whose visor the eyes of a paladin still gleamed.

For him this ocean of furnishings, inventions, fashions, works of art and relics made up an endless poem. Forms, colours, concepts of thought came to life again; but nothing complete presented itself to his mind. The poet in him had to finish these sketches by the great painter who had composed the vast palette on to which the innumerable accidents of human life had been thrown in such disdainful profusion.”

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


A delicate story of objects, their intimacy with every aspect of a person's existence, the power of evocation they may possess by that very connection, and the necessity of a particular gaze, of a searching imagination to draw their qualities together into a story, the myth of an identity no longer truly approachable, but which can at least be adumbrated through the implements of its lost existence.

"I have bought up all of her belongings that were put on sale -that woman whose friend I would like to have been, and who did not even condescend to talk to me for a few minutes. I have the little card game that kept her amused every evening, her two marmosets, three novels that bear her coat of arms on their boards, and her bitch. Oh, you delights and dear playthings of her life, you had access -without enjoying them as I would have done, and without even desiring them- to all her freest, most inviolable, and most secret hours; you were unaware of your happiness and you cannot describe it.

Cards that she would hold in her fingers every evening with her favourite friend who saw her getting bored or breaking into laughter, who were witnesses to the start of her liaison, and whom she threw down to fling her arms round the man who thereafter came every evening to enjoy a game with her; novels that she would open and close in her bed, as her fancy or her fatigue bade her, chosen by her on impulse or as her dreams dictated, books to which she confided her dreams and combined them with dreams expressed by the books that helped her better to dream for herself -did you retain nothing of her, and can you tell me nothing about her?
Novels; she dreamed in turn the lives of your characters and of your authors; and playing cards, for in her own way she enjoyed in your company the tranquility and sometimes the feverishness of intimate friendships -did you keep nothing of her thoughts, which you distracted or filled, or of her heart, which you wounded or consoled?
Cards, novels, you were so often in her hands, or remained for so long on her table; queens, kings or knaves, who were the still guests at her wildest parties; heroes of novels and heroines who, at her bedside, caught in the cross-beam of her lamp and her eyes, dreamed your silent dream, a dream that was nonetheless filled with voices: you cannot have simply let it evaporate -all the perfume with which the air of her bedroom, the fabric of her dresses, and the touch of her hands or her knees imbued you.
You have preserved the creases left when her joyful or nervous hand crumpled you; you perhaps still keep prisoner those tears which she shed, on reading of a grief narrated in some book, or experienced in life; the day which made her eyes shine with joy or sorrow left its warm hues on you. When I touch you, I shiver, anxiously awaiting your revelations, disquieted by your silence. Alas! Perhaps, like you, charming and fragile creatures, she was the insensible and unconscious witness of her own grace. Her most real beauty existed perhaps in my desire. She lived her life, but perhaps I was the only one to dream it."

Marcel Proust