Saturday, 26 March 2011

Never to Arrive

2nd April 20..

Dear Panamarenko,

We visited your exhibition on Wednesday at the Hayward Gallery and have felt compelled to write to you. Please forgive us intruding upon your privacy but we assure you the reasons are purely immanent.

For many years we have been working on a grand theory of accidents and philosophy of risk. We were quite excited to discover some corroboration for our theories in your own toy model of space. Your lecture on the subject caused some strange somatic reactions. After a while we were transported into an irresistible sleepiness although not the kind which excludes perception. Then we woke up very hungry exactly when you were writing E=MC2 on the blackboard. But the hunger which followed the stupor was the sort which left unheeded might lead to rapid loss of consciousness. Fortunately we could dash out of the gallery and eat some provisions. By the time we returned you were again writing E=MC2 on the blackboard. But we could follow your argument somewhat more consciously. Although we think its effect on the unconscious intelligence is far more powerful. You remark about your Hazerug or Schelpvormige Rugzak that it created so much noise the people around your test site fled in fear. Although obviously the object when activated is quite dangerous its noise serves to diminish the danger by warning of potential harm. Not so your lecture. The hermetic character of your theatre of proof which inspires the spectator with the intense desire to understand but withholds understanding in a tantalus-like fashion is far more dangerous. The stupor followed by utter depletion of blood sugars in the brain could be as fatal as being caught up in exploding motors.

We resolved not to want to understand — out of banal survival motives but also not to surrender to obfuscation either.

The part of your theatre of proof which seemed to glide effortlessly into our grand theory of accidents and philosophy of risk has to do with what you call “rolling on the space field”. Trying to be as brief as possible, one could say rolling elevates the “Stabilitätsunfall” or capsizing to one of the fundamental principles of motion in the universe. If one could imagine motion without bodies then what would be left in the universe is its constituent and primary vertigo (Schwindel). Your results seem to confirm something we have suspected for years. There is an occult correspondence between the laws governing the maritime accident and this constituent and primary vertigo of the universe. The maritime accident contains the secret to the construction of space.

We live in an area especially suited to the study of accidents at sea. Under dry dock conditions. Seafaring is almost forgotten but the accident at high sea has been preserved for tradition’s sake. The accidents are the last connection to the real life of the seafarer. The secret rule of thumb regarding accidents is one should never treat them as an exception. We were very intrigued by your explanation of the “containing force” -  one wonders why explosions don’t happen spontaneously more often.

The same trigonometry which one uses to calculate navigation of shipping routes can be used just as well to calculate the accidents upon these routes. With one small addition - one calculates how the desired port of destination should under eternal circumstances never be reached. In this way one can quite easily transform the laws of navigation at sea into the laws of shipwrecks. Following a similar logic one can transpose the theorems of geometry into the theorems of the physics of rigid objects especially their change of positions. Einstein invented this transposition logic calling it “gravitation geometry”. “When we add only one proposition to the theorems of Euclidian geometry, that two points of a practically rigid body always correspond to the same distance (Strecke) whatever changes in the position we undertake with this body, thereby the theorems of Euclidian geometry become theorems about the possible relative shifting of practically rigid bodies. Geometry extended in this fashion would be treated as a branch of physics (...). The practically rigid body turns the straight line into a natural object.” (Einstein)

What is a better example of “possible relative shifting of practically rigid bodies” than the “Stabilitätsunfall” or capsizing of ships. Following your expositions of rolling one can imagine the circular motion of stars, sun, etc as the equivalent of the capsizing motion prolonged indefinitely on a gravityless field where there is no up or no down - hence no question of buoyancy. If a ship capsizes it is because its two essential centers of gravity are not aligned — the center of gravity of the ship’s total mass (M) and the center of the submerged part of the ship (F). In essence it is out of gravity when it capsizes. The one side entering the water at greater speed than the other as in “rolling”. But it usually rolls only once - as the capsizing leads it back to gravity or balance or rest. If it were in the space field presumably it would capsize forever like the other space bodies.   “Un coup de dés/ jamais/ quand bien même lancé dans des/circonstances éternelles/ du fond d’un naufrage (…)” (“A throw of the dice/ Never/ Even thrown in/ Eternal circumstances/ From the bottom of a shipwreck (…)”, Mallarmé)

The accident is nothing special but it might be sometimes less, sometimes more than the normal case. It is a normal case with an unknown plus or minus. The unknown too much or too little also follows laws. As Kant writes - “Der Zufall hat Gesetze, zum Beispiel Schiffbrüche.” (“Chance has laws, for example shipwrecks.”) The same law simultaneously establishes the force of habit (Macht der Gewohnheit) and through the accident also cancels it. That is the first provisional axiom of the shipwreck. It is also a paradox. One does not imagine that a law can be confirmed and annulled in the same instant. But that happens in every accident. Not even just the unusual ones. An accident is always rare and equally very common, because it follows a law, or in other words, there are only common accidents which are rare.  (“For the common is rare, and the common measure is, a rarity for the rare (…)” Jacques Derrida, “Loving in Friendship: Perhaps – the Noun and the Adverb” in The Politics of Friendship, London, 2005, p. 43)

That is the second provisional axiom. Therefore anything can happen at any time. Not only theoretically. The accident in the aquatic element still counts as the noblest sort of accident. But since going to sea is becoming almost extinct all manner of holiday accidents must suffice. One would think that the holiday accident would not qualify to be included in the grand theory of accidents because of the obvious absence of the “force of habit”.
But the holiday itself is an immense force of habit and as Horace says “you can change the skies but not the ideas” thus the grand theory of accidents and philosophy of risk can be extended to cover holiday accidents as well.

The exhibition of your fortune testing machines resembles an accident more than anything else because it promises so many ways of escaping all destinations. Hence effectively a rescue.

Yours sincerely,

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