Writing may be 
dreaming as a glove turned inside out.

Reading and dreaming may be the same experience registering on different sides of the glove.

Yesterday I invented a memory.

Today I invent in memories.

Tomorrow I will test an invention of forgetting.

Max Klinger

The book is meant to stand in for the person. 

The book is an elaborated name.

Can we not all be named by all names?

The king’s man is beheaded on The Kingsway.

This text is redacted on Royal Way.

Names and trails mark the passing.

In the naming of name, which is scored throughout the book; in the naming of the name, which is found in the reading and in the dreaming; in the read and the dreamt which sail together, so do a multitude of papers flutter to a standstill.

It is heard as the one to be heard. 

In standing still, a name is heard. 

The hearing of one name which is calling the full passing, the full trailing, the scratched pendant of person.

Stillness is therefore writing the whole book.

Of every fragment and every broken stature a secret task; to elaborate this statute which says: language.

Which says: that this dreaming and this reading may so continue into all that is done.

This dreaming and this reading may so continue, snagged on a nail, pulled off between teeth, dropped in the woods.

All done is turned inside out. 

The journey is always unrecognisable.


Words do not 

seem to play a role

words do not seem to play in this thought.

The thought playing wordlessly.

Hoarding will not act. The hoard has no sentence to say.

Ordering refuses a role. This making order is not  sentient

And collecting and sharing are still not words.

If each term crosses where, or what, is the middle marker?

If in the present moment there is a field of memory, are we remembering or presently discovering?



Losing finding collecting losing finding. What is the loosing of information that it may become wordless play in thought?

Perhaps knowing only becomes knowledge after it has been rolled back and forth in the dust? 

The rain makes mud. Mud makes seeds. Seeds meanwhile are in the hub.

Sprouting is the crossing over, mud made green. This dusty here and now spouting pollen. Pongnation, pollination, words dusting our shirts.

Pollen is snared in a spiral of wind, a sneeze, asneese. This force blasts around in a moment, the moment partakes of consciousness’ travelogue. 

There is something in my imagination which insists on the play of conceiving, inwardly, what is, outwardly, too big to ever properly perceive.  

I brim over with cosmological schematics: the grand systole diastole of it all, big bang and big crunch. 

It is but nothing of course, squeezed between this system of many worlds and the next multi-verse along (of which we can say nothing other than we have met there).

Many verses sung become one song. Some verses are hummed in the dark. This tune behind tune is simultaneous radiation and coagulation, without a word, dark matter nurturing the space within each thought. 

Dyslexia is meant to indicate a “trouble with words”, therefore in many respects we are all dyslexic because words are trouble.

But let us hover in this stillness of a collision. 

A single aspect of the multitude, stopped in a snot expulsion. 

This infinite porridge gradually coalesces into a thick, complex, and quite promising universe. There is a quiet promise even in this universe, it it making my nose twitch.

Stone written 

cut

stone paper scissors
scissor written
cut
scissors stone paper
paper written
cut
paper scissors stone
cut

Out streamed words and gestures, gathering back gestures and words. The material pause between presence and decay. 


As a moment between two forms, the hesitance is suddenly neither

gesture nor word

not suture not slice

not what it came from nor what it is going to. 

There is a new form. A shape of sensing. A material awareness, shaping sense, this moment becoming all its own. 

What is a moment that it is all its own? Paper wraps rock, rock blunts scissors, scissors cut paper.

The written cut and sewn together alphabet. 

Now decisions flow swiftly, call it a gamble, call it play, call it a game: Call it. 
Decide or elide, the moment hidden or revealed is also the moment.

The whole collection is a moment, a collection of gestures, the gathered role call of the pause. 

The whole gesture is a collection, the instance of history colliding with its own gaps.

A gathering of a strong scribble, fingers rolling around the making mark, the long scripting of senses seething forth from the smudge. A writing of the presence of present tense thought. 

And hovering above the possibility  – stilled in the scrutiny of this instant – there is discovery. 

I am told there will be discovery.
Awareness in material coming back to material awareness.

Your material awareness paused, heard, and returned may suddenly become materially different. Of course, your consciousness does not venture forth without its own potency. “You” may very well change everything around you and do so, sometimes, before ever reaching that which you have changed.

Beginning at the end of a book, we have changed the beginning.

To tiptoe out without net and barely a wire to touch our toe upon.

To step into a moment without a reference to another moment, without a beginning. What kind of foolhardy act is this?

The gift of the geologist is to perceive that which cannot be seen.

An archaeologist becomes a geologist of the artefact

The artefactist becomes lost. They need geography. 

The needy geography of the present is a coagulum of geology and archeology and artefact.

Here there is an act; the action of manipulation, the manipulated object. 

The present tense therefore becomes a series. 

This series is object assertion, object deflection, object compression, object reassertion. 

To be present here is therefore more about being tense and less about presence. Another description of the series is a sequence of deformations between different gauges of tension.

If the artefactist gets lost this is most likely because their vital vents have become clogged with object deformations, object repetitions, and object lamentation.

The sad ceremony of things.

The miserable certainty of dissolves and resolves.

In misery, as in cholesterol, so the excessive present bequeaths a vanishing of all that is certain.

Certainty opens upon ventilation.

Certain geographies may only be ever fixed in the temporal annexation of dialogue (and therefore never truly fixed).

The artefact may be scattered and lost, scattered and found, and the found may be collected.

Here endeth and begins an inventory of my artifice as presented in Inventory.

The ending because that dialogue is not quite present. The beginning because endless.

Our streets will end; not so the pathways we take therein, not so the steps which seek beyond a path.

Therein is the beyond of present.

Rest.

An account, as it were, of its end and passing away before it beginning and middle had been told.

An account, as it were, of the meditating artefact which lays between subject and object.

To lay thus is not a passive task; the relationship between subject artefact and object demands roots. These roots may be imagined as the base activities of labour (or craft), rules, and community.

To thus learn in this relationship is to be in the relationship. The awareness actively moves between subject, object, artefact, and in amongst the crafted (crafting) roots; either that or it ceases to be awareness.




Comply

A submission, adherence to laws, influences and suggestions. Acceptance taken to the level of a perversion; when obedience is this exact it overwhelms the law giver, leaving them lacking in speech and so in awe of the servile entity that their existence becomes untenable without that which complies.

Estate map

The map of the estate is an eulogy for Utopia (which retreats with each brick laid down and yet might nonetheless exist, beyond the design, in some lived proportion not yet detailed and never quite imagined). The map of the estate is an epitaph (that architects and planners will habitually erect before some others’ tombstone while never once suspecting how they designed it for themselves). The map of the estate is an epiphany of symbols and silence in the long _ alarmed _ night.

Sorry, copyright restrictions prevent us from showing this artwork here


Artist
 In ven to ry  (founded 1996)

Title

Estate Map
DaSte19u99mmInventory is a group of artists, writers and thinkers formed in 1995 as a 
coMleledicumtiAvcreyliwc paoinrtkanidnmgarikneripnenteonradluimsicniiupmlinary spaces. These 
include published text, pDeimrfeonsriomnssaupnpcoret: 1in835pxu12b2l5imcmspfraamcee: 
1s9,33flxy1-3p25oxs9t0emrms pasted on the streets, an on-
Coglloecitinong research initiative called Inventory Survey Project and finished art-
Tate
works in sculpture, photography, collage, photocopy, graffiti, video documen-


tary, soAcuqunisditioanPnudrchpasierda20t0e2 radio. Since 1995 they have published an experi-
Reference
Tm078e3n9 Otnadlisjpolauy artnTaatel,BIrintavinentory, in which cSoomrrym, 
ceonptyarrigyhotnrepstorpicutiloanrscpurletvuernet, umsefdroimta-shoSwihngatrheis 
atrhtwisorkahretrwe
tionsExhoibnitiounr: RbuainnLulstife and arcane literary and philosophical issues jostle with di- 
verse texts found on the streets and an ongoing glossary of ‘phenomena’. In- ventory operates from 
a global standpoint expressing goals and at-

titudes ary

Unsettled Pattern

The wind through one’s hair. 

That hairstyles, the decoration of one’s head, impact on one’s thought was recognised even by religious orders of the Sixth Century. Celtic Christian communities very nearly split completely from their Roman brothers specifically over how their tonsures should be shaped. The former shaved crosswise over the front portion of their scalp, while the latter preferred the circular bald patch at the rear. Maybe this was a question of before whom one chose to be naked: to be exposed before the entire world, ‘God amongst us’ being the theological motif, which perhaps not coincidentally produces a rather wind swept look, or to be revealed beneath a specifically hierarchical and therefore more stable conception, ‘God above’. That we are now familiar (on Christmas cards at least) with monks wearing their hair as if a make-do halo indicates how the argument was resolved. Power goes to one’s head. This is very old knowledge also for, at about the same time, liturgical combs were introduced into church services, especially for ordination, wherein the combing of the hair was symbolic of the ordering and tidying of the mind.

Combing and ordering are weaving. 



Threads of thought.


That weavers in particular, together with scholars and writers with whom they had much in common, tended to suffer from melancholy and all the evils associated with it, is understandable given the nature of their work, which forced them to sit bent over, day after day, straining to keep their eye on the complex patterns they created. It is difficult to imagine the depths of despair into which those can be driven who, even after the end of the working day, are engrossed in their intricate designs and who are pursued, into their dreams, by the feeling that they have got hold of the wrong thread
One kicks off one’s shoes to walk on some carpets, as if on holy ground. (Indeed, for some communities sacred and domestic space are so closely entwined that it is impossible to wear outdoor shoes indoors.) An infinity in thread; geometry, order, engulfment. Realistic flowers hang upon abstractions, meanders become mandala; a containment of the reality that is to be contemplated. Design is here an intensification of the patterns and rhythms of nature and, simultaneously, a surrender to the impossibility of anything other than meagre participation in such patterns and rhythms, this being a horizontal piece of cloth to be trod upon.

Intricacies and orders that are beyond us but part of us and in us, ecstatically open to us. Sometimes waiting for an epiphany is the epiphany. Ornament at apprehension. The ornamental as apprehension of the abyss, an adornment of the gulf between two worlds. A frame as labyrinthine device by which to slow down, hesitate, and be beguiled. Decoration as interruption of the infinite. An attempt at infinite interruption, so as to coil the undue magnitude of one’s unbroken gaze into a series of small acceptable knots, into knick-nacks, and this and that, and it really might be quite banal and not really worth much consideration until all of a sudden the ornament itself is multiplying at an exponential rate, suggesting that it has become infected by that infinity which it interrupts. Are not those small knots actually little tufted twists of the larger weave? And given the amount of use they get, is it at all surprising how they begin to unravel? The threadbare releasing a larger universe. There is an inscription on the Ardabil Carpet (1539-40 AD), by Hafiz:
Except for thy haven, there is no refuge for me in the world.
Other than here, there is no place for my head.

The place for one’s head and “thy haven” alternate between the present moment, the carpet, and paradise, of which the carpet’s decoration attempts to partake. It is a paradoxical moment of both transcendence and immanence. A pattern both spiritual and trod upon.
The soul of the apartment is the carpet. (E.A. Poe.)
Both Loos and Le Corbusier, those anti-ornamentalists, frequently specified oriental rugs to adorn the floors of their houses. 
The use of ornamental decoration for objects of mass consumption is strictly speaking a devaluation. Yet the masses instinctively reach for decorated things and these should not be withheld from them.
A devaluation, Karl Grosz surmises. The ornate is uneconomic, a waste, especially so at the transition point between machine made and hand crafted. 

Or it is a luxury, crafts as a visual indicator of wealth. Excessive. This contrary economic argument maintaining its siren call upon a populace. 

Thus a moral tone enters. The economic arguments are never allowed to stand alone. 

Contested as if it were a symbol and condemned for its paucity of meaning, pattern, ornamentation, adornment is not symbol nor is it without symbol; it is not meaningless but nor does it aspire to meaning. 

It is sense, a process, bodily sensation; if it can bring order it can only do so as it is experienced and as it is recalled. Pass it by and the order passes away, dissipates. Yet reinvigorate it with one’s perception and like an electron beneath the scrutiny of measurement, resolving from an indeterminate to determinate state, so the pattern is animated. Is it this instinctual, tactile, bodily perception that keeps us reaching for our baubles and bangles, our swirls and stripes, these overburdened carpets that surely display souls like rich, ripe on the bent branch fruit? 

Wealth displayed becomes richness appropriated. 

Bling!

The richness becomes sweetness, an almost pungent exuberance. A vertiginous moment of de-sublimation.

Bling!


The humble, occasionally mute, maintenance of aura in decorative motif might relate directly to this bodily perception of pattern. It denotes a sacred functionality. Like the Artexed kitchen or an arcadian round of fruits repeated along a wallpaper frieze; here is a residue of awe, a need discovered even at the very beginning of habitation. The need and the discovery seem to combine into an unified function although, having experienced an anxious chase into ‘now’, it can be experienced only in displaced or sublimated form.

Pierre Bourdieu writes:
As Leibniz put it, ‘we are automatons in three quarters of what we do’, and that the ultimate values, as they are called, are never anything other than the primary, primitive dispositions of the body, ‘visceral’ tastes and distastes, in which the group’s most vital interests are embedded, the things on which one is prepared to stake one’s own and other people’s bodies.

We mentioned war earlier.

Benjamin describes war as the only means by which “to mobilize all of today’s resources while maintaining the property system.” And concludes it: […] is evidently the consummation of l’art pour l’art. Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. It’s self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.”
Fear and death. 

The battle becomes either ridiculous or dangerous (or both). If one continually pushes fearing and dying elsewhere the battle becomes either ridiculous or dangerous and both. If art can only operate by its very own rarefied rules then, gradually, all life, or rather, all life other to it, becomes squeezed out. And so this feminized, long standing, popular, persistent, sometimes mute or barely articulate, perhaps hardly notices stuff; the decorative stuff is thus said not to be art stuff. And to the extent that decorative stuff is not art stuff then, it seems, the decorative remains in life.
The Papuan tattoos his skin, his boat, his oar, in short, everything within in his reach. He is no criminal. The modern man who tattoos himself is a criminal or a degenerate. […] The urge to ornament one’s face, and everything within one’s reach is the origin of fine art. It is the babble of paintng. All art is erotic. […] But the man of our time who daubs the walls with erotic symbols to satisfy an inner urge is a criminal or a degenerate. It is obvious that this urge overcomes man; such symptoms of degeneration most forecefully express themselves in public conveniences. […] What is natural to the Papuan and the child is a symptom of degeneration in the modern man. […] The evolution of culture is synonyms with the removal of ornament from objects of daily use. […] We have outgrown ornament, we have struggled through a state without ornament. Behold, the time is at hand, fulfilment awaits us. Soon the streets of the cities will glow like white walls! Like Zion, the Holy City, the capital of heaven. It is then that fulfilment will have come


The aspiration to organise and shape a purifying radiance. 

Loos’ ethnographic point of reference is somewhat skewed nonetheless. He seems to be describing Maori ornament. The men of Papua New Guinea are, traditionally, more likely to adopt face paint and piercing than tattooing. The point was nonetheless strongly enough made for Le Corbusier, twelve years later, to use this same savage metaphor in his manifesto for Purism.  

Having confused literal luminescence with the light of divinity and placed this hybrid concept (not at all pure) at the pinnacle of aspiration, so a hierarchy is imposed and qualities both Loos and Le Corbusier professed to admire, the frankness of childhood, the artistic expression of native peoples, are forced into a lowly position. So lowly, in fact, that by the rush of their own polemic these potentially positive expressions become “degenerate” along side the “daubs” and “scribbles” of ornament. For Loos, a cobbler is to be pitied because brogues are patterned. Furthermore, this small pleasure should be allowed because the cobbler is incapable of listening to Beethoven (we are not told why) and nor is the architect able to offer any pleasure to replace such tiny joys. 

Architecture is for the enjoyment of those not degenerate, those evolved to some greater state, and yet the architect will actively engage in planning housing for those classes which, it would seem, are not expected to appreciate the work. Here in 1908, housing estate graffiti explained in full detail, even before those estates were properly drafted: unable to find small pleasures in an environment designed for an aesthetic Ubermensch, the degenerate, probably tattooed, must ornament their surrounds; they are compelled to shroud walls in sexual cipher and marks of decorative arousal. Indeed, the Modernist aesthetic of modulated radiance, far from curing the degenerate, far from robbing the criminal of an erotic need to scrawl, finds such urges freed from the confines of public conveniences as a vast array of cubicles are built that may, in turn, be decorated with the art of sublimated Papuans.

To take possession of space is the first gesture of the living, men and beasts, plants and clouds, the fundamental manifestation of equilibrium and permanence. The first proof of existence is to occupy space.
















Le Corbusier’s wife, Yvonne, covered their bidet with a knitted cosy. Her husband had placed it in their bedroom but such utilitarian elegance can apparently have no place in here; a space to be filled with soft bodies rather than technocratic efficiency.
To pursue Loos or Le Corbusier so as to blame them for bad housing is, more than a waste of time, faintly ridiculous. More interesting is to accept that both architects gave serious consideration to the state of the housing stock, Le Corbusier especially, and both conceived of an urbanism of separation. That is, distinct zones linked inside a hooping road and rail system. That is, the revolutionary populace were to occupy empty space.

Tabula rasa.

Ornament fills, connects spaces, pushes at borders and often, vulgar detail, clutters, crowds, overspills. (The optical overspilling of pattern, rhythm, whose curves and pauses seem to re-echo beyond itself.) Gombrich describes it as an “amor infiniti”; framing, filling, linking.

Small and simple codes proceed through “graded complication” and can thus easily move towards infinity. Loos clearly distrusts amor infiniti. Infinity is time and it is space. The new architecture hoped for a new time, desiring a break from the past as much or if not more than wanting clean space for its future occupants. Le Corbusier would follow up on this by suggesting that:
the goal of art is not simple pleasure, rather it partakes of the nature of happiness.
This nature is postulated as a transcendent mathematical reality to which there can be no approach via;
the empirical and infinitely impure means that are used habitually.

Yes, Le Corbusier would struggle to bring bidets into bedrooms, as he would to bring natural light into every corner of his buildings, yet to do so was to reduce body and building to machine like functionality. His buildings, raised above ground on pilotis, all become great ocean going ships “swimming for the sun”. Le Corbusier is oft quoted, describing how he hoped to die while swimming for the sun. 

So if the human body is encoded in the measurements of the architecture, and Le Corbusier attempted to make this explicit in his use of the Modulor, essentially the Fibonacci scale and golden section linked to a six foot model man, then flesh itself is sublimated within concrete and the concrete is next dissolved in light as a yearned for dissipation in oceanic bliss is enacted by the building itself. 

An apparently logical rejection of the decorative on economic grounds can lead to a valorisation of machine aesthetic that consequentially proceeds to a struggle with gnostic duality, typified in the architect’s oscillation between god-like manipulations of base matter (be it actual brick and mortar, the urban experience, or one’s employees) or a frustrated flight to greater purity (away from all the former plus one’s own base matter). 

Loos again: “We have struggled through a state without ornament… Soon the streets of the cities will glow like white walls… It is then that fulfilment will have come.” Struggled; laborious, and without pleasure. And once there is no danger of any idolatrous image appearing, the wall itself becomes an idol. Nonetheless, as we have seen, walls become sullied, dotted with paintings and priapic scrawlings, the plaster cracks, dust accumulates, foliage grows upon them.
Only a very small part of architecture belongs to art: the tomb and the monument. […] He who knows that the purpose of art is to take man further and further, higher and higher, to make him more like God, understands that to give art a material function is a profanation. 

Loos reiterates the dichotomy of sacred/profane and also underwrites it with a gnostic wish to escape base matter. Unlike Le Corbusier, Loos did not cross over his own borders to make art, except for on those occasions when he designed tombs; Dvorak’s, and his own. The latter is a cube which, Yehuda Safran writes, “acts as a marker; a beginning and an end of architecture.” 


White walls reduced to a solid  box. It is a statement of disgust. And in the architectural displacement of his own corpse, in his art, Loos, perhaps unwittingly, adopts a decorative form; the dado.

The dado is the cube of pedestal between base and cornice, the plinth of a column, or the lower part of a room-wall when it is faced or coloured differently from the upper part. It is Loos staking out his austere neo-classical lineage but it also a death mask adornment sneaking into a system of classical proportion.  Such proportion is still replicated in building after building, decorative scheme after decorative scheme: the orders.
Ordine: 
rule, class or arrangement. 

Indeed, one has imposed order. 

The orders were derived from Greek proportions, systematised, especially through Roman architecture andthe canonical Ten Books of Architecture by Vitruvius. Such dogged reinventions as Le Corbusier’s Modulor only seem to underscore their basic precept of having proportions related to those of the human. Each order consists of a column headed by a capital and entablature, the latter divided into architrave, frieze, and cornice. According to classical theory there are five orders but by Vitruvius’ reckoning only four: Doric, Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian. The Doric is equated with a well built male, with the virile gods, and hence it is suitable for civil and military buildings. The Tuscan is a simplified Doric and might therefore be suitable for second or third division football grounds. The Ionic has a femine slenderness and calm refinement, its gods are Diana and Apollo, therefore often carved with laurel leaf and suitable for buildings dedicated to arts and learning. The Corinthian is taller than the Ionic and yet resembles the slight figure of a young girl.

Interior architecture follows the order of the exterior, either echoed directly in columns or less stridently in pilasters that carry through two storeys of panelling above a base dado. Whether one realises it or not, we are all familiar with the mouldings, if not the proportions of the orders: fascia (a band), fillet (little thread), cavetto (little hollow), cyma recta (upright wave), ogee (wave turned backwards), astragal (ankle bone, ball joint of the ankle, also called a cock-bead), scotia (darkness), torus, (swelling or knot), ovolo (egg). Such evocative bumps and hollows occur not just on the cornice but on lampposts (ornamental or merely ornamented), cups, jars, picture frames, teapots, chimney pots, and indeed on most any kind of vessel. Maybe we are again stumbling upon a distant cave, the cave which was amplified in temple, the temple which demanded decoration. 

To decorate is to furnish with adornments and especially so a church with flowers, a street with flags, a house with new paint or paper: decus – oris, beauty: and church, street, house, become beautiful vessels. 

To adorn; add beauty or lustre or furnish with ornament. 

Ornament in its earliest form maintains a cultic connection, demonstrates an auric lustre, for ornaments are accessories of worship such as the chalice and other sacred vessels, such as altar and sacred books, vessel forms again, and then an ornament is used to adorn someone whose presence confers grace or honour. A wreath of laurel might suffice. And in this archaeology it is only after music, grace notes, that ornament means adorning, being adorned, embellishment for decorative purposes. 

But what is the purpose of decoration other than to foreground ornament, and ornament is to mark out the sacredness of the vessel, and how is it to do this but by beauty, and what is beauty for but sweetness and richness? A divinity which is the great blatant and likewise latent beauty of all things. Hence all things are ornamented, hence the proportions of your wallpaper with borders marking out dado and cornice, and hence explicitly name your own domestic space as a temple; no surprise then that we kick off our shoes for if walls become our aspiration then certainly the carpet is the soul, an inhalation.
[…] ‘visceral’ tastes and distastes, in which the groups most vital interests are embedded, the things on which one is prepared to stake one’s own and other people’s bodies. The sense of distinction, the discrimination which demands that certain things be brought together and others kept apart, which excludes all misalliances and all unnatural unions – i.e., all unions contrary to the common classification, to the separation which is the basis of collective and individual identity – responds with visceral, murderous horror, absolute disgust, metaphysical fury, to everything which lies in Plato’s ‘hybrid zone‘ … 

Such disgust is an absurd reduction setting out to counter the absurd reduction of death. An attempt to out-stare death.

Sugared death heads, baroque skeletons, flowers on skulls, and candle lit picnics around the grave all to say; reduction is absurd, the dead are alive.

The decorative serves as a hybrid whose job it is to wrap and otherwise prettify the apparent absolute. The patterns around the edges say; yes, the dead are alive, but there is no need for them here. Outside the mutual service of memory the dead are generally supposed to remain dead and, more so, buried. The ornament and pattern are a serving net in which sunshine may be captured and stored. These very same combinations of the pretty and clever treasures may also serve as protection as you move through these decorated streets and ornamented moments; so the festival allows its patterns to be possible, briefly, and the ghosts of the living and the of the dead may share a mutual presence. 

If the ornamental was founded on the need for superluminal life, so at each imposition of a conscious and architectural need other sublimatory needs breed from within. Consciousness inevitably becomes architectural. Our never fully illuminated conscious architecture therefore is the actual progenitor of an ornamenting unconsciousness.


The unsettled pattern of an ornament making consciousness and an architectural  unconsciousness. 

Unsettled pattern of the luminescent dark and blind brilliance. 

Any insertion of an object here generates an unavoidable decision over there. 

Awareness will be brought into life in collaboration with ornament.

Unable to forget, although forgetful, a constant material function insists that despite cultural abhorrence toward the hybrid, despite the folly of the volute, or the lewdness of egg and dart moulding, this unsettled pattern will continue.


Original first published in Inventory: losing, finding, collecting. Vol.5 No.1 2003.

Unsettled pattern

Foliage and suffering.


Thus the god and the nymph sped on, one made swift by hope and one by fear; but he who pursued was swifter, for he was assisted by love’s wings. He gave the fleeing maiden no respite, but followed close on her heels, and his breath touched the locks that lay scattered on her neck, till Daphne’s strength was spent, and she grew pale and weary with the effort of her swift flight. Then she saw the waters of the Peneus: “O father,” she cried “help me! If your rivers really have divine powers, work some transformation, and destroy this beauty which makes me please all too well!” Her prayer was scarcely ended when a deep languor took hold on her limbs, her soft breast was enclosed in thin bark, her hair grew into leaves, her arms into branches, and her feet that were lately so swift were held fast by sluggish roots, while her face became the tree top. Nothing of her was left, except her shining loveliness.[…] Embracing the branches as if they were limbs he kissed the wood: but, even as a tree, she shrank from his kisses. Then Phoebus said: “Since you cannot be my bride, surely you will at least be my tree. My hair, my lyre, my quivers will always display the laurel. You will accompany the generals of Rome, when the Capitol beholds their long triumphal processions. You will stand by Augustus’ gateposts too, faithfully guarding his doors, and keep watch from either side over the wreath of oak leaves that will hang there


Daphne lived in a space wherein her beauty could call forth abuse. She rebels against the consequences of beauty, a beauty that would make her victim in the light of this Apollonian passion. But simple rebellion is insufficient to the task of freeing Daphne, instead there must be sublimation. The rape is concluded by her transformation into a vegetable form, her changed and repressed energy is then further atomised, becoming a decorative form, and “she” is finally condensed as the victor’s ornament. 

The Roman Empire, as a continuous act of military invasion, might well be associated with rape and plunder, and laurel tree becomes merchandise of a colonised land, yet here we also see empire draping itself with this ambiguous sign of that which has escaped from it. So the stone laurel wreathes on gateposts; do they mean that one may escape through them or that, like an offering to a lingam, this post denotes a secure, phallic victory? Again, the laurel leaf is most often depicted in the form of a wreath, apt for mourning as well as victory; it is removed from the tree and shaped into a sign for absence, ‘0’, yet crowns the presence of those who have won as if they themselves were a tree. 

Does not the protest and refusal of Daphne reverberate throughout this series of reversals? Has the mute ornament begun to speak of its sexual presence and a terrifying rush of passion that even a god-figure could not contain? Nonetheless, apparently such emotion can be stored within an innocuous formal pattern. A holding pattern. So a wreath of laurel would seem to be prime apotropaic material. The coiling and the diversion of sexual energy, the wreath as ‘0’, blank return, the statement of power (for the victor’s brow), and its placement at thresholds (foreheads and lintels), all find resonance with those amulets whose function it is to fend off curses and protect against the evil eye

Such, let us say, instinctual urges to defend one’s property, family, livelihood, may be typified in the white, bright glossy white, ornamental lamppost standing at the end of the driveway, at the edge of the garden, a few steps away from the front door. Although the lamp itself operates, triggered by a movement sensor, so why do we call it ornamental? Because palmette line up around its base and from its cross bar (cruciform?), cast as a piece with the post itself, a laurel wreath. And it is all lined up so as to reflect and reject any envious, destructive, invasive eyes. A holding pattern. And, yes, ghastly object but ghastly upon more than one register. It echoes Moses’ use of the apotropaic to counter the venomous scourging of his people, a bronze snake lifted up in the desert, which is in turn amplified in John’s gospel as Jesus anticipates the low (snake, sin, bitten body) lifted high (crucifixion) and higher still (resurrection) as his own supreme gesture against fear and death.
Fear and death. 

A holding pattern; such as those passenger jets are put into once over their destinations, disaster and safe landings both anticipated in a combination of tense geometry and languid loops, fear subsumed to control. At this point any excess aviation fuel is jettisoned so as to minimise the risks of its ignition. I am reminded of ‘Meditations in Green‘, in which during the Vietnamese War an American character, Griffin, plots where and how Agent Orange should be distributed:
shading in his wall map with tinted squares and rectangles of orange blue and white. The colors of the banner under which he marched. The irritatingly random clusters of black dots on Cross’s radar maps and the epidemic of measles on McFarland’s infrared maps couldn’t compare with the clean lines and bold composition of Griffin’s bright wastelands. 

Foliage and suffering. 

Pattern. 

In a meeting with Le Corbusier, Piet Mondrian chose to sit at a table looking away from the window so as to avoid contemplating nature for which, apparently, he had an intense dislike. Is Mondrian’s art therefore an extended effort of not painting rotting fruit? And as such is it a descendant of the Dutch still life tradition?
Colourfield painting and defoliation. 

An intensely aerial imagination. 


The grid marked ground of intensive agriculture; flat repetitions. The corn dolly laid to rest as Daphne’s sublimation is chased still further, from the sublime to Rothko’s suicide chapel of which Egar Allen Poe might write approvingly:

The tone of each picture is warm, but dark. There are no “brilliant effects.” Repose speaks in all. Not one is of small size. Diminutive paintings give that spotty look to a room, which is the blemish of so many a fine work of Art overtouched

Interesting to note that both Griffin and Poe have aesthetic misgivings regarding spots and dots and that both are addicted to opiates. Was Modernism born during the Opium Wars (1839-42 and 1856-60)? As if chinoiserie only amounted to a series of irritations antithetical to the smooth, painless patterns of a modern commercial world. An outrageous supposition, no doubt, considering that this modern commercial world starts on so many instances of war. (For examplein 1854, Commander Perry had  forced the Japanese to reopen their country to European merchants and the effects, direct and indirect, soon made themselves felt, […] Sir Rutherford Alcock took a fancy to Japanese products and sent a consignment of specimens, which he had bought in the Bazaars of Yedo, to the International exhibition held at South Kensigton in 1862.) And chinoiserie itself became fashionable at precisely this time, perhaps in the same manner that laurel leaves made themselves at home in the Roman Empire.

Yet pattern is not meant to be a symbol. 
It is a process, an experience. 
It holds… And it releases. 
It moves along… and holds. 
To be blatant and latent, hidden, concealed, existing but not developed or manifest. Which means that to view a pattern there must be an inversion of one’s usual habits of perception; to see the frame, not the framed; to mark a rhythm, not the motif; to study a motif, not the image.

Although the motif is an image, does an image repeated in sufficient quantity and rhythm eventually bring about its destruction as image? Not the withering of aura, as Walter Benjamin postulated, but aura’s tainting, mutation and, perhaps, sublimation. Unlike the work of art, ornament was never expected to occupy an unique existence at the place where it happens to be for, although it does occupy unique space and time, the expectation given to its role allows an escape. Escape, that is, from the scrutiny afforded art. As its authority as object is already undermined, its auric presence does not come into direct conflict with reproduction. This not so much because of taboo borders but because it moves toward a state without borders. It, in effect, becomes unapproachable:
Unapproachability is indeed a major quality of the cult of the image. […] The closeness which one may gain from its subject matter does not impair the distance which it retains in its appearance

Daphne’s ardent desire for a beauty less obvious and less available was surely granted by becoming foliage, and foliage given over to the decorative in particular. (Can aura be sublimated? Daphne’s transformation creates distance, prevents closeness, and as this is already the definition of aura then aura is an effect of sublimation.)
Andrei Tarkovsky is quoted:
We can express our feelings regarding the world around us either by poetic or by descriptive means. I prefer to express myself metaphorically. Let me stress: metaphorically, not symbolically. A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image — as opposed to a symbol — is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite. We can analyse the formula that constitutes a symbol, while metaphor is a being-within-itself, it’s a monomial. It falls apart at any attempt of touching it. 

Yet always, we must touch. We must try to touch. A metaphor may stand for the world but will it stand as the world stands? It has been said that true symbolism contains the reality it symbolises, yet how to grasp that? Yve-Alain Bois meanwhile denotes a symbol “in semiotic terms” as

a sign with no more than an arbitrary or assigned connection to any referent. 
Symbols slip in and out of their world, break free from intellectual formula, are absorbed by other formula, become simply objects in the world and as such may be used metaphorically in an attempt to express the elusive world. And  thus, like Tarkovsky’s cinema, allusive patterns hang before us.
After laurel leaves a rosette is pinned to one’s lapel. Or a rose threaded into the hair, the long tresses themselves combed, twisted and shaped into ornate knots, a spiral mimicking the pursed flesh of a rosebud. I am reminded of how Hitchcock sculpted his actress’s hairstyles, especially so in Vertigo wherein the kiss curls of Judy are transformed into Madeleine’s bouffant and both serve only to repeat Scottie’s arrested fall (both physical and psychological) and add to the building crescendo which is also the promise of a continued spiraling descent. 

Reading Charles Barr’s account of this film, checking up on Scottie’s improbably benign name, I rediscover the vertiginous sinking into the eye, the swirling petals, the posy, the spiral stairwell, but also as if for the first time see the blood red restaurant decor, voluptuous flowering repeat pattern, and a bronze ornamental plate hung on Scottie’s wall. The technical name for the pattern on this plate is a paterae, derived from Greek temple ornamentation. It originally represented the plate used to capture sacrificial blood. As Madeleine steps before it, dressed in a blood red robe, she is the sacrificial, the tormented; yet the wheel turns and it is next Scottie’s blood (sweat of dementia) it has to catch. Another reel and, by film end, it is Judy, transformed once more into Madeleine, who pays the ultimate price. The paterae when repeated along a cornice is called a money pattern. Blood money. And in the sleek utilitarian form of the modern car the hub cap becomes one of the few places on which decorative expression is allowed. Again, a motorised demand for blood sacrifice seems apt, given the hub cap’s resemblance to paterae.
Unsettled pattern

Artex and the sun.

Perhaps our cultivation is faltering? Perhaps the decorative never was merely so, even in its least designed realms, even outside the scrutiny (however intermittent) of artists, architects, and writers. Perhaps the white slurry icing of Artex has the resonance of bodily intelligence, the reach, the sweep, the touch; kitchen as cave? A cradle of consciousness. Yet while here it is imagined that the decorative surface has about it an Ur-form, the interior reach of Lascaux’s hand prints, Le Corbusier (while not specifically engaging with Artex) links the vernacular Mediterranean whitewash to industrial white enamel in order to locate a
common purifying radiance.



The gulf between culture, folklore and industry may be bridged by the geometric impulse underlying all cultural form, that is, by the latent universal drive towards purification irrespective of technique. 


Is not the common purifying radiance of white surface and  plastic form an imitation sun?
The decorative night skies of old replaced by a bright, logical, and permanent daytime. 

When given over to such brightness sleep becomes difficult and disallowed from regular periods of dream one eventually becomes ill or insane.
Progress is a comfortable disease, notes e.e.cummings, and if nothing else it remains as a wonderfully contested term. Often ‘human progress’ is rendered ‘man’s progress’ from which follows a whole stream of gendered invective. Was decoration suppressed because it was feminine, or was it seen as belonging to the feminine realm, the home as something other than “a machine for living in”?

Versailles: […] Not an Inch within but is crowded with little Curiosities of Ornaments: the Women, as they make here the Language and Fashions, and meddle with Politicks and Philosophy, so they sway also in Architecture; Works of Filgrand, and little Knacks are in great Vogue; but Building certainly ought to have the Attribute of eternal, and therefore the only Thing uncapable of new Fashions. 

Architecture is not rest. It may straddle ideology, aspiration, and the actual, it may be form and may reform our routes in reality, or routes into our apprehension of reality, but architecture is not rest. It always has to work and rarely, it seems, is it allowed to work as shelter alone. While mocking Versailles, whose grounds are sculpted and shaped so as to illustrate the heroic daily path of Appollo, the sun god, and his fiery chariot, Christopher Wren still felt it his right to claim architecture for the eternal. 



Owen Jones some two hundred years later, in 1856, is a slightly more moderate:

Architecture is the material expression of the wants, the faculties, and the sentiments, of the age in which it is created.


As proposition two of Jones’ thirty seven ‘General Principles’ this sounds modest enough, so long as the age itself is modest because, as proposition one makes clear, architecture breeds ornament:

The Decorative Arts arise from, and should be attendant upon, Architecture.
By proposition five the tone has already changed from the measured and descriptive to such soaring claims, linking both construction and decoration, in;
That which is beautiful is true; that which is true must be beautiful.
So in an age of ugly truths what or how does the decorative breed?
An Apollonian desire for a common purifying radiance, and the imperative to organize this plastic presence is soon frustrated by the wall itself, by the very terms of engagement it chooses. No matter how pristine, light is reflected from the wall, not radiated; furthermore the sun is not organized into architecture but it has to be subsumed to the sun’s a priori and sovereign presence.


As one ornament is chased out so another decorative form appears. Should one cower guiltily beneath tasselled fronds of acanthus or stand proud, adorned in heroic laurel? Adolf Loos in his essay ‘Ornament and Crime’ famously condemns his decorated century. For Viennese town planners his buildings, too, were polemical. They had their own arguments and insisted on a commitment for plants to be grown up the side of Loos’ Scheu House (1912); fig leaves perhaps. The neighbourhood was in danger of facing naked architecture. Loos no doubt reassured himself that these were at least real plants and not the imitative phantasms of suffocating Art Nouveau, the decorative fronds sapping modern man’s vigour and put him in mortal danger. Foliage and suffering…