Thursday, January 7, 2010

Diary from a journey in my chamber

(soluble locus 2)

There has been some travelling going on in my apartment lately. A remarkable apparent chance chain of distinct little forest glades, hills, parks and squares. When writing this, I just noticed that Breton referred to surrealism as a new way of travelling in "Lettre aux voyantes" 1925. The story is, I've been digitizing a few longer texts (more or less mindless keyboard work) and so had an occasion to notice not just how but where my thoughts are straying when in an extended absentminded state. In such work, focusing on some actual lines of explicit thoughts would make the smooth execution of the work difficult; following the text mass that should be copied is in fact rather close to hypnotic suggestion; one is supposed to let the present text flow through oneself and out in one's fingerwork without reflection. I suppose a lot of what people are getting paid for doing is such systematised mindlessness and it is one of the standard modes of wage labor... There is a certain interval of intensity of associations where work goes smooth and chain of associations is entertaining – whenever it becomes more subjectively involving than just entertaining (practical worries and neuroses just as much as exciting stories or sexual fantasies or new solutions or poetic momentum) it slows work; and the opposite, the actual focusing on the task at hand or the actual extinguishing of thought seem just too boring, seem like voluntary death. To me, at least this time, basically three lines of "neutral" enough imagery presented themselves, images of some past periods in life, images from comic books (actually read or similar to those actually read), and more interestingly, images of places.

I have been travelling some, at least in recent years. Thus, there is a selection of views and ambiances from at least some hundreds of cities and towns that has been fed into my memory. Even more importantly, as I have been systematically checking out biological habitats as well as wandering environments within public transport distance of wherever I have been staying, as well as in many places where educational and explorative interests have taken me, producing is a plethora of several thousands of forest views, thickets and glades, ponds and beaches, etc etc. All fed into the system of memory and there left to associate with each other according to whatever internal associations might be established while being preconsciously "treated".

An obvious trivial application is the associative cascade every new place triggers: - Oh, I've never been here before. It reminds me of this, and this, and this, like a twisted version of this, has a similar ambiance to this, has identical vegetation to this, the light is similar to this... etc. However, an even more common application (every night) is the synthesis of dream geography. All dreams take place somewhere. Often in a significant sequence of different places, spatially distributed according to the narrative of the dream, ordered and in fact often overlayered in significant patterns that merit analytical response, both in the poetically realist (surrealist) way of mapping this landscape, and in the psychoanalytical study of the origin of the images.

I have been having, through the years, a recurring, paranoid, very interesting compulsory thought. Just because there are so overwhelmingly many similar "natural sites" that I am acquainted with and feel just as home in as the city streets I'm walking down – but significantly differing in the sense that they have no street signs, no other people, and almost no other obvious artifacts whatsoever that could provide quick information of location; I keep imagining what would happen if I suddenly lost short-term memory. I'd know all the places I know, all the techniques of reading the landscape I know, I'd only not know where the hell I was and how the hell I got there. Would I be able to deduce the location or are there just too many places that are too similar? Would I want to deduce the location and return to my life or would I grab this handy opportunity to "disappear from the world" and keep hiding under spruces from the searching helicopters?

I have been trained in available methods for reading landscapes: geomorphology, soil, vegetation types, species assemblies, small-scale climate, agricultural history etc, so that landscapes are objectively classifiable. Not that I do keep consciously sorting geographical images. It just helps me orient when I'm there, and to interpret the image when it resurfaces. In fact, it seems impossible to make a comprehensive and user-friendly classification of places, because so many of them are objectively and subjectively equivalent, differing only in that part of the "spirit of the place" which is the surrounding associations, the musings over the name of the place, its purely geographical relationships to other places, the particularities of the way there and the way back, previous experiences and expectancies. In fact, such associations that involve all previous knowledge can easily be argued to be a major part of the "spirit of the place". I'm not denying that there are places which are objectively depressing, exciting, enthusing, calming etc, (remember the beach episode in Breton's "L'amour fou" , I had a similar experience on the island in Budapest) but this is a very crude spectrum of basic emotional responses and all the subtleties of geography are dependent on the interaction between the totalities of associations and observations and thus dependent on conscious knowledge of location.

Of course I didn't write down the actual chain of places; I was busy. I could pick a few examples and start interpreting them, but for now I'm happy with having written this introduction.

Mattias Forshage

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