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Archive for the ‘Fauxist Speculative Literature’ Category

(Another) New Fauxist Editor Interview

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on October 8, 2012

Watch full-size HERE

“Regrette Etcetera” by Elliot Hughes,  HD video, 2012.

A maximalist video portrait featuring Regrette Etcetera on the relationship between identity, performance, architecture, economics and culture.

This work was first shown as part of the solo exhibition “Containers of a Liquid Reality,” at Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney. “Containers of a Liquid Reality” documents the performance practices of participating individuals through the creation of interview-based documentaries. The work develops a dialogue about capitalist enclosure of physical space and about the way in which human bodies are treated within a capitalist system of economics. Through a discussion of their performance practices, the interviewees provide insights into the imaginative ways in which they redefine and reclaim their physicality. In addition to the video portraits, the exhibition features an architectural inversion that utilizes engineering principles first used in the creation of Gothic cathedrals. The exhibition as a whole explores the link between ideology and architecture.

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New Fauxist Editor Interview (May 2012)

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on October 8, 2012

Regrette Etcetera interviewed, and featuring as centrefold in Slit Magazine (Simulacra edition)

See full Interview (inc. artwork credits) and (full-sized) Pictures

Regrette discusses: The Fauxists, trans activism & monumentality/hagiography, feminization hypnosis, performance, colonization, & Club META ETCETERA…

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How Fauxists Advertise/Fuck

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on May 9, 2011

Regrette Etcetera

Photographed in mini-exhibition of Regrette’s entries for 

Interstitial BestiariesMagazine

at “Slut Shame”, 7/5/2011, Sydney.

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Fauxist Associated Projects: Regrette Etcetera’s “So this one time…”

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on December 10, 2010

“So this one time I turn up for a trick…”

Selected ‘Surprisingly Astute’ & ‘Hilariously Erudite’ Outcall Stories

of Regrette Etcetera, 2008-10

News From The Fauxist International is are pleased to announce that Our Editor and Luminary, Regrette Etcetera (link) has published their much-anticipated collection of sex-work stories “So this one time I turn up for a trick…”: Selected ‘Surprisingly Astute’ & ‘Hilariously Erudite’ Outcall Stories of Regrette Etcetera, 2008-10

(Click HERE for free download)

If Etcetera’s Fauxist work is anything to go by, (and indeed the publication includes an account of the Fauxist Spirit Recording Project!) We are in for a labyrinthine treat… We are told that issue 2 is slated for release in mid-2011. Is this how Fauxist’s “pay their way through medical school”? Ha.

Launch Party


‘International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers’

Sex Worker Art Exhibition

December 17,

Little Fish Gallery,

Newtown, Sydney.

 

About “So this one time…”

As excerpted in Interstitial Bestiaries magazine iss. 4, “So this one time…”  collects the international whore stories of Regrette Etcetera. We follow this heady narrator into being paid to sit in on French Lit. lectures, parrying post-porno-pooches, appearing in an all-trans-ho amateur Gertrude Stein production, and taking various forms of revenge on a retinue of the strangest tricks- among them Etcetera’s high-school english teacher, a self-proclaimed alien-hybrid, a tazer-wielding trannychaser, and the unforgettable ‘Caeleb Wilson’- all the while being offered a hilarious, patrician commentary on all that occurs.

Critical Reviews

“Captures the inherent weirdness of the outcall moving with it into self-reflexive plays on the similarly weird psycho-mythic representations of trans women… Unique.” UN Magazine

“For once a respite from the sex-worker titillation genre!… Etcetera’s mock-moralisms and ridiculous, convoluted humour are a delight to unravel”                                                                                                 Karen Elliot, Smile

“Refreshingly repudiates the transfeminine autobiography-cum-autopathology moral-confessional motif… an unapologetic work of makeup, coincidence  & hallucinatory autodidacticism…”         Alexis Jung, 1-Claw Zine

——

We will be publishing a Fauxist review of “So this one time…” in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned to NFTFI.

 

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Bigfoot Found On Mars!

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on December 4, 2010

Bigfoot Found On Mars!

The Spatio-Visual Politics of Cryptozoology,

Military Cryptogeography, & Space Archaeology.

An investigation in 2 parts.

 

Part 1.

– “Bigfoot Found on Mars”: A Fauxist Favorite

– A History of NASA photograph PIA10214

– “Here Be Dragons”: Armchair Exobiologists love Photoshop

– A Detour into the Xeno-Domestic With Jonathon Richman: “Here Come the Martian Martians” & “Abominable Snowman in the Supermarket”

The Alien Super-Scientific Machine: Paranoiac Mythinformation & Resolution Revolutions


 

Part 2. (Forthcoming).

– Choreographies Of Telepresence: Martian Rovers, “Google Moon”, & Space Archaeology

–  Making Martian Indigeneity on the High Frontier.


“Bigfoot Found on Mars”: A Fauxist Favorite

Suiting Our penchant for all things apocryphal, for popularly maligned memeological hoaxes and hijackings, there are always some rather strange images circulating within Fauxist networks. One of Our longest-running favourites in the last year has been the image come to be known colloquially as “Bigfoot found on Mars”, as seen above.

First publicized in 2008, it features what appears to be a Martian Sasquatch-reminiscent rock formation (indeed an almost perfect instance of the blobsquatch) captured by NASA’s Spirit rover on the Martian surface. NASA photograph PIA10214 has since become the subject of both pervasive parody and vast internet debate. Meanwhile, what has kept this image cropping up for Us has been its interesting conceptual leverage – it exemplifies key tenets of Our works on Cryptozoology and Neocolonialism, reanimate Nature, Military Cryptogeography, Astrobiology, and apocalyptic exo-conservation politics.

On looking further into the image’s history though, We find that the Martian bigfoot was late to arrive on the scene, and in fact a host of labyrinthine stories and critical hoaxes from the cryptic realms of exobiology, exopolitics, and conspiracy theory to the annals of National Geographic and NASA, then lead us spiraling into Martian history, the search for life on Mars, and the voluminous publications of interpreters and their heady claims at an elusive photographic reality.

In what follows, We unpack these narratives, and look into:

–   The history of Mars as a speculative, productive space- as a cosmic Rorschach or Mirror.

–   The history of the hallucinatory NASA mistakes in the search for ‘Life on Mars’, and how their logic fuels conspiracies.

–   How the 20th century has indeed been a bad one for the Martian.

–   The field of Martian Anomaly Investigation (with its photoshop –savvy ‘Armchair Exobiologists’ and claims of ‘transparent Martian species’, Martian Subway stations and etcetera) and its attacks on scientific authority.

–   Figure-ground and signal-noise collapse in the search for aliens and artifacts, and the troubled reality-effect of science and photography.

–   Take a trip with Jonathon Richman into a domesticized xeno-cryptid dream.

–    How amateur exobiologists and anomalists (sometimes knowingly) navigate and promulgate the schizoid traps of postmodern Mythinformation,

–   How the figure of the alien constitutes the ultimate superscientific machine, and the trickster spirit of misinformation.

–  We take up the politics of tracing planetary surfaces, looking into Space Archaeology, telepresence choreographies and cartographies, and Panoptic vision.

–  The revival of nationalist frontier politics and forms of ‘Martian Indigeneity’, and the animating of cryptogeographic space with class, race and protest masculinities.

History of The Image

NASA photograph PIA10214 is a panoramic montage of a series of snapshots of the Martian surface that were taken by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit in 2007, when Spirit was perched on the western edge of the Home Plate plateau in the inner basin of the Columbia Hills range of Gusev Crater on Mars.

On December 7th, one Andrew D. Basiago, whilst perusing the broad westward expanse of the Martian surface that can be seen in the photograph for other indications of life, after enlarging the photograph on his new HP Pavilion Entertainment Personal Computer, was ‘shocked to discover’ in it’s depths evidence of life forms and artifacts on Mars.

Basiago, 47, founder and president of the Mars Anomaly Research Society, and author of exopolitics.com, thought, quite simply, that the enigmatic forms looked like a statue (see statement) or the fossilized remains of Martians fleeing a cataclysmic event or ‘Reptoid Predation. Basiago quickly published a number of verbose press releases, articles, a series of high-zoom blowup images of these pixelated fields (see below), and later contacted National Geographic (letter here) informing the world that he had discovered life on Mars, with all the pomp that such an apparently epoch-shattering event would warrant.


In the detail from PIA10214, Basiago saw “a male humanoid being with a bulbous head and a long, spindly body can be seen standing inside a rock enclosure”. According to Basiago, the humanoid is “wearing tan pants and is bare-chested and can be seen leaning against a rock wall at the back of the rock enclosure.  The scapulae in his upper back are evident as he leans against the wall”. He went on to produce a number of increasingly baroque suggestions as to what the image captured, (like the ‘transparent Martian species’ mentioned above) which We will explore further below.

Like the majority of Martian anomalies, the figures were quickly dismissed as a natural rock formation resulting from erosion by wind, water, and time. Bigfoot was yet to hit the scene.

But it is not these dismissals that are of importance here, as We will see. Immediately of interest is that despite Basiago’s prodigious productions, correspondence, and the fulminations on exopolitics.com, all claiming that these images stood as evidence for an ET humanoid species, and indeed, civilization, the image quickly overstepped his assertions and control, and became known as ‘Bigfoot found on mars’, due to the resemblance of the form to that of the meme-glut still image from the 1967 –Paterson-Gimlin film (arguably the most well-known cryptid photo in existence) and was reported upon as such in the media (as above). Thus the image began to do the rounds on the majority of cryptozoological sites.

At left: The Paterson-Gimlin Film still

In that Basiago’s assertions- which We will continue to discuss- were deemed to be too complex, too deliberately weird and were largely abandoned in favour of a cryptozoological standard, a memeological monument, speaks volumes about both the conceptual power of the cryptid hominid in colonial space and the historical cessation of the Martian.

Whether of not Basiago’s assertions were knowing hoaxes and an ostensible critique of NASA’s objectives (which We believe to be the case), analyzing the image from both perspectives- that of the interpretative space of the anomalist, and that of the  using classical cryptozoological cliches and metholodologies etc., which We’ll explore in the following section.

“Here Be Dragons”: Of Martian Canals & Armchair Exobiologists

“The only pure myth is the idea of a science devoid of all myth”    Michel Serres

“Science acquires its staying power from a sustained struggle to keep down the demons of the supernatural with whose visions, however, it competes”     Avital Ronnell

“When I analyzed PIA10214, and saw what was there, I felt like Charles Darwin encountering the animals of the Galapagos Islands for the first time, except that my Galapagos Islands were on the Internet and my animals were on Mars.” Basiago


"Here Be Dragons": A cartographic tradition used to denote unknown realms and the monstrous inhabitants imagined to inhabit them

Medieval 'Map Monsters' awaiting the explorer

The fuzzy imaginative space of Mars has long harbored, fostered and facilitated the alien, the marginal. Its distance and elusiveness allowing a proliferation of projections and speculations even as terran ‘frontiers’ and ‘others’ became familiar. The Martian surface, as planetary antipodes, is a key cryptogeographical and cryptozoological terrain, physically accessible only by advanced tech and capital agglomerations, and redolent with menageries of didactic creatures, and symbolic artifacts.

Indeed, Mars began its visual-scientific career as a cosmic Rorschach blot in 1877, when the Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli stared through a 9-inch Merz refracting telescope and declared that the spidery lines he saw etched on the planet’s surface were “canali.” What he meant was channels, but the English-speaking press, still hopped up on the recent opening of the Suez Canal, settled on the sexier term canals, implying an alien-architectural origin more suited to then-current desires. In the US, the amateur astronomer Percival Lowell widely publicized his conviction that the splotches and lines revealed by his observatory’s 24-inch telescope suggested vegetation and alien-made waterworks. (Lowell, “Mars”, 1895) Lowell’s ‘discoveries’ were to be soon followed in 1898 by H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, with its malevolent, techno-advanced martians, and the panic it’s 1938 radio broadcast so famously caused.

In this time of immense public interest in the scientific and narrative potential of Mars, forms of belief melded, produced etc. in the midst of an enormous amount of speculative work, science fiction, monster movies and news reportage variously construing the Martians as benevolent or threatening, pedagogic or mindless, humanoid or radically ‘other’,[1] depending on what cultural phenomenon they were attached to, however indirectly. Three brief examples, which each take account of this simmering popular imagination in differing ways, should suffice.

Firstly, Disney’s parodic piece on the ‘popular culture of Mars’, from 1957, playing out some generic motifs like the Martian as inhuman, scintillating/sexually threatening, as racial-compendium, and official ‘other’, speaks largely for itself in capturing the stereotypes of a pre-Sputnik Mars. (Sputnik was launched 2 months before its release).

The second example, produced by The Museum of Jurassic Technology (L.A) is the book “No One May Ever Have the Same Knowledge Again: Letters to Mount Wilson, 1915-1932”.

The book is made up of letters received by the Mount Wilson Observatory from members of the public. For decades after its construction in 1904, the Mount Wilson telescope was the largest in the world, and was central to astronomical research conducted by A. A. Michelson and Edwin Hubble. The lay public learned about their work through the popular press, and the observatory entered that stream of popular culture that made icons of science, space, and aeronautics. The letter writers urgently wished to share information and impressions with the astronomers, who were broadly seen to be casting the Eye of Science further into the cosmos. The title alone simultaneously reflects both the cessation (or culling) of possible popular, abject and parascientific knowledges regarding space, spirituality, and the Other, and conversely, the productive possibilities expressed by alien ‘contact’ and the great  astronomical ‘endeavour’.

A couple of brief passages from the letters (retaining original spelling and syntax) will give the flavour:

“A New York professor was about to try Einstein’s insulation-of-gravitation theory. He thought he could walk on the air, if insulated, but I wrote and told him to be careful, and not try it on himself but try it on a monkey, because should he try it on himself and succeed, instead of walking on the air, the pressure of the air would shoot him up at an accelerated speed, and, according to Newton, a body once put in motion and acted on by no force continues to move forward in a straight line forever; so he might never return. We have not heard from him, but we hope our letter reached him in time.”

“The Planet mars is inhabited by human spirits like us can talk eat & drink wear clothes, but have great power. They are somethink people of this earth have never seen. They are kept to do work overhead. They also work our wireless gramophones, machinery, Moving Pictures Talking Pictures and all that sort of thing. All that sky is worked spirital… So I have been told & seen in half sleep trance.”

These letter writers grappled with science and technology in modes that encompassed not just the naive, and not just the ‘irrational’, but complex combinations of scientific understanding, popular belief, and ‘magic’, as indeed many scientific theories of the time would similarly appear today. Their perceptions seem propelled by fervent beliefs, desires and fears flowering in the imaginative space of an uncharted cosmos, and an unseen Martian, and often take the form of a more or less disguised challenge (whether in the form of ‘reminders’ or advice) to the knowledge producers (and space colonizers) of the observatory as representatives of empiricist scientific rationalization.

Let’s check in with Disney again to appreciate this mix of the productive, mirroring quality of Mars with scientific speculation:

This speculative production continued to jostle and coexist with advances in visual technology for almost a century, until in 1964, a NASA probe took the first pictures of the planet’s surface, shattering Lowell’s visions of Martian gondoliers. This trend was to continue with each subsequent advance in visual-electromagnetic technology, the visual illumination and surveillance chasing away the Martian, shrinking their physical habitat, and importantly, intruding upon and eroding the psychic-imaginative territories and their populations. (See: Hotakainen’s “Mars: A Myth Turned to Landscape” (2008) for more on this. And for an account of the history of ‘Martian Radio’- the speculative electronic realm of contacting martians, theorizing of martian signals, intelligibility, and so on- see Jeffrey Sconce’s “Haunted Media: Electronic presence from telegraphy to television”)

Despite such debunkings, the possibility of a (now bio-zoological) ‘Life on Mars’ persisted in the minds of some scientists into the 1960’s. Eventually, this led to NASA’s Viking missions to Mars in 1976, when the Viking spacecraft landed complex instruments on the planet to make direct tests for the presence of life in any form, including microbes of diverse physiological types. The results were negative. Again in 1996, NASA scientists created a media frenzy by announcing evidence for the presence of microbial ‘wormlike’ microfossils in a Martian meteorite[2]. After much hype, the “microfossils,” however, were soon shown to be inorganic artifacts. In 2006, a new and similarly dubious NASA claim of evidence for past microbial life on Mars appeared regarding another Martian meteorite which had crashed to Earth in 1911 (striking Egypt, where it ‘collided with a hairy dog’) in another case of mistaken identification of organic matter [3]. NASA hype continues to publicize Mars and other celestial bodies as possible locales of microbial life in the context of the expanding field of “astrobiology”.

In this sense, the 20th century was a bad one for the Martian, which is to say, for the scope and scale of human’s perceptions of them. 100 years ago, Martians were intelligent, energetic creatures, capable of undertaking vast public works, possessing ultra-sophisticated technologies, and even of launching myriad expeditions against Earth with wildly varying intentions, results and targets. By the century’s end, the multifarious Martians, now conceived as the harshly circumscribed term ‘Life on Mars’, have been reduced to mere microbes, cowering in dark crannies far beneath the planets frigid surface, waiting only to be poked at by NASA’s expensive remote-control golf-carts.[4]

Indeed, for some, Mars will always be inhabited, no matter what the data say. Occasionally one hears the opinion that somewhere on the planet there may exist a wet, warm place—a Martian Garden of Eden—where Martian life forms are thriving, that Earth-Mars biological transmission (panspermia) is seeding either planet [5]. Or, alternatively, that the Viking instruments did in fact find life—that the Viking data can be interpreted to mean that there are organisms living in the soil at a population density below the GCMS [gas chromatograph mass spectrometer] limit. The Rovers still sample,  and the field of Astrobiology- a gussied-up, better-funded Exobiology with a more avowed imperialist-instrumentalist agenda [6]– continues to grow and subdivide, despite the sheer paucity of forthcoming evidence.

Notably then, the ‘anomalous’ nature of official ‘finds’ of life on Mars- the mistaken resemblances, media alerts, sensor scale and category mistakes and so on- can thus be placed on a continuum with those of the Anomaly or broadly paranormal communities, rather than methodologically or qualitatively opposed.

Returning then to Basiago, who, in occupying the lovely, fuzzy peripheries of the anomalist-exobiologist world, would have us believe that all is not lost in the search for Life On Mars. Because in Our case, conversely, with every increase in visual resolution, some new oddity, some fresh anomaly inevitably emerges from the pixelated strata of Mars.

And so it has been since the 1960s, when NASA probes sent back the first shots of Mars, amateurs have filled their files with curiosities. These anomalies- whether appearing variously as worms, trees, UFOs, pyramids, subway stations, giant fungi, fossils, planetary genitalia, buried cities and etcetera– invoke both the imaginative history of Mars and the scientific drive, in re-routing its data and repeating, with a brazen, hallucinatory sensibility, the interpretative moves made by Mars scientists as discussed above.

One of Basiago's Blow-ups

For example, in 1976, when a Viking probe passed over a region named Cydonia, the orbiting craft took a fuzzy picture of a huge mountainous structure below. In a subsequent press release, NASA announced that this mound “resembles a human head formed by shadows giving the illusion of eyes, nose, and mouth.”

(Also: An interactive 3D rendering of the Cydonia ‘Face’)

 

The space agency was probably just trying to stir up public interest in an increasingly demystified Mars, and thus it’s Martian projects, yet it stirred up a hornet’s nest of speculation and conspiracy writing, making it clear that Mars still holds an enormous cultural pull. link to various theories- findings of more faces, pyramids, etc all of a similar interpretative looseness.

Diagram showing the the correspondence between Martian surface features and their apparent history as the 'Tharsis Pyramids'

Since then, numerous ‘anomolous’ features (enough to occupy a number of dedicated research groups and the archives of numerous ungainly websites) and blurry pixel-clusters have had their ‘day in the sun’.

Basiago, as a dedicated Martian Anomalist, situates his Martians and artifacts squarely within this history, saying “This evidence goes far beyond that provided by The Face on Mars at Cydonia and establishes with scientific certainty that advanced, intelligent humanoids exist on Mars”.

And like Basiago, there are many playing armchair exobiologist these days.

Like the 1997 NASA Mars Pathfinder rover- which broadcast images clear (&’ fresh’) enough to afford a convincing spatial sense of another world and achieved more than 45 million viewers logged in and over 80 million hits per day during the 1st week of the operation– an internet record and indeed defining moment for the internet- when Spirit began transmitting, Mars fans downloaded over 35 terabytes of visual data from NASA’s servers in less than a week. And they’re not just loading up on boring screensavers, as We’ll see below, they’re putting their image-processing software to the test, hunting the digitized Martian landscapes for signs of life, past and present, and publishing their reports. These may be the postmodern successors to the Mount Wilson letter writers.

According to EBTX.com, a Web site devoted to “figuring out the universe” and run by 56-year-old “E.B. from Texas,” amateur investigators don’t look for the sorts of general principles that attract most scientists. “We look to the anomalous features,” says E.B. The methods of distinguishing an anomaly (figure) from the landscape (ground), like the Martian Blobsquatch- which in the realm of high-res orbiter and rover scans often amounts to figure-ground as signal-noise– are suitably vague, often amounting to seeming resemblance, suggestion and narrative, and in this case, resulting in Basiago’s hominids being out-meme’d by the Paterson-Gimlin squatch.

The interpretative move of the anomaly, however vague the technique, then allows an anomalous doubling. While a Martian carbon dioxide-breathing, -140 celcius-proof humanoid-serpent family or Bigfoot (whatever their provenance) would indeed qualify as anomalous by anyone’s standards, Basiago again aims to use an distinctly ironic exopolitical leverage to further stretch the field.

Notably implicating standard tricks of the cryptozoological field (recourse to ‘mythic sauroids’, creative interpretation of fossil ‘forms’, and heavy reliance on the Blobsquatch- as discussed in an earlier Fauxist publication) in claiming that while “Many of the animals that appear in the NASA photo resemble the frogs, lizards, serpents, and tortoises of Earth. Others resemble the extinct reptile species known as plesiosaurs, which had long necks like snakes and round bodies like turtles”. So now there are Dinosaurs (and notably the Loch Ness Monster plesiosaur) on Mars. He then goes further, claiming that in fact, all evidence is potentially anomalous, opening up (again in deft Exopolitical fashion), the interpretation of what is a ‘lifeform’: “There is evidence of camouflage in some of the species”  (Figure-ground collapse) and finally that “One is transparent in form”. (Observable details on this particular species are understandably thin on the ground).

The fossil hominids of Basiago (indeed his fossilized catastrophic narrative) and the artifacts-in-ruins of the anomalists (like the Tharsis Pyramids above) implicate a radical deepening of time in their search. Thus, while the photographic overpasses, the landers and rovers arguably brought Time (history) to Mars, the anomalists complicate any linear geo-chronologies with their speculations. In some obverse of Conrad’s journey to Kurtz (“Heart of Darkness” (1902)- where geo-spatial movement connotes a Lyellian movement, regressing through moral-temporal strata- the ‘dig’ and the foray here reveals underlying strata laid down, as it were, from Civilization’s (or Humankind’s) future. Reaching back to the canali and gardens of the early telescopists, We investigate the possible boundaries of the field of Martian archaeology- the geologic timescale, amorphous ruins, and possibilities of interpretation in part 2 of this work.

That Basiago asserts the existence of transparent species and the ability to divine such from the data evinces his critical, parodic agenda. In an ironic re-enchantment of Martian space, a liminal haunting of the instrumentation-as-colonizing eye, Basiago deploys an anti-enlightenment cum Utopian desire  questioning the reality assumptions and authority of the military-industrial-space complex.

Whilst this anti/parascientific skew is foregrounded in much of the anomalist work, importantly, in the majority Imaginative Martians have turned into Interpretative ones. Rather than a Mars populated by didactic creatures of the imagination- as part of a larger galactic bestiary- the Anomalist’s beings are produced now from evidence produced by the military-industrial panopticon, from tele-operated machines on the Martian surface and the archives of NASA. The anomalists thus fight, in a comparatively literal fashion, to repopulate the realms of pre-colonial, utopian Mars-as-Outside.

However much the enthusiasts want to destroy or usurp these institutions and truth-structures, and however much their interpretative move of “That NASA photo blown up 400x sure could look like BF, therefore…” performs a noble myth-informational function, the net result of this speculative field surely enhances NASA’s power and agenda apace, as any news is good news when pertaining to a politically offensive, budget-consuming program driving carts on a distant planet looking for microbial residue.

For its part, NASA has learned to sidestep and incorporate such seeming controversies. “I think it’s great that we’re releasing raw images, warts and all,” says an extremely tactful Joy Crisp, project scientist for the Mars Exploration Rover Mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “Everyone can make their own interpretation – artists, kids doing science projects, folks with different mindsets”. And significantly, “Everyone can be an explorer.” Or, as E.B. suggests, you can “experience the thrill of discovery (or self-delusion) for yourself.”

Joseph Skipper on MarsAnomalyResearch.com- the coruncopic archives of images and speculations on paredolia, rock forms, and shadows of the martian (and lunar) surface, and  perhaps the best one-stop shop for Martian enigmas- formulates the cryptozoo/geographic position succinctlty: “No one’s interpretation of the visual evidence should be considered established fact.” Skipper’s site includes scores of annotated images, as well as claustrophobic commentary that scrolls on quite endlessly.

In a report titled “The Real Smoking Gun as to Life on Mars,” he discusses one of his most important discoveries: Photoshop. The graphics program, which allows the 61-year-old Florida insurance investigator to sharpen detail in NASA’s images, “lifted the scales from my eyes”, changing ‘reality’ (the photographic reality which is Mars) into a penetrable, workable field. Indeed We find that such consumer image programs are de rigueur for anomalists and amateur exobiologists, and in merely glancing at any such site one encounters hundreds of zoomed, chopped, colour-morphed, inset and annotated images of the feature under question.

The following video is a good example of this process, containing as it does an almost endless sequence of different filter, spectrum and visual morphs on the martian BF:

These tools allow self-identified exobiologists a measure of control and creative input into the hitherto inaccessible cryptogeographic space and scientific method of Mars. And, by exploring and expanding official cartographies and data with a baroque, anti-reductionist, para-scientific lens, they introduce, with their noise, multiple spectrums, filters, a deepening, reviving, and burlesquing of the Martian possibility.

Besides finding evidence of life, Skipper also claims that NASA is tampering with the Mars images, removing evidence of alien life and civilizations, in what may be a Photoshop InfoWar. Notably, Skipper’s analysis of the BigFoot on Mars image- “Mars Rover Statue or Person?“- finds paths, graffiti and so on in the surrounding rocks and landscape. (See image below)

The layman’s visual equivalent of SETI (which significantly has also recently opened it’s data streams to public interpretation: SETI-Quest : “Contibute to the Search for Cosmic Company”) wrests authority over distant geographies and existential malaise from the institutions archival wastelands.

And thus, with these Photoshopping Philogelians in action, space scientists no longer have the last word, aka definitional authority. And indeed they give Barthes and Sontag a run for their tenure regarding the reality status of photographs, and thereby- now implicating Baudrillard- Mars itself. If anything, what We can entrust to these accessorized anomalists is the introduction of strange loops, and the implication that surface details, however surreal, always contain a deeper explication of what may be happening.

In this sense, they also manage to forcibly recover that elusive cryptid, FUN, from beneath the epic-dour military dreamspace of interplanetary Vision and even the pedagogic  of Crisp’s ‘kids doing science projects’. For example, in response to some of the Spirit’s images- which contain features that look like a bunny, a crab, or even a croissant– a Web designer named Jim Love put up MartianCrabs.com and asked web denizens to peg the true nature of the object themselves. In a week, more than 600 opinions poured in, ranging from the absurd (“a jumping corn chip”) to the beautifully paranoid (“All the photos are fakes!”).

Love says that roughly 15 percent of the reports seem to take the anomaly seriously. “But it’s hard to tell because so many are sarcastic.” And that’s what both the true believers and the hardcore skeptics miss. Anomalies aren’t just the result of our attempt to visualize the unknown. They are also fun. As steve2.net noted on MartianCrabs, the fact that the bunny was most likely “rover fluff” didn’t detract from its value. Why? “We like this kinda freaky visual nonsense.”

This ‘fun factor’, parodying the paradigmatically epic intents of NASA (and thus their mega-budgetary consumption) may seem to be amongst the few responses left to the expansion of the military-cryptogeographical, panoptic colonization of the universe, and imminent ‘migration’ of the rich-and-talented off–Earth…

Finding bigfoot trying to entertain her serpentine guests whilst the pesky jumping tortilla’s threaten to be-crumb their tracksuits in the intersticies of an orgasmic NASA’s nationalist techno-mythopoesis… or leveraging the possibly omnipresent transparent alien… returns Us to some of the beauty of the Rorschach-like, imaginative and Utopian potential of Mars. And indeed, we may not have the same knowledge again.

Basiago's "Evidence of Martian Gremlin in Spirit Rover Photograph" (2009)

 

A Detour into the Xeno-Domestic with Jonathon Richman

Staying for a moment longer with the ever-tyrannical Fun factor, We believe a short detour into another pop-cultural tributary. The ever-wonderful, often spooky, Jonathon Richman of the Modern Lovers, is known for his sophisticated-naïve songwriting. And two of his songs in particular capture the inversion of the martian and cryptid, removing the frontier narrative in acts of xenophilic diplomacy, which offer a comedic, loving take on the exopolitical work of Basiago and his Exopolitics group.

The threat of ‘the coming martians’ in “Here Come the Martian Martians” (1977- the Viking year) turns into a welcome, and domestic enquiry (finding out their favourite icecream flavours, helping them get around, and wondering if the martian schoolgirls will like him…),

Whilst  bigfoot’s ostensible hominid relative, in “Abominable Snowman in the Market”, is hanging out and disrupting the space of consumption, while Our Jonathon is trying to reconcile the scared shoppers (here suspiciously rendered as ‘housewives’) to his presence, and find out how to talk to him. Dig?


One wonders what Ms. Richman would say about the Spirit rover, or indeed Bigfoot on mars… For interest’s sake, and for a much longer detour, contrast these 2 songs with the following 39-part interview series with Basiago, in which he discussed his histories in various insidious CIA/PSYOPS programs:

 

The Alien Super-Scientific Machine: Paranoiac Mythinformation & Resolution Revolutions

“There is no longer any distance. You are so close to things that they no longer affect you at all.” Joseph Roth 1927

With the usual belief-in-God-as-Psychopathology and the ‘Global Terrorist’ nestled firmly in cheek, We ask: How pathologized is belief in alien beings? A number of surveys indicate that a majority of North Americans (65%- according to the ever-reputable CNN) believe in UFO’s. So much for the Enlightenment. And what’s more, nearly 50% believe that UFO’s have visited Earth, and have conducted their abductions, cornfield-geometrics, cattle-vampirisms and so on.  (Chupcabra-as-alien even gets a liminal look in).

Now, the question of whether or not UFO’s are ‘real’ is, alternately, too crude and to philosophically taxing to broach. As Keith Thompson points out in his smart if sometimes breezy Angels and Aliens: UFOS and the Mythic Imagination, in the end the Alien is nothing more than our attempts at interpreting it. Recognizing that each hypothesis is “a particular and limited question put to the UFO by particular observers with particular assumptions,” Thompson shows that mainstream ufology’s Holy Grail of physical evidence is not only boring but moot, and it is far more interesting to engage our own reflections in those almond-shaped white-less eyes that peer back from so many paperbacks and cluttered websites. And if We follow Thompson, the cryptid/alien ‘field’ (in both expeditionary and media senses), and evidentiary structure, namely the leverage Bigfoot on Mars and the Anomalies exert and how this is achieved becomes the most compelling part of Our investigation.

As such, it is perhaps most efficacious here to consider the UFO field as a theatre of the absurd, an intelligence whose ‘message’ seems almost intentionally tangled. The UFO/alien is realm in which evidence and hoax become indistinguishable, un-interpretable, and We need only to mention Roswell to invoke the microcosm of the strange loops information takes in its vicinity, and the preponderance of alleged leaks, cover-ups, infectious rumours, high-tech ‘hieroglyphs’, suspicious fact and synchronicity, simmering away in the Cimmerian realms of fringe media where the Alien prospers.

From this perspective, it is as if the UFO incarnates the trickster spirit of information itself, constantly flip-flopping the meanings and effects of signal and noise, to the extent that the UFO becomes impossible to extricate from a cultural field of visionary noise, a Hermetic ambiguity that animates and galvanizes and concentrates those info-critical currents and theories, and threatens the whole human informatic structure- recall how often UFO’s are reported to stop any and all electronics and usurp signals.

With this, We begin to circumscribe the obverse to the great myth of information (any-and-all-and-more information) as the new place for secular worship of the postmodern world. Most obviously, postmodern communication technologies themselves have become some of the central focuses (and indeed typologies) of psychopathologies and the various media-paranoias grouped under schizophrenia. Cases of paranoiac mythinformatic neuroses concerning Space were described by psychologists as early as the 1960’s, generally being framed as a product of the cultural obsession with Space. See for example: Kerry, R. J “Phobia of Outer space”, Journal of Mental Science 106 (1960) 1383-87. and also: Marks & Bebbington “Space phobia: syndrome or agoraphobic variant?”

That nefarious, quasi-telepathic forces are using communications technology as surveillance, electronic implants to colonize or monitor minds and so on, come to form saturating secular psycho-mythologies appropriate for the ‘outered’ electronic self, a self of open and exposed psyches in digital space and the archive and amongst the systematic and deeply invasive character of media and increasing cybernetic logic of control of all institutions.

When the alien/UFO, with its associated techno-experimental narratives of contact, abduction, medicine-invasion, breeding, and surveillance- their superscientific machinic nature, if indeed the ufo/alien ican be considered the ultimate superscientific machine, straight from the radiating heart of postwar technoculture- stand in as a (de)materialized figure of digital and panoptic culture, it can bee seen as further representing fears of being the subject (that is object) of techo-scientific invasion or endo-colonization.

In our current context, the liminal hairy-nature-man escapee that is Alien Bigfoot doubles this representation- in running from the camera, the autopsy, the institutional eye- and by standing in for a residual, resistant Other/Nature. Even for the nuts-and-bolts crowd, the overwhelming strangeness of the UFO makes it a fundamentally spiritual object. Holy, violent, and utterly goofy, the alien is the ultimate identity crisis.

Frederic Jameson, in discussing the resolutely alien intelligences to be found in various sci-fi works, and others dealing with the “impossibility of ‘contact with aliens’” (i.e even conceptualizing the truly alien), focused on a Foucauldian take on power/knowledge- in terms of the colonizing effect of exploring the ‘other’: “If we grasp even the intent to understand as an intrusive and aggressive power, we may abandon the Other… abandon it to some complete isolation as sealed and seamless as the future itself or even that radically different system we call Utopia”. This is perhaps literalized by Basiago’s transparent species- the landscape, the photograph itself is Other, is hallucination…

In this way, in the Martian context, these technologies perform an annihilation of space and time that also chips away at the boundaries of the self, and especially the North American self, built as it is on utopian frontier dreams and (conceptually emptied) WIlderness. The Rover’s telepresent, telekinenetic, teleprosthetic witnessing, gathering and zooming refocuses Utopian attention and production on this distant surface- of Mars, of the photograph, of a possible New Deal- and brings us to a place where we may be closer, more deeply epistemologically invested, to the Martian surface than the politics of an Earth right in front of Us. Recall Basiago’s statement that his Darwinian Galapagos islands are the internet.

Useful here is Leo Marx’s concept of the ‘technological sublime’. While the Wilderness interpretation of Martian space imbues the landscpape/images with a certain Sublime quality, with the Rover standing in for the Kantian/Burkeian viewer, or indeed the Lyotardian pomo-artiste (all threatened by the deadly ‘reality’ of the inviting pastoral), Marx’s conception of the replacement of nature worship with techno-worship-horror serves Us well in trying to explore the techno-facilitated nature of Martian reality/space, and the associated tele-presence epic of unmanned reconnaissance.[7]

Here, in the Information-Sublime, We have a second mythinformation-obverse. The package of ‘more signal, more noise’ (please) proffered by the UFO enthusiast, with its debunking of a hegemonic data-proprietary, epistemic boundaries and veracity, acts as an attractor or node for those adrift in what is an increasingly saturating info-environs. In dealing with this apocalyptic collapsing of time and space- Mars as postcard as God-scape as Global Village as anomalist’s evidence? – the alien cult seems particularly attractive to people who lose their way somewhere along the normative, capitalist routes of the information superhighway, and follow some beautiful byway into a fragmentary world of deep webs of suggestive correspondences, ‘marginal’ information, and conspiracy, where every piece of data that has strayed into their path then knits into an expanding web of paranoiac connection. In other words, like the 19th century Spiritualist, under the sign of the secular Info-Godhead, the anomalist-enthusiast irrationally mis-uses (scientific) data, and ‘Straight time‘.

Even mainstream science’s sop to ETs—SETI, the big dish search for intelligent radio signals in deep space—reflects the faith that signals can always be untangled from noise. Taken to its extreme, this information theory becomes information mysticism, a giddy flux that runs through one of the most universally reviled literatures currently produced anywhere: New Age channeling.

This results in more or less literalist cults of information. The UFO churches, the channelling fad (spiritualist TV) and Starseed transmissions at one extreme- where ‘messages’ received are uncritically celebrated as revealed truth even as the “messages” themselves often consist of bad SF plots or a noisy haze of New Age jargon (interestingly, some of the Evangelical Protestant ilk even hold that the angels in Revelation refer to global satellites)- and at another, the Exobiologist-Anomalists digi-scouring NASA’s data midden and finding transparent Martians and worrying about the ‘establishment photoshoppers who got there before they did’.

At this rhizome-nub of the spectrum, and in returning to the Fun-as-deconstruction pseudo-science element discussed above, We find that some of the best (most critical, most entertaining?) production works to mutate the authority of scientific style by soberly fusing cosmic-comic speculations and legitimate hard science in the style of Basiago’s more sober bretheren. Basiago’s own ironic, history-savvy sci-fi (of fi-sci) offers numerous suggestions toward just such a methodology.

Marginalized from the legitimacy and cash conferred by institutional research, the enthusiaasts desperately want to normalize the UFO into a legitimate object of study. They don’t want to hear that their urge to prove what they call the “ETH” (extraterrestrial hypothesis) using the tools of science is just one more metaphysical compulsion set before the feet of a radical enigma. They don’t want to hear that busting science moves like graphs, credentials, acronyms, and the language of hard evidence (dates, exact times, measurements) is just a fetish in the face of the void.

Most scientists would appear to hate this material not solely because they’re trained to, but because pseudoscience has a dangerous tendency to encourage the astrofurutist lumpen prole to jump the fence of technical languages and sneak around the arena of Truth, and even, like Basiago, to informedly take the piss.

—–

Stay tuned for Part 2. (Forthcoming).

– Choreographies Of Telepresence: Martian Rovers, “Google Moon”, & Space Archaeology

–  Making Martian Indigeneity on the High Frontier.


[1] See for example: “Mars: From Myth and Mystery to Recent Discoveries”

[2] In August 1996, a NASA report by McKay et al. (1996) announced detection of past microbial life on Mars as evidenced, in part, by observation of “wormlike microscopic fossils” in a Martian meteorite.

[3] At a 2006 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, McKay et al. presented new evidence of organic remains of life in another Martian meteorite, designated Nakhla. This meteorite fell to Earth in 1911 in Egypt, where it collided with a hairy dog. According to an account in Science (Kerr 2006), the McKay group believes: “The putative organics [in the meteorite] are in veins whose walls are peppered by tiny tubules extending into the adjacent mineral, olivine….They (have) argued that microbes acid-etched the tubules in the hunt for nutrients.” Andrew Steele [Carnegie Geophysical Laboratory] commented: “McKay has so many contaminants he has to eliminate. We do know Nakhla is contaminated with a lot of organics.” The Science account continues: “They include organic matter produced by abiotic means on Mars, organisms that invaded Nakhla after it fell to Earth in Egypt killing a dog, and organic agents used in the preparations of thin sections. Steele would take another tack: ‘In Nakhla, I assume it’s contamination. Prove me wrong.’” See here for one of the latest (2010) apparent NASA life discoveries.

[4] See for example: E. Imre Friedmann and Ali M. Koriem “Life on Mars: How it disappeared (if it was ever there)” Advances in Space Research Vol. 9. Iss. 6 1989, accessible here. Interestingly, the memorable Martian narrative of The War of the Worlds, the techo-advanced and world-threatening Martians fortunately, for Earth’s humans, begin to die rather suddenly en masse because they are susceptible to terrestrial pathogenic bacteria. The narrator of the novel explains this as the result of the “fact” that there are no bacteria on Mars. Consequently, Martians have no immunity and are “irrevocably doomed, dying and rotting even as they went to and fro. It was inevitable. By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are.”

[5] For an overview of the field, and its inherent politics and possibilities, see Our article on Panspermia. For specifically Mars-Earth panspermia, and technical information on the necessary forces, see Mileikowsky  et al. “Natural Transfer of Viable Microbes in Space: 1. From Mars to Earth and Earth to Mars” Icarus 145, 391– 427 (2000). Accessible here.

[6] See for example Gest, H.The ‘Astrobiology’ Fantasy of NASA”. 2006

[7] See also: Mosco, V. (2004). The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power, and Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Posted in Fauxist Cryptozoology, Fauxist Speculative Literature, Fauxists In Space | 9 Comments »

Fauxist Submissions Feature in Fetish Magazine

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on November 23, 2010

Interstitial* Bestiaries**

Free Fetish Personals for Discerning Devotees

Vol. 1 Iss.4, Nov.-Jan. 2010-11 ACE

“A Desire Called Dystopia: Abject Sex & Archive Trauma”

For free, full-colour pdf download:

Interstitial Bestiaries 4

From Interstitial Bestiaries:
“This month’s featured artist, Utopia Etcetera, takes us on a brief tour of
their large collection of Second Life imagery, project excerpts and working
documents. Utopia has solicited their SL friends’ submissions also.

In a double-sized issue with the theme:

“A Desire Called Dystopia: Abject Sex & Archive Trauma”,

We’ve an amazing, exclusive interview with Zoltan, Designer of Robot AI Sex dolls & regarding his robot girlfriend Alice, an account of the Museum of Sex Furniture in Second Life, artist submissions including ‘The Virtual Transgender Suit’, the ‘Menstruation Machine’, A themepark of Near Death Experiences, a tranny surprise film, & a comprehension test submitted by the Fauxist International.

If that wasn’t enough already, We’ve crammed in late entries: a psycho-sexual reminisence on Mattel’s famous 90’s goo-toy ‘Gak’, & a story about a game-designer’s fossilized porno dog ‘Artaud’, from Regrette Etcetera’s upcoming collection “So this one time I turn up for a trick…” ANDWe are also privileged to have received a number of choice items for review this month, donated by the Portland Paranormal Society”.

Note: Fauxist Representative Regrette Etcetera also featured in Interstitial Bestiaries #3, available for download in the menu bar at left.

 

* interstitial: (in-tər-ˈsti-shəl): Pertaining to being between things, especially between things that are normally closely spaced. 1 a : a space that intervenes between things; especially : one between closely spaced or nominally indistinguishable things <interstices of a wall>, <the interstitial fluid found between body cells> b : existing in or filling a gap or break in something generally continuous <the interstices of society> <passages of genuine literary merit in the interstices of the ludicrous…plots — Joyce Carol Oates> 2 : a short space of time or content between events or features.


** bestiary (bĕs`chēĕr’ē): A
type of medieval book that was widely popular, particularly from the 12th to 14th cent. The bestiary presumed to describe the animals of the world and to show what human traits and moral lessons they severally exemplify. The bestiaries are the source of a bewildering array of fabulous beasts and of many misconceptions of real ones, and demonstrate differences in pre-modern and modern taxonomies and beliefs.


Posted in Fauxist Real Gender, Fauxist Speculative Literature | Leave a Comment »

Temporal Slip in Crystal Architectures: Meth Museums, Meth Labs in Space, & The Meth-Architecture-Organism

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on November 11, 2010

Contents:

– “Laura”: Mourning in The Contemporary Meth museum & Topographies of Meth Hells

Practice Meth Labs: Emergency Sim-Architecture

Practice Meth Labs 2: The First Ever Meth-Lab in Space

Moving into A Meth Lab: The Toxic-domestic regrets of innocent families

– Domestic Alchemy & The Meth-Organism in Architecture

——–

Watch this first.

 

This is a smart meth PSA. For once. Much more sophisticated than the usual fare of lost innocence/violent teenager imagery…  And to be crystal clear, I love meth. I’ll come with you Laura. An indeed the writing of this is ‘inspired’ by the recent wave of double/triple strength meth that hit the scene in Sydney & has everyone talking to Tina. The Fauxists have long evinced a fascination with drugs and architectural spacetime, and in Laura’s museum, We’ve picked up on some particularly potent motifs of meth-time.

Laura’s Museum

In what is obviously the blank bright cavernous interior of a contemporay art space- rather than the dark stuffiness of a traditional museum?- split-channel videos and wallpapered paintings blatantly quoting Takashi Murakami mimic the art-viewing experience, of experience scoured & framed by the white cube-void.

We are led into an exhibition that could well be entitled “Laura: The Mourning of Straight Time”. Laura wanders spaces of temporal slip, arrayed with visions and objects of her/a lost adolescence and childhood. Indeed, at centre, the contrasting of meth-time, meth-desire with straight time is the central tenet to most of the PSA’s of this ilk. The notion of ‘straight time’, as deployed by Halberstam, and developed by Jose Esteban Munoz, describes the ‘autonaturalizing temporality’ that is produced by the structures of heteronormativity (broadly), and its proprietary deployment of work, recreation, family, the body etc. Straight time promises that there is no future for non-normative individuals/groups, as the only futurity promised is that of reproductive majoritarian heterosexuality, the family, and the spectacle of the state refurbishing its ranks through covert & subsidized acts of reproduction. It is impoverished and toxic for ‘others’ who do not feel the privilege of majoritatian belonging, normative tastes, and ‘rational’ expectations.

In the forced re-imposition of straight time, Laura is ‘offered’ a hypertextual multiverse of access to her potential paths and parallel lives framed totally as loss (“A museum of what she lost to meth”). In a screaming re-accession/dismissal of her childhood(s),  Laura bodily skirts a claustrophobic installation of cards, only to thrash against/through the birthday/card field-archive (reminiscent of the ‘house of cards’ or dominoes, and bringing to mind Derrida’s ‘Archive trauma’) that someone has arranged so perfectly, through the accumulated weight of sticky intentions and ties, forming a path.

Google Image results for "Meth"

Straight Time again. This parallel lives/lost potential device is common throughout anti-meth ads & lit. Alongside the overwhelming preponderance of before-and-after mugshots of crystal-ravaged countenances (these are in fact the predominant image found if you type “Meth” into Google- see image above- and are a makeup artists database for the swathe of tele-features destined to proliferate as the ‘meth-emergency’ continues), there are a number of campaigns that traffic in a cosy mix of regret and straight time, like the infamous “Lost Me to Meth” series, and in particular the ‘gay’ ‘Lost Me To Meth’ video below.

Other notable instances include the apparently ‘horrific’ Montana Meth Campaign some of its derivative spinoffs.

There is a voyeuristic-cum-panoptic quality to this video, which is verified by the surveillance camera’s robotic jerkiness and zoom in the closing moments. We now know that Laura’s ‘exploration’ is under supervision, the video lays bare it’s self-producing mechanisms as panoptic document. Much can be read from this. ‘They’ have made this museum and are letting her suffer through it for ‘the Great Lesson’, surveiled from and shoring up their own righteous position and  importantly, chronology. There is a deep Catholicism in this. In meeting an omnipresent god, whose monitoring angels have recorded your every move and intention, how else could you experience ‘what you had lost’ like this?

In reiterating chronology (or more accurately the chronotopic timespace relations of amphetamines) , We remember that some years into the study of the ‘states’ grouped under the umbrella ADHD, came the realization that the ADHD ‘sufferers’ perceived the flow of time quite differently to the majority. Thus pharmaceutical speed and meth treatments, which had already proven to re-align the occupation of aberrant attention were then understood to actually correct and align the perception of time passing. In other words, amphetamines- strictly administered- became known to be effective agents of hegemonic/straight time, whether in the kindergarten child, or the jacked-out military fighter jet-pilot. That the pseudoephedrine of common cold medications designed to keep Us work-ready is the key ingredient of meth, doubles the irony of the endless castigation of the self-administering meth-freak’s mis/overuse of time.

Following such time-slippages in an institutional space (the ‘angels in the architecture’ of Paul Simon), We are left to wonder what other types of museum or archive Laura’s ‘monument’, her thanatological themepark, could inhabit, and how the space would then determine the psycho-emotional possibilities of the ‘exploration’. In other words, how would Meth-life-time be displayed in the educational, didactic displays and chronological layouts of the traditional museum? Would the dark and dusty halls of old not be more suited to the junky’s history? (Perhaps best located architecturally in smack-poet Michael Dransfield’s mythic ancestral mansion ‘Courland Penders’, into which he built his nostalgia for an older civilization).

Which implies the question: Is there something about the contemporary art space that is inherently schizoid? And what of the museum in the supercomputer or database? Would not the Virtual Reality Meth-Hell, the simulated gaming space of a million mediated selves, be just as ‘efficient’?

What indeed is the architecture here? The architecture of Laura’s Museum is essentially and exactly a topology of hell and morality, which always is busy designing it’s Hells and their populations. In viewing Laura’s Museum, We must then imagine the labyrinthine institution that would hold all of the lost experiences and lives of Meth Users, or others similarly abject (according to any particular morality and vision of upward mobility etc.) We can safely predict that their overseers consume an all-to-common diet of the traditional Borges, Dante, Piranesi, Bentham… with updates by Philip K. Dick, EST, Italo Calvino, Landmark Forum…

How did she enter? Where from? How does she exit? Who and where are the museum staff? Do they visit their own janatorial hells too? Are these replete with corporate hierachies they could have ascended if they’d just bleached their skin more rigorously? Screams can be heard from behind the walls. In the next room(s), the 4th world poor are flayed by streams of better lives, the children of junkies are hired for cameo roles in their parents films, all the while producing material for their own future museums. Rooms lit by myriad screens, editors compiling endless footage of speculative lives, possibilities, permutations, for the judgement & the primal scream…

But before We exponentially expand Laura’s museum into a city-state, other associations beckon…

For example, We are aware here of the somewhat uncanny crossover’s with Mike Kelley’s work, notably his confrontation with architecture and “repressed memory syndrome” (the “Study for Repressed Spatial Relationships” series) and his work “Educational Complex”: an architectural model composed of replicas of every school Kelley ever attended, with areas which he couldn’t remember left blank.

Mike Kelley "Educational Complex" 1995

Mike Kelley "Study for Repressed Spatial Relationships Rendered as Fluid, No. 6 St. Mary's Church and School Cry Room in the Sky" 2002

Further, Kelley’s performances, with their implication of childhood objects and memories (later of trauma, sexuality, loss etc) brought into the contemporary art space, often function by creating agglomerations, dialogues, and taxonomies of (often handmade) soft toys in gallery space. Like Laura’s childhood bear and bed, Kelley’s toys are set in scientific-philosophic arrays and dialogues, animated with mourning and the abjection of memory, and draw on the calculus of object-affect and regression that Laura’s overseers obviously employ.

Mike Kelly "Dirty" typology.

Mike Kelley. 'Dirty' inset.

Toy Taxonomy/Typology

An Anthropometry of Memory

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As another small detour, for a moment consider the videographic architecture of the equivalent Acid morality-museum. What would be the moralist’s didactic media space for the acid-freak? As Erik Davis writes, psychedelics are perhaps best seen as media, and in fact are a lot like information overload, however, We believe, baroque the iconographic-semiotic framework. Similarly, McLuhan saw psychedelics as “chemical simulations of our environment”, which allow users to achieve empathy with the “archaic echo chamber of the electronic media”. And indeed, the metaphors of psychedelics are of media, not message (‘tune in’ & ‘turn on’… and trust the psychedelic apparatus). Or alternatively of LSD: “When you get the message, hang up the phone”.

In many ways, according to Davis, 60’s/70’s freak spirituality simply reproduced industrial society’s belief in quick-fix technological solutions- the ‘plug & play’ nirvana of the gadget happy Americans. An instantaneous ‘out’/’in’ often set amidst the high-tech sensory assault of the happening (think Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test/Grateful Dead), resulting in forms of technological fetishism. So what are the acid-heads missing from the museum? Would this museum be an internet/advertising space?

Seen from this vantage point, the Meth PSA’s, and especially ‘Laura’, mobilize elements of the heady epochal melding of Acid freak (60’s), New Age (primal scream therapy) (70’s), and corporate Success seminars (90’s)- and indeed the easy slippage of New Age semiotics into the corporate environs- in dealing with postmodern anxieties around the maintanence of the self, proper/functional trajectories, and the identity media-multiverse. In the video museum in which Everyone is You-as-lost-You, the overseers/seminar leaders are photogenic messiahs trying to deprogram the TV-bred abjection out of you. A recent, succinct rendering of this is Brody Condon’s amazing LARP Seminar “Level 5” performance at the Hammer Museum, September 4-5, 2010: VIDEO HERE

Staying with Brody’s use of 70’s regression ‘processing’ techniques for a moment, We can draw links between these interventionist psychological tools and the horrific 1950’s torture-psychology experiments that they emanated from. Laura’s museum- in both its surveillance-experimental and infantilizing nature- could thus be seen as a kind of circling ‘back’ to the CIA’s clandestine  Operation Bluebird (think drug-and-noise/media-and-electroshock-forced schizophrenia) and indeed Ewan Cameron’s MKULTRA ‘regression’ experiments, which added LSD to the mix. Indeed, you’d only need to cut the text out of the Laura video to make it a performance-art video piece.

Setting aside Brody, and indeed McLuhan, We believe the theorist Paul Virilio- whose theories of speed, dromology, telepresence and videography warfare and their effects on architecture, identity and ‘the’ body- are better suited to thinking through the Meth-time museum, and nature of the meth-media link. But again, We digress! This is another essay entirely!

All in all, Laura’s museum seems like a somewhat benign behavioural punishment. In being made to experience these narratives- the loss is not liberty, her body etc- but straight time, memory, family.  And frankly, We think they can keep it.

The following sections then, explore the architectures and cultural symbolics of meth-labs, taken here as reproduced meth-labs to follow the logic of the preceding.

Practice Meth Labs: Emergency Sim-Architecture

(Note: All images in this section by the Center for Land Use Interpretation)


Meth is fast becoming a national emergency. As labs proliferate, it saturates the US, and the trade from Mexico increases. Importantly, Meth doesn’t skyhook (or bootstrap?) with the relative cultural indulgence of cocaine, but is something much more poor, queer, abject. ‘Worse than Heroin’, it has quickly become the central drug bogeyman.

As explored in Our upcoming article “Amputees in Mock-Afghanistanian Mud: Military Simulation-Urbanism, Performance and the Future of Global Warfare” (which deals with the architectural simulation of war games and virtual sims, military urbanism and cryptogeography), there is a growing network of cryptogeographic mock-towns and villages used for simulation, training and re-enactments of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and indeed for the future of 3rd World urban warfare. In this case though, the mock urban spaces are intended to simulate non-military and law enforcement emergencies. The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) has undertaken an investigation into these emergency mock-towns, spread across the US mainland.

As CLUI (Link) explain:

“Another architecture is rising in the expanding landscape of preparedness. Condensed simulacrum of our existing urban environments are forming within our communities, where the first responders to emergencies, on a small or large scale, practice their craft of dealing with disaster. The scenario grounds of emergency training include mock hazardous material spills, train wrecks, building collapse, fires, and debris strewn landscapes. The police contend with civil decay, robberies, hostage situations, looting, riots, and snipers in mini Main Street environments called situation simulation villages , tactical training sites, or Hogan’s Alleys , where live weapons or small dye-filled simunition rounds complete the realism of the scenario. Whether they are made for police or fire departments, these training sites are stylized versions of ordinary places, with the extraordinary horrors of the anticipated future applied to them on a routine basis. In disaster situations, from car accidents to riots to earthquakes to terrorist attacks, when order breaks down, the worlds of police, fire departments, and the military, coming to our defense, merge to become the reigning order – the emergency state”.

Photographs from CLUI’s work show the towns to be replete with  a series of practice/simulation meth labs, in which actors play out the part of tweakers. In what may be a lost chapter of “A scanner, darkly”, many of the rooms in these sim-labs,have no real ceilings, and the action is watched and filmed from overhead catwalks by supervisors monitoring the officers’ skills. The photo series in this section by CLUI documents these simulated training labs, a kind of Meth-architectural double uncanny.

This meth-emergency architecture has spawned another meth-museum. Though here, the police experience all they are missing. Baudrillard’s false-false teeth can be heard grinding from his grave.

Practice Meth Labs: The First Meth-Lab in Space

In what may be one of the headiest Meta-Meth-architectural dreams, a Nasa contractor has built a meth lab in space.

And doesn’t it feel like We’ve been waiting to utter that sentence Our whole lives?

High above the online Second Life region called The Unknown is a small dark island floating in the upper stratosphere, which is an unlikely location to build a meth lab. Unless, say, you’re roleplaying a drug dealer with a dirigible- or as it turns out in this case, you’re a metaverse developer who wants to demonstrate SL’s utility as a simulation training tool for individuals who need to recognize real meth labs.

Fred Fuchs (the NASA contractor), has done what no meth lab cook has ever done before. He has taken a meth lab to the final frontier, where no police have ever been before. Yet, that is exactly what he wants law enforcement agents to do.  Find his meth lab. Fuchs wants all cops to know – when it comes to meth labs, they should expect the unexpected. Fuchs has hidden his meth lab so well, that even the DEA would have a hard time finding it or the pre-cursor chemicals or cooked meth that are located inside his lab.

Floating far above universities, corporate headquarters, and other buildings lies Fuch’s unreachable and untouchable meth lab, in a space where no one would think about investigating – in space. If the pigs are lucky enough to find out how to get to Second Life, they still have to find the lab, which might have asking other people on Second Life about where he is.

The space lab was built based on photos from police websites, and in Fuchs’ words: “We hope to encourage use of SL for training law enforcement and social workers. We found that a walk-thru helped other types of clients think about ways they could use SL… I wrote simulations for the International Space Station. Accuracy in simulations is ‘my thing'”

The lab is located high above Firesabre headquarters, though experienced SL explorers will know how to find it: direct SLurl teleport at this link.

Is this the ultimate timespace architecture and media of Meth?

Moving into A Meth Lab

“Meth labs, however, always have possibilities, being made and wrecked at the same time”.

With the proliferation of the meth lab, necessarily comes the proliferation the ex-lab. With so many homes potentially contaminated by methamphetamine production, meth experts estimate that thousands to tens of thousands of people have discovered that what they thought was the American dream–a nice home for the family–is actually an American nightmare, and the potential cause of a range of health problems and a stack of medical bills. For a vague, under-reported vision of the scope of ex-labs, visit the US DEA’s “Clandestine Labratory Register”, or peruse the list for a state like California

Here We take a brief tour of these toxic homes, which were once used to cook, and thence appear on the real estate market after the fire, the bust, or the move. Generally, a sensible estate agent will avoid mentioning the house’s past, and as We’ll see, there are many “innocent American families” now coming to inhabit ex-labs. Note: Meth labs don’t adhere to class real-estate boundaries.

The Times point out that meth production chemicals “can permeate drywall, carpets, insulation and air ducts, causing respiratory ailments and other health problems.”  It also quoted experts to the effect that living in a former meth house puts children at greater risk of developing learning disabilities or long-term respiratory and skin problems. And the risk wasn’t limited to kids. A 2007 study in Denver found that more than 70% of the police who were called in to inspect meth labs later reported health problems. Upon moving into a meth house, people have experienced short-term health problems ranging from migraines and respiratory difficulties to skin irritation and burns. Long-term problems are less well known, but the results from a 2009 study in Toxological Sciences suggest that methamphetamine chemicals may cause cancer in humans. And because children have small, developing bodies and a tendency to play on the ground and architectural surfaces and lick or put things in their mouths, they are especially susceptible to adverse health effects from meth toxins in a building. “When we go into a [meth] lab, if there are children, the first thing we do is take the children to the hospital and assess them for contamination,” said Narcotics officer Jeff Smith.

Now, Discover Magazine has published a must-read update on the extent of the problem – and it makes for a sobering read. Apparently, about the only thing you can do if you find your house has been a meth lab is tear the whole place apart down to the bare studs and start over, with new electrical, new insulation, new plumbing, and new drywall. Even if a meth house is cleaned properly, some experts worry that meth toxins may hang around.

Meth Lab Homes (http://methlabhomes.com), a site dedicated to those who’ve unwittingly bought Meth houses, and to preventing anyone else from doing so, goes into a more practical side of Meth-Estate. From their ‘MethLab 101’ guide to how to pick meth architecture clues and traces, under titles like “Stains”, “Strange Plumbing”, and including tell-tale aftereffects of a meth lab, sections detailing the lacklustre housekeeping habits of tweakers, to lists of possible warning smells, worth reproducing in its heady entirety here:

What does a meth lab smell like?

– Smells like a hospital due to the common use of ethyl ether as an anesthetic. Nasal irritant. Ether-like: Aromatic, sweet odor often accompanied by a sweet taste.

– Smells like paint thinners, paint removers, adhesives, and cleaning fluids. Type of odor often found in auto body shops or furniture refinishing shops. Eye and nasal irritant.

– Smells like odor found in vinegar, mayonnaise, salad dressings or pickled food. Pungent, acrid, or sour smell. Eye irritant.

– Smells like wet diapers, glass cleaners, cattle feed-lots, or fertilizers. A sharp, irritating odor.  Eye and nasal irritant.

See also Methlab Homes’ video: Meth homes are a costly cleanup.

The site also collects the (often tawdry) stories of ‘innocent families’ who’ve mistakenly bought a Meth house. Most feature a narrative of revelation, suspicion. Accounts of the  architectural details, clues, and invisible effects of the Meth architecture, and how it has come to effect their lives/psyche. Our personal favorite: The Bates Family: Three tours in Iraq and and now a meth lab home.


Domestic Alchemy & The Meth-Organism in Architecture

Following the sim-lab further, We arrive back in the contemporary art space.

2009’s “Black Acid Co-op”, an immense, labor-intensive, maniacally contrived walk-through installation environment that is a warren of some dozen rooms, interiors and passageways. It includes a burned-out home methamphetamine lab, a red-carpeted gallery of pseudo-artworks and a hippie haven. Its disparate spaces sustain ever-closer readings and parsings, like a series of archaeological-architectural sites in perpetual excavation…

 

“Black Acid Co-op” is the work of the New York artists Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. It is the third incarnation of “Hello Meth Lab in the Sun,” which opened last spring at Ballroom Marfa, Texas.

The heart of the piece is the meth kitchen, crawling with plastic tubes, jammed with glass jugs and beakers and littered with full and empty boxes of the over-the-counter cold medicines that are chief among the ingredients of the drug’s simple but dangerous recipe. In a grim before and after, this kitchen is reached through a ghost of itself: the charred remains of another lab in conjoined trailers destroyed by a meth-making explosion.

Careful attention to detail is obvious throughout this mammoth effort. Nothing is accidental. The room-by-room shifts in reality have been aptly compared to jump-cut scenes in a film, with each door or — more likely — each hole in the wall introducing a different form of delusional retreat from the larger world, with architectural space and chronologic markers standing in for moral movement (like the geologic/geographic-moral equivalence in Conrad’s Kurtz). The varieties of societal detachment wending through the piece are echoed in recurring meditations on voyeurism, display and the remove of art and the museum. According to their press, Black Acid Co-Op is the moniker for a “counter-culture enclave embedded in the metropolis”. In this incarnation, the artists focus on the production of illegal drugs and “sites of sub-cultural groups and how they are situated in the larger urban environment”. The installation expands on the notions relating to the connection between counter-culture and industrial society “resulting in a spatial collage that extends itself into a vast architectural setting”.

The Meth Lab here is a site of transubstantiation and transmutation in which highly illegal and universally scorned alchemical practice wages  war with straight time and architecture. The legal, everyday domestic objects- batteries, cold meds, vacuum hoses-  are cooked into Uppers and $ using alchemy’s method of homespun experimentalism, bonding unlikely ingredients and ushering in a secular, psychosis-mysticism that infects the spaces. In the lab not only are materials transformed, their intended uses are subverted along with consumerism’s tenets of freedom, happiness and choice. The lightly veiled intimacy between the lawful and the deviant is put on display.

Psychosis, decrepitude and paranoia are explicated architecturally, invoking the rituals of occult production and space. And what is perhaps subliminal in the meth labs explored above, becomes obvious here- that the architecture and paraphenalia of the meth lab is an organism. Ducts, wires and tubes traverse rooms creating a semblance of an organism: architecture as body, electricity as capillaries, and volumes as organs.  As an architectural hybridization and transformation, the intended use of many of the sites is bent: factories have become homes, kitchens, car trunks, trucks, etc are used as labs.

Disappointingly, as another example of sim-meth, this time trafficking in the abject affect of the meth-space, this gallery Meth Lab suggested fear, anxiety, paranoia, and intoxication from a comfortable, almost academic remove. These artists don’t attempt to get “political”- although you could get Marxist about the practice of fabricating an expensive facsimile of down-rent environs for “aesthetic” consumption in downtown NYC. Instead, Meth Lab collapsed the old triad of transgressivity- sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll- into a architectural cliche fit for family (i.e art community) viewing.

Posted in Fauxist Architecture, Fauxist Speculative Literature | 7 Comments »

Fauxist Retrospective Exhibition Reviewed in UN Magazine

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on November 11, 2010

Review by Kate Woodcroft

UN Magazine issue 4.2,

pages 95-7.

UN Magazine: “Melbourne’s leading independent magazine for contemporary art”

http://www.unmagazine.org/

 

 

 

Posted in Fauxist Events, Fauxist Speculative Literature | 2 Comments »

‘Out of Time, Place, Scale’: Cryptozoology & Neocolonialism

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on October 10, 2010

Excerpts from the Fauxist Cryptozoology Project

Contents:

– Project outline & Cryptozoology Defined.

– Four Excerpts from: “Cryptozoology In Australia”:

– The Yowie, the Bunyip & ‘Pre-human Arcadia’: The Proto-cryptozoological Antipodes

– Survivors From the Dreamtime or Bad Karma of Colonisation?: Making The Soft Bunyip

– The Bunyip as Mega-Faunal Oral Memory: Colonial Projections in Cryptozoology

– ‘Wild Hairy Men’: Cryptozoology, Class and Masculinity in Australia and the USA

– Picture Essay excerpt: Mythic Sauroids & the Re-Creation of the Outside

– Botched taxidermy: ‘Non-descripts’, Jenny hanovers & the Collaged Cryptid


Cryptozoology Defined

“What is cryptozoology if not the quest for truth? And if this quest is completed, what the hell was the point if all the people are only willing to believe their own truth? It would be wonderful if every cryptid turned out to be real, but…..it wouldn’t. A lot of people would be famous for doing it, but…..it would be so empty…”   James Churchill

“The whole allure of cryptozoology is not only the search for the hidden, but the thrill of the hunt. People love things they can’t explain”. Alfred Hops

Cryptozoology is a scientific ethnoknown-targeted methodology for zoological discovery. Ethnoknown species are alleged animals with enough salience (observable characteristics) to be recognized as something distinctive or unknown, either by a native people group, or chance eyewitnesses. By definition, cryptozoology is the study of hidden or unknown animals, or “Cryptids” (a term for an animal under the cryptozoological microscope). In some cases, a cryptid may be well-known, or may only have been reported a handful of times. Commonly known cryptids include: Bigfoot/Sasquatch, Loch Ness, the Yowie, the Yeti, the Chupacabra.

Cryptozoology is not recognized by the scientific community as a science. There are no degrees in it, and therefore, there is no such thing as an official cryptozoologist. This makes cryptozoology more of a hobby than it will ever be a science. The fact alone that anybody can do it makes it so controversial that the scientific community pours scorn upon it. Similarly, the field enjoys a measure of public disdain, due to its often tabloid/conspiracy theory aesthetic, and the eccentric antics of some of its proponents.

Entrance, International Cryptozoology Museum, Portland, MA, USA

Catalogue for 'Cryptozoology: Out of Time, Place, Scale' Exhibition.

The publication illustrated above: “Cryptozoology: Out of Time, Place, Scale”, gives an idea of the classificatory uniqueness of the cryptid- as matter out of place, something stretching or breaking taxonomical categories, blending and even paroding the knowability of  characteristics, decentring, threatening. Like the former roles of many monsters and mythic creatures, the cryptid most often blurs the wild/tame, civilized/savage, real/imaginary, human/other, and modern/premodern dualisms, and functions as a trans-ing figure, a liminal appearance. Something too too, that would have found its place in the medieval bestiary, or cavorted with the strange beings of the antipodean imagination and the spirit realm. And as we will explore below, the cryptid, and indeed the cryptozoological ‘movement’ is an important figure in the neo-colonial imagination of ‘belonging’ to the landscape, a ‘re-animation’ of nature and appropriation of mythologies.

Less interesting then is debating the claims to truth and evidentiary ‘proof’ that such cryptozoological production foregrounds- the veracity of the Bigfoot footage, the Loch Ness photos, the Bunyip eyewitness stories- but rather the presumptions and tensions underpinning the construction and definition of the ‘field’, the ‘expedition’, the ‘opposition’ (scientific authority and a disbelieving public) and the various deployments of an animate, resistant Nature/non-urban space which ‘science cannot fully penetrate’ (to recall the logos of Francis Bacon, who would seem to occupy a simultaneously central and oppositional role in ‘modern’ cryptozoology). In other words,what is most important is not whether or not the Thylacine/Tasmanian Tiger still ‘exists’ or not, but rather what can be garnered from the hunt, the structures of ‘evidence’ and truth, the colonial-ecological politics, & so on. As such, when addressing the Thylacine, modern crytptozoology cites, updates and reopens the monstrous Other of Europe, the mappa mundi populated with monsters and antipodean freaks, continues the tradition in the colonies of fear of the wilderness & comes to replace the ceding of apparent physical and epistemological threat of the indigene.

Unconfirmed species served as an implicit ground of conflict and dialogue between untutored masses and educated elite, even prior to the rise of academic science as a unified body of expert consensus. The psychological significance of cryptozoology in the modern world has new facets, however: it now serves to channel guilt over the decimation of species and destruction of the natural habitat; to recapture a sense of mysticism and danger in a world now perceived as fully charted and over-explored; and to articulate resentment of and defiance against a scientific community perceived as monopolising the pool of culturally acceptable beliefs.

“Man, it is true, can, by combination, surmount all his real enemies, and become master of the whole of animal creation: But does he not immediately raise up to himself imaginary enemies, the daemons of his fancy …?”–David Hume

The cultural significance of contemporary cryptozoology bears many similarities to, as well as some important differences from, the cryptozoology of the premodern world. In a sense, it can be argued that the term “cryptozoology” is itself an anachronism when applied to pre-modern cultures. From the fifteenth century through the nineteenth century, discoveries of new lands and large new species continued to animate the natural sciences and inspire scientists with a sense of awe. The human relationship with physical, geographic space–and indeed, with the natural world–began to shift radically following the mid-nineteenth century, when the last pockets of substantially unexplored space were mapped and catalogued. By the start of the twentieth century, there were few large land-species left to be discovered. As a result, we were forced to confront the fact that we now knew, for the most part, what kinds of animals did and did not exist, and roughly what their populations and habitats were.

If there are entire species–large species, even–that have survived not only active human management, but even human detection, then we feel a little humbler about our ability to alter the natural biosphere and, perhaps, a little less guilty about the damage we have inflicted on it. It is significant that cryptozoologists devote much attention to extinct species in particular, exploring them as potential candidates for putative cryptids. This forms a bridge with the distant past, repopulating the landscape with living zoological treasures and symbolically reviving primordial eons otherwise known to us only through movies and books. The whole business of mass extinction seems less overwhelming and depressing in the face of mysteries left to be discovered.

There is a rugged sense of adventurism both in the methodology of cryptozoology and in the narrative descriptions of cryptid encounters. A familiar theme from accounts of bigfoot and other cryptid sightings is that, during a close encounter, the creature is just as startled as the human observer is–a chestnut drawn from popular naturalist expeditions purporting to observe animals in their natural habitats (such as the old television show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and, more recently, “Crocodile Hunter”). [24] By appealing to such tropes, cryptozoologists rhetorically assimilate themselves with the courageous first generation of naturalists who tracked down strange new species in poorly mapped regions. One cannot help but sense a nostalgia for bygone eras of scientific discovery in the cryptozoological community as a whole: as George Eberhart observes, “Cryptozoologists are reliving a time two centuries ago when all of zoology was in an age of discovery. This field preserves the spirit of those days” (Eberhart 2002, vol. 1, xxxi), and they recast familiar and over-trammelled terrain as wilderness.

Most central of all, however–the plesiosaur in the room, as it were–is the very mystique of para-science. Cryptozoology devotees consciously position themselves in defiance of mainstream science.  Whereas in the Middle Ages the educated scholar was as likely–or as unlikely–as an illiterate peasant to believe in a given unconfirmed species, in the post-Enlightenment world there is a conspicuous disconnect between academic science and popular belief on a surprisingly wide range of topics. The ubiquitous popular belief in ghosts, psychic ability, alien encounters, communication with the dead, and astrology, to name but a sampling of the “paranormal,” documents a resistance to the canons of belief doled out by the orthodox structures of contemporary academic science. In an age when evolutionary scientists have all but robbed Judeo-Christians of their account of creation, genetic engineering appears to threaten the sanctity and individuality of human life, and medical authorities continuously make the general populace feel guilty about those very hallmarks of an affluent leisure-society that it apparently treasures most (high-fat and high-sugar diet, recreational use of tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals, and inactivity), it is natural that an undercurrent of resistance to beliefs imposed from above by an academic elite should flourish. In such an atmosphere, the para-sciences will inevitably thrive, not just despite evidence to the contrary from the scientific community, but–more to the point–actively in spite of it. To be on to something that even the professors of Harvard do not know about, or to benefit from a cure of which the National Institutes of Health are ignorant, can be very empowering in an age of routine deference to higher bodies of institutional knowledge.

If science “disenchanted” the world as Max Weber famously claimed, deviant fields of study like cryptozoology, parapsychology and Ufology can offer a type of “re-enchantment” by introducing new mysterious forces into the world. A sighting of a cryptid is sometimes akin to what Rudolph Otto called “the wholly other,” an experience of both wonder and dread that takes on religious significance. In some cases, quasi-religious rites have formed around specific cryptids. Numerous rituals have been devised to summon Bigfoot and Nessie, often involving drums and chanting.

We find this to be the case: even a brief glance at paranormal apologetic literature reveals a pioneer enthusiasm, a notable relish at the chance to offer a counter-perspective against the allegedly closed-minded sycophants of institutional academic beliefs. Cryptozoology thus fulfils an important role: it represents a quest for magic and wonder in a world many perceive as having lost its mystique. Bernard Heuvelmans, the “Father of Cryptozoology,” has proposed our emotional response as a core feature of a cryptid: to count as a cryptid, an animal must have at least one trait “truly singular, unexpected, paradoxical, striking, emotionally upsetting, and thus capable of mythification” (Heuvelmans 1983, 5). [3] At the very least, cryptozoologists usually maintain that there must be a “minimum size” for a creature to count as having cryptozoological interest. Even a cursory scan through works of cryptozoology or through cryptozoological online message boards makes it clear that what is being sought is not simply the unknown–it is the formidable, the frightening, the monstrous. In this sense, cryptozoology is nothing new. In other words, there is undoubtedly a continuum behind the psychological need for folkloric monsters running from the ancient to the modern world.

Thus the Fauxists engage with cryptozoology not in order to ‘prove’ the existence of these phenomena, to scientifically verify or to debunk, but rather to unpack their cultural constructions and significance.

We endeavour to at once adhere to the often hallucinatory logic of the ‘science’, and also to fold this logical chicanery back into the field itself- that is, to regard cryptozoology from a cryptozoological viewpoint– and to see what results this produces.

(For further resources & links, see listing at the end of this post).

Project Outline

Beginning in late 2008, the Fauxists ‘Hooray For Cryptozoology’ Project continues at the time of publication.

In summary, this project seeks to investigate the following points:

– The idea of ‘matter out of place, place, scale’: The stretching or breaking taxonomical categories, blending characteristics, and the decentring, threatening, and blurring of the wild/tame, civilized/savage, colonized/pre-colonial dualisms in the cryptid and the cryptozoological ‘search’.

– How ‘out of place, time, scale’ figures in the relationship of cryptozoology to science.

– The important role of cryptozoology in the translation and differentiation of ‘mythologies’ (as pre/non-modern) and the ‘modern’ (civil, rational etc), and of the numerous frictions between belief/space-time systems in a colonial context.

– The cryptid’s role in the neo-colonial imagination of ‘belonging’ to the landscape, specifically how they facilitate an ostensible ‘re-animation’ of ‘nature/natural space’ in settler societies.

– The ‘soft bunyip’ and the ties of folkloric fear to colonial alienation. The ‘soft bunyip’ represents the settler appropriation of the bunyip, largely as a measure of their achieving a sense of belonging to the formerly alien environment, a crossover that was not effected without the bunyip losing some if the antediluvian mystery of its mythic stature.

– The cryptid’s- and especially the cryptid hominid- role as a trans-ing figure and liminal appearance, the ‘wild man’, always at the edges, fleeting, liminal and afraid, lures the trackers back into the forest, into glossolalia, fear.

– How the cryptid is made to ‘speak for’ the interpreter, as a critical comment on the failings of urban(e) modernity.

– Under the concept of ‘Botched Taxidermy’- exploring the creation of cryptozoololgical fakes, hoaxes and models, and the ‘holding to form’ of the animal under postmodernism, its echoes of the deconstruction of the category ‘natural’ and etc. the alignments of colonial belonging etc.

– The concept of ‘mythic sauroids’- those accounts of remnant terrestrial dinosaur populations, and their linkages to ideologies of colonialism and race (especially in the American west).

 

Cryptid Audio

A key part of the Fauxist Cryptozoology Project is audio recording, one of the central methods of gathering-capturing evidence and traces of cryptids in cryptozoology. This component is covered more fully in the ‘Hooray for Cryptozoology’ publication and the CD release of the same title (2010).

Trying to capture evidence of cryptids in audio form, using the analyses developed throughout the Fauxist Spirit Mic recording sessions project. Again, this work is not in order to ‘prove’ the existence of these phenomena, to scientifically verify, to debunk, but rather to unpack their cultural constructions and significance.  

The field of cryptid audio and documentation. The ‘sweeping’ of technology, carrying the torch, condensation into tape etc. The strange acts of chasing mythics, spirits and cryptids with handicams and Dictaphones, regimens of proof and anti-authority, folk-science. The act of recording and analysis of the tapes, the expeditions and intent. An important type of conspiratorial quasi-spiritual fringe science.

We endeavour to move beyond the literalisms of the cryptozoological genre/field by importing methodologies and theory from our Spirit Mic recording sessions and theory. (See publications HERE). In that there is a notable anthropocentric and anthropomorphic bias to almost all EVP work, We felt that a widening of the focus could be fruitful, reopening famous tapes and taking our own, especially those recorded in times and places of cryptid interest etc. And conversely, to use EVP methodology and theory to deliberately trouble the modern/ mythological division inherent to most cryptozoological work

Botched Taxidermy: ‘Non-descripts’, ‘Jenny Hanovers’ & the Collaged Cryptid

Steve Baker’s concept of ‘Botched Taxidermy’, as developed in “The Postmodern Animal” functions as a rather clumsy catch-all phrase for a variety of contemporary art practice that engages with the animal at some level or other. In some cases it involves taxidermy itself, but in all cases the animal, dead or alive, is present in all its awkward, pressing thing-ness. We think what many of these artists are doing in their presentation of the animal as some kind of clumsy compound of human and animal elements is to reinforce the notion that the comfortable, utopian conception of nature in which humans had unmediated access to animals and lived in some kind of unproblematic harmony with them does not look like a practical way forward, either in terms of how one thinks philosophically about them, or in terms of how on a practical level one might work for the improvement of their living conditions.

In theorizing the ‘Collaged Cryptid’- across the traditional visual media to that of cryptid audio- the history of  ‘Non-descripts’, Jenny hanovers & other hoax animals are of key interest to the Fauxists. This area is further developed in Our upcoming publication of the same name as this section.

The following links serve to give an idea of some contemporary practices we are exploring in this field:

MIR Gallery “Cryptozoology” Exhibition

Minnesota Rogue Taxidermy Association (& at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery– follow 2010 link to Rogue Taxidermy show )

The Urban Beast Project

Custom Creature Taxidermy

Gallery Of Globsters: Mysterious Marine Collage Cryptids

(for more on globsters, see Our publication on the Blobsquatch HERE)


The Bunyip


The bunyip is a conflation of many terms. The bunyip is a creature from ‘Dreamtime mythology’ of the ‘Australian Aboriginal’ people, also known as Yaa-loo, Dongu, Kine Pratie, Wowee-wowee, of which there have been a number of ‘modern’ sightings of creatures that have been classified as possible bunyips. It is most definitely a potential cryptid. According to the ‘mythological’ accounts, the bunyip was a malevolent water spirit, and are known for causing nocturnal terror by uttering horrible roaring cries and jumping out of water holes, rivers and creeks to attack and devour unwary animals and people that came to these places for a drink of water. Should anyone enter its lair- usually swamps and rivers- it would attack and devour them. The bunyip’s terrifying cry would lead people to abandon any water source where this was heard. The numerous versions of the bunyip don’t seem to have a fixed appearance, possibly because of its nature as a spirit. Common features include a tail, flippers and tusks. The dread which it engendered obviously led to a seeming inability to describe it.

The ‘Modern’ Bunyip

The bunyip stories from recent times paint a less fearsome picture. Instead of a maneater it is seen as a shy grazing creature. By the 1850’s, it had moved from the realm of the supernatural to one of common derision- ‘Bunyip’ became a synonym for ‘imposter’, ‘humbug’ etc. Formed a cautionary tale for settler children about the dangers of the bush, and perhaps a paranoid guilty vision of un-belonging for the settlers (the landscape literally swallowing up their children).

Bunyip sightings were most common during the 19th century. There were also some sightings during the twentieth century, though these were less frequent. Two different types of bunyip have been reported: most contemporary bunyips are described as being “dog-faced”, however a few sightings describe a long-necked creature with a pointed head. This is clearly a different creature. While descriptions of the bunyip vary, most portray a creature with a hairy horse-like head and large body.

Thus, if we follow the logic of most cryptozoologists, in assuming that the ‘modern’ bunyip sightings really are sightings ofsomething– ie Not a ‘spirit’- various theories arise. One is that many modern “bunyip” sightings were simply fugitives in hiding or vagrants living wild. This rather less exciting theory would fit in with the increased number of bunyip sightings during the depression of the 1930s. Another, more common theory holds that the Bunyip ‘myth’ is based on indigenous cultural memories of extinct mega-fauna species.

The bunyip as Mega-faunal Oral Memory: Colonial Projections in Cryptozoology

What is the Bunyip? As is often the case in the field of cryptozoology, a survivor from the dinosaur era is a strong contender (see section on ‘Mythic Sauroids’ below). The suggestion is that perhaps a diprotodon species could somehow have survived and be roaming the bush. The Australian diprotodon lived through the Pleistocene epoch and coexisted with the early humans.

Perhaps more ‘realistically’, it was first theorized in the 1840’s (and is frequently asserted today) that Aboriginal stories about the bunyip may reflect oral traditions of encounters with the diprotodon, a rhinosceros-sized herbivore and the largest marsupial ever to have existed. Diprotodon is believed to have become extinct between 15-20,000 years ago.

Survivors From the Dreamtime or Bad Karma of Colonisation?: Making The Soft Bunyip (excerpt)

Early European settlers, unfamiliar with the sights and sounds of the island continent’s peculiar fauna, regarded the bunyip as one more strange Australian animal, and sometimes attributed unfamiliar calls or cries to it. At one point, the discovery of a strange skull in an isolated area associated with these ‘bunyip calls’ seemed to provide physical evidence of the bunyip’s existence. Though as European exploration of Australia proceeded, the bunyip increasingly began to be regarded as a mythical animal. Settler authorities also wanted to avoid any folkloric fears and monsters to establish the new nation as a scientific authority within the empire.

After a century of colonialism, and exposure to aboriginal folklore, as well as to the mystery of a strange land, colonial Australians had effectively appropriated the story of the bunyip. In some ways this was a measure of their achieving a sense of belonging to the formerly alien environment. Though it must be said that the crossover was not effected without the bunyip losing some if the antediluvian mystery of its mythic stature. By turning an amused eye on the bunyip, the settlers were able to deflate their terror of the bush and even scoff at their fears, in the process the bunyip became a figure of gentler habits more likely to find a place in the fantasy world of children’s books. In another way, in subsuming the bunyip’s horror, and indeed its pedagogic narrative, colonial culture turned the bunyip into a harmless and quirky national emblem of the nation’s uniqueness.

‘Wild Hairy Men’: Cryptozoology, Class and Masculinity in Australia and the USA

If wildmen are not a universal myth, then they are close. The “hairy man” or giant probably meant different things to different pre-modern societies. In the contemporary world, however, bigfoot has been read as a reflection of ourselves: we perpetuate bigfoot beliefs from an apparent psychological need to crystallise fascination with primitivism and animalism into a concrete symbol (Gilmore 2003, 73-4; Daegling 2004, 259). In Pliny’s accounts, looking out from the mediterranean empire, for example, wildmen stood in for fears and beliefs about other races and peoples, existing as cannibals, and disgusting, malformed, contradictory, stupendous figures of humanity, or signs of god’s wrath. By the 19th century, the category of wildmen had been “carved up and explained away” (Buhs, 5) by rational science, and wildmen still existed but only inside the human psyche, partly because scientists etc said they didn’t.  Given the different role of the scientific community in contemporary culture, the social significance of borderland monsters is also different in the modern world.
Buhs explores how Bigfoot captured many of the ‘lost values’ of white, working-class men in the U.S- such as strength, survival, independance, wildness, stoicism (silence?), connection to nature, essentialized sexuality, and a capacity to endure- becoming for many enthusiasts a way of reclaiming dignity in a world that denied it. (Buhs, 20). In tracing the pop-cultural affect of Bigfoot, he examines a move from popular culture (characterized by the wildmen of P.T Barnum’s showman tours- a cryptid/actor seen in the flesh and interacted with) to mass culture (magazines, TV, where the cryptid further ‘dematerialized’) (Buhs, 15). For the working-class enthusiasts mentioned above,  cryptid hominids seemingly asserted a reality behind the fakeness and performative spectacle of mass media, where consumption, ‘feminine’ practices, and a cult of personality (replacing one of character) increasingly dictated style and value.

"Bigfoot": "Breeds With Anything..."

In a time of destabilization of class, race and gender roles, changing work practices, Bigfoot also congealed the fears of the enthusisasts- bigfoot would ravish women, sodomize men and acted as an epistemic foil for racial anxiety- all things that revealed the fragility of their masculinity. (Buhs, 162). Thus Bigfoot can be seen as idolized and feared- as hope for a better world. “they prized it as the epitome of authenticity but had to make do with replicas. They wanted to be it, and- often anyway- wanted it to remain free, away from them.” (Buhs, xvi)

Bourgeois Bigfoot & the Green Man

In something similar to the ‘softening’ of the bunyip discussed above, Bigfoot left the realm of an anti-scientific paranoiac, conspiracy-tinged ‘protest masculinity’ and began to be adopted as an icon for a new middle class evironmental consciousness that increasingly saw nature as a leisure commodity and vehicle for self-knowledge. The same nature that the working-class loggers and rural men worked became something to be saved, ‘experienced’ and benignly interrogated for enlightenment. Thus, necessarily reframed as a speaker for a yearning for a repressed wildness (Jungian), the bourgeois bigfoot became less challenging, not violent, not as sexual, and not as awesome, while becoming increasingly ethereal. (Buhs, 232)

Bigfoot as Spokesperson for Nature

Harry, the Family Bigfoot from 1987's 'Harry & the Hendersons'

Taken up by mythopoetic movements- like those conjured by Robert Bly & books like “Women who Run With The Wolves”- Bigfoot promised access to the inner wildman/woman, acted as nursemaid and angel, healing the wounds inflicted by mass culture and urban life (Buhs, 234)  and offered a message, an enticement for people to ‘leave civilization’. Robert michael Pyle’s “Where Bigfoot Walks” for example argues that bigfoot was an incarnation “of nature, the earth, and all that is green and contrary to control” (my italics)

In this way, the cryptid hominid came increasingly to mimic the the mythic Green Man– creatures that could often communicate with animals, nature spirits etc.- and act as a symbol of ‘green spirituality’ (Buhs, 238), mourning and so on. Thus the ‘hunt’ for the wildman  came less and less like ‘man confronting the monstrous’, and more like a case of humankind making contact with another sentient being. (Buhs, 252)

Bigfoot Christ, circa 2008

See also:

Shackley, Myra L  “Wildmen : yeti, sasquatch and the Neanderthal enigma” Thames and Hudson, c1983.

Bord, Janet  “The evidence for Bigfoot and other man-beasts”  Sterling, 1984.

Marjorie M. Halpin, Michael M. Ames. “Manlike monsters on trial : early records and modern evidence” University of British Columbia Press, 1980.

McLeod, Michael   “Anatomy of a beast : obsession and myth on the trail of Bigfoot”  University of California Press, c2009.

Coleman, Loren. “Tom Slick and the search for the Yeti”  Boston : Faber and Faber, 1989

Buhs, Joshua Blu  “Bigfoot : the life and times of a legend”  University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Picture Essay excerpt: Mythic Sauroids & the Creation of the Outside


Newspaper articles on Mythic Sauroids- the contention that there are still dinosaurs surviving in non-urban/non-colonised space-time (eg. the above examples locate the possibility in the North Pole, ‘Jungle Wilds’ and ‘Africa). See ‘The Last Dinosaur Book’ for a full investigation of the remnant dinosaur’s role in the colonial imaginary (specifically in the American West).

The Yowie, the Bunyip  in Pre-human Arcadia: The Proto-cryptozoological Antipodes

The hypothesized Antipodean continent- Terra Australis- was seen as an empty, inverted space; a blank canvas or tabula rasa inviting European ‘inscription’ and dominance, (Ryan, 105), existing as a necessary physical and psychic mass to balance and countervalue the hemispheres, it was thus a land of hermaphrodites, antipodean people whose heads grew beneath their shoulders or walked upside-down etc, and mythic, monstrous animals.

Thus we can understand the strength of the explorer narrative as the dominant spatial relationship and hystory of many colonies.

Writing of ‘Australia’’s general inferiority to Britian, the early settlers often saw the ‘native’ ‘Australia’n animals, plants and landscape as impoverished and dangerous, at least as impediments to their stock and crops, and to their familiar categories and tastes- there were no ‘suitable’ hunting animals, pouches etc. Descriptions of the melancholic monotony of gum trees and the ‘interminable’ forests were to become clichéd (Bonyhady, 73 Powell, 13). The evergreen and ‘unattractive’ trees could not show or become the source of “all the dearest allegories of human life”, (Bonyhady, 72) of the rebirth and recessions of seasonal change (autumnal decline, spring rebirth etc) the European was accustomed to.

So, troubled by the “Savage silence” of the ‘Australian bush, a place still animated by antipodean monsters, dangerous savages, conceptual vacuum, and animal life that were inversions of european taxonomical categories and aesthetics, and used to the open spaces and controlled vistas of a long-composed nature, (the bush was foreboding- blocking views and surveillance- and literally animated by the threat of aboriginal ambushers waiting around settlements and cottages, (Bolton, 58, Bonyhady, Attwood, 106-7) the space of nature becoming the walls of the prison colony, of which the indigenous peoples were an extension (Hughes, 1, 94)- the early settlers/colonists felt that they were rightfully and appropriately civilizing ‘Australia’n nature, naming and knowing, ordering and dividing it to control their own fears.

The “unclassifiable and morphologically abominable” (Franklin, 14) animals- like the platypus, kangaroo, echidna, thylacine- were perhaps the best metaphors for the strangeness and upsidedowness of ‘Australia’ for the new colonial culture. Animals that existed outside European taxonomical conventions and cultural stories/experience seemed conveniently to mirror the ‘reject’, ‘deviant’ and ‘undeserving’ status of the convict colony, and were often seen as a failed experiment or whimsical afterthought of (Christian) God, (Franklin, 26) the ‘strange scribblings of Nature learning how to write’.

In the imperial-scientific expansion of the time, 18th and 19th century ‘Australia’ was seen as a ‘palaeontological penal colony’, a faunal backwater, ‘the attic of the earth’, or a land of living fossils (Paddle, 207) like the marsupials (thylacine and kangaroo), the monotremes (platypus and echidna), a reading that was mirrored in the placement of the indigenous peoples in a receding, outmoded past. Such a narrative validated the rights of an invasive science and the colonizers to take land and displace the strange and useless animals, and those whose lives and cultures were associated with them, and established, through ‘Australian’ animals/nature/humanity viewed as retrogressive, the views of the land and the necessity of its ‘civilisation’.

Colonies were also convenient stages for the projection of an inverted and fantastical Europe (Ryan, 107), a space animated by creatures and practices that elicited that mix of desire and disgust so common to relations with an ‘Other’ (see Said, de Beauvoir, Fanon etc). The fascination with sexual difference and sexual lives (real, apparent or projected) of other cultures populated and elaborated in these spaces, and evidence collected from colonial encounters- whether evidence of polygamy, homosexuality, differing incest ‘taboos’, the polygamous sexual utopias of the ‘South Seas’, the lascivious black sexuality, the transgressive desire of the cannibal- created a space of desire and apparent difference or freedom existing outside of European and Christian moral control, which rendered European sexual prohibitions increasingly arbitrary. (Spencer, 220)

Thus speculation and classification of, colonial nature exhibits a proto-zoological character, and indeed is a direct antecedent in many way of the cryptozoological genre.

In Our associate Cryptozoological publications Yearning for a (re)animate nature: Faunal Colonialism in Cryptozoology and the Case of the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger).” (2010), & “Australia’s Bigfoot: The Yowie” (2010) We explore the case of the Thylacine and Yowie, and their treatment in the contemporary Cryptozoological field in some depth, & as such, here will provide a shorter piece on another notable cryptid, the Bunyip.




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Yearning for (re)animate Nature: Faunal Colonialism in Cryptozoology and the Case of the Thylacine

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on October 10, 2010

Yearning for (re)animate Nature:

Faunal Colonialism in Cryptozoology and the Case of the Thylacine

One in a series of working documents supporting the Fauxist Cryptozoology Project.


 

The ‘Last’ Thylacine, Hobart Zoo, 1936.

 

“Finding a live specimen of the Thylacine would be the holy grail of all Australian Cryptozoologists”.    Paul Honner

“I think humanity has a responsibility to prove the continued existence of the Thylacine. We were the major contributor to its destruction and need to capture live specimens and begin breeding programs as soon as possible so we can at least begin to make up for the damage we caused”.   James Kirkwood

The Thylacine is a fitting example of the politics of cryptozoology. Notably, in that it is a species which was driven to an arguable extinction in a colonial setting, and also neatly captures cultural and scientific reversals of favour and definition, illustrating succinctly the troubling of the terms of environmental destruction, enlightenment, taxonomy, acclimatization, “Britainization”, tourism and contestation in a colonial context. More recent efforts at cloning the Thylacine from preserved museum specimens has opened a new chapter in the debate on Neo-colonial nature.

The proto-cryptozoological hystory of European treatment of the Thylacine

Perhaps ‘Australia’s’ most famous and mythologised extinction, the Thylacine- variously known as the Tasmanian Wolf, the Tasmanian Tiger, zebra wolf, zebra opossum, marsupial wolf, striped wolf, tiger wolf, Tasmanian wolf, van Dieman’s Land tiger, bulldog tiger, hyena tiger, Dog-faced Dasyurus, Opossum-hyena, Tasmanian Dingo, and Panther- was the subject of much colonial-scientific conjecture, and indeed at the time could be classified as a living cryptid.

The thylacine is generally thought to have become extinct on mainland ‘Australia’ primarily as the victim of the dingos the ‘aborigines’ ‘brought’ around 6000 years ago, (Carroll, 303) and to a lesser extent, of predation by ‘aborigines’ (paddle, 18)[1]. Generally agreed to be confined to Tasmania upon European invasion, the tiger became the best-known victim of the series of ‘Australian species-cleansings’. In the thylacine’s case, continued through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a network of effects attendant to settlement, and clashes with European animals. The deforestation required by colonial pastoralism and the sheep economy displaced habitats, which were then ‘threatened’ by the tiger.

The victim of feral (European) dogs- which also killed the sheep the tigers were often blamed for, and misidentified sightings were often dogs, and thus had the tigers killed. At times blamed for 60% of stock loss (Paddle, 161) the thylacine was made into a devilish and convenient symbol of pastoral and settlement problems[2]. Sheep farmers and landowners organized petitions for government funded eradication (as had occurred with the rabbit), and a government bounty was established in 1888. Other forms of extraction operated. The thylacine was by far the most valuable of all ‘Australian animals for trades and sale to international zoos, largely due to is strangeness. (de Courcy, 2, 189) Used “for lucrative exchanges whenever it could find one” (de Courcy, 182), it enabled Australian zoos to have the (African) exotica they saw as necessary to a proper imperial-colonial zoo.

 

Thylacine sighting footage analysis


Since the thylacine’s 1936 extinction- the last dying in Hobart Zoo- it has been the subject of much conjecture, but hasnow generally become accepted as extinct. Its continued existence is a highly political symbol, and the tiger has become associated with and often symbolic of the threatened forest wilderness of south-western Tasmania, a mythic creature that remains to re-animate the Tasmanian bush, a remnant of a native past and a loose parallel- and perhaps easier sentimentally- to the fate of the Tasmanian aboriginals. The tiger is now the state’s emblem, appearing on all things- sculptures, shops, names, brands etc., the state having built a whole tourist mythology around its possible existence.

The tiger embodies many of the tension of the cryptozoological-colonial field:

–       Reported sightings have decreased as humans have discovered, cleared and populated more of the forests.

–       an emblem of colonial, scientific, governmental, and European ignorance, that peculiar mix of state-nationalism and anti-authoritarianism.

–       Paddle shows how scientists etc. have faltered and created myths to suit them etc. including the construction of ‘scientific innocence’- the rewriting of hystory to save (scientific) face, and participated in a deliberate transferral of blame…“Scientists and naturalists ultimately failed to preserve the thylacine from extinction because they were prepared to play by the rules, through genteel and proper social and political activity, attempting to put into place legal measures preventing the continued killing of the species.” (Paddle, 173)

–       A direct link to the racialisation of the Tasmanian aboriginals, the last of a people etc. and the paternalism of Robinson etc. sent to islands, bones and artefacts taken and sent to overseas institutions, some not yet returned. Colonizers relationship to the dreamtime? Will they ever clone Trugannini?

–       The Tiger seen as a chance to make things right.

Visual Analysis of Thylacine sighting footage: compared to footage of the ‘last thylacine’ in Hobart Zoo 1936

As Owen points out, “The thylacine is Tasmania. To that extent alone, it lives on” (p. ix). Thus the thylacine has come to symbolize the exploitation and destruction of Tasmania’s natural heritage, as well as the hope for Tasmania’s future conservation.

 

So, the tiger went from devilish and mysterious threat, to life and importantly to stock and property relations, government bounty etc and zoo spectacle, to extinction metaphor and political symbol, to state and tourist emblem and, as We will see, genetic foray.

Note: You can now browse the full list of Tasmanian tiger sightings contained in the tour, right here on the website.

What’s in the tour?

  • 70+ years of sighting data!
  • Expedition information from David Fleay and Eric Guiler!
  • Hans Naarding’s 1982 sighting!
  • Klaus Emmerichs’ 2005 sighting!
  • Mainland thylacine sightings!

Image & materials above from the Post Extinction Thylacine Sighting Google Earth Tour: www.wherelightmeetsdark.com

Cloning a Cryptid

Genetic technologies reach into radical pasts and radical futures, and the existence of the frozen zoos may challenge received notions of history. Perhaps the ultimate and most contentious form of conservation cloning will be the cloning of already extinct animals, using (generally unintentionally, in genetic terms) preserved material and a surrogate carrier/mother. Made ‘palatable’ in the popular imagination by the movie Jurassic Park, such a scenario may not seem (or be) so far fetched. While the cloning of dinosaurs is currently impossible[3], this kind of techno-conservation is becoming more advanced, and is culturally much sexier than captive breeding, with its rabid futurity.

Somewhat closer to the present, and closer perhaps to the realm of conservation, are two examples of cloning recently extinct species, the Thylacine and the Huia. Australian scientists have initiated the resurrection of the Thylacine using tissue from a Thylacine pup pickled in alcohol since 1866, in order to sequence its DNA, and reassemble its genetic ‘blueprint’ in artificial chromosomes, beginning a project that will require decades of work, tens of millions of dollars in funding, and forms of molecular technology not yet invented, and even then, their chance of success as 15 percent at best. (Wiedensaul).

The project was stopped in 2005, as decay made it impossible to gather complete enough DNA from the specimen, but it slated to continue after new material was taken from a dried thylacine specimen, and due to new technological advances. (Skatssoon)

The Huia, a bird of New Zealand using the same technique that produced Dolly, transfer the nuclear material into a cell of a magpie, culture an embryo, and implant for gestation. If whole cells can’t be found, ambitious attempts will be made to assemble a complete set of genetic material from recoverable fragments. (Dorey) “the next step is to look for whole cells or nuclei in the tendon and bones of stuffed specimen birds”.(Dorey). “the maori tribe supports attempts to clone the Huia, which is of great cultural importance to them.” Cullen says

In this we can see the turnaround and development of conservation rhetoric. Since the grand era of colonisation and acclimatization in which ‘Australia’ was settled, and more scarily in the 70 years since the tigers official extinction, we see far-reaching changes in the ability, scope and application of the panacea of technology. Beside other technologies that effect a reversibility of animal or ecological ‘mistakes’- baiting and poisons (1080), disease releases (myxomatosis, calici), introduced parasite-competitors (prickly pear moth) etc.- and heightened border maintenance and reestablishment (quarantine), GE technologies buy another way out.

The thylacine, as an animal tied symbolically into postcolonial and postmodernist contestations of capitalism, nature and nationalism, now represents a new set of ethical-political consequences and stakes.  More than the release of something like Myxamatosis could ever do, the cloning of extinct Australian animals could buy the ‘colonial culture’ a yet unearned place on the land, a cheap escape from acknowledging our continuing ignorance and destruction.


[1] Responsibility for the decline and extinction of the thylacine on mainland Australia was attributed simplistically and almost entirely to introduction of the dingo. A more plausible explanation is that extirpation of the thylacine was the result of Aboriginal hunting following (semi)domestication of the dingo, after the latter’s introduction to mainland Australia some 6,000–12,000 years ago. (Humans have been implicated in the dramatic demise of Australia’s Ice Age megafauna some 20,000 years ago [Flannery 1994]). Whether the disappearance of the thylacine on mainland Australia is a “natural” event depends largely on how one views the role of early Homo sapiens as natural components of ecosystems. What is clear is that Aborigines coexisted with the thylacine for thousands of years in dingo-free Tasmania, only to be exterminated subsequently, along with the Aborigines, 150 years after European colonization. (3) Compelling evidence suggests that the thylacine existed in New South Wales and South Australia and persisted on mainland Australia at the time of early European colonization. (Leidy)

 

[2] The wolf had been eradicated in England by the 15th century, Scotland late 17th– (Thomas, 273), an important and celebrated development, as shepherds no longer had to guard flocks at night- whereas the Thylacine remained to awaken the pastoralists insecurities.

[3]“Numerous studies suggest that DNA probably can’t last in most geological environments for much more than 10,000 years and almost certainly not beyond 100,000 years. Since dinosaurs died out roughly 65 million years ago, restoring any of them is pretty much out of the question—but isolating DNA that’s on the order of 10,000-15,000 years old might rule in the possibility of cloning Pleistocene species for restoration. Even that wouldn’t be easy. In the case of woolly mammoths found frozen in permafrost—which are among the best preserved specimens of extinct Pleistocene fauna—only short strands of mitochondrial DNA have been recovered—not the nuclear DNA that would be necessary for cloning (Lindahl 1999)”. Cited in Yule. (Wayne et al. also confirm the 100,000 years limit.) But in the future, as they say, it could be possible. And as an aside, We wonder when Bog’men’ Icemen, peat men etc and mummies, will be cloned, and the possible themepark/spectacular forms this may take.

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