Supra-text Sequences

By | 1 December 2011

Image: A series of frames require me to shade some of the evenly-distributed sets-of-3, black or blank.

How I apply notions of form (actual space) and appearance (virtual space) to my experience in the world is very much like my regard of any object I consider a poetic work. I may apply those notions to a single object. I may apply them to a line of poetry, to a chair, to a chest-of-drawers or to the whole world. Because there are patterns I am looking for (inevitably bringing with me lists of likenesses from my experience in the world) I seem to be continually conducting such readings as lines of oddly-shaped ‘sequences.’ I walk into a gallery with Dürer prints in plastic stuck to the walls and I’m thinking ‘I should frame that,’ while staring at the high ceilings, adjacent spacious kitchen annex and deep beautiful floors. The gallery’s curator shows me 2 beautiful framed paintings which are scenes composed of gold and silver and jewels. I’m surprised to be shown them altogether, that they’d been there all the time but I hadn’t seen them.

Duality is at the heart of what holds the scheme together. For instance, let’s think of the gallery as only one of 2 houses virtually adjacent to each other—one, a light summer house, maybe; the other, the gallery, a mansion of deep ceilings, stone and wealth. The light summer house turns out to be one I’m to share with my grandmother. I discover she has the better room with a bigger chest-of-drawers. I’m thinking I’d prefer her room to mine or, at least, I want to share her more commodious/generous space. But a cleaning woman has arrived in my space and when I look back to see what she’s doing, she’s already put my furniture in an illogical way/reversed as such (that is, she’s arranged my chests-of-drawers so that an invitation tucked away for years had fallen out from between the drawers in the cluttered room where the weight of the items in them seems pulling the entire chest-of-drawers forwards, tipping the whole thing; each drawer standing ready to shoot out of its place.) Each group of 4 drawers is sitting in a corridor. Each drawer filled with flat books arranged to be put away, for storage. 2 of every four have items which were ideal or helpful, etc). The chests are on top of other furniture; so that the room is topsy-turvy—e.g. a dresser stands on a low table. I wonder at the sense of this. But the cleaning woman is quite at ease with the ‘normalcy’ of what she’s done.

I link the virtual furniture to ordinary items in my everyday life about which I speak in a shared way-of-speaking or thematic language. I see nothing or read everything ‘wickered’/ thatched/ under water; that is, as a puzzle to be solved. Or, put it this way, without the skill to see likenesses in virtual space’s furniture to ordinary items in my everyday life about which I speak in thematic or shared language, I see nothing or I read everything as a puzzle to be solved. That skill of reading one with the other (a language of virtual space with a language of actual space) relies on the opportunity of a pattern remembered. I may step into a pattern or sequence by climbing over the likeness of ‘a wall’ or ‘building’, a ‘deep fence’ or ‘wire railings’, and so on. By taking my mark from each unusual confinement or barrier (‘wall’, ‘fence’, ‘railing’) I am able to comprehend meaning in thematic language (speaking like you/ speaking so that you understand me/ being something that I am not) from a virtual sequence (speaking with a set of shared list-names of the virtual furniture that occupy uncommon space and supply the ‘logic’ I use in attempts to comprehend matters in shared space). In other words, I conduct that reading of following lines of sequences or patterns from a kind of supra-text in which the poetic furniture seems to ‘swim’ and floats them to my notice, the flotsam sitting on the surface of the liquid space, as it were, leaving its mark as a paradigm to be reckoned with.

In other words, let’s say that the next day I decide to visit the gallery again and I find an unusual addition to the exhibitions, an installation labeled ‘flotation device.’ Housed so that it is somewhat unsteady on its legs, a flotation or heavy-water vat is filled with liquid that changes and expands certain spaces in the exhibit. The water changes from a deep dark sea-liquid, to thatched floors, to solid concrete-like walls like those out of which the housing is constructed. Barely a drop of the liquid is spilt, though only one wall in the housing seems stable. To hold that image in my mind’s eye, I see that the pattern at work beneath them keeps several aspects distinct or free from ‘drowning,’ from being ‘lost’ before I find their form or likeness.

I take part in the game between actual and virtual spaces much like I might leave any safe confined space of, say, an office (even though that, too, is a deception) in the dark, taking narrow streets to buildings where I expect to find my car. It’s raining. Water is literally pouring into the car parked by a fence. I open it to find it’s the wrong car—because it’s blue. A man turns up and says it’s his. I now remember I parked mine in another car park. The man offers to go and get my car. I travel with him part of the way. One section of road has huge speed humps, which I think will hit the bottom of the car we’re traveling in to get there but we glide over the humps. Roadwork ahead down the centre of the road has cut the rest of it off. The man drives on the earthy soft shoulder around workmen and edge of the humps till we get to an area where the roadwork has been completed. I am now on my own. In no time I am fully aware that I am in the presence of a young female companion. A gang (of workers?) confront ‘us.’ I insist that we are not what they think ‘we’ are. In an instant ‘we’ are separated by a second gang. I hide in a house and start to worry about the helpful man who may be heading towards the gangs. Just then, however, my car (a yellow car) goes by. In the midst of this, a girl from next door brings me a paper bag saying that it is the young female companion, claiming that the companion is my twin. I challenge the neighbor, demanding to see this ‘twin.’ I get, in reply, a strange-smelling doll (mummified) from their wardrobe. They say that the doll is my twin, though it resembles a cloth doll constructed with pink knitting threads for hair. I notice one ear is smaller than the other; I think this is important.

But what is really happening in the swirl of poetic furniture? It is as if the moment you leap that barrier, there you’ll find sitting on either side of you—your 2 best friends who look a lot like Joaquin Phoenix. The one on the right wants to be “trotzkeith” (his words). The one on your left hasn’t yet made up his mind. He is silent. You see yourselves in years to come on a South American beach in body-hugging bathing costumes. You kiss each other a lot passionately—the men and women. And you plan to do important life-changing and life-threatening things. In the sea of words whatever is left to pure speculation is academic fish.

Bearing in mind the arrangement-set of which we are always a part in those sequences, think of my looking out into such sequences as founded on a series of sets-of-3 and that the items comprising these ‘sets-of-3’ are themselves 4-sided boxes with at least 2 complete sides seen at any one time. Each set is floated from a dense bed of images and their events not yet likened to anything I recall at the moment of first seeing them. Those base sets are not static together or as individual pieces of any set. Each set-of-3 may be rotated, flipped, twisted 180 degrees, opened out as flattened boxes. You might say the base set is the equivalent, in function, to that constant baseline (Y) that appears to glue the common shared space of shifting ground with virtual space freely re-arranged at its address or the place where it is seen. We’ll need to think of that sequenced-space in different forms, though one will dominate. And there will be sets-of-3 in every sequence. Also, keep in mind that my aim is to form some opinion on the likeness to which I might attach the relationship within each set-of-3. I already have a sense of the likeness in the language of thematic or shared space to which I have attached the items observed (e.g. my grandmother & I plus a cleaning woman; 2 Joaquin Phoenixes and you; a curator plus 2 beautiful framed paintings; etc). If I am to understand what I seem to see, I must at some point come to entertain an idea of how they relate to each other.

The constructions from those unusual confinements or barriers I may put to use must be constituted of a series of frames. Look at it this way. I am traveling to somewhere familiar. I remember it from childhood. A deep roof here. Shallow low tide. Stone and rocks. I am traveling to the place through water. Coops, pigs, rocks, the ocean, the sea front. I am as a native who can really see and smell and enjoy what’s before me. Beyond the building, a deep fence. I peel the wire-fencing away. I bend the poles that hold up the wire and find myself bending anything that’s standing with me, trees, rocks, people. As well, it always seems possible to refit the space within each unusual confinement. And, so, I could convert all the bent space into a small hotel where I might decide to spend the night. It is an underwater hotel. In large rooms with other guests, a ‘trap-door’ above is half open; one ½ of the door is hanging down. An inflatable lifeboat drops down and begins inflating. We (the guests) think of how to inform the tour owners. A pot of blue (bright sky blue) paint and brush is also at hand. But the paint is the ‘wrong’ color. (The room, white below a panel, is pale aqua.) The colors clash. Still, a guest begins painting the wall adjacent (from another ‘room,’ in the open plan) to the lounge living/reception room we are in. When she begins to put on a second coat over the first, still wet coat, the color is wiped off and the original color ‘stands up.’ We all begin to think that the boat and paint are gags/not real events (as we thought they were). On the way to the concierge’s office, I meet an old friend. He tells me what I thought was still the case is not so. That affair is over. My thoughts immediately replace him with the artist I once had eyes for. Even I don’t need to ask the question there. I know that’s been too long now.

The shared-language’s transcription of virtual space’s house-occupancy details is certainly not the jumble-of-words-without-syntax that presides, for example, over Roman Ingarden’s experiment in The Literary Work of Art 1931 (trans. George G. Grabowicz 1973) with the order of sequence in writing-a-book-backwards, where, in any case, the reasonable question is raised: Would that be a poetic work at all because the work no longer satisfied expectations of reasonable communication regarding represented objects, meaning and discriminative relationships among words in a sentence? As Ingarden tried to show in his experiment, reading the novel Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family (Thomas Mann’s Die Buddenbrooks: Verfall einer Familie 1901) backwards would create a work with ‘new formations.’ The changes, though, would be of varying degrees, especially, if the experiment changed every other word, or every second word, and so on. In many cases, sentences, as we expect them to appear, would not be sentences at all.  The alteration of some, such as ‘Father beats son’ to ‘Son beats father’ would not destroy a sentence as simply alter its meaning. A sequence such as ‘Table the upon lying is book the’ is nonsense even though there is a new pattern of sound and emphases that make a kind of rhythmic sense (Ingarden 306-307). It doesn’t help to remember the alphabet by shaking up letters in envelopes. However, I do not think it is so much a dependence upon sentence-space logic as it is on a structure that allows me to lift sensible sequences from the shifting constructions of virtual space into the more rigorous syntaxes of the language of actual space. Ingarden argued that the controlling sense-making sequence is time, that ‘concretization of a literary work can develop only in a segment of concrete time.’  Regardless of the punctuation and obvious syntax, if we understand the progress of the literary work or its ‘determinate line of development and thus an internal dynamics’ in terms of when things happen or happened, we have a sequence we understand and we can begin to glean meaning from it (312). To attempt to find myself somehow outside the unusual confinement or internal dynamics is to invite whomever I enjoy shared-space with back to the wickered appearances presenting themselves as if they are puzzles to be solved. They make for good conversation over a fine meal, but they will not be of any practical use to us outside of that dining room. In other words, to keep the sequences of virtual space intact in order to allow me to continue with reasonable language in common/actual space in every sense, I must master one thing: how to keep the 2 joaquin phoenixes afloat.

Image: Louise Molloy, ‘Shimmer’.

Go back for a moment to the barrier of the flooding house. Imagine. A young woman who claims to live next door risks going into the house though I warn her of the danger of turning on or touching light switches and standing in the rising waters for fear of electrocution—but she’s OK, and a man in the room into which she goes recovers a valuable item (I don’t know what it is nor see it). She picks up the item and he suggests he’ll safeguard it by putting it into his pocket, with which she seems happy. They return to dry ground unharmed. Outside, I’m relieved to see how it was easy to see into the house’s open-plan, its comfortable spaces, and its glass walls. It is easier to see inside from outside. In the same way, as such, I might follow the symmetry in each sub-sequence or I might do so each time I recognize it; for, it is worthwhile to remember that the mysteriousness of any sequence is an illusion of difficulty easily solved by participating in dialogues with those appearances. It is only so I might be able to keep the 2 joaquin phoenixes buoyant. It is only so I might find a meaning to the first Joaquin look-alike’s [self-]definition (“trotzkeith”) and his relationship to his silent second. So long as I remain in conversation with them I can tell where they are going. And it is here, at that point, that I enter into full participation with the sequences of virtual space.

Each occurrence of a sequence leads to another detour. What follows next may be ‘The French Sequence.’ There’s a late-night Carnival outside—I say this because the sequence feels like France. A musician asks for help; he needs an instrument like a didgeridoo but I only have ½ of the instrument he’s asking for. He says he’ll find a shop open before his performance. We embrace by large glass French doors to the street as he goes saying he’ll return tomorrow. I meet another friend—from Brazil who came to the carnival by ship. We go off to lunch together, looking for a line that’s not too long. She shows me the service has improved—they’ve opened up a 3rd line in the room where she sat on the floor eating yesterday. We walk up a flight of stairs—she’s feeling panic and we are worried because she is 6 months pregnant. She begins telling me of the ship voyage back in 15 weeks’ time, but we both avoid talking about whether or not the baby will be born there (which it has to be!). I’m excited to have company—a friend—even though I’m waiting, I’m a happy woman. In the evening, she convinces me to go with her to a musical performance. We find the seating only 4-6 wide and winding along a long corridor, outside a hotel. I am reading in French. All the seats are taken save several at the end of the line, so you can only hear the music in the distance. There are hostel rooms at the end of the seating too. I retire to my room for a while. The performers are setting up. I look out of my room into a gravel courtyard and cemented walkway to it from the street courtyard. The front of the hotel seems made of timber and glass. Musical instruments are on stands or leaning against the walls. I am glad to see one of the musicians, Mark, is about to clean one of the lute-like instruments; they are exposed to the elements and appear quite unsecure. I call to Mark from my window to suggest, without seeming to interfere, to keep the objects indoors.

According to the language of that sequence, if I first try applying likeness to the appearance of the sequence, I am also able to construct across space (as it were, in shared space) sub-sequences I’ll call detours or a virtual space for an incident the main sequence may be like. Even so, it is important to note that familiar application does not seem to remove the sense of unfamiliarity or mysteriousness from what I have encountered in that virtual space. I must still walk from a large virtual guest house to an Amusement Ground where I sit in a folding metal chair (others are on the lawn, on a green area). In one section, the grass is mown neatly and is very flat. Kids lie on their bellies face down, looking up to the horizon, waiting for their entertainment—planes and flying objects taking off and taking to the air from the runway that meets the grassy area. I’m still sitting on one of those scoop-type metal folding chairs. It feels like dusk or even a moon-bright night but everyone acts as if its noon and this is lunch-time entertainment. Later, back at the hotel/guest house, (someone is telling me I have more money than I realize) and there’s something about 400 more or 4000 which I didn’t take into account that I can have if I want.

If I should take a detour from The French Sequence, then, I might find myself, say, in a poor French quarter where the walls of buildings are so close together very little light escapes in or out. I may have stopped with another companion, the woman with whom I began the journey and on whom I have become dependent for direction through the squalid streets. When night falls I agree to dinner with a man I didn’t trust at first. He offers me some of his triangular-cut sandwiches. Later, in another squalid quarter, a man, a capoeira performer wielding a weapon-like stick, takes the woman and me in and becomes a kind of reluctant guide though he commands a little more trust as the night wears on. Nevertheless, we do not miss an opportunity to walk away slowly in the opposite direction when he finds a game of cards he cannot resist. Midnight betters our chances. A café is filled with musicians writing lyrics. They are looking for something special, a subdued place, a sound, the arrival of a tone they have not heard before. My female companion hands me over to new companions; she makes it clear to me that this is my meeting, but our parting. The leader of the traveling musicians invites me to his humbly sumptuous residence, meeting guests and (as if I am now to live there) decides how they arrive, what they eat; and in the kitchen I discover deep-freezes standing to the ceiling with glass doors, full of condiments and snap-frozen fresh garden vegetables, as if corridors of it. I move furniture at the entrance to create symmetry as people enter. I remember the guests and drinking from a tall slender bottle of white wine, tipping back my head to swallow. In no time, as we become more comfortable with each other, we may each be entertaining new neighbors with tools we hadn’t handled before. Before us, shapes of trays—choices unplanned from amongst an array of tools not meant to be used by one of us alone. So, while I search for the correct tray among an array of those made of wooden-inlays, deep aluminum sorts and others made of stainless steel, on which to serve green and black tea in clear glass teacups and saucers, it takes me some time before I find the first pair of cups and saucers. Though I’ve only found 1 pair so far. In the end, I am surprised I have had such a successful party. At first I naturally thought none of the new neighbors cared. As it is to turn out, I am the party’s pivot, its catalyst. My old assumptions are debunked!

In any sub-sequence I may vary the arrangement by changing the lighting where the sequence might be of an understandable description on a number of axes. More than one sequence can fit on a single axis according to the shifting arrangement-set, so that they seem as if more than one can fit in a bag, if they could be ‘bagged.’ What is created by reporting each sequence is an obscuring of all the others except the one I am describing to you, as I do so. You might be led to believe that I see one thing at a time. I unzip each one or uncompact it to allude to a common likeness. Now this too can be a sequence of any angle from which I see myself sitting in a formula like this: ‘In a sequence I may vary the arrangement by changing the lighting where the sequence might be, for example: 3, 1, -y, 2. More than one sequence can fit in the same space according to the shifting arrangement-set as if “More than one can fit in a bag,” and so creating the resemblance of obscurities or zippings; the fittings and zippings merely aspects of the line-shearer rule where views exist in layers, each extreme end of a view forming the line-shearer or cutting-off point or furthest edge of an unusual confinement or barrier.

And so, once I start to pay attention to what I did, crossing borders without other peoples’ permission, as it were, I know I have the language to go further. Conversions may even begin. It is that inevitable moment of exchange. I know that I am learning to read not just one but several arrangements at once. It is almost if I am on the outskirts far from everything that I once imagined was the way to my grandmother’s house, to somewhere fixed in history not only by my memory but by others’ (in this case, that of my mother’s mother, of her relatives, etc.). It is as if the border I’ve crossed is much older than my memory, than anything I remember about my grandmother, for example. The hill, the house sits on is not the dry steep slope it once really was, but an idyllic green with the grass working its way down the middle of its white-marl face of tracks. The stone house has sprung up out of the limestone and working so hard at ‘existing,’ the boulders are sweating with the effort.

The images are as real as real memory. But, it takes conscious effort at this point to remain with the language. I must make decisions about how I see and how I speak. I must learn conversation at new levels. I must, for example, take a sub-let, a small fort-like house on the hill near my grandmother’s if I wish to stay with that sequence. Outside, protected equipment—my typewriter and re-conditioned computer in an east-west-aspected open yard where I can work below the back steps of the house; there, newly-cut or cleaned sandstone amid freshly-turned and settling topsoil with new young plants rapidly sprouting and bright green on the rear periphery. Inside, the living room is sun-drenched and gentle levels lead to the bedrooms. Whatever might be stolen or lost on the periphery, here, is quickly replaced. The current owners are liable to drop in unexpectedly, hang around a bit in the dining room with its lovely long table and sip and try the soup with me. They are selling-up. There is an unruly patch of land, a dark hidden embankment tucked away in a corner—I can see why they want to get rid of the place. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the soon-to-be new landowner, a neighbor/friend, is to buy it from them.

In other words, history compounds resolutions through hiatus and the creation of poetic space or the possibilities of reading windows to and from all angles of virtual space’s residence. Anything is possible from here.

I may now flash back to shining slopes in Sweden: the tops of pine trees close to the edge of a mountain and its peak, a girl is lying on one side with an open-eyed porcelain doll’s face. I can hear clearly the ancient song of dedicated voices in chorus, female voices in a falling rhythm, the tone repeating in slightly varied notes, a lute-like instrument to keep time. I remind myself where I am sitting—the angle from which I am observing the lines I am reading—very comfortably so at the bottom of a graded hill flanked on the left by tall trees in a line, while there are people reclining, relaxed, in the green low grass, reading, minding their own business quietly, not noticing me as being one of them and belonging there. Prepared, now, to be party to a sequence of events—the virtual inhabitants reclining in low grass, reading, minding their own business—I name (while fully comprehending that I am practising the act of common naming with resemblances) arrangement-subsets with ease. Not only this, but, very importantly, in the cloakroom of the public theatre nearby, I notice three bulbs, light-bulbs. The bulbs occur as I see them, that is, if I were to note them by pointing them out to you or as if to take stock of how many were there, counting them, I would begin with those that are the same, turned-on, and lit and those that are not. I take note of the sequence: 1, 2, 3 (starting from my upper left and excluding the one that is different) are turned off, and 1—‘this is the one left on.’ I may later name what has happened; call it a triangle sequence, but its shape is not apparent to me yet. Indeed, whatever shape I might like to give it, the standard at work remains the same: each drawing-upon of an image from virtual space into plain text via trans-migrant language tries to arrange the half of each sequence at a time in an ideal or helpful way and those images are stored there for use now and later indefinitely.

The wonderful thing is that I can enter that virtual space even before sequences are completed, so comfortable have I become with being there. I become freer and freer to choose to set up house while the owners are in transition, as it were. I can change the sheets and even though there are pins among them and on the mattress I am amazed I am unhurt by the sharpened bits of metal. Looking out the front door, I see the walls thickening. The double door is strong enough to keep even rabid droves out of the sanctum. Beyond that, I can see emerging a compound; and after that, a small island or far-away country. The frame to what is beyond that is a slab of rock that is closed to every sense. Sleeping there, one night, I dream I start an electrical fire by an open wire near the phone in an old unused room with Energy No. 5214525252. Flames envelop the rear of the house locked off from the rest of the rooms beginning as a beautiful flash, a wave, a blanket. And so on. Each floating blank square finds its place in an increasingly cubed-complex. There is always a pattern that holds it together. Now, I am able to freely construct other sequences close enough in resemblance to previous ones through renovations to an earlier one, so long as I begin by positing one additional item.

In that mansion we first visited, sections of the exhibition gallery where the Dürer prints used to hang are undergoing renovation. Along the street leading up to it, quaint up-market series of restaurants are appearing. The patrons are in period clothing though I fail to recognize the specific period. I don’t loiter here and soon enough find a way I can take from the street, walking through with confidence. Now, the friends I’ve attracted muck in to complete the restaurant’s renovation for the celebratory opening. We’re all piled in the middle of the kitchen which runs off the main entry. Dunphy is chef. In the dining room, as they are preparing ingredients, we are asked if we want more lemon juice. Given a choice of 2 small containers, I choose the slightly lesser-filled: one is filled just over the inner lip; the 2nd jar, below; I choose the 2nd. Steps lead to a deep hall that seems a kind of warren. The step-rungs move like a purposeful mechanism when stepped on. It is becoming clear to me that there is even more here than things seem to be. This is a complex staircase best descended backwards. Once I have descended safely, I discover an underpass leading to an open door where I can stand upright and walk reasonably comfortably. There I meet a poet I recognize as R. A. We walk into a room set aside for art history lectures. As we enter, he makes it clear to me that he is late for the class he is taking. He takes roll quietly by simply glancing around the room.

In other words, I may begin to construct any number of detours in conjunction with each other so long as I remember the pattern. It is always possible for a pattern to find its place even while I am busy with amusements within the sequence itself, whatever its size or shape. In each case, the important issue is that of keeping the images afloat to complete any transaction of them, to complete any exchange between actual and virtual. It is then possible to understand that the space changed does not alter virtual space in its original parts; it sharpens the means for their construction.

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