Friday, April 1, 2011

Dedal and the "Dans"

In anticipation of the upcoming Charles Dedal Colloquium that I am organizingtentatively scheduled for October 2011 at the Bothnia Center for the Arts in the charming lacustrian town of Raahe, Finland—I thought it apropos to share some thoughts on the colloquium's late and celebrated namesake.

Near the end of his life, Dedal's health may have been waning, but his spirited intellect and almost feverish commitment to labyrinthology certainly were not. When he passed away in 2010, we inherited an incomplete (and decidedly, perhaps intentionally, inscrutable) manuscript, known only as A Syntax. In his prime, Dedal dedicated his research to a rigorous elaboration of Gramont's unfinished lifework: a grammar of the labyrinth. Dedal hungered for its structure. Yet, in the years after 9/11, Dedal forfeited much of his endeavor, so disaffected as he was with the resurgence of Oriolo's Aggressivism. As he remarked, "Aggressivism is hungry not only to slaughter the labyrinth, but our very imagination and compassion as well." Seldom of late have we witnessed such a marriage of mind and morality in the field.

Dedal lived his final years in obscurity, haunted by the idée fixe of the dans, or, in lay terms, the condition of being inside the labyrinth. In his drafted foreword to the pending Stand Me Now: The Collected Dedal (Black Thrush Press), Philip Cunha stirringly memoralizes: "The academy may fain laugh at Dedal's intellectual ghost, but such cachinnation only echoes back to those sardonic lips. Dedal knew what many have forgotten: the dans is all."

Expect Dedal's A Syntax to be the subject of much study and controversy in the coming years. Here's an excerpt from a chapter called "Dans: Against Mereological Sums":

"Many logicians and philosophers alike have made attempts to universalize the ontological axioms of mereology, that slippery study of parthood relations. In specific, they have postulated:

1. Everything is part of itself.
2. Any part of any part of a thing is itself a part of that thing.
3. Two distinct things cannot be part of each other.

These axioms, in a word, are founded on relationships of reflexivity, transitivity, and anti- symmetry. But, inside the labyrinth the navigator is necessarily and incontrovertibly thrown into that all-conditional experience of the dans: a labyrinth sans navigator is only architecture and a navigator sans labyrinth is only subject. The best we can describe navigation, then, is through that notion of 'insideness.' And this is prior even to 'lostness.' We see, then, grounds for irreflexivity: nothing is part of itself. And by extension emerge evidence for intransivity and symmetry.

Does a person speak a language if he is the only speaker? No. A labyrinth's grammar fundamentally rests on an intersubjective syntax. As the navigator's relationship to a labyrinth is always unstable, changing, unpredictable, so the syntax of a labyrinth is fluid.

We cannot hope to codify the dans. It is real but indeterminable. Thus navigation is ultimately and infinitely modal. Thus navigation is not a mission of domination but an art of documentation."

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Oligreff text due in June

Apologies for the lack of blog updates, John and I have both been immensely busy (me with a new Gramont translation and John with organizing the Charles Dedal Colloquium, more on both of these later).

I've just received exciting news from my colleague Tavin Cranston that Essex UP Press will be publishing a new collection of Jacques Oligreff's writing from the 1950's in late June. According to the editor, Stanislav Barta, current chair of the Populist Labyrinth Syndicate and one of Europe's foremost Oligreffians (not to mention one of the only Oligreff scholars who still operates from within the rigid strictures of new-modern recursivism), the collection is to contain "daguerreotypes, acentrist ephemera, Great Room meditations, the full text of the Borges correspondences, and, as is always the case with Oligreff, a labyrinthology that ever casts its eye towards the preponderance of the perimeter."

I think it's well worth our time here to recall what is perhaps Oligreff's most enduring insight, taken from "A Case for New Populism" (1948):

Le culte du centre threatens, at its core, to unhinge both that which the labyrinth constitutes and that which proves constitutive for navigation therein. What is vital is a blurring, the obscurcissant brouillard that Gollesten so presciently put forth in his own labyrinthology. All navigations have existed and are existing.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Some words from Philip Cunha

Today's recursivism takes as its object that ever-receeding vesper that was the object of Gramont's project- the possibility of truly primordial eggression. If we consider centrism as ground, a tacit assumption perhaps, but one which has become inextricably embedded in the tradition at least since Desmarais, it becomes not only the most urgent question that the Recursivists find themselves tasked with addressing, but one upon which the much-discussed new paradigm of navigation is predicated.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Call for Papers

The NASCLS in association with the Nicola Fierst Society invites 250-word proposals for papers and panels for the 2011 meeting of the International Gollesten Circle. The conference will be held May 12-15, 2011 in Kuching, Borneo. Specific Topic Panel: Gollesten and Milosovici: Intersections of Structural Obfuscation in the Natural Labyrinth. Deadline: January 21. Contact via NASCLS web ring.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gramont and the Cut-Up Mode of Labyrinthology

As many of our readers are no doubt aware, much of Matthieu Gramont's labyrinthology is heavily informed by Dadaism. We know from his letters that Gramont corresponded extensively with Tristan Tzara in the 1930's. Particularly influential upon Gramont's labyrinthology is Tzara's notion of the cut-up method of composition. As Desmarais and Belanger turned their critical efforts increasingly towards the problems of ethical navigation, establishing the mode of labyrinthology that has since become known as Principalist Centralism, Gramont's writings became more polemical and more oblique. He became possessed of the notions that labyrinthology must mirror properly recursive navigation, and that virtually all labyrinthology that preceded Recursivism was, at root, prescriptivist and sought to delimit the scope of both labyrinthecture and navigation. In a 1938 letter to Tzara, Gramont writes,

"Explicative and poetic modes of discourse, though dissimilar in execution, do equal violence to the mystery of the labyrinth and thus to the fundamental aim of Recursivism as such. It is thus that a labyrinthology that is proper to Recursivism must employ aleatory and even misleading prose that is, to a certain degree, fundamentally unparsable to the reader or - at the very least - a discourse which lends itself to such a subjectivism that, for the hypothetical walker, it becomes 'in each case my own." (trans. Schaeffer, 1998)

If we look at Gramont's lectures and scant publications of the 1940's, we find a labyrinthology that is, by all rights, inscrutable. Gramont eschewed punctuation and structure, composing instead through chance-based processes of reorganization. According to Inès Bédard, Gramont would often flick matches at his manuscripts, letting "the documents burn here and there before stomping out the flames...he would piece together the fragments later with no concern as to how they would function as a text." By way of example, I've quoted from an unpublished essay on the atriums of the Alpujjara Mountain Labyrinth given as a lecture in 1941:

"in rant in the atriums the contradiction walker is with the chamber the attention to light allowing structural tasked like notions as components scriptural or design which may most productive offer take a must arriving atrium the ring is remain charge purely passive actively passive this deciphering seems of terms, for the more of example emotive second upon stance exuded by a both base to the location aesthetic paid of either a navigation of center to disclose the receive the vestibule but clue disclosures the room may be temporal structural aesthetic the logic of or purely rooted as or even fourth he mode of then engagement when intuition bullfighter regarding in the navigator reaching the atrium must all of knowing door or how to egress third and in something like secondary…" (trans. Sonnenberg, 2010)

I'm curious indeed to hear what some of our readers thoughts on the late Gramont, the writings of whom we have yet to dissect here at CLP, but which remain relevant and compelling in our current epoch.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Third Door

In 2011, French publishing house Pomme Perdu will launch a series of releases it is calling Minuit sur le Mur, or, Midnight on the Wall. Each release—we are anticipating a total of 12—will feature a contemporary labyrinthologist discussing a specific architectural or structural feature of labyrinths. These unique discussions, which will assume the form of a collection of short essays, will be accompanied by photography by some of the leading photo-navigators in the field. Argentinian photo-navigator Espinoza Gorjado, whose "Study in Defamiliarization" recently graced the walls of many a contemporary museum, is just one of the contributors whose work (much of which is new) I cannot wait to behold.

Alex and I were privileged to receive this week an advanced copy of the first in the series: La Troisième Porte, or, The Third Door, by one of the founding fathers of Neo-Recursivism, Jacques Oligreff.

For our readers who are less familiar with this structure, a third door is "a common labyrinth structure, though not ubiquitous, characterized by a phenomenon of light in the labyrinth atmosphere that creates the illusion of a boundary or obstruction, but is in fact permissive; the only exit to some Second Centers." (CLP, Labyrinths in Theory and Practice: An Introduction, Boston: Essex UP, 2000.)

With the permission of Pomme Perdu, we are proud post a sneak peek of Oligreff's essay with a photograph of an exemplary third door in Amant Fernald's White Slate Indoor Labyrinth outside Ontario:

The third door beckons us— like ghosts we must believe in, for the burden of disbelief is too much.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Acentric Pendulum of Wim Cruhs

Cover of Wim Cruhs' magazine, no. 29 of 50, only edition

Alex's last post, an edifying taste of the resonances between Kobrin's extremist labyrinthecture and Gerrit's provocative labyrinthology, gives me occasion to proffer an excerpt from my recent essay, "'Given to Labyrinths': The Acentric Pendulum of Wim Cruhs," which I will present at this year's upcoming NASCLS in Benesov. (Details about the conference are forthcoming, as is my discussion of Dr. Izokawi's PNSD therapy.)

Without further ado, my excerpt:

"Dutch labyrinthologist Wim Cruhs founded his short-lived and oft-forgotten school, Peripatetic Realism, while studying as a frustrated medical student at the University of Salzburg in the late 1960s. With the help of Austrian artist Lukas Brunn and Spanish poet Manuel Cortego, Cruhs released in 1968 the one and only issue of his magazine, Cochlea, as an 'underground forum,' he put it, 'to vent the pent-up energies of young and idealistic navigators.' He derived the title from his fascination with the labyrinthine structure of the inner ear, the ear's centrality to balance and therefore ambulation and navigation, and the term's origination from the Greek word for snail, suggestive to him of a meditative pace. Most important, the title directly pertains to the labyrinthological notions he put forth in his manifesto for Peripatetic Realism, which appeared in Cochlea. Allow me to quote from his salvo:

"'We fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the labyrinth, and therefore the nature of man, when we construe the navigator's condition as a twin state of exile: first exiled from the telic clarity of the purposive, lived structures of house, work, and play, and second, and more important, exiled from the center. I leave it to the labyrinthects to discuss the former, but I propose to consider the latter [...] for from the center there can be no exile. [...] What is it that sets man apart from the rest of creation? It is in part his bipedalism, which equips man with a structurally idiosyncratic means of locomotion. But it is also in part his brain's cortex, enabling the complex, abstract ideations which elaborate yet transcend his material condition. In navigation we can behold the beautiful union of these distinctive hominid capacities, whose consummation I hold to be peripatesis: itinerant meditation, whose antecedent is Aristotelian. [...] We are thus, in our nature, given to labyrinths.'

"Later in his manifesto, Cruhs imagines an Arcadian labyrinth whose corridors brim with walkers not seeking a center but seeking philosophical dialogue. Cruhs soon abandoned this vision when he met Jacques Oligreff in Paris. Oligreff's dissertation on solitary navigation profoundly transformed much of Cruhs' notions of labyrinths, but Cruhs' rejection of the notions of exile not only influenced Oligreff, and later the young Cunha, but also became an essential tenet to Acentrism in its nascency.

"To the heart of our concerns, then: What are we to make of Cruhs' statement, 'from the center there can be no exile.' I argue that Cruhs' notions of exile imply a concept that I am coining the acentric pendulum. The concept proves simple yet elegant, but its ramifications are serious: if one congresses at the center of a labyrinth, then one is, in fact, exiled from the labyrinth as such. Akin to Gerrit's rules of navigational procedure, Cruhs' acentric pendulum capsizes the fundamental quiddity of the labyrinth. The labyrinth does not merely cease to be a labyrinth if one congresses at the center. Rather, the navigator becomes lost upon congression. In other words, the navigator is not lost while navigating. The navigator is lost if—in body or in mind—he believes he has reached the center. Thus, neither corridor nor center, neither navigation nor congression, are exiled from each other. They are inextricably co-defined.

"The co-definition of corridor and center, therefore, leave the labyrinth literally in a dialectical argument with itself—as if the were labyrinth a pendulum swinging infinitely between its poles. But Cruhs distinguishes between, if you will, centric problems and acentric problems. The former, what I am calling centric pendulation, is a labyrinth's conventional dialectic in the presence of a physical center. The latter, or acentric pendulation, is the far more troublesome dialectic in the absence—known, believed, or designed—of a center. The acentric pendulum, I think Cruhs believes, is a requisite condition of all labyrinths. Even without a center, it is necessary for a navigator to believe there is a center, even if the navigator recursively avoids it."

Wim Cruhs is alive and well, but he is a nomadic figure who eschews the academy and the spotlight alike. I have not had the pleasure of correspondence with him, but I hope to see him—and hear his reaction to my analysis and its implications for Acentrism—in Benesov.