omnicat bonaparte

Do you have to have a story in order to be a person?

I have invented myriad narratives about the lives of the neighbour’s cats. In the process of telling these stories, each cat’s personhood increases, not because the stories are true (in fact, they are obvious fabrications) but because the stories are being told. I do not know the names of these cats; I have not discussed the cats with their owners; I have not built up any reciprocal relationship with these animals. I simply watch them trundle about the neighbouring yard (they are very large cats – trundle is an appropriate description of their movements), which is visible from my window. In the six months since I first saw the cats, my regard for them has grown. Although I know very little about them, aside from a superficial knowledge of their daily routines, I feel great affection for them and would feel immensely distressed to learn that any harm had come to them. This is because, having got to know their imagined doubles in my constructed narratives, I am able to project an internal world onto the animals whose existence I have witnessed – even though the projected internalities really belong to the imaginary cats, and not to their physical inspirations.

Because I have invented these fantasy-cats, I begin to think of the real cats as persons. The stories I invent lead me to imagine that these animals have needs, feelings, desires and fears, and therefore I wish to treat them as though they have needs, feelings, desires and fears. The stories I tell have no bearing on reality, but because I tell them with reference to real cats, the real cats matter – and if I do happen to make the acquaintance of these creatures in the world of tangible interactions, they (and their needs, feelings, etc.) will matter to me considerably more than they would have done had I never constructed such cat-based lies.

worm mrow

If the real cats could understand human speech, and could hear the stories I tell about them, would they be offended at this misrepresentation? Possibly – but I do not tell these stories in order to represent the cats. I tell these stories in order to personify the cats. I tell these stories because when I string the incomprehensible and disconnected elements of my experience into a meaningful chain of relationships, journeys, beginnings, middles and ends, not only do I feel more like a person via the increasing cohesion of these accidents of circumstance – at the same time, everything around me becomes more like a person, and I am compelled to treat everything with the care and respect that I must afford anything that appears to me as relevant, or important, or necessary, or beautiful.

Not all stories need to be told outside of the mind of the teller. This is because, sometimes, it is not the precise content of the stories which is relevant, but rather the process of constructing them. And I think that if the person about whom you are telling the story is genuinely a person in your mind, you’ll be in a good position to determine whether or not the story you have imagined is a story that other people need to hear.

You do not have to have a story in order to be a person – but you must have stories in order for anyone else to be a person.

magnificat omniheart

I’m told that, outwardly, I’m holding it together more effectively these days – that I seem not to disintegrate so fully or for so long.

But actually, from the inside, I feel like the disintegration is permanent now – that there is no longer any ‘together.’

If I am outwardly more together, I think perhaps this is because I am no longer experiencing periods of inward togetherness interspersed with lengthy disintegrations. The appearance of togetherness is not a result of internal unity, but of disunity that is consistent over time.

Consistently disintegrated looks more integrated than sporadic togetherness, because these judgements are necessarily made over time and via narrative.

Perhaps the apparent appearance of coherence is enough. The narrative is truthful not in its adherence to the facts, but in its poetic utility.


Last year, I was reading some articles about Google Maps and Google’s Personalized Search algorithms. Personalized search relies on the user’s search history (and increasingly social media history, location check-ins, etc.) to decide on the most relevant search results for any given query given the recorded history of the user.

As stated in this article,

Once we acknowledge that we are in a feedback loop where use data is affecting display data it becomes hard to determine how astigmatic our perception of the world has become. …I worry, for instance, that my own preferences may be hiding from me interesting things that would expand my world view.

I had this idea, for a while, of starting a mapping service called Grayam Maps. My sales pitch to myself went like this:

Grayam Maps: Personalized Cartography for an Unimaginably Impersonal Universe

Graham’s number, named after Ronald Graham, is unimaginably larger than a googol. A googol is 10¹°° (the digit one followed by 100 zeroes). That’s not so big in the scheme of things, especially when you consider that the observable universe is too small to contain an ordinary digital representation of Graham’s number. Mathematicians know that the last digit of Graham’s number is a 7.

Just like Google Maps, Grayam Maps is also a personalized mapping service, but in keeping with the unimaginably large nature of Graham’s number, Grayam Maps differs from Google Maps in that its personalization is unimaginably specific. This renders it largely useless as a communication tool, however the system becomes increasingly workable as the need for specific communication decreases.

Rather than increasing the transparency and transferability of activities such as searching, journeying, and finding, Grayam Maps seeks to make these practices as opaque, untrustworthy, and incomprehensible as possible. It does this, not in the hope of making the world more strange, but in the hope of making similarity more unnecessary.

As yet, I have not created such a company, but I have been working on a stranger track (by which I mean a Stranger Track, rather than a stranger track, although I prefer not to capitalize if I can help it).

I am looking for stranger information, and to this end, I have created this handy survey (using Google, obviously), and I would love for you to complete it: LOST: mind


From festival director, Kirsty Hulm: “By the time I was a recipient of the Spiritous award in late 2012, my understanding of the Abbotsford Convent  had taken a massive shift. Spiritous asked artists to respond to the history of the site, and through my research I discovered that a Magdalen Laundry instituted by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd had been operating on the grounds, from 1863 to 1975.

Magdalen Laundries were managed by nuns around the world in order to remove girls from society who were believed to be in ‘moral danger.’ The girls were imprisoned against their will in austere conditions, where they were required to undertake laundry duties without pay, often for long and gruelling hours. These ‘performances’ of attrition conveniently brought in a hefty profit in exchange for their unasked for atonement. I was shocked when I learnt this space was still operating not 50 years ago. In response to this new knowledge I quickly began to formulate Found….

I decided to create Found, because I know how exhausting it is to constantly be labelled crazy or aggressive and mocked, or attacked and belittled because you refuse to be shamed into shutting up.”

found_poster_artistsI’m showing a work called Vicar Game in the Found exhibition. I can’t attend the show myself, as I am too far away, so I need you to go there as my proxies.

Found Festival site / Facebook page

Originally posted on Panpsychic Household Solutions:

I took short samples of a sound recording of me sweeping with the broomophone and edited them into a loop, along with a looped animation of those same files rendered as bitmap images.

I don’t remember precisely why; I’ve got it written down somewhere.

View original

Man in the sea

A tracksuited man standing thigh-deep in the water. I saw him one morning, at Williamstown. He was there for a long time, not moving. But when I looked away for a few minutes, then turned back to his place, he had gone.

It seemed to me that he had something on his mind. It was not a warm day, and the water was still cold, coming from the Winter Antarctic. Why stand in a cold place, only to leave with sodden trackpants?

A more realistic version of Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above a sea of fog, a painting made back when the land’s possibility and plenty seemed more unambiguously available for visual consumption. I don’t believe the tracksuited man was paying attention to his sensory view.

Standing in the water, one third submerged, you’re not rising to any height, affecting any mastery. Your worries are the master. You, held by your persistent thoughts, maybe held also by the effectively infinite sea, you’re not aware so much of the sea and your thoughts. Aware more so of the hold of your thoughts and the sea. Always being held or holding, a sense of being consumed as much as or more than you are consuming. Aware of being consumed because you are consuming; whatever you’re holding, holding you.

Aware, maybe, of some bigger thing that never resolves itself into a picture. Feeling like some organ connected in a system that doesn’t count as a body, struggling to make a cohesive whole out of your life, perception, environment, and finding it impossible.

Why did the man walk out of the sea at the moment he did? Why did anything, at any time?

Maybe he realised that he couldn’t make anything into a whole. Maybe, also, that nor would he ever want to, now that he thinks about it more carefully, with his trackpants clinging sopping to his legs.

That is the story I tell myself, anyway. The story is always more about the teller than the subject, I suppose.

Sometimes it is easier to feel listened to when you’re with something that can never understand and never respond, not in a traditional verbal way. For me, this is a little similar to the appeal of the internet – so much content, but so obviously irrelevant, if not meaningless entirely. At the same time, though, only content, because the physical existence of a file can’t be experienced, most of the time. The whole thing a system of organs and not a ‘whole thing’ at all, really. Only content, empty of everything except for the tiny fact that somebody has put it there, in order to better imagine that they have been heard.

Tracksuit-wearer in tranquil ocean

Tracksuit-wearer in tranquil ocean

When the apocalypse comes
And the sea deepens
And we are held in the sea forever

Human skin will wrinkle several orders of magnitude more rapidly than it does at the present time.

Madness & writing.

via Madness & writing.

This speaks very true to my own experiences.

‘Silence: the lectures and writings‘ by John Cage at Open Library.

contents page "Silence": Cage

I’m going to be giving a poetic lecture at the World Hearing Voices Congress when it’s in Melbourne this November.

image from The World Hearing Voices Congress. click for event website

The lecture will be accompanied by explanatory diagrams.

Film with music from Katherine Riley on Vimeo.

I found a clockwork music box at Savers yesterday, so I made this film.

I have been trying to write this line of text for 21 minutes. I am experiencing a lack of world and an excess of something which isn’t a world and is as such impossible to relate but which is nevertheless existent. Isn’t that what art is? The attempt to express something inexpressible – to tell a thing that can only be shown, or show a thing that can only be felt,or to feel a thing that can only be [signifies here a word I do not possess].

I think I need to start writing more directly, somewhere, about disorganised psychosis, because I can’t find anybody else who is even trying. But perhaps the nature of the thing is that directness and trying are insurmountably difficult.

I hadn’t looked at this blog for several months, but on Tuesday my attention was brought back here, and I felt it would be worthwhile to pick up from somewhere other than where I had left off.

Oil pastel and wax medium on textile fragment

I was in hospital last August, because I had been getting lost in familiar places. I would be out, or at home, and there was not sufficient world available, so I would be unable to assemble any person who could perform the worldly act of getting home, or seeing objects, or speaking words. The doctor said it wasn’t catatonia, but gave no other information.

I felt as though I were a stone. I could feel my body transforming into something cool and immobile and undead, constantly weathered until total dispersal would be achieved. I had no problem with this prospect. There was already no recognisable world, all other non-stone objects having been atomised at an earlier date.

Linwood thing

I don’t remember. There is nothing there to be remembered in the absence of worldlessness. I may have invented some death-plan. That is the usual qualification needed in order to become an inpatient.

I can’t construct a narrative. Detail is impossible because detail requires the use of descriptive language of the kind that is only appropriate when the described thing can be conceived of in terms of its relation to other things and their relations to each other and all of the other things to which the original thing may not directly relate within our own versions of reality but which nevertheless have some vicarious and generally unperceived effect upon the original thing in question.

Wall drawing at hospital

There have been ghosts and crystals. I met a Lakota psychiatrist who told me to speak with them. I didn’t speak with them, because they were doors, as it transpired. I went through them and I was in another place. It wasn’t a place because there was just one thing available to my awareness, which isn’t enough. It was everything all of the time. It was threading through space-time, leaving a trace of itself at every tiny moment-location of transgression, which is enough.

Collage on clay with magazine fragment

One ought to be and do as little as possible.

I’ve been working hard on things that I have since abandoned. The house cleaning visits fell away and I tried to “make something” of my work. I find it difficult to think in terms of end-points; I dislike the sense of finality that comes with putting  something on a wall, or in a book – for sale because it is ownable as a discrete piece of whatever you’re looking for.

More and more I feel that the world is inherently hebephrenic. That the inability to mean anything that means anything to anyone else, the inability for the concept of meaning to have any bearing on one’s thoughts and activities and perceptions. Is not only a trans-mental pathology, but a basic structure. A structure that structures the structurelessness of whatever you think there is at any time or in any place.

Nevertheless, I feel that sharing has value, even though the main shared object is the sense that we cannot share, that we are not-sharing in the company of others.

Here is a thing I am happy with:

Insanity Simulation Hat

Insanity Simulation Hat

This is a device I made to simulate the fact of insanity, more than its content. The goggles are reflective and the lenses are made of cellotape, distorting and adding to ordinary vision. The pyramidal earpiece contains attachments that make a sound as the wearer moves her head, although this sound is inaudible to anyone not wearing the device.

I made a quick simulation of the Insanity Simulation Hat, although it is not really possible to record the perceptions of a person wearing this device, as the operation of the device is contingent upon the human physical characteristics of the wearer. Any attempt to photograph, video or record these sensory experiences will ultimately fail due to the differences in information processing evident between humans and machines. Nevertheless, here is a simulation of the simulation, a “walk through” which, although it does not accurately show the experiences possible with this device, will at least point to the existence of such experiences.

Cleaning spread

Cleaning spread

On February 9th, I held a workshop to teach people how to simulate insanity with the aim of learning to appreciate domestic tasks.

Cleaning the floor

Cleaning the floor

I talked for a little while, explaining my ideas and the techniques we would be using.

Cloth, text and eye

Cloth, text and eye

Everyone spread out in the gallery and spent some time getting to know the floor.

Water and paper

Water and paper

Then, I helped the participants choose cleaning materials and drawing implements, and everyone started cleaning.

Drawing with water

Drawing with water

The participants were enthusiastic, and some interesting drawings were created.

After cleaning and drawing

After cleaning and drawing

Noticing the floor

Noticing the floor

I’m going to be running a workshop in Melbourne, Australia in February.

Date: 9 February 2013
Time: 1:30pm
Location: SEVENTH Gallery, 155 Gertude Street, Fitzroy 3065
Cost: FREE

The workshop is entitled “How Mental Illness Can Improve Your Life”, and it will involve the use of artistic techniques to assist in the simulation of madness. The simulation of madness is designed to assist in developing a greater appreciation for domestic tasks.

It will be a very casual event – I’ll talk a bit, and then we’ll do some cleaning and drawing in the gallery space. Tea and coffee-making facilities will also be available, and there will be gifts for the participants.

There is a Facebook page for the event; it can be found here

For further information feel free to email me. I hope to see you there.

Toilet Cleaner

white vinegar
peppermint oil
tea tree oil

Musical Broom (In My House)

Musical Broom (In My House)

I attached a guitar string to a broom, and played it with a violin bow as I swept Carolyn’s floor.

Musical Broom Closeup

Musical Broom Closeup

The dissonant string blended with the sound of bristles on floorboards.

Carolyn's Tabletop and Computer

Carolyn’s Tabletop and Computer

I think a tool is not just a means to an end, a medium for a relation.

Carolyn's Ironing Board and Objects

Carolyn’s Ironing Board and Objects

You relate with the tool.

Carolyn's Front Door

Carolyn’s Front Door

I think all tools are musical instruments.

I’m working on a broom that is also a musical instrument. I noticed I was paying a lot of attention to the sounds of cleaning, so I thought I’s create a cleaning implement that was explicitly musical. It needs work – this is just my first attempt – but I’m excited about it.

Doing Carolyn’s dishes, I was collecting sounds to add to my poetry collection.
I realised that just being there was enough.
Living in a place need not involve any particular activity.

Carolyn's Bowl Of Lavender And Rosemary

Carolyn’s Bowl Of Lavender And Rosemary

Even just sitting and breathing allows one to relate with the air in the room.
My cleaning appointments are becoming less about cleaning and more about simply being awake.

Carolyn's Cactus And Ornament

Carolyn’s Cactus And Ornament

Carolyn’s House Poem #2
Show me you are there,
and I’ll pluck you from yourself.
I’ll pluck you from your buildings where you are.
Buildings taken from the world
and you taken from your buildings,
your buildings where you are.

Dwelling in your buildings,
show me you are there,
and I’ll dwell there in your buildings where you are.
Taken to built dwelling
and dwelling in the building,
your building where you are.

Certain of your building,
I’ll pluck you from your dwelling
I’ll show me you are there, there where you are.
World taken from the building
and you taken from your dwelling,
your building where you are.

Show me you are there,
and I’ll pluck you from all kinds of questionable architecture.

Carolyn's Grass Hair Man And Weird Polystyrene Thing

Carolyn’s Grass Hair Man And Weird Polystyrene Thing

I was cleaning Carolyn’s house and recording myself mimicking the sounds being made as I cleaned.
The sounds had the appearance of words.

Carolyn's Rug With Folded Pram

Carolyn’s Rug With Folded Pram

I realised that my relations with things, indeed everyone’s relations with things, take place on the level of appearance, on the level of aesthetics.
That things appear to be something, that things appear at all, is the most fundamental fact to which I can have access.

Carolyn's Rug Closeup

Carolyn’s Rug Closeup

The sounds had the appearance of words, so I wrote down those appearance-words and arranged them into a poem.
A kind of phenomenological surrealism.

Carolyn's Window With Dirt On the Outside

Carolyn’s Window With Dirt On the Outside

Carolyn’s House Poem #1

Sure, sure, for sure
you are to me
doing being me
but you choke -
such chalky skin
hatches a black cloak
and you say such hushed stuff.

Sure, sure, for sure
you are to me
you are building
a thing I can’t throw out
so far towards me
it’s uncertain:
I’ll shuck my cheek from my cheek.

Sure, sure, for sure
you are to me
the clack of you being it,
building it.
Such chalky skin;
a thing so far
I hush but can’t shut.

Sure, sure, for sure
you are to me
where you are.

When I was cleaning Carolyn’s house for the second time, I became interested in the sounds that were made at my intersection with the home and its dirt.

The bits of dust and dirt that I was picking up made a tiny “trrringgg” sound as they hit the bottom of my collection jar.

I could also hear the rustling of my knees on the floor.
The thing about consumption is that I always feel just as much consumed by the things I am consuming as they are consumed by me.

When I am listening to the dirt or the carpet, I feel like the dirt and the carpet are listening to me.

When I am listening to the sounds my body makes with its surroundings, that body-surroundings intersection is listening to me.
But I cannot both listen and be aware of what I am saying.

I think listening is a form of speech that I can never consciously utilise.


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