Sunday, October 15, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 25


Text: The Man Who Collected Machen and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Text: The White Hands and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Text: Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality (Edward Frenkel)
Pictures: Broken glass at the metro station, January 2012

Whether we want or not we're always making stories. Being somewhere and walking around is a narrative experience. We tell this story to ourselves and we long to tell it to others.
This story is without doubt the strangest thing I’ve ever read. It is as if the text is a reflection of my own thoughts. No—that’s wrong. It is as if my thoughts are only a reflection of the story. While I read I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page and I forgot all about the outside world. It seemed as if my mind was becoming a part of the text. It was horrible and irresistible at the same time. And the really bizarre thing is that, on the surface, it appeared only to be a confused jumble of disconnected words!’ ‘It’s an experiment,’ I told her, ‘a new technique I’m trying to perfect.’
When we succeed the sum of place and tale is more than its components:
‘You succeeded,’ she said finally. ‘The story’s like an incantation. There’s some mysterious power in it that words can’t explain.
Unfortunately, the enjoyment of topography is a very elitist pastime. Place appreciation is just as rare as enjoyment of mathematics. It needs hard work and maybe some talent and predisposition:
It has become, in the words of poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, “a blind spot in our culture – alien territory, in which only the elite, the initiated few have managed to entrench themselves.”
This view of the world contains some postmodern thinking. And this can be irritating:
The merits of a writer’s work were of no interest to them and they viewed the existence of literary work as a proliferation of vermin, being only too willing to act as pest controllers in this regard. All texts were without a centre of meaning. Their interpretation rested with the reader, not the author. There could be no agreed purpose to a text. All was chaos. The text was an autonomous entity. In short, without the reader the text did not even exist save as a cipher.
We run the risk of saying things that are just meaningless words:
The Collective was putting tenets into action that few dared even to consider. Unlike the book-burning Nazis or the censorious communists, it was not selective. It did not destroy because it thought works corrupt or dangerous. It destroyed works because it believed none had meaning or significance, because words only mean other words and chase each other, in a linguistic game of tag, to a void.

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.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 24

Secret urban drift

Text: Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring (Pete Earley)
Illustrations: A walk through south Rotterdam, 2011, Google maps, Bing maps

A dreary walk along through the southern shore of Rotterdam resonates with these cold walks through wintry Vienna. Next time you walk the city imagine that you're following secret instructions. That everything you do has a secret meaning. That you're being watched to see if you're not followed. Remember to act inconspicuously!
The Vienna Procedure was written on a single sheet of white typing paper, and the first time that John saw it, he thought it had been typed. But when he looked carefully at the document, he realized each letter had been printed by hand across the page in incredibly small and neat lines. A bird’s-eye view of the course would show that John had walked in a series of circles all near city parks or small plazas where a KGB agent could sit unnoticed and see both the beginning and end of his jaunts.
The Vienna procedure - At 18:15 p.m. come up to the “Komet Küchen” store (kitchen cabinets and appliances) on the corner of Schönbrunner Strasse and Rückergasse. To get there walk from Schönbrunn palace and park grounds; on Schönbrunner Schlossstrasse and its continuation Schönbrunner Strasse to Rückergasse. Turn left on the latter and stop at the window of the “Komet Küchen” store, which is looking on Rückergasse, just a couple of yards away from the corner. For easy identification please carry your camera bag on your left shoulder and hold a small paper bag in your right hand. Pause by that window for about two minutes from 18:15p.m. To 18:17 p.m., Drifting slowly along it away from Schönbrunner Strasse toward the other corner of the building ...
He walked around the corner of the store as instructed, paused, and then returned to the front of the building. As he was walking back, John noticed that there was a public park diagonally across the street from the store. A KGB agent could easily and unobtrusively watch him from the park benches there and also tell if he was being followed. Following the instructions, John crossed the street and stood in front of another display window. He was now standing parallel to the park.
He walked down the sidewalk and turned right at the next corner into a narrow side street lined with cars. The instructions called for him to walk one block and turn left, then walk another block and turn left again. This brought him back to the main thoroughfare, and he found himself once again facing the public park. Had anyone been following John, he would have been easily apparent to a watcher sitting in the park. There would be no reason for someone to take such an indirect route unless he was shadowing someone.

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.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Dream topography

After posting this on the Fortean Times forum I received this reply from Ermintruder:
GPS is often weird in dreams. As is can never get a decent bloody signal, no matter how hard you try. Perhaps 5G will work better (or maybe a cup of coffee before bed-time will do the trick)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Harmen de Hoop - Retrospective #3

Today I went to see a public intervention by Harmen de Hoop. This season the artist re-enacts some of his earlier performances and this was RETROSPECTIVE #3.
Come and photograph Harmen de Hoop in Rotterdam!
Saturday 30 September, 11.00 am, Kralingse Bos, Rotterdam.
In the coming months, Harmen de Hoop will be working on a RETROSPECTIVE. He will perform interventions and actions in several locations in Rotterdam that he made long ago anonymously and without permission in other cities and countries. As Marina Abramovic wondered how you can show performances in a retrospective, so Harmen de Hoop wants to see how the meaning of a temporary, location-bound work changes when you perform it again. A new location, a different context, and this time he invites you to attend. Come, take photos and videos of the action and place those on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest etc.
I arrived a few minutes after the announced time (11.00) and saw the finished installation but no retrospective in progress. I was not alone in wondering what had happened, there was one other appreciative visitor who was puzzled by the absence. It's a fun installation and I wonder how long it will last in the wild.

Note: My wife commented that by installing these tools, you move the picnic table from the domain of recreation to the domain of work. People will be dissuaded to relax here.
I speculated that the artist had done the installation at night, in the dark, to prevent any mishaps. But in the afternoon the absence was explained by the artist himself:
Because of the rainy weather forecast I decided to do the action at an earlier time. And indeed, at 11:05 it really started to rain. But you saw the result. Nice photographs! I was leaving when you arrived. 
And this is the original installation that was re-enacted today. It still has the same look-and-feel:
Two bench vices bolted to a picnic bench on a highway parking lot.
For practical / recreational use.

Urban mushroom diary - 12 - summer 2017

About this series:

A chapter wherein the author gets a case of "determination depression". And he is not alone as a Polish survey demonstrates:
The primary source of knowledge on mushrooms ... are parents. There was no correlation between the source of information about mushrooms and belief in the myths about them. Knowledge of mushrooms of medical students is not greater than that of other students.
27 July 2017 - Walking uphill from the botanical garden in Duisburg brought us to the Kaiserberg war cemetery. As always I walked around and read the names and ages on the gravestones. I want to show the fallen soldiers that people still care about them, even after 100 years.
In a shady corner I saw a group of small mushrooms. These are notoriously difficult to determine. I can only guess. Maybe Mycena or Inocybe.
28 July 2017 - Along an asphalt path through the fields around Kalkar I again saw a difficult mushroom. This could be a Marasmius. Or a Mycena or Cystolepiota. And I'm starting to suffer from "determination depression". The pressure to give names to the mushrooms is destroying my enjoyment of them. Now I see what a monumental work Adam did when he named the animals:
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
And as far as I could determine mushrooms are not mentioned in the Bible. And this could be Inocybe, Pluteus or Marasmius.
As an inhabitant of a big city I'm predestined to be bad at mushrooming:
Residents of large cities have more difficulties in distinguishing between edible and poisonous mushrooms than those living in villages and small towns. People practicing mushrooming regularly, retain proper habits during the harvesting and processing of mushrooms. Irrational ways of distinguishing edible mushrooms from poisonous are less often rejected by inexperienced people than by those frequently gathering mushrooms.
27 July 2017 - The newspaper I read in the hotel writes:
The academic hospital in Hannover has received five patients with Amanita Phalloides (death cap) poisoning. The came from east European countries and thought the mushroom was edible. Last year the hospital accepted refugees with mushroom poisoning who mistook the mushroom for an edible one, common in their home countries.
This was a very bad year for mushroom poisonings in Northern Germany. And many people are predestined to accidents with mushroom consumption:
Nearly 20% of respondents, regardless of their own experience and self-assessment of their competence in discriminating mushrooms believe that after culinary preparation they can safely consume even deadly poisonous species.
But even I can see that this is not an Amanita but a species of button mushroom, Agaricus. This mushroom has black spores, not white. But which one is it? Agaricus augustus, Agaricus bitorquis or something else?
28 July 2017 - While burning a candle in Grieth, in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul I noticed that the box of matches was decorated by a mushroom design.
Along the bicycle path from Kalkar to Wissel there we lots of mushrooms growing from the wood chips. I'll not even try to determine these.
29 July 2017 - In the woods of Kleve we saw these beautiful geometric patterns. Probably Trametes hirsuta.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - summer 2017 - 4

About this series:

On the 17th of July (2017) a huge group of mushrooms sprang up under the poplars, in the same place where I found the Leccinum duriusculum. These ones looked inedible at first sight, tough, leathery and without an attractive smell.
But they looked very mysterious after the rain, when their caps collected little pools of water.
 This mushroom has beautiful gills with cream colored spores. Most likely it's the Lactarius controversus. Wikipedia says:
This mushroom is considered inedible in western Europe due to its very acrid taste, but is eaten, and even commercially collected, in south-eastern European countries such as Serbia and Turkey.
I could try to taste a little piece next time. It's puzzling that I could see no milk sap when I scratched the mushroom. So maybe not a Lactarius (= milk mushroom)?
 Then, on 20th of July (2017) I went for a walk in the city park to look for mushrooms.
This very common mushroom is surprisingly difficult to determine. I still hesitate between Ganoderma Applanatum or Phellinus Igniarius or Fomes Fomentarius. The first one seems most likely.

The frustrating difficulty to determine a mushroom species is not limited to amateurs like me. It is shared by professionals. This is frustration on a more competent, professional level. It is the difficulty to determine Russula species:
... you'd better be able to navigate fine distinctions between "mild," "slightly acrid," "moderately acrid," "very acrid," and so on, since these distinctions may define your species. 
... dark grayish red to grayish reddish brown centrally and strong to moderate reddish brown marginally, or strong yellow to light yellow overall, or moderate orange yellow to strong yellowish brown ...  
... spines can be shaped however they want to be shaped and usually measure about 1 µ long, though they are occasionally twice that size; the connecting lines between the spines are usually present and scattered, but may be rare or, on the other hand extreme, frequent.
I never thought I would see these in the wild. Xylaria Longipes, it's not dead man's fingers but it is a close relative. It looks very uncanny, a truly alien lifeform.
It is a strangely non-decomposable mushroom, because now, in late autumn the club-shapes are still there. Other mushrooms are gone in a week.
Something microscopic on an old tree trunk. These were gone in a few days. Could be something like Mycena. I should have looked at night because some species are luminescent.
Probably a slime mold. Impossible to determine without a microscope. It could be Enteridium lycoperdon, but it does not fit the picture very well.
This looks very much like Marasmius oreades, but the spores should be white, not dark. But I can find no alternative. Psathyrella candolleana looks too regular.
The impossibility of naming a specific mushroom has a nice irony. It's a fact that this specific mushroom must have some specific name. A rigid designator. Why then, is it so difficult to find that name?
A rigid designator designates the same object in all possible worlds in which that object exists and never designates anything else.
... a term is said to be a rigid designator when it designates (picks out, denotes, refers to) the same thing in all possible worlds in which that thing exists and does not designate anything else in those possible worlds in which that thing does not exist.
This should be some Agaricus but I can not find it. It does not look like Agaricus bitorquis, though that would fit the urban location and the summer season. It looks more like Agaricus sylvaticus, but those seem to grow in pine forests.
Finally some Marasmius. No idea which one. Mysterious and evasive creatures, those mushrooms.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The mysterious fragments

Elements of the Dutch landscape - nr.15
Particles of deep topography - nr.27

Sometimes, when walking through the Dutch landscape I'm reminded of the book The origins of the kabbalah by Gershom Scholem. This book describes the Bahir, a foundational cabalistic text.
That the text before us is in fact fragmentary ... is beyond doubt. We are dealing with a collection or a redactional adaptation of fragments. Sometimes the text even breaks off in the middle of one sentence and continues with the middle of another, which can hardly be explained otherwise than by the loss of a page in the oldest manuscript ... Other lacunae are clearly recognizable ... the answer to a question is missing ... important enumerations are not brought to a conclusion.
The landscape often behaves like this. It presents us with fragments without context, little mysteries that cannot be resolved because their field of sense is gone. (See also here.)

Near Hardinxveld

It feels as if the landscape is making suggestions and posing puzzles. It feels as it it's trying to teach us a lesson about impermanence and vanitas. It confronts us with a mystery, but the message is jumbled and fragmentary.
The Book Bahir, whose few pages seem to contain so much that is pertinent to the mystery of the origin of the Kabbalah, has the form of a midrash, namely, a collection of sayings or very brief homiletical expositions of biblical verses. These are not set forth according to any particular organizational principle. Thus the book is devoid of a literary structure. Furthermore, as we shall see, it is only with the greatest reservations that one can speak of a uniform development of thought in the various paragraphs of the text. Everything seems to have been jumbled together haphazardly.
Near Hazerswoude
Note: is seems like this would be easy to find, but as yet I've not been able to determine what kind of monument this is.
It could be a fragment of a castle wall or a dovecote.

And horror writers are also interested in fragments and ruins.
The Man Who Collected Machen and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Those ruined and decayed remains of buildings that have been abandoned due to their commercial worthlessness have more mystery about them than any number of new glass and steel developments. They are testaments to the truth that the city ... is an organic entity with an occult life and history of its own ... there are still ghosts in those shells, and ... as long as memory lingers and imagination is not stamped out ... the ghosts will live on.

Behind Hitland - Nieuwerkerk

Near Hekendorp
And, just like the book Bahir, these fragments have something sacred about them. We should chertish those places and point others towards them. Make them into places of pilgrimage.
Noctuary (Thomas Ligotti)
There are holy places in this world, and I have been to some of them. Places where the presence of something sacred can be felt like an invisible meteorology. Always these places are quiet, and often they are in ruins. The ones that are not already at some stage of dilapidation nonetheless display the signs and symptoms, the promise of coming decay.

Near Rhoon
We feel a sense of divinity in ruined places, abandoned places — shattered temples on mountaintops, crumbling catacombs, islands where a stone idol stands almost faceless. We never have such feelings in our cities or even in natural settings where the flora and fauna are overly evident. This is why so much is atoned for in wintertime, when a numinous death descends on those chosen lands of our globe. Indeed, winter is not so much the holiest time as it is the holiest place, the visible locus of the divine.
Near Oostvoorne