Self Denial, Discipline, Clarity, Patience

George Herfkens informed me yesterday that George Harrison had died. Rene Bosma informed me yesterday that his nose was broken at boxing practice (as fate would have it by an Afghan refugee). But what touched me most of all yesterday was opening my mailbox to find this postcard from Mr. Lira (mailed before he left Amsterdam for his Brazilian holiday):

Film still from 'The Amazing Colossal Man', 1957.

On the back of the card Mr. Lira scribbled in blue pen: "BE A GOOD BOY MY AMAZING COLOSSAL FRIEND." I gather from the photo that he's referring to my plans for the 11th of December. While I've told Mr. Lira a hundred times that what I'm doing is safe and that he should know me well enough to know that I do not take unnecessary risks, I'm still touched.

Later, listening to R'heads Pyramid Song makes me all maudlin and want to call friends. I call Jouke and we talk for about an hour. He says that he is jealous. He says -- what with this upcoming show and all -- I must be having the time-of-my-life.

Hmm. Yeah. I guess he's right.


"She was a maelstrom, a victim of her own contradictory feelings."

(Alamut: A note on Maelstroms. Poe: A Descent into the Maelstrom.)

History, Hybrids, Forecasting, Legitimation

Repeat after me...

This time last year.

And nine years ago (while sojourning in an Islamic country):

Paul Perry, Ideology (Jungle Book), 1992. Painted cotton, 100 cm. x 500 cm. (The text reads "How goes the hunting, hunter bold?")

Paul Perry, Ideology (Moby Dick), 1992. Painted cotton, 100 cm. x 500 cm. (The text reads "What is thine occupation? Whence comst thou? Thy country? What people?" and "Wave after wave thus leaps into the ship.")


I've been SO regretting that temporary eruption of CRITICALITY (where I made various predictions concerning a number of other artists' future prospects) ever since said CRITICALITY raised its head in my head a little over a week ago. Who is good and who is bad? Bah! It makes me want to wash out my mouth with soap. Repeat after me: "I do not NEED to be 'critical' of other artists' work." What the fuck do I know? Being an artist is tough enough without my adding my two cents.


(In Groningen. In full production mode.)


Last night I dreamt of an electric sign with a message that -- depending on where the sign was plugged in -- dramatically changed. Closer inspection revealed that this feature was determined solely by the voltage that was applied, ie. (as in the real world) different locations had different voltages (110, 220, 240 etc.). What was even more curious was that I, the dreamer, at this point realised that I was as mutable/changable as the place and the sign's actual message was that it showed me this 'truth.' It was I, in fact, who supplied the voltage, the apparent message (like the message of all phenomenal objects and events) being completely dependent upon which voltage I provided...

Sylloge is back. (No one I know who is doing this can stay away for long.)



Frame of Nuclear Garden (version 2) assembled and awaiting its stones at Museumtechnische Werken.

You know the story: 'Twas the weeks before Christmas and all the elves at the North Pole were frantically busy getting things ready for the big night... Well, these weeks in Groningen it's no different; two men are working day and night to assemble a dolphin and a porpoise skeleton, another man's studio smells of (dead) swan, a set of replica stones are being cast and painted, an elaborate film set is being constructed, a special bacteria is being sought...

If one's most secure moment lies in the moment just before catastrophe... I'm not worried because I'm quite nervous. This has to be a good sign.


Oh Son of Noble Family

Yesterday evening Sue-an put together a concise summation of the facts of the case, today we shall hear whether or not we will be able to film '1000 Deaths: Sortie 2' in the museum as planned. While there is no serious danger involved, questions have arisen (ach, here we go again) as to whether the museum is morally and/or legally responsible in the case of a mishap. (If there is any danger at all, the danger is entirely conceptual, entirely in the language we are using. When we say near-death-experience we do not mean a near-lethal-experience. In order to make the distinction between a ketamine induced NDE and a near-bodily-death NDE we are forced to take recourse in the term *simulated* but at the same time we wish to assert that, *simulated* or not, all near-death-experiences are equally real as mental phenomena. In other words all NDE's reflect mental states or states of consciousness rather than an empirical 'reality'. Thus a NDE triggered by (1) a dying body or (2) a body that simply thinks it's dying or (3) a harmless biochemical event such as is precipitated through the injection of a low dose of ketamine is, in our eyes, exactly the same.)

Glenn Schuyler in his overview 'Near Death Experience Throughout the History and Systems of Psychology' cites Karl Jansen...

"Conditions which precipitate NDE's (hypoxia, ischaemia, hypoglycaemia, temporal lobe epilepsy, etc.) have been shown to release a flood of glutamate, overactivating NMDA receptors resulting in neuro ('excito') toxicity. Ketamine prevents this neurotoxicity. There are substances in the brain which bind to the same receptor sites as ketamine. Conditions which trigger a glutamate flood may also trigger a flood of neuroprotective agents which bind to NMDA receptors to protect cells, leading to an altered state of consciousness like that produced by ketamine."

(Karl Jansen, The Ketamine Model of the Near Death Experience.)

... and then writes: "Jansen concludes ALL the features of a classic NDE can be reproduced by the intravenous administration of 50-100 mg of ketamine."

The point of the work is not to precipitate our own bodily-death or near-death but to precipitate what those close to death mentally experience.


Oh Sir, Do Not Let Your Thoughts Wander

(Oh Sir, Do Not Let Your Fucking Thoughts Wander...)

Two video frames from our rehearsal.

Sue-an's mail contained good news:

Dear Paul,

The details of Kees' decision: You will be allowed to proceed under one condition, that **** ****** (anesthetist) will be present with all her equipment and, most importantly, that she will examine you before your injection. If she's in serious doubt about your physical state (and I bet she won't be...) she'll refuse to cooperate, which means of course you may not proceed. (Perhaps this sounds a little heavy, but personally I think it is quite normal, and I'm very happy with Kees' solution...) She also stressed to Kees that you may not use alcohol at any time. No worries here, I told Kees you gave up drinking a long time ago.

I've been trying to reach her because she wants more details.

I'll try her again tomorrow.

Anyway, I hope you had a good rehearsal and BBFN,



Tuesday's Inventory

A bed. A canoe with a black sail. A horse wearing a black hood and blanket. A dolphin skeleton (swimming alongside the canoe). A book. A (kerosine) lantern. A doctor wearing a burka. A wooden chair. A wooden table. A guide.

Searching for images of burkas I discover this small Islamic veil dictionary. And then, in order to *cover* myself, cast and crew even further, this brief synopsis of Edward Said's critique of Orientalism (lest we forget exactly the slip we are in danger of committing... No. Actually... Ha, ha, ha... In order for us to remember *exactly* which grave danger we're about to flaunt...)


December 9 2000.

(Not only the day of a memorable event but (as it later appeared) a threshold.)

Another rehearsal. Sato Endo as the guide.


Escorts and Accompanists

Explain to me please why anyone, other than for love (for neither faith nor curiosity provides the escort or the accompanist with enough reason to see the project through to its end...), would be motivated to escort or accompany anyone else? Especially if you disregard the obvious niche-occupying benefits such as the financial or the biological (think of the albatross or the remora ).

(Though if one has faith in virgins versions, one can imagine an alive version of oneself has good reason to accompany a version of oneself which is not...)

Augustus Leopold Egg: The Travelling Companions (1862).

I am back in Groningen. The weather has become cold and clear. The moon is waning and sickle-shaped.


Oh death, where is thy sting?

Aftermath. We leave the museum around midnight. I still can't walk very well but don't like the feeling that everyone is standing around waiting for me. During the drive home I exclaim to J.: "What a lot of energy we spend in maintaining this world!" We work hard to produce the world which we live in. The world outside the window of the car. With the first dissolution the matter-of-fact-sense-of-it-all is lost and replaced by a form of playfulness. What was hard becomes fluid and, (too a degree) navigatable: a vast expanse, a surface of water, infinitely playable.

This second voyage was very different from the first. This time the 'I' remained throughout. Now the basic wonder was how a situation (an exhibition in a museum) with so many attributes could lead up to a moment of 'death'. How the many complex variables (a dolphin skeleton, a stretcher, a horse, a canoe with a black sail) could come together in a pattern which somehow seemed so 'destined'. Where did these things, these transporters, these vehicles, come from? The simple answer I suppose is that I ordered them. But there is definitely more to it than this.


The Palace at 8 P.M.

Tuesday 11 December 2001. The dream bed about an hour before we started. (Paul Sixta and Roger Muskee consider the lighting.)


Yesterday Paul Sixta and I spent the day previewing Monday and Tuesday's nights rushes (we used two cameras both evenings) and loading the selections into the Grand Theatre's Media 100 system. I still felt quite shaky and disoriented but it was necessary for us to begin immediately as we've only got a few days to produce the new film.

This morning I first popped over to Museumtechnische Werken for a couple of hours to check the progress of Nuclear Garden II and finalise the position (heights and angles) of the stones before rushing over to Grand Theatre to again meet Paul behind the editing table.

The stress has started. We clearly have a lot of beautiful clips but no clear idea of how to tell the story of Tuesday's excursion. Paul is worried that this time there is less 'drama', less to tell. Oddly enough, I already remember more of the experience than I did last time (I don't feel I lost consciousness in quite the same way...) but I was also quieter, I didn't shout or try to communicate with the others in the room (which lead them to all think that I just went to sleep).

One thing is obvious. I want to begin my report of Sortie 2 with the sad 'coincidences' surrounding and following Sortie 1.


Paul edits while I try to piece together a structure with intertitles. In Amsterdam Mr. Lira (back from Brazil!) interrupts his busy schedule to help with the layout.

(Intertitle 1 of 23.)


Paul and I finish around 17:00. We are completely exhausted.


Claustrophobic Situations

Spent the day with Roger Muskee encoding A Thousand Deaths: Sortie 1 and 2 and burning DVD+RW disks. Somehow bad errors kept creeping into the process requiring us to reburn and recheck each disk. This was very time and energy consuming. We also have a problem with the MPEG encoding of a scene in Sortie 2. A moving shadow on a dark wall has turned into several seconds of very dark wall. Damn. It appears there is nothing to be done about this. It simply must be accepted.

Later, trying to get the DVD disks to mount on J.'s DV iMac, I spend hours updating software and drivers and reading online documentation only to discover that it might not be possible at all, ie. I've been wasting my time.

Ach... I'd forgotten how incredibly vague and uncooperative new technology can be. And forgotten how easy it is to loose one's composure and sense of humor by getting sucked into an obssesive psychic wrestling match with it. In such cases even an eventual win seems more like a loss.

(Jouke: woe-tech indeed!)


Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 (lines 11 and 12) translated into Arabic for the bridge in the Himmelblau pavilion. Courtesy Walid Sadek, Beirut.


The current situation has caused us be so busy that it is only in the the early mornings that I find a bit of time to think about what happened last Tuesday evening. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing -- the last couple of days I've been angry at myself for engaging in what I imagine is some sort of rebound: a bounce from an experience of radical spaciousness to one of radical claustrophobia. (Trungpa says this about the role of right effort in creating space: "effort, non-effort and effort, non-effort -- it's very choppy in a sense, very precise, knowing how to release the discursive or visionary gossip..." Choppy and precise eh? It seems it's human nature to alternately grasp and let go. As arboreal apes we've been grasping and letting go for millions of years.)

One moment which keeps returning to mind was my walk to the museum. It was around 5 P.M. and already dark. (I actually had to leave J's house twice, the first time I forgot the ketamine and syringes and had to go back for them.) The streets were bustling with Christmas shoppers and everything was glowing with a soft, warm light. People were smiling. As I walked slowly through the crowd I was filled with the most extraordinary sensation. Every shop window I passed seemed to be decorated with angels...


Gerard Bouwhuis plays 3 pieces by Thom Willems.

Rudo's (radioactive) logo and Sue-an's introductory text.


The End is in Sight

Sub-critical reactor (1.8 billion year old version).

Wonder of wonders... it looks like this exhibition is actually going to come together... Today the stones arrived and -- after the 'Oklo' reactor was assembled and placed in the largest of them -- were bolted into position. The Arabic text arrived and was applied to the bridge. The pelican -- replacing the swan -- arrived and was hung. Tjeerd (who has been doing the most amazing job) and the installation crew made very good progress on the mobile and even started to sort out two annoying technical issues: how to get the piano to repeat and where to place the film.

Oh yes, the end is in sight. One more day and we're done.

I wonder what I'll do Sunday, after I get my life back... Things have certainly changed since I last saw it (last summer?).


Everything is finished. Everything looks good.

Boy do I owe a lot of people thanks.


It's snowing. Snow. Sneeuw. Snow.

M-mmm. (Big smile.)

Around noon I return to the museum for one last check before tonight's opening. Take more snapshots of the works for the 'background' page which I'm rushing to put together. (Sue-an ends all the publicity material with the sentence: "For more information surf to:" so I am obligated to make such a page. No?)

Convergence. All seems to be moving, flowing, converging on this point now. Strange feeling this. (Similar to my first thoughts following Sortie 2?). Why are these objects gathering around this small dot of space-time?


On the Way Home

The train crunches slowly through a winter landscape.

Thoughts float through my head like sugar plums.


I'm amazed. Over the years I've come to dislike openings -- both those of others and my own (for a number reasons: (1) there are simply too many of them for the social occasion to be meaningful, (2) it is generally impossible to look at the work at an opening and (3) simple psychology -- if one has already attended the opening of a show it is easy to chalk it up as 'seen' and no longer find it necessary to go back and look at the work again...) -- but last night's opening was really special. Perhaps it's because I haven't had an opening of my own in quite some time but this one felt good, very warm and relaxed. I was especially touched that so many people travelled so far (more than 6 hours) to attend.

Wave Function

"One's time-line becomes completely confused..."

Mitsu comments on yesterday's entry:

"When I have that feeling that all is converging to that one point, that's when I know that time has begun to flow a little bit backwards and all is well."


Love, and be Silent

Rather than do the 'right' thing and rent something Christmas spirited (like Alastair Sim's 1951 portrait of Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future) I decide to rent Peter Brook's film version of King Lear (partly because Mr. Lira and I plan to watch Kurosawa's Ran tomorrow, partly because of this intriguing account of Brook's approach).

Oef! When it was done (it ends exactly as the words "My God..." spill out of my mouth, Lear sinks slowly out of the frame and the screen goes black and stays there -- no credits follow...) and I had gathered my de-witted self from the couch, I happened upon this set of 49 notes on Lear by Ben Ross Schneider Jr. Interestingly enough, Schneider opposes the idea that Shakespeare's Lear "speaks to us as if he had written yesterday" suggesting instead that he "barely speaks to us at all" and adding, "We are not on the same page; no, not even in the same book."

Point taken. We can't help but read feudal relationships as a form of (unfair) contract (Note 29):

"In a hierarchical society this mutuality of benefits works vertically as well as horizontally, another fact that may interfere with our appreciation of Shakespeare in the egalitarian times, for we have a tendency look upon any hierarchy as a form of oppression. Although Barish and Waingrow, in their ground-breaking essay on "Service in King Lear," establish that the master/servant bond is reciprocal; they assume this to mean that the servant "has rights as well as duties," and go on to say that Lear violates Kent's rights. This is the language of contracts, and it implies that the master is quit of all obligation so long as he recognizes some right. This is not Cicero's "bond of fellowship"; it is the cash nexus. What masters owe servants is "love," of the sort Lear declares for Kent/Caius when he trips up Oswald. When Lear banishes his friend Kent, he violates something much greater than a right; he violates a trust."

King Lear links.


Got home yesterday, ate a huge pile of tofu and vegetables and rice and then slept, slept, slept. Woke up late feeling incredibly warm and lazy. Mmmm.

Mr. Lira called, all excited because of the snow (it snowed again) and to talk about the two films he went to last night: 'The Others' and 'Solaris'. In praise of the latter he used the word 'shabby' (as in shabby space-tech). "What a wonderful word," I said, "pity it's not used much around here." "Comes in handy in Brazil," he said.


It's cold outside, the sky is clear and there's a thin layer of ice covering the water below my window.

Year end. Looking back at the year as a single episode or an episodic event, one at once thinks of everything and nothing and nothing and everything. Everything: a million impulses, thoughts, memories, plans; a million free-associated futures, a million pasts -- a million escape routes. Nothing: the ridiculousness of the sum as expressed in Cordelia's candid reply to her father's 'love test' ("What can you say to draw a third more opulent than your sisters?"):

Cor. Nothing my lord.
Lear. Nothing?
Cor. Nothing.

(This day last year.)

(After posting the above note I notice that C's (Canadian) Christmas list includes this item: Stewart, upon giving a present: "Oh, it's nothing. Just a little thing we like.")

November 2001

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