Serendipity As the Way Of the Observer

By Luis Bustamante

 

athanasius kircher: epilogismus combinationis linearis

athanasius kircher: epilogismus combinationis linearis

“You were right. Any fact becomes important when it’s connected to another. The connection changes the perspective; it leads you to think that every detail of the world, every voice, every word written or spoken has more than its literal meaning, that it tells us of a Secret. The rule is simple: Suspect, only suspect. You can read subtexts even in a traffic sign that says ‘No littering.” (Umberto Eco, Focault’s Pendulum)

 

Serendipity

Everything begins with a Path. And an observer ‘X’, moving from point ‘A’ to an undefined point of arrival ‘B’.

Movement and intention are set into play.

Point ‘B’ is undefined in many ways. ‘B’ has nevertheless some features, which define ‘B’ as a point of arrival, perhaps an ideal state for the observer ‘X’.

Therefore the path starts with a search for ‘B’. ‘X’ has a set of expectations or clues, with which it aims to identify ‘B’. Though it’s unclear if it will achieve this at all.

Like in fairy tales.

In contradiction to traditional physics, in the quest for the ideal ‘B’, the path of the observer might override some axioms. The shortest path might not be a straight line. The concept of serendipity starts to unveil. ‘X’ prefers to go unexpected ways.

As ‘X’ continues its wavy road, the next referred connotation of a serendipitous event has to do with sagacity [1]. So ‘X’, as an observer, without being sagacious, might overlook the chance that an encounter, or a distinctive property of the observed, might hide.

From there, it is apparent that:

A. If the observer ‘X’ is conscious of its quest, and it questions its own ability to produce sagacious readings, it itself might be truly blocking its ability to find ‘B’ by inducing doubt into his perceptions. It might be thoughtful to look back in retrospective and check if it has found ‘B’ without noticing.

B. It is also apparent, that if ‘X’ insists on reading multiple meanings between the lines of the events that happens to it, the path might look, after some bifurcations, exponentially longer and more intricate than it should be. This might lead his Path to get lost into the infinity of a strange loop[2]. A strange loop is a way of describing a paradox in a logical system. In programming, a computer enters a strange loop if a condition to end a cycle in the program is never met. In a similar way, the Observer ‘X’ might never stop finding new possibilities, hence never coming to ‘B’.

C. Ultimately, X might also choose to articulate the arriving point ‘B’ out of his experience, by sacrificing the initial expectations and conforming to a reduced set of observations.

And so on…

Chronic of an Event

coordinates: 55.302965°N 21.004113°E Naming: Nida / Neringa / Lithuania. Time: 23.09.2015

The house amidst the forest looks modern and cozy. Inside we look at works done by human-observers. Digital projectors show graphics and videos. Radio waves fill the air and the air becomes agitated as the waves are amplified by vibrating membranes inside speaker boxes. Different observers try to articulate sounds into intelligible discourses, stories and reflections about what they exhibit.

The exhibition had been put together after speaking a lot about ‘X’, going from ‘A’ to ‘B’.

The environment is representative of the northern Hemisphere of the earth. Sand landscapes interpolate with green-areas where birches, pines and a rich variety of Lichens offer a peaceful setting for wandering humans, moose, foxes, squirrels, and reportedly one or two racoon-dogs, a foreign kind of observer which apparently runs wild in the forest without being noticed. The russian border is at sight. A lighthouse illuminates the sleepless nights of hyper-active visitors. Crows and sparrows have no shame at all and could walk into your food if allowed.

Food is a daily subject in this place. ‘R’, the observer, noticed the hunger crisis that a lack of initiative might have brought upon the group of confused ‘A-to-B observers’. It rapidly found its ‘B’-state during the past days. Its daily practice enacted listing and finding Ingredients, swim in the sea, collect water for its work, and before sunset, make rich aromas, steam and alchemic creations emerge from the narrow passage known as a “Kitchen” in the, by night, lit and crowded house.

Before night, the ‘A-to-B observers’ moved. Along the intricate Paths they followed, one of the first reported events was an encounter with a moose crossing the road in front of them, at the same time. Then, a moose that could be the same one, ate plants and stood almost static on a destructed part of the woods, next to the house. The destructed part of the woods could presumably have been sold by corrupted officials to constructing companies, using some treat to avoid environmental regulations. Or it could be not. But observer ‘L’, missed the Trees from its previous experiences and thought about the end of the world. It also took a video of the moose that by then tried to hide ridiculously, by sitting close to a strangely-formed tree. It was very hard for the observer to understand why this monstrous tree was the only standing tree on the field. The moose might as good have been resting and not hiding.

Back to the House at the time of the exhibition, we can observe that some works portrait our conclusions about the theoretical observer ‘X’ and its quest: The exhibition opens with maps of nodes and unions between the nodes. Two of the first talking observers stopped at some moment in their paths and thought they hadn’t encountered ‘B’. One observer went for recapitulation and looked intensively for ‘B’ in its memory, by linking important encounters one to another.

Our second observer, ‘K’, stood there and bifurcated it’s path by observing the observed, and finding paths and infinite relationships among the collected Data. On the Road to ‘B’, the immense scope of its sagacity led it to contemplate a wonderful landscape of endless possibilities, though ‘B’ was nowhere to be found. Or perhaps it was there, lurking in the dark…

The Landscape in Neringa, the land line hosting Nida, mutates over time as it’s history does. The Dunes found in key-spots in between the woods, tend to move and change their shape and size constantly. Towns have been reportedly consumed by them. Now it seems that the trees are consuming them. ‘H’, the observer, went to chop trees with some humans. It is unclear if they were also observing and looking for ‘B’. H’ thought he might be helping to save the dunes from being settled by the woods. But trees also very often get dry and easily catch fire over here, so they should be cut. In any case the chopping was staged, transmitted and televised by people in other parts of the country. After coming back, ‘H’ disappeared into the computer room to conspire about massaging invisible body parts. Massage is a widespread healing Practice in which an observer brings comfort to a second observer by touching it’s body following a certain protocol.

Disappearing was a subject on the presentation by the observer ‘G’, the same one who was traveling in the past to find ‘B’. Apparently one thing had to cease existing in some place to be found somewhere else. Its observations gathered lots of ‘B’ points. Apparently. A diamond heart it had found and immediately lost, should reappear as a sculpture sometime in the future. It was all about the quantum and the red and blue balls worm-tunneling around the universe, it reported. Observer ‘G’ was very disappointed about a certain Thomas Mann house that looked like a triangle. The triangle was also on a pink floyd cover, a slide made by a physicist, and a one dollar bill.

Once a group of observers were eating in a restaurant in town. They talked about Nida and Germany. It seems that in fact, Thomas Mann had a house in that same place. Thomas Mann was a german writer with an enormous Ego and thought he could be compared to Goethe, observer ‘P’ reported. The house of Thomas Mann, indeed had a triangular shape, and Goethe had also used,for writing his theory of color, prisms that looked like the triangle in the pink floyd cover, which resembled the shape of the house. All observers got really suspicious. Further on, Goethe is the most famous german writer in history and lived for some time in Weimar. “Observer ‘S’ lives in Weimar, and observer ‘M’ works there as well”, Observer ‘L’ pointed. They both may have walked past a sign that says “Here Goethe vomited”. To vomit, is a very usual activity not just among german writers but among punks as well. But nobody sets signs in their memory. Obsever ‘D’ has a punk band in Indonesia. They sing and criticize the mediocrity of society and of power institutions. Observer ‘D’, who was also sitting at the table, commented: ‘Zeppelins’ are amaaazing. He was into Zeppelins. Zeppelins are an airship-formed edible object that came out of another kitchen similar to the one where ‘R’ was planning to mix her ingredients on that very night. Perhaps a bit wider.

We worm-tunnel back to the house and through the interesting works of other observers. The narrator is rushing to ‘B’. Going the expected way now.

The exhibition ended with the digital projectors and the vibrating membranes of the speaker boxes running wild. Observer ‘J’ had also found a short way to ‘B’, by dialing over radio waves that were filling the air and re-transmitting them through enhanced channels of perception. This was called a performance. The performance included the observer, the trembling instruments and a curtain. The curtain was also making the waves curl and worm-tunnel across space-time like the red and blue balls that were so important for ‘G’.

Every-body was happy and had fun.

And so it kept on going…

On Paranoia

Whereas serendipity leads to a (subject to relativity) positive finding, paranoia could be regarded as the dark force hiding behind our search. Observer ‘K’, the same one riding the roller coaster of bifurcating Paths was the first one to notice. When every effect is considered a matter of causality and not of chance, the observer starts looking for a second observer which knows more than itself. The observer starts to look for a secret that is being hidden from it. This secret merges with the shape of its Path and the arrival point ‘B’ might gain many -confusing- faces. The search for the intangible second observer, opens one more path in which further effects produced by further abstract observers might, and will, be found. Then the first observer tends to go a bit mad or loose track of things. One might think.

Or perhaps not.

Madness in a way is not bad. Famous observers like Philip K. Dick or Henri Michaux were nuts as hell. Paranoia could serve well as a concept for a new event of talking, observing and creating.

Happily, nobody turned crazy in our serendipitous round and then ‘R’ cooked body parts of chicken-observers for dinner. It was delicious.

 

Luis Bustamante
Berlin, 2015

 

Note: This text is a comment on the observations made at the Serendipity: Thinking against logic workshop in Nida, Lithuania.
[1] Kramer, Patrick (Boris). against serendipity. Presentation at the Nida Art Colony. 2015
[2] Hofstadter, Douglas. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. 1979, New York, Basic Books

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