In Search of the Miraculous

From Simon Starling's Red Rivers, 2009


A Perfect Sunday

Fleetwood Mac in 1977. Right: Christine McVie (Perfect).

I'd Rather Go Blind is a Blues song written by Ellington Jordan and co-credited to Billy Foster.

Christine Perfect & Chicken Shack, I'd Rather Go Blind (1969)
Etta James, I'd Rather Go Blind (1968)

Both thanks to Alexis Geogopoulos and Cary Loren for the tips!


Mind and Body

Disobedience in Byelorussia, Soviet Life Magazine, November 1988, archival picture published by Sean Snyder as an illustration for his article "Disobedience in Byelorussia: Self-Interrogation on “Research-Based Art” on e-flux Journal n. 5, 04.09


Hidden Tracks

In my last post on things I liked the most in 2010, I consciously excluded all these heartbreaking compositions, songs and ballads that had been written last year. I chose 9 of them, and excluded some, that may be posted separately, another time, in the future. It is the occasion to pay homage to Alex Chilton, who so sadly disappeared last year, with Holocaust by Big Star, recorded in 1974... Part of the"saddest music in the world", for sure.


01. Roky Erickson And Okkervil River - Devotional Number One
02. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & The Cairo Gang - That's What Our Love Is
03. Joanna Newsom - Baby Birch
04. Laurie Anderson - My Right Eye
05. Arp - From a Balcony Overlooking the Sea
06. Bill Callahan - Rock Bottom Riser
07. Alastair Galbraith - Money Is So Sad
08. Chris Weisman & Greg Davis - We Won't Survive
09. James Blackshaw - Untitled (Part 7)
10. Big Star - Holocaust

Get the compilation here (94.49 MB).

This one is dedicated to Alex Chilton (1950-2010).


Forêt vierge II

Hackberry Ramblers, Dans Le Grand Bois (In The Forest)
Pantha du Prince, Bohemian Forest
Robert Wyatt, Forest
Arthur Russell, The Deer In The Forest (pt. 1)
Animal Collective, Forest Gospel
Yo La Tengo, The Forest Green


Sunday Morning

Thanks to Joseph Hannibal for the tip!


Five Mirror Pieces

The 1000-ft Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico

I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia. The mirror troubled the depths of a corridor in a country house on Gaona Street in Ramos Mejia; the encyclopedia is fallaciously called The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia (New York, 1917) and is a literal but delinquent reprint of the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1902. The event took place some five years ago. Bioy Casares had had dinner with me that evening and we became lengthily engaged in a vast polemic concerning the composition of a novel in the first person, whose narrator would omit or disfigure the facts and indulge in various contradictions which would permit a few readers - very few readers - to perceive an atrocious or banal reality. From the remote depths of the corridor, the mirror spied upon us. We discovered (such a discovery is inevitable in the late hours of the night) that mirrors hare something monstrous about them. Then Bioy Casares recalled that one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had declared that mirrors and copulation are abominable, because they increase the number or men. I asked him the origin of this memorable observation and he answered that it was reproduced in The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia, in its article on Uqbar. The house (which we had rented furnished) had a set of this work. On the last pages of Volume XLVI we found an article on Upsala; on the first pages of Volume XLVII, one on Ural-Altaic Languages, but not a word about Uqbar. Bioy, a bit taken aback, consulted the volumes of the index. In vain he exhausted all of the imaginable spellings: Ukbar, Ucbar, Ooqbar, Ookbar, Oukbahr... Before leaving, he told me that it was a region of Iraq of or Asia Minor. I must confess that I agreed with some discomfort. I conjectured that this undocumented country and its anonymous heresiarch were a fiction devised by Bioy's modesty in order to justify a statement. The fruitless examination of one of Justus Perthes' atlases fortified my doubt. (From "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" by Jorge Luis Borges)

Conrad Schnitzler, 10.10.84, on Mirror Tapes
Alastair Galbraith, Last Air, from "Mirrowork"

Dedicated to the memory of Trish Keenan


Big Mund

Flower-Corsano duo, Second Strike


A Separate Reality


The Eliminator overloads the eye whenever the red neon flashes on, and in so doing diminishes the viewer's memory dependencies or traces. Memory vanishes, while looking at the Eliminator. The viewer doesn't know what he is looking at, because he has no surface space to fixate on; thus he becomes aware of the emptiness of his own sight or sees through his sight. Light, mirror reflection, and shadow fabricate the perceptual intake of the eyes. Unreality becomes actual and solid.

The Eliminator is a clock that doesn't keep time, but loses it. The intervals between the flashes of neon are "void intervals" or what George Kubler calls, "the rupture between past and future." The Eliminator order negative time as it avoids historical space.

Robert Smithson


Shape Shift

Altar, Africa, 20th Century

The pleasure provoked by (the) incongruity evokes Georges Bataille’s aesthetics of heterogeneity. Bataille described the similarity he felt between such abject excremental forms as sperm and shit, and the “sacred, divine, or marvelous,” as a byproduct of their shared heterogeneous status as “foreign bodies” relative to our assimilating and homogenous culture. They are both, in a sense, equally taboo. He gives as an example the image of “a half-decomposed cadaver fleeing through the night in a luminous shroud” as one that characterizes this unity. The image of the abject blob-like alien is part of a long history of images of foul heavenly masses, sometimes called “star jelly” or “pwdre ser.” In literary sources and scientific journals spanning the Sixteenth to the early Twentieth Century one may find descriptions of “gelatinous meteors” – falling stars that, when located, reveal themselves as lumps of stinking, white, goo. The evocation of sperm in such accounts is so obvious that such finds were sometimes described as “star shoot.” So, a mythic relationship between the sky and the abject has quite a long history. This conflation of the heavenly with the abject body recalls Bataille’s example of the risen Christ, which simultaneously represents rotting corpse and ascendant being. But, unlike his example, which the social institution of religion has appropriated into culture as a divine image, the abject qualities associated with similar imagery in ufology have maintained their terrifying heterogeneous nature. Ufology always invokes this connection between the heavenly and the abject and, so far, this has not been codified to the point where it could be considered a contemporary religion.

In Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre conducts an analysis of the “slimy,” attempting to explain why such a quality is so repugnant. The fact that slime is base, or dirty, is not the issue. That which is slimy is terrifying, primarily, in that it provokes an ontological crisis because it clings; it threatens one’s sense of autonomy, and this is imbued with an uncanny quality. Sartre writes, “. . .the original bond between the slimy and myself is that I form the project of being the foundation of its being, inasmuch as it is me ideally. From the start then it appears as a possible “myself” to be established; from the start it has a psychic quality. This definitely does not mean that I endow it with a soul in the manner of primitive animism, nor with metaphysical virtues, but simply that even its materiality is revealed to me as having a psychic meaning . . .”. Slime’s ambiguous qualities are accentuated by the fact that its “fluidity exists in slow motion”; it makes a spectacle of its instability. Unlike water, which instantly absorbs into itself, slime does so slowly giving one the false impression that it is a substance that can be possessed. Slime is, therefor, read as a deceitful material. Its in-between-ness, its boundary-threatening attributes, provokes a base and horrible sublime experience.

Light, like water, is generally understood as a kind of transcendental formless because its undifferentiated qualities are both unitary and actively kinetic, unlike slime’s earthy weightiness. That is why it has found such favor in religious imagery in the form of the halo, and why fixed heavenly bodies, despite their ambiguous nature and qualities, are not fear inducing. In “documentary” photographs of UFOs this elevated status is threatened and light is imbued with negative and terrifying connotations. For, despite eyewitness accounts that describe “flying saucers” as tangible technical apparatuses, they rarely have been photographed as such. Of the innumerable photographs purporting to document flying saucers collected by the government agency Project Blue Book, very few reveal any recognizable form. Often, these photos only show spots of light floating in the sky.[6] It is not the fact that these photographs image what could be potentially dangerous technologies in the service of unknown beings that makes them terrifying, it is their impenetrable quality that does so. These photographs “picture” that which cannot be seen - cannot be known. They do so by employing the sign of the formless – the blob.

Mike Kelley, from "The Aesthetics of Ufology" (1997), text available here.

Arnold Dreyblatt, Animal Magnetism


Supernormal Appearances


"What are we to think of magic and witchcraft [to-day we would say 'occultism' and 'spiritism']? Their theory is obscure, their principles vague, uncertain, approaching the visionary; but—they are embarrassing facts, affirmed by grave men, who have seen them, or who have heard of them from persons like themselves; to admit them all, or to deny them all, seems equally embarrassing, and I dare to assert that in this, as in all extraordinary things which depend upon customary rules, there is a happy medium to be found between credulous souls and strong minds."

It is the voice of reason itself that the sagacious author of Les Caractères permits us to hear. We must, however, add that this "happy medium to be found" would not consist in a theory, a doctrine, a ready-made and entire system, from the height of which, as from a tribunal of arbitration, we would judge the "embarrassing cases" which reality places in the path of the seeker; for this system—however perfect it might be—would again be one more infallibility added to all those which already encumber the road to truth. The "happy medium" dreamed of by La Bruyère can be but a "method" always perfectible in its application and prejudging in nothing the results of investigation which go against the grain of the dogmatic points of view, equally authoritative and sterile, which characterize the two extremes of the "credulous souls" and "strong minds."

From India to the Planet Mars, by Théodore Flournoy; tr. Daniel B. Vermilye, (1900)

Psychic Ills, Sun Bath
Pocahaunted, Demon


Best Wishes

The Red Krayola with Art & Language, Ad Reinhardt