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By Phil Smith, 10th November 2020

  

 “We are on this planet together – are we really going to watch screens?”

 

Introduction

We are living through a crisis of separation enforced by the technology of communications. Everything we do to connect through machines drives us apart from each other and everything else. Finding ways to be there, in and with a pattern in the terrain, is a means to reconnect to forces of attraction.

The Pattern‘The Pattern’ (Crab & Bee, Triarchy Press, 2020) describes a hyper-charged journey during which shifty methods for being there were devised. There is not much room in the book for explanation. This essay is an attempt to give some reasons for a practice that is mostly about not doing, more about attending, about being there and being with: stepping back and acknowledging places as primary agents; approaching places with the minimum amount of mission, function or question; going to listen to what places have to say. 

Considering the apparent vacuity of these methods, they do seem to generate an awful lot of information and responsive activity from extraordinary partners; maybe even a few constituents of an art of living in the magical mode. One result is that a pattern steps forward; a diagram in the landscape combining fortuitous entanglements of various elements with the efforts of humans to embellish – with wells, road signs, temples, place names, information boards, towers, stories and chalk horses – places that connect intensely with everything else. A second outcome is a tentative journeying towards being there: eating buds from the brambles, picking gems of plastic trash from the gutter, splashing water from solution holes and holy wells on your face, standing still and letting the animals come forward from the shadows. Putting your body in there and adding some art – tying threads, sprinkling ash, scrying puddles – until, mostly gently but sometimes violently, things from there begin to make their art in your life. By going there, you get caught up in the existence and excess of these places’ unhuman others; in the process you may lose some of your separation from them. 

White Horse UffingtonDuring the UK lockdown, roads that were usually noisy with traffic were empty for weeks. Pedestrians could walk in the middle of the road rather than on the pavements. As the quiet fell deeper, the terraced houses along these streets began to present themselves as personalities rather than as an anonymous backdrop; they began to act up, asked to be noticed, coughed up residents onto their front lawns. These moments can be enjoyed for themselves, but as they string together, human entanglements with such powerful things with personalities get more intense, while the thickening web of connections offers more support. Then comes a chance to become a part of an ensemble, to dispense with the need for great vision or purposeful mission, and feel a way with unhuman others, making things up together as we all go along. If that sounds like something you would like to explore... read on.

Caveat

Trying to identify the core of a multiplicitous practice is always going to misrepresent it. This is shifty practice – now you see it, now you don’t – feet in at least two worlds. So, what follows is an attempt to explain some of the bits, webs, multiplicities, connections and complexities of it; but in the end they remain their own things separation from their descriptions. 

 

                                                      “it’s the cosmos, stupid” 

 

The reasons why we need to get back into our bodies and into the pattern 

The present crisis is techne-carried and digitally transmitted. It filters and screens out the unhuman other in favour of narratives of tragic human exceptionalism: pandemic, fake news, conspiracies, climate crisis and the anthropocene, identity-metamorphosis conflicts, racist populism, the marriage of organised crime gangs and official institutions, species extinction, unreal economies and unsettled psyches. Today, the representations of these horrors constitute a more powerful ideology than those of either religion or capitalism; together they manifest the hybrid death drive of techne, a real Skynet moving beyond the planet via satellite megaconstellations. 

This network absorbs the attention of the vast majority of the world’s population. It is so huge and so complex, it is becoming exponentially autonomous. Not as artificial intelligence, but having been instructed to learn, it exceeds the capacity of its programmers to monitor and control its development. Within its unfolding matrices, information piles up like the catastrophes of the past at the feet of Walter Benjamin’s angel of history. For all the light of digitised revelation, we cannot move and we cannot see; obfuscation is a sunburst of dazzling representations. 

 

The digital network is taking a deep toll on subjectivities; relentlessly intruding to know what we desire before we know it, its algorithms scrambling to be first to sell us back our satisfactions. Once in that loop – all the time being urged to represent and re-present ourselves – our desires are no longer our own. 

 

The ideal that drives the techne is transhumanism; uploading consciousness to computers or self-immolating cultural paranoias of flesh-hating techgnosticism. The different parts of the necessary technology are under construction in apparently unconnected fields: research for converting dreams into electronic imagery, manufacture of a machine-cortex interface for plugging VR directly into the brain, poetical compositions in computer-brainwave collaborations. 

In all fields, the vast information-based technological network shreds difference and generates ‘novel repetitions’. Fresh phenomena unveil themselves as repeats of older things; religious fundamentalisms, ‘clean coal’, superhero franchises. Everything is a sequel; every new story a part of a chain. The dominance of the copy disenchants everything. We are invited to live as characters, repeating the actions of a lost original we have only ever known by its copies. We are encouraged to become doubles of ourselves, subtly training as normotic personalities capable of imitating deep and complex feelings without having any. The ubiquity of impostor syndrome has a very real foundation. 

 

General culture barely exists. When pro-Brexit UK media envisioned a post-EU culture it consisted of no future at all: Spitfires, Minis, Stonehenge and fish and chips. These are dangerous ghosts; for when today’s reactionaries appropriate from the past they hardly bother to romanticise it: slavery in the USA, empire in the UK, tsarism in Russia. 

 

The complexity of modern media is such that most artists are quickly exhausted by learning their craft. The demands of technical culture leave little energy for art. More product is well made; almost none of it escapes the template. The more a person expresses themselves, the less they are present. Bodies disappear: Zoom is a digital decapitation. Watch people using handheld devices in the street and see how fully integrated their digital and material worlds have become, undoing present and presence (being there) in blended non-place. 

2,500 years ago Athenians indulged in five-day binges of drama intoxication. Then took 360 days to detox before their next Dionysia. Today, the binge is daily; many screen-watchers consume more dramas in a day than classical-era Athenians in a year. Almost all these representations are naturalistic simulations of reality. The disconnect of fiction and reality (once such a creative shock) and the anaesthetic effects of mimesis are habitual and ubiquitous, such that only eccentric critics – Girard, Žižek – attend to them; where the tension of signifier and signified could once constitute the pulse of communication, scratchy and striated, it has been transcended by the subjugation of avant-gardes to the smooth flow of mash ups and appropriations. A naturalistic theatre cultivated for the tiny fin-de-siècle Russian bourgeoisie has been appropriated by mass media to replace popular performance; in its digital form this drama of ever more ‘truthful’ appearance has detached from anything that exists, while presenting ever better illusions of ‘being there with’ (in the fiction with the fiction) for viewers who are alone with ghosts. Programmes, like the dead, outnumber the living; culture is crammed and constipated. Material life, swapping roles with illusion, floats off into phantasmagoria. Separation is normalised. Communication is alienation. 

The Covid pandemic has further weakened a dwindling community of liveness and crystalised in social-distancing the highest ideal of collective responsibility; community is anti-social, deadly. Little wonder the transhumanists are so keen to break their connection to body and society; their tragedy is that their transcendence is just another copy of separation.  

Separation is the most powerful underlying cause of the crisis; identified as a prevailing force, with remarkable foresight, by the Paris Situationists in the 1960s. Rather than distraction or deception they described how production, ownership, exploitation and distribution of material property were becoming subject to relations of representation, and at the heart of these relations was a separation that ran at various angles through all relationships: person to person, human to unhuman, person to their image, image to image, signifier to signified (Debord, pp.12-24). 

It is symptomatic of the Spectacle that the most significant contribution to this analysis since the Situationists, Jean Baudrillard’s, became subject to the Spectacle’s dynamic of separation as it was addressing it. Saluting a new ‘reality’, Baudrillard’s critique was always threatening to transcend separation by uploading itself to the Spectacle. Baudrillard’s struggle is everyone’s. The self-reflexive Spectacle, weaponising the adman’s motto “sell the sizzle, not the sausage”, long ago passed beyond image-making into every aspect of social life. Our everyday lives are dramatised, we are repeatedly addressed as personae able to impersonate our real selves better. Scripts are made available to those struggling with feelings, desires are traded, and expression bypasses longing. 

The political culture that has developed in response to all this is (paradoxically) anti- technocratic. Unable to control much, initially neo-liberal, it has evolved through shock- capitalism into a blended-populism/anti-politics (‘running the country like a business’, caliphates) generating illusions of power in order to control and stimulate subjectivities, manipulating a populace already half immersed in a digitised demi-world of fictions. It has become evident to the techne and its wonks that shoddy simulations of reality are more effective than real agency. Weaponising incompetence, incivility, brutal talk and opportunistic clowning, a ‘strategy of tension’ spreads everywhere; people are controlled by uncertainty and anxiety more than suppression or reward.

Warlords and jesters gesture against a threadbare rust-belt backdrop, specto-politics presents a daily three act TV drama: democracy at breakfast suffers a coup before lunch, becomes anarchic in the afternoon and takes a bow as crude nepotism just before curfew. As in soap operas, everything happens in the specto-societies (forests burn, cities flood, riots and killings on the street, accusations of treason among the elite) but nothing seems to change (except get worse). 

Under prevailing conditions of separation, it has become increasingly difficult to connect ideas about change to actions that change anything. Left to themselves, ideas have become increasingly abstruse and concealed behind the firewall of the academy. Reactionaries spotted this gap in the market and used the techne’s web to create a populist ‘dark enlightenment’ (Q- Anon and on and on and on). Social media plays a role once exclusive to state agents: every bright new idea instantly appropriated and inverted. 

Such cultural partitioning is secondary to, but as one with, the primary schism which is between humans and nature. Attempting to live as stewards and husbands of nature, we have, predictably, poisoned the relationship. Now we have a furious and powerful partner, fuelled by poisons, that is mutating at an exponential rate, keen for action, and there is nothing we can do about it. Oddly, there is the ghost of a way out here. Not as the transhumanists conceive of it (the computational road to enlightenment, downloading ‘self’ and doing away with the crude and fleshy sensual body), but in the failure and meaninglessness of the human technology upon which the transhumanists rely for their transcendence.

 

In all previous great crises (‘Decline of the West’, etc.) it has been possible to imagine a human solution, if not a national or tribal one. Even when past radical attempts to heal fractures in human economies or social structures generated worse fractures, gentle retrenchments often soothed local wounds, usually at the expense of a ‘faraway people’. Today no such surplus exists. There is no ‘faraway’ under globalisation and in climate crisis. The impotence of human technology is a source of hope. There is nothing that humans can do (exploit each other more intensely, frack more gas, start more wars) to ‘make things better’; we need to stop doing.

 

Lockdown began to show us that everything depends on us not doing and the unhumans doing. On us being rather than doing. Making new rites and observances to salute our unavoidable entanglement; for we are at the mercy of the unhuman now, so we might as well celebrate it. That is what we did in the magical mode; before technicity.

Being there does not cure or even mitigate the dictatorship of the techne. It just ignores it, and works towards sharing the same fate as the animals and rocks, under sun and moon, in rain and wind, saluting the ‘gods of the earth’.

 

The monopoly of the techne is such that any disruption of the existing order of events necessary to overthrow its dominance would include some Grand Tantric re-plugging of desire – kicking satisfaction deep into the future – in order to invoke a Monster Longing.

 

No person, group, or assemblage, is going to foresee, let alone plan or organise, what that might consist of. In mythic terms, the re-calling of the Red Serpent; in terms of general human behaviour, a return to embodied living. While many of us, lost in the digital web, accept the role of a simulacrum as a less painful option, there are those among us for whom pain and discomfort is preferable to passivity (maybe even adds a certain jouissance to their lives) and it is from these marginalised ‘deplorables’, often held contemptible or overly-vulnerable, that the challenge will come and the snake be released.

 

There: the privileged points and the pattern  

 

Places – the there of being there – are the primary agents in a magical mode. They are not equals with each other. They are not all one thing. They are themselves, and were so long before we came to their story. Nevertheless, they request our attention. 

 

Contrary to what you may have heard, the great forces are generous and desirous; though we have no right to expect their humility given our attempts to humiliate them. Any sharing in a common ‘plasma’ does not authorise familiarity with, let alone husbandry over, the there places, but constitutes the threads of a connectivity that we may wish to practice. In accepting we play a part in connectivity; finding a simultaneity of action and place that finds us. Our wish to practice is not a spell in the usual sense of charms or liturgies (though, who knows what might come in useful?) but more in the flow of choice and acceptance together, woven in an acte totale, in intuited and improvised rituals that have none of the repetitions characteristic of ritual.

“The secret of magic? Any **** can do it.” (John Constantine)

Connectivity manifests in strange and disturbing ways; once the threads are accepted and thrown outwards they loop back to what is not human – to a time out of time – and to a magical mode which predates those myths which sustain and hobble human societies, including those that have facilitated contemporary disconnection (the Fall, Original Sin, apuňňa, the splitting of Tiamat). Magical mode connectivity is pre-moral; more like raw unsocialised desire, or the attraction of all things to all other things, gravity.

I am using “magical mode” in the same way that Gilbert Simondon, the French philosopher of technology, uses it: to denote pre-technicity human culture in which the human/nature entanglement has not been undone. Although this undoing has been exacerbated in both technological and religious societies, the magical mode – of which we are repeatedly reminded by arts that sit somewhere between techne and faith – not only remains in parts but is one yet to come; the mode of the people we are still to become.

Though shards of this pre-modern unity reside within human myth, it is a mistake to imagine that folk legends, Arthurian quests or classical mythology enable any direct connection to the original plasma or unhuman other. The human myths create threads to those other things, but they are not the things’ stories. Hence the ambience of the uncanny (the absence of what should be there and the presence of what should not) that hovers about many of them. The uncanny does not indicate the presence of the other, but rather its being pushed aside.

Despite these yawning lacunae it is still feasible to sieve the human myths for pre-and unhuman themes and threads. This is difficult work and more than likely will end up – as with, say, Joseph Campbell’s Jungian ‘hero’s journey’ or James George Fraser’s ‘sacred king’ – in yet another patriarchal human drama. Our reliance upon social ethics (even when we are transgressing them) for some kind of liveable life makes it difficult for us to halfway understand the unhuman thingness, pre-moral drive and precedence of being over meaning that suffuse the ur-texts of the old myths. But it is through that void filled with forces that we can connect.

 

To navigate such perversity, Crab & Bee begin with places. After that, with their stories. Only after them do we let the human in. Although the stories may be weird, the places are real and physical. 

 

Being there and not just thinking about them is crucial. However, if you find the story first, go straightway to its place. No decent researcher gets all their information online or from books; those who do are in danger of repeating the tragic cycle of Campbell and Fraser, more often these days in the burlesque of von Däniken and Icke: “we do not belong to those who have ideas only among books. It is our habit to think outdoors – walking, leaping, climbing, dancing, preferably on lonely mountains or near the sea where even the trails become thoughtful” (Nietzsche, 366).

Going to a place, we should assume a certain humility (something we can learn from the warm cosmicism of the great forces). There is a pinched kind of arrogance that describes certain places as “thin”, or as “portals”; as if they were there primarily to service our journey. Go to meet places as discrete entities and agents. They may be characterised as a hollow lane cut into slate bedrock, or a pile of mine-worked ore, or a former quayside, but that is only ever very partly what they were or are now becoming. The ‘lane’ has its own metamorphic properties, slippery when wet or frosty; the worked ore is continuing to oxidise and stain the river a thick rusty orange-brown; around the ruins of the mine the feelings are as apparent as thistles; and the mud below the ruined dockside is newly alive with immigrant worms.

When the Scottish clergyman Robert Kirk wrote in ‘The Secret Commonwealth’ (1691) that those with “second sight” receive information from invisibles, he interwove the human with the natural rather than supernatural world: “[A]s birds and beasts, whose bodies are much used to the change of the free and open air, foresee storms, so those invisible people are most sagacious to understand by the Books of Nature things to come than we who are pestered with the grosser dregs of all elementary mixtures and have our purer spirits choked by them” (Kirk, p.55). 

 

The genii loci are not metaphors. Places have personality. 

 

The human monopoly on personality is at the deep root of climate crisis. It is the attitudinal blade that splits our being from our there and dislocates us from nature. ‘Pestered’ as we are by the unholy mixtures of the ‘elements’ we produce, we do what we do because we can think and speak of floods, earthquakes and tropical storms as inert, impersonal and unliving things, insult them with our measurements and cute names and try to fend off their eldritch enigmas. The same with viruses; do we really think we can fight them in wars or “flatten their curve” as if they were a run on the currency? Every time we try these things, the others get more furious and more excited. 

But not everyone is the same. Some are trying. Take Physical Geography; that most unjustly disenchanted of all sciences. For what is more magical than minerals? Breaking its dour profile, the geologist Iain Stewart, a Professor of Geoscience Communication, recently presented some speculative findings about the siting over active geological faults of certain classical Greek temples (Delphi, Mycenae, Ephesus); the suggestion being that fissures in the bedrock may have released consciousness-altering gases upon the presiding oracular priestesses. 

But why leave it there? 

 

At Delphi there were male priests who interpreted the pronouncements of the gas-deranged priestesses to anyone who came to consult the Oracle. Can we skirt such reductionist disenchanting of the relationship of excited gases and gibbering priestesses, and, just for one moment, can we entertain the idea that those priestesses might not have been speaking incoherent Greek, but coherent Gas? Not human gibberish that male priests covered over in their interpretations, but the ventriloquism of the faulted terrain? What if the recent geological speculation is far closer to the magical mode than the classical priests’ interpretations? What if the Oracle at Delphi represents not some laughable primitivism, but a rare moment when rock spoke to humans and humans listened and passed the message along? 

 

Rocks do speak; ask a miner.

 

Rocks Try not to fixate on any particular site. Nor any hierarchy of sites. Embrace every site as part of the pattern (Crab & Bee, 2020, pp.193-7). The pattern is not a fixed mapping, but a morphing diagram (or set of diagrams) in the crust of the planet itself, sometimes a wholly ‘fortuitous’ product of the logic of rock and gas, sometimes sunk down or built up by human and unhuman forces; the exact circumstances are important, but not more important than the webbing of these places together which constitutes “a landscape [that] can.... offer up privileged points.... which operate as mediating points between humans and nature. Points of passage and communication between the finite and the infinite” (O’Sullivan, p.145).

Even in the most abject places we have found faint traces and shadows of these diagrams. Citing Gilbert Simondon, Simon O’Sullivan, a Professor of Art Theory and Practice, has identified this pattern of privileged points with that “magical mode of existence that came before technicity (and religion), but which survives in various places and practices.... a prior mode of existence that gestures towards a future mode yet to come” (ibid). By activating the pattern with what O’Sullivan calls ‘fictioning’ (art rituals that disrupt both archive and fieldwork, destabilising the very idea of a single reality, in order to throw forward messages to the people yet to come), we can traverse “these loops backwards and forwards in time.... activated by a journey or pilgrimage of some kind across and into a landscape” (ibid).

 

Glastonbury-Holy-wellA privileged point is not necessarily ancient. The ‘White Spring’ at Glastonbury is a former nineteenth-century municipal pump house and more recently a tea rooms; a cherry tree in Kensington Gardens attracts ring-necked parakeets and tourists for human-unhuman dances; Chris’s Motel, between the Hellfire Caves and the M40, is a 1950s-built hostel for sleepy knights of the road.

In both finding your way to the privileged points and developing ways of being there once you have arrived, cultivate something like the ‘active walking’ advocated by Jane Samuels. She takes from Carl Rogers’s ‘active listening’ to articulate a being there in which we “suspend our own beliefs and needs... to let others openly express theirs” (Samuels, p.33); in this case, the “others” are the forces at work in the privileged points. In ‘active walking’ as in ‘active listening’, the walker “looks for, and responds to, the total meaning: both the content of the message and the feelings that go with it.... to note the smallest of clues” (ibid). Where active listening “creates a space in which another feels safe to express themselves freely and fully” (ibid), active walking seeks to create a safe human presence in which the space is free to express itself fully. This can be rather daunting when it manifests as a ‘god of the earth’ or excited bullocks. Rather than imposing or re-imposing your story on a space, try to unpick the threads of the place’s stories in order to release the privileged point’s self-direction; this ‘art’ is a fictioning for undoing a human myth to let its location speak. Not a pilgrimage to a place, but a noticing of the place, an attendance upon it. 

Divesting ourselves of all but the tatters of art and magic, in a shifting practice we may learn to live in the pattern; which is to live connected and present. We cannot go home from it; but we can be (mostly) comfortable with it in our dreams.

 

Avoid trying to rise above the pattern, either by cool mapping or transcendental imagining, but closely follow the diagram in the land, moving along its threads and stopping at its nodes; if you ask to reconnect to its stories, actively listening and walking in animal bodies, you may have the privilege of relaying what you hear of the pattern’s storylines to others.

 

Stories and places

Again and again Crab & Bee have noted how, when we spend time in places, their stories stand forward. The stories are in the place names, on noticeboards, in characters in statue form, in the scenes painted on pub signs, in stained glass windows in churches, they are legends and folktales recorded on information boards, and so on. Some very basic research – reading the pamphlets in churches, cursory online searches, scouring collections of local tales – turn up plenty more. 

Two things often characterise the way the stories are told: firstly, they tend to be single discrete narrative fragments that are tied to a particular site; and, secondly, they are explained in terms of human history (seizure of power, religious ferment, and so on).

Crab & Bee’s experiences with these stories, however, point to some other qualities; neither atomised nor wholly culturally determined. To begin with, the stories travel; they connect up with other stories in other places, and their variation from place to place has meaning. Not just as differences, but as movements, metamorphoses and connecting.

The story of Dandy or Dando is associated with St George’s Lane, a now rocky and muddy track descending into a sharp defile connecting Sheviock and the River Lynher. In some versions of the story Dandy/Dando is a high-living monk from St Germans caught hunting on the Sabbath in the woods between Crafthole and St John (lair of the bramble werewolves) and driven by a Devil on horseback (a Horned Hunter) and his pack of hell hounds into the river at the Dandy Hole. In others Dandy/Dando is the demon who turns the huntsman’s own hounds against him. Being there, you can feel how the defile of the Lane closes in on you as it falls away towards the river, how everything feels unstable. A few miles away, the Devil’s dogs are the Dandies, hunting human prey on Bodmin Moor; human and dog, hunter and hunted hybridise. Variations of this ‘wild hunt’ spin out to the whist hounds at Wistman’s Wood, on Dartmoor – where Crab & Bee felt the boulders tremble on a sprung platform of roots at the steps of a stranger – and far beyond across Europe and Scandinavia. The stories travel distantly and locally; connective threads to near and far.

Crab & Bee have found traces of a story of Sena, Senua, Senara, Azenor or Senuna stretching from Nornour in the Scillies via Zennor in Cornwall to Ashwell in Hertfordshire. 

 

At the same time, by persistently being there, you will find stories and places entangled. The stories are not the human veneers coating the places. The places are making the stories. The places are actors in them, co-writers and co-orators of them. The stories are no different from bus stops or coppiced hazels or waterfalls; material parts of the places. 

 

So, why is it that place and story do not come separately? It is generally acknowledged that humans have a tendency to turn everything into narratives; which seems to have something to do with evolutionary advantage and making social groups. But what if we have picked up that smart behaviour from places? Before humans started telling stories, there was already a story in the cave (the scary bears living in the dark), in the gorge (the once-a-year migrating elk to ambush) or on the moor where the deer grazed (psychoactive mushrooms to pick) and those places were the first tellers of these stories: of the burial of the dead, of the empathy of hunter and hunted, of tripping with the deer. The places first told the stories. The stories are parts of the places, told by the places about themselves, by their just being there; and the humans learned the skill from them.

 

And just as a story streams from a human mouth or tumbles across a page from the end of a pen or the mechanism of a printer, what the places are all the time telling us is that they are not separate, but they are connected to the distant northern forests from where the big mammals migrate each winter, they are flowing into an ocean carrying eels to a distant river for sex, they are chemical routes to the weird and eerie. 

 

Deterritorialisation

In the mercurial method of The Pattern, there is a different emphasis in orientation and approach even to those radical practices like embodied traversal with attention to somatics or psychogeographical exploration. The human goes to present themselves to the place; to be in attendance on it. Not to interrogate or sample or invoke; but to wait there, critical and attentive. Believing nothing until it is felt, touched. Put your hands in the wounds. 

This is a weird realism, but it is realism. If there are ‘gods’ here, they are tangible ones; if there is talk of würms and goblins here, their stories must have consequences. The encounters take us to somewhere on, above or below the crust of the planet; not to transcendence. If we research a place, it sets new questions. 

We are not treasure hunters, we are sensual detectorists.

Whatever motivation, mapping or information you take with you, they are brought along in order to drop away and clear a space for the motivations, diagrams and narratives of the place. You can expect some discomfort, not because these places are unusually malevolent or dangerous – though there may be some wary animosity from places long ignored and maligned – but because they are unhuman things and struggle to connect easily to us. As we have failed spectacularly to connect with them. You should not, therefore, be surprised if there is some clumsy bruising of human feelings.

 

The map is not the territory; but then neither is the territory. What many humans call “territory” is a jurisdiction; something under ownership or subject to the authority of a leader or institution. Even ‘common land’ involves a dispersed right to exploit (though commonality may place some restrictions on its extent), while rare wilderness is often appropriated in images, livestreams and literary ideas for human consumption.

 

The mercurial method, however, is one not of appropriation but deterritorialis..... .....  

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white white white curves coins …..

sterilised a penknife in the flame of the kitchen stove, then stood before the bathroom mirror. Turning the blade on the largest of the boils, a white thing, the size of a salmon, leapt from the parted flesh and into the toilet bowl. Guiser pulled the chain and that seemed to be

THAT

ation.

As the 2020 Lockdown eased, Crab & Bee journeyed up and down the banks of the Tamar and Tavy rivers and along the southern coastline either side of the Devon/Cornwall border (Crab & Bee, unpublished). What stood forward was a local pattern with its own stories; a dense web of hollow lanes, a distribution network now almost entirely deserted, abandoned mine workings, piles of worked ore, adits and tunnels everywhere, smuggled sherry and silks, walking bones, a watching corpse, serpents, knights and worms, wells hidden behind brambles and corrugated iron sheets in hedges on quiet lanes, interlaced with Neolithic earthworks and portentous rocks and groves. From each of the places visited, threads span out to connect to others. 

But that does not explain a pattern. Once you enter into one, attentive and tending, you are interwoven by and into the place. What you find has been waiting for you, it does not need your explanation, it wants your attention: what you need to do is let it get to you, then ‘actively listen’ for its offers.

Being there often feeds a loop, generating feelings of coincidence, fortuity, fate. These are intuitions of unhuman agency rather than supernatural experiences. Alienated from a magical mode, we can perceive connectivity – when made on the terms of what we connect to – as uncanny. Accept it and the oddness will come thick and fast; and it is not just about the place. 

Connected on the basis of our differences, there comes a disordering and reordering of our own sensations; a weird conviviality. 

In the middle of the top of Cadsonbury Fort, to all appearances a huge circular enclosure on top of a steep hill, Bee lay down on her back: “I’m the dot in the middle of the eye” she said. And for half an hour we lay down and looked up into the sky, the hill at our backs. The clouds made odd perpendicular shapes. Later, on getting to my home, I went online to find out more about this enigmatic place: the first thing I found was an aerial photograph of the site; the enclosure is almond-like, eye-shaped, exactly. 

There’s no handbook for that. Just feel your way.

 

References

Crab & Bee. (2020) The Pattern. Axminster: Triarchy Press Crab & Bee. (unpublished) Dr Skulk & Dr Guiser’s Endgame

Debord, Guy. (1994) The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: Zone Books

Kirk, Robert. (1691/1893)The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications

Neitzsche, Friedrich. (1882/1974) The Gay Science. New York: Random House

O’Sullivan, Simon. (2018) ‘Fictioning Five Heads (on the Art-Anthropology hybrid)’ in Five

Heads (Tavan Tolgoi), ed. Hermione Spriggs, Berlin: Steemberg Press

Samuels, Jane. (2019) ‘Taking space’ in Psychogeography & Psychotherapy: Connecting Pathways, ed. Chris Rose. Monmouth: PCCS Books