"Come dÃ¢â‚¬â„¢autunno si levan le foglie,"
As, in the autumn, leaves detach themselves,
first one and then the other, till the bough
sees all its fallen garments on the ground,
similarly, the seed of Adam
descended from the shoreline one by one,
when signaled, as a falconÃ¢â‚¬”calledÃ¢â‚¬”will come”¦
And after this was said, the darkened plain
quaked so tremendouslyÃ¢â‚¬”the memory
of terror then, bathes me in sweat again.
A whirlwind burst out of the tear-drenched earth,
a wind that crackled with a bloodred light,
a light that overcame all my senses;
and like a man whom sleep has seized, I fell.
Dante Alighieri - Inferno,
Canto III, 112-117”¦130-136
I remember quite vividly sitting in a windowless room with a group of students, my eyes readjusting to the unsettling flicker of florescent light, the vision of leaf-mimic insects devouring each other projected onto the inside of my face in the most introverted way, recalling and speaking the words:
“I know where I am, but I don't seem to be in the spot where I find myself.”
-Roger Caillios, “Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia.”
We have allowed, I feel, a fundamental and terrifying lapse. Though, whether by product or cause of an overactive imagination, I have felt this sensation, this “temptation by space” episodically throughout my life, I have only recently found myself to grasp fingers along the edge of the great chasm of cultural self-deception that is, I believe, its cause.
But let us start nearer to the beginning”¦
"But how will you look for something when you don't in the least know what it is? How on earth are you going to set up something you don't know as the object of your search? To put it another way, even if you come right up against it, how will you know that what you found is the thing you didn't know?" (Taylor, 136)
- The Sophistic Puzzle, Plato's Meno
Before me lies a small stone on a white field. I see it, perceive it, and name it: Ã¢â‚¬Ëœstone'. Descartes might tell me, that light from the stone has entered my eye and projected its image in my mind. The stone forms an exactly determinate physical existence, which is transcribed by the mechanics of my eye, nerves and brain into its metaphysical impression. Its truth, empirically, is determined by the certainty of reciprocation between the physical state and the perception of its image in my mind. Dissatisfied, I might ask, if this image is but an empirical reproduction of what is before me, by what process do I differentiate between the stone and the field? From where does the significance of contrast, of outline, or of shadow come? How does a configuration of matter, intrinsically inert and devoid of meaning, translate into a sensation that I might call Ã¢â‚¬Ëœstone'?
Kant might then try to explain that the inert, noumenal matter of the stone serves only as raw material, of which my judgment, the a priori mechanics of reason within my mind, work through my senses to decipher. Significance then, is entirely internal, and is simply assigned to, or associated with the raw perceptive image. In search of the truth of the stone's essence, I might go about measuring itÃ¢â‚¬”its weight, its volume, the chromatic characteristics of its surface. I might remove samples for chemical analysis and draw sections for the observation of its composition. I might use this data to draw conjecture upon the stone's formation and history. For a moment then, perhaps in a lapse of skepticism, or in shear exhaustion of my capabilities, I might claim some satisfaction.
As was the case, it seems, for the greater scientific community throughout the 19th century. The very foundations of physics, chemistry, biology, the pillars of modern science, built upon a method based in irreconcilable dualism, imbued with unseen fault. Came Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, and the fissure widened. As our severed efforts in the pragmatic brought new means of production, so did our intellectual detachment become necessary for our daily survival. The worth of our daily lives, the purpose and fulfillment of our dreams, invisibly disconnected from the substance of life, have withered to abject materialism. This endless phenomenal field of lived tactile experience is cast aside as a screen hiding some reductive pure truth, like the endless wonderment of a mountain range blamed for hiding the purity of its map. For 200 years faith in reductionism slowly sapped the phenomenal, lived meaning from hill and sea, leaf and claw, home and flesh. By now, the spiritual and the sublime cling desperately in the shadows, relegated to all but cower in the vaulted halls of mysticism and conditioned belief.
One might easily mistake my position for one of lament; please understand, however, that quite to the contrary, I do not take these features as bad or good, or abdicate avoidance or correction outright. I merely point out what I perceive to be disparities in the development of varying structures of thought, resultants of founding tectonics whose broken dualism has bred uneven growth. They too form the poetic substance of life, terrifying invisible declivities of a sublime intellectual landscape.
From here I had hoped identify this hidden crevasse as related to Vidler's "uncanny", to gain a vantage for its observation--a bridge--using phenomenology and Merleau-Ponty. Perhaps I could then light a road, from the recesses of our minds, through the flesh of our bodies, and into the flesh of the world, and our architecture, to fill the hollows of its bones. Perhaps mimicry and camouflage, as delved into by one of my professors, Dan Hisel, the devouring of the self by space, could form a conduit from the architecture back. Perhaps this terrifying path, and its participants safe return might strip away the unspoken fear that we, at any moment, might cease to exist. Or maybe not. I have been writing rubbish like this for weeks and have decided maybe to throw away my books...
Site possibilities for my thesis project, "Cemetery" include: