Wednesday, 1 June 2011


I think we need a card on Clement of Alexandria and the term eranisteon itself. Maybe just text but maybe text + image?

Tuesday, 31 May 2011


Another card needs to relate to the Plaquemine siren and, hence, more broadly to the river trip.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


It was great to talk yesterday and one thing I wanted to do today was start the process of collecting ideas for the eighteen cards. I've set up 'cards' as a new label for posts and, in this one, I'll just repeat something we said yesterday:

Kafka's story, 'Silence of the Sirens', needs to be among the materials available through the cards.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

archives of images

I'm reading a really fascinating book called "The Art of Memory" by Frances Yates, which traces ancient Greek techniques of "artificial memory" through European history. In the medieval chapter, there's talk of a 14th century English friar by the name of Robert Holcot:

Holcot's Moralitates are a collection of material for the use of preachers in which the 'picture' [memory] technique is lavishly used....He places such images, in imagination, on the pages of a Scriptural text, to remind him of how he will comment on the text. On a page of the prophet Hosea he imagines the figure of Idolatry to remind him of how he will expand Hosea's mention of that sin. He even places on the text of the prophet an image of Cupid, complete with bow and arrows! The god of love and his attributes are, of course, moralised by the friar, and the 'moving' pagan image is used as a memory image for his moralising expansion of the text.

The preference of these English friars for the fables of the poets as memory images, as allowed by Albertus Magnus, suggests that the artificial memory may be a hitherto unsuspected medium through which pagan imagery survived in the Middle Ages. (pp. 98-99)
Something about pagan doodles on the pages of Hosea seems connected to our project in some odd way I haven't yet thought through, but I thought I'd post it here.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

bicycle of necessity

I like that you're thinking of the strange 14th-street device as BOTH a bicycle AND as the wheel of necessity! The fact that the wheel of destiny is made out of a dismantled bicycle alludes to the importance of real physical movement in our project and connects the two places where we meet the sirens: in the abstract space of Plato's cosmology as well as in the topography of Odysseus' mythical journey.

(Bleugh - what I've just written reads like one of the terrible little texts you see on the walls in galleries of contemporary art - I think the sentiment is right though, so I'll leave it up!)

Odysseus on his bicycle...

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Music for Bicycles

I am perhaps slightly re-inventing the wheel (groan) by considering music for bicycle wheels: a quick internet search uncovered "Eine Brise", by Mauricio Kagel, and "Travelon Gamelon" by Richard Lerman. Here's a review of a performance of the Kagel last year in Los Angeles. Both of these pieces involved multiple bicyclists actually riding the streets, a lovely idea, no?! This stationary bicycle wheel roulette/altar is quite different, of course, more about the connection of wheels and spindles, necessary and otherwise....

Gopnik on Information

I thought this was interesting regarding our eranisteon, it's from an article about how the internet is changing us (yawn), but it's by Adam Gopnik, so it's better than average on the subject.

In her book “Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age,” [the Harvard historian Ann Blair] makes the case that what we’re going through is like what others went through a very long while ago. Against the cartoon history of Shirky or Tooby, Blair argues that the sense of “information overload” was not the consequence of Gutenberg but already in place before printing began. She wants us to resist “trying to reduce the complex causal nexus behind the transition from Renaissance to Enlightenment to the impact of a technology or any particular set of ideas.” Anyway, the crucial revolution was not of print but of paper: “During the later Middle Ages a staggering growth in the production of manuscripts, facilitated by the use of paper, accompanied a great expansion of readers outside the monastic and scholastic contexts.” For that matter, our minds were altered less by books than by index slips. Activities that seem quite twenty-first century, she shows, began when people cut and pasted from one manuscript to another; made aggregated news in compendiums; passed around prĂ©cis. “Early modern finding devices” were forced into existence: lists of authorities, lists of headings.

(my emphasis: source here)

Thursday, 3 February 2011

shrines and sea caves

All right - last post of the day! I was turning over the idea of the shrine as a sea cave and typed 'shrine' and 'sea cave' into google. The hits included these two images of a Shinto shrine in a cave in Japan. Extraordinarily, the images date from the 1890s and are hand-tinted. Take a look:


I like the fact that transcription - and the transformation that transcription brings about - is part of one of your pieces for this project because it is an idea that connects all of our three terms: archive, exile, and voice. I'm posting this really just to remind myself that transcription was an idea that emerged fairly early in our collaboration and seems to be coming to the surface again now. One of the earlier postings on this theme was yours on Xu Bing and I'm putting a link to it here, just as a reminder:

If the 'gifts' bestowed by the wheel and located on the computer are to include texts and images as well as music, then maybe I should contribute something textual on transcription.


When we spoke, I mentioned Nick Bax from the design consultancy, 'Human'. I'm thinking that he might be the guy to help us with the public display of our blog material and maybe also with the technology we use in the 'shrine' itself to give visitors access to music, text, and images. (Actually, I showed Jess some of his stuff and she's keen to involve him in thinking through the higher order issues as well - not how individual works are displayed but how to display explanatory text and so on.) Given all this, I thought you might like to look at his website. It's here:

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

cave of the sirens

I really enjoyed talking last night and I'm excited by the idea of that cellar space as a temple to the sirens with the wheel taking pride of place. I was wondering whether the shrine might have something of the quality of a sea cave? Could we whitewash the brick vault and cover the floor with pebbles?

Friday, 28 January 2011

bike roulette wheel

so last week on one of my few excursions outdoors, I came upon this marvelous contraption being thrown away on 14th Street. I lugged it home because I am SURE it has something to do with the spindle of necessity that Atropos and Clotho and Lashesis help the Sirens with in the Myth of Er. it's quite beautifully made, spins very nicely. I'm thinking of adding cards perpendicularly that will make a flapping sound, like I had on my bike when I was about nine. I'm also thinking that instead of playing cards, there could be images of the sirens, and whatever card you land on will point to a particular text/music/whatever thing in our eranisteon.

what do you think? have the gods been kind or what!?!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

I've been sick with bronchitis for a few weeks, and the advantage of that is that eventually I give up and sit on the couch and read. In Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings I came across mention of a mermaid saint and a google search uncovered this:

And then there's St. Murgen of Inver Ollarba, who garners a mention in the seventeenth-century Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland. Her legend is possibly the most bizarre in hagiography, surpassing even St. Christopher of the Dog's Head, St. James the Cut to Pieces or St. George of Cappadocia with his four separate martyrdoms. Murgen began life as a girl named Liban, whose background is lost in a muddle of folkloric confusion. She seems to have been either of mortal or of Daoine Sidhe parentage, and swept into the sea in the year 90 with her dog, who was transformed into an otter. At some point during her first year underwater, she was turned into a merrow or muirruhgach, the Gaelic word for siren or mermaid. She spent three hundred years with the tail of a salmon, swimming the Irish sea with her pet otter.

Around 390 (or possibly 558), a ship destined for Rome took her in from the seas, having heard her angelic singing. The cleric Beoc, a vicar of Bishop St. Comgall of Bangor, was on board, and she pleaded him to take her ashore at Inver Ollarba up the coast. On his return from Rome, after reporting to Pope Gregory of Comgall's deeds in office, he fulfilled his promise and Liban was taken ashore in a boat half-filled with water by another fellow, Beorn.

Instantly, a dispute started over who had authority over her with Beoc, Beorn and St. Comgall all pressing their case. It fell to Beoc after they placed her in a tank of water on a chariot and the chariot stopped in front of Beoc's parish church. There, she was given the choice of being baptized, after which she would die immediately and go to heaven, or living another three hundred years--the number she had spent as a mermaid--and then going on to paradise. She chose the first, was baptized by St. Comgall with the name of Murgen, or, "sea-born," and died in the odor of sanctity. Of course, this was all in the days before canonizations became the exclusive and infallible province of Rome. That being said, the Teo-da-Beoc, or, church of Beoc, was the site of many miracles wrought in her name, and paintings of this singular saint still remain there to this day.

I wish I knew what to make of all this weirdness: the Bollandists would have a hernia over it. But, se non e vero, e ben trovato, and, suffice to say, I'd like to think that St. Comgall didn't just baptize some wayward manatee.

Gotta love it, no?!?!