Posts By: estarser

The Third Way

An associate of the Order of the Third Bird, who wishes to remain anonymous, has reported to the Corresponding Secretary of ESTAR(SER) that he was recently approached by an individual who asked what relation, if any, the Order has, or has had, to the life and teachings of Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff.

It is not yet well known that several members of the Order in the early twentieth century, fleetingly attracted to the exotic gratifications of Gurdjieff’s entourage, were for a time present as observers or participants at the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. The Institute, also known as Le Prieuré, in its crumbling castle redoubt in the Forest of Fontainebleau, France, was located near one of the summer cottages frequented by Paris-based and international Birds during their more extended experimental-communal gatherings. The cottage and grounds were jokingly called the Forêt des Trois Pigeons, after the adjacent Forêt des Trois Pignons.

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A journalist for the New Statesman (March 1923) echoes the opinion of most of the Birds who wandered into the Prieuré at one point or another, lured by talk of the exercises and experiments in heightened attention being carried out there: “The life is very simple and uncomfortable, the food is adequate but too starchy for an ordinary stomach, the work is extremely hard. The physical work, indeed, results often in a degree of exhaustion which perhaps exceeds anything that was produced even by a prolonged spell in the winter trenches of Flanders in 1917.  Many of these summering Birds being unreconstructed aesthetes with a taste rather for the finer pleasures of life, this was enough to dampen their interest in short time, along with the fact that the Gurdjieff community required a long, difficult apprenticeship, and patient attendance of lectures along with lessons in music and dance, before anything truly interesting could be imparted.

However, a certain H.R. whose correspondence we possess appears to echo another sentiment: that “Mr. Gurdjieff appears to possess full and exact knowledge of the nature, causation and practical reproduction of those rare phenomena of hyper-consciousness in which [William] James was so greatly interested.” What is extraordinary is that this well-placed Bird seems, at least temporarily, to have had as much influence on the charismatic and eccentric Gurdjieff as the other way around. In fact, the latter for a time adopted some of the characteristic terminology of the Order, though of course repurposed and repackaged; he is recorded around this period as calling the Fontainebleau community “my family – my birds” (Fritz Peters, Gurdjieff Remembered, 1965). A 1923 mimeographed German translation of one of Gurdjieff’s European lectures – the only extant edition, it is called Der Weg des dritten Vogel – concerns the “positioning” of the human faculty of attention between inner and outer, past and future, in an unattached and undirected manner. He refers to the famous metaphor from the Upanishads: “Two birds that are always together, cling to the same tree. Of these, one eats fruit of various tastes, and the other looks on without eating.”

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Gurdjieff, who at the Prieuré preached what he called the “Fourth Way,” in this lecture spoke rather of a Third, between eating and not eating, past and future, self-observation and other-observation, embodied in a Bird of the present moment, fully self-aware with regard to body, emotions, and mind. Indeed, what Gurdjieff called the “Law of Three” – a cosmic law according to which every thing, force, and phenomenon in the universe comprises Active, Passive, and “Reconciling” moments – is folded into a system of discipline and meditation intended to help the seeker attain mastery of his or her powers of attention.

Be all this as it may, Gurdjieff built his entire teaching and philosophy around the realization that existing religions and cults tend to focus on the cultivation of one element of the triad of Mind, Emotions, and Body to the detriment of the other two; his Fourth way addresses all three. Moreover, the teaching of the Fourth Way, for all its focus on attention, urges seekers to minimize their tendencies toward daydreaming, distraction, absentminded wandering, chains of association and reverie, and so forth. It was probably this that led the Gurdjieff community to definitively reject the solicitations of the always opportunistically evangelical Birds.

The joke – as our H.R. does point out – might in the end be on the Gurdjieffians, since the obviously apocryphal “Sarmoung Brotherhood” of Sufis from which the great teacher claimed he had learned so much is actually based on the really-existing and centuries-old T-rrch’un [pronounced Scharchoun] Fellowship, from the Armenian word for “bird” – based in Tbilisi, Georgia.

An Intercontinental Protocol

In the early 1950s in Paris before the 1957 foundation of the Situationist International, in a petri dish populated by old- and new-guard Lettrists, neo-Surrealists, and everything in between, a flurry of new (or simply reparceled) ideas, concepts, and practices first saw the light: dérive, détournement, psychogeography, unitary urbanism, the “surinternational mental rendezvous,” and the like.

It is from this time and context that a certain fragment from the W Cache appears to reach us. Amid many dissident-Surrealist, proto-Situationist groups, the members of the small cenacle around the Ukrainian-French Olha Espy were all recent emigrés from East and Central Europe. The document in question was almost certainly created and put into circulation by members of the Espy cenacle (whose relations with the Order of the Third Bird remain uncertain), and is without question a “protocol card” of the type still in use among associates of the Order. Dogeared and stained, it is covered with annotations in various handwritings, inks, and languages (French, Polish, Swedish, Hungarian), suggesting that it has passed through many sets of hands and was frequently reused.

An enormously valuable document, it is also unique, being one of our only evidences of a protocol intended for practitioners separated widely in space. A typical action – always in an urban setting – might for example have included practitioners located in Boston, Marseille, Frankfurt, Izmir, and so forth. It seems that participants only needed to decide in advance upon timing (phases were set to begin and end based on Paris hours), and to assure that each participant had beforehand received a sealed envelope containing instructions, to be opened during the action. The phases of the protocol could not be more standard, but their implementation could not be more idiosyncratic.

-The phase of encounter lasts from one to three hours. During this phase, a group of two practitioners (there can be no more nor less than two in each location) wanders freely in the urban space in which it finds itself. By a given hour – for example, 3 in the afternoon – the duo is to have chosen its “starting location.”

-The phase of attending begins when the duo opens an envelope containing instructions or rather, directions. From its chosen “starting location,” it is directed (for example) to take the first right, then to take the third left, then the second right; to walk straight ahead until seeing (for example) something large and yellow, and turn to face it; then to turn 75 degrees. Upon completing these instructions, the duo must consult its immediate surroundings and field of awareness in order to locate the work. The journey to the work, and the silent process by which the two practitioners agree upon the identity of the work, are considered to be fundamental parts of the work.

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-The phase of negating comprises an additional series of instructions for the completion of small and modest tasks in the vicinity of the work, often involving passersby. One might easily compare these to the creation of what would later be called “situations,” but on a smaller and more intimate scale.

-The phase of realizing appears to be entirely freeform. The practitioners understand that their realization may be private and ephemeral, or may be public and potentially scandalous, with profound repercussions. The scale of its ambition is not fixed in advance, but neither is it limited to any degree.

Colloquy, between the small groups separated across the globe, is supposed to take place by “telepathy.” We can presume that in a cultural-political milieu generally hostile to all manifestations of romantic mysticism and occult yearning, this word was not to be taken literally, but we have not been able to reconstruct its practical mechanism. Perhaps it was as simple as an exchange of reports by post.

It would be interesting to see if this particular protocol can remain viable today, outside its natural postwar Parisian environment.

The Secretary Locotenant of the Order has passed on the following document from the Secretary’s private collection: a detail from a very suggestive drawing made by group-leader Olha Espy herself.

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It is known that the human brain is strongly disposed to distinguish, to recognize and to read faces – and even to construct them out of whole cloth.


Carl Sagan famously writes:

We’re mammals, and parental care of the young is essential for the continuance of the hereditary lines. The parent smiles at the child, the child smiles back, and a bond is forged or strengthened. As soon as the infant can see, it recognizes faces, and we now know that this skill is hardwired in our brains. Those infants who a million years ago were unable to recognize a face smiled back less, were less likely to win the hearts of their parents, and less likely to prosper. These days, nearly every infant is quick to identify a human face … . As an inadvertent side effect, the pattern-recognition machinery in our brains is so efficient in extracting a face from a clutter of other detail that we sometimes see faces where there are none.


Therefore, given the strong and adaptive tendencies of our mental equipment, the faces we see in things – sudden or insidious – are not so easily to be dismissed. They are made to be seen precisely in the sense that our brains want us to see them.

We at ESTAR(SER), among our many other projects and concerns, are in the process of seeking evidence of Third Bird practices and/or protocols specifically relating to images that could be called found or potential, or more accurately, images resulting from the effects of pareidolia (in which visual patterns characteristic of living, everyday, or art objects are discerned in patternless and random visual data, or in patterned but otherwise merely ornamental visual fields).


It is no secret, of course, that during a Practice, Birds might see images in the work that its maker(s) most likely did not intend, and by this means engage in dialogue with the work. But what about works – straddling the boundary between the thing made to be aesthetically apprehended and the thing, shaped by impersonal forces (including, perhaps, the impersonal forces embodied in human beings), that owes its formal existence to a deliberate or spontaneous act of pareidolia?


How have Birds, past and present, dealt with “artworks” that impose themselves suddenly upon the senses, across the passive medium of some other work, or “artworks” that are the result of a deliberate and perverse search for such latent (or quintessentially neglected, abject, and needful) forms?

The Problem of Museums

The great French writer Paul Valéry (1871-1945) is famous for having undergone, and minutely described, a series of “crises,” each with its own special character. A crisis of “sensibility” in late youth, for example, was followed by a crisis of “intellect” in early adulthood; crises of “attention,” of “mind” (marked by the publication of Monsieur Teste in 1926) and of “spirit” followed.

It was around the time of his crisis of attention – the least documented, but perhaps the most fascinating – that he composed his essay “The Problem of Museums” (1923).

In it, he writes:

I don’t like museums much. […] I find myself in a tumult of frozen creatures, each of which demands, without obtaining it, the inexistence of all the others […] A strange organized disorder spreads out before me. I am seized by a holy dread.

zoffanyJohann Zoffany, The Tribuna of the Uffizi (1772). Wikimedia Commons.

“[…] What an effort, I tell myself, what barbarities! All this is inhuman. It is not pure. This onset of independent and inimical marvels, and the more inimical the more they resemble one another, is paradoxical […]. The ear would not bear ten orchestras playing at once. The spirit cannot follow many distinct operations, there are no simultaneous arguments. But here the eye […] as soon as it perceives, finds itself obliged to admit a portrait and a seascape, a kitchen and a triumph, characters in the most diverse poses and conditions, and not just this, it must also embrace in the same glance harmonies and ways of painting that elude comparison with one another […] productions that devour one another.”

One of the unsolved mysteries of this period in Valéry’s life concerns the nature – and indeed, even the name – of the small group he joined at the end of 1923. The identities of none of its members are known, only the pseudonyms they adopted upon joining; Valéry was called “Jean du rivage,” others adopted “Lupeux” or “Hucheur.” His Cahiers of this time contain a draft essay that mentions these names, a place of meeting (Impasse Bergonne, near the Porte Saint-Martin, Paris), and a series of experiments apparently intended to objectively determine how much attention certain objects require, and to follow through on the results.

The essay itself is a thought experiment along the same lines, one which actually assigns a numerical value to a number of well-known artworks, and applies a complicated series of calculations based on these values, on the average lifespan of a human being, and on the estimated total number of artworks in all museums worldwide, to determine exactly how many seconds of close attention these works warrant. The draft essay also lists a number of works “whose depth of meaning cannot ever be exhausted, and which only an unremitting and lifelong gaze would do justice. The ideal solution would be to appoint segments of one’s conscious mind, like phrenic stewards, to continuously contemplate these works in private mental chambers set aside for this purpose.”

As always, any further information or insight from our faithful readers is welcome.


Je Te Veille: The Masked Ball of Judex (1963)

Dear Readers, please begin not by reading, but by viewing the following:

You may have noticed, while watching, certain details:
1) The man wearing the mask of a bird of prey begins not by lending his attention to any thing or character in the film, but to us, his audience.
2) The apparently perished bird he gently lifts from the baluster exists, in this moment, only for us, and when the magician – dangerously – turns his back, hiding his movements and intentions, it is us to whom his back is turned.
3) As he begins his slow walk down the hallway – which might easily, with small adjustments, be located in a museum – and now drawing the attention of the ballgoers, certain figures keep catching the eye: matching black ravens, sly and standing apart, who promise to be accomplices or co-conspirators, but never reveal themselves as such.
4) The strange soulfulness of the inanimate gaze between two masks, duck and bird of prey, suggests that they too are accomplices, and especially the silk corsage she (of the duck mask) so conveniently wears. However, the rest of the film gives no indication that she knows, or could possibly know him.
5) The climactic moment of the mirror, with the sinister reappearance of the bird of prey, is announced by the chiming of a clock that rather oddly resembles a ringing bell.
6) The bird of prey leaves the scene silently and alone.
7) A bird is resurrected, a man dies. But he dies speaking of the “joy” of this moment.
8) The scene feels entirely self-contained – and in fact, upon viewing the entire film, nothing else in it matches its intensity and its aura of hidden meaning.

Our question: Is there, indeed, a hidden meaning here? If so, who is responsible for its insinuation into the film?

It has been hypothesized that this masked ball scene drew some of its inspiration from the oeuvre of J.J. Grandville, from which, in closing, we reproduce two lithographs:



Negation, Divination, Creation

A correspondent member of the Order of the Third Bird, Crake (Crex crex) has passed to us, via an unnamed Informant and the Secretary Locotenant of the Order, “the story of a most unusual Negation,” which we reproduce here with its accompanying images.

“In the Old City of Jerusalem there are a number of historical buildings and monuments belonging to a waqf associated with a distinguished Arab family that figures in Jerusalem history dating back to the Crusades. Some of the buildings are located in areas accessible only to Muslims, but a special invitation from the archivist of the waqf‘s distinguished manuscript collection secured for my informant the right to march right past the Israeli police, down an alleyway, and up a flight of stairs, where along with some fellow Birds he carried out an Action among the shelves of a small but bountiful library of books, as the ululations of a call to prayer from the nearby Omar Mosque echoed outside.”

The informant cannot be certain which item in the room is the object of the Action, and during the Negation has recourse, in somewhat unorthodox fashion, to “the divinatory art”:

“… the action took place in a library, one that was focused on, but not limited to, the history of the city that hosts it. Of course one of the most basic forms of divination consists in opening a book at random and seeing what the book has to say there in that spot. My informant tells me that he determined to take down two books, chosen from opposite ends of the library, and that the choice would be made simply by looking at the shelves and seeing which books ‘called him to them’. The books he ended up with by this technique were, first of all, Al-Ghazali’s 11th-century treatise, Tahāfut al-Falāsifa  (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), and, second of all, Leroy J. Pinn’s 1948 wood-carving manual, Let’s Whittle.
My informant found it fitting to look first into the book on whittling. He opened it to a page that explains how to carve a mother kangaroo with a baby in her pouch. “You will not have any trouble with this carving,” Pynn explains, “if you begin whittling around the pouch and the baby kangaroo.” The whittler is instructed to make the back legs big and strong, and the front legs, which he is not willing to call ‘arms’, small and weak.”

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“He next turned to The Incoherence, whose author had been a Persian Sufi and mystic dissatisfied with the attempts made by predecessors such as ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Al-Farabi at exhaustive knowledge of the divine by means of philosophical argumentation. Within a few decades of its publication in 1095, Al-Ghazali’s treatise would be mocked by ibn Rushd (Averroës) in what is perhaps the most cleverly titled work in the history of philosophy: The Incoherence of the Incoherence.

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“As in any mystical work, there is a certain apophatic element in Al-Ghazali’s approach, though The Incoherence is far from being a simple defense of the via negativa. On the page to which my informant opened, in the middle of Section 56, we find Al-Ghazali arguing against the Aristotelian view that the Divine has no awareness of the world. Since God is the creator of the world, and we have knowledge of God, the author argues, if God had no knowledge of us then we would be nobler than God in respect of knowledge. But this is absurd. Therefore, &c.”

This leads to further reflections. A creator, for example:

“…must necessarily know the thing created. But within this broad constraint there are many ways of knowing and creating. There is, first of all, the knowledge of the Whittler, which has served for many as the model of artistic creation in general, as when it is said that the sculptor does not make a statue, so much as he frees it from the surrounding stone in view of some idea that he has of what the statue is to look like: in view, in other words, of some object of knowledge. There is, next, the Progenitor, as for example the mama kangaroo, who holds her baby within her pouch, is responsible for its helpless marsupial being and knows it as intimately as any creature ever knew another, even to the extent that one could hardly call it another, but who never sculpted or constructed it as an artificer with a blueprint. No, instead it just came out of her.”

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“Where then do things stand with the third sort of creation, that of God in relation to the world? How does God create the world, such that he at once knows it to be his creation? Does he whittle it? Or does it just come out of him? Or is there some other mode of creation, some hypostasis or overflowing or parthenogenesis, or some other process still, unthinkable by the human mind?
And why, finally, my informant thought as the phase of Negation approached its end in the library of the waqf in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, should these exercises of Attention of ours be limited to the objects of Art: the objects, he said to me, that always come forth through some form or other of Whittling, a via negativa if there ever was one, and never any of the more exalted forms of Creation?”

Bird Village, Bird Language

For centuries, in the Turkish Black Sea coastal village of Kusköy – a name that translates literally to “Bird Village” – villagers have communicated by whistling, basing their pattern and pitch on Turkish words, with a tone for each syllable. They call it “kus dili,” or “Bird Language.” Like other known whistling systems – for example, the well-studied Silbo used on La Gomera in the Canaries – kus dili arose as an adaptation to the rough and mountainous terrain in this tea-and hazelnut-growing area, where whistling carried further and more clearly than shouting. And it was much easier to whistle at someone than to walk the mountain trails to find them.

Since the whistling is based on the elements of an existing language, it is a simple matter to add words to its vocabulary. One curious effect is the possibility of back-translating actual birds’ whistling into kus dili, since many pitch patterns have been assigned or are assignable to meanings. In other words, the villagers have created a form for which the world rises eagerly to provide content. Or, as the Oulipian Noël Arnaud once said, “Because you are listening, you are spoken to.” One villager claims that a blackbird’s song translates a well-known verse from the Quran…

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 5.52.11 PMScreenshot from Deutsche Welle series “Village Scenes: Tales of Rural Life in Europe.” Episode on Kusköy.

It would not be surprising if one or another volée of the Order of the Third Bird had, in some close or distant time and place, prompted by necessity or fancy, developed a means of maintaining secrecy or privacy via a special code or language. It would be more surprising, and also more delightful, if a volée had developed some variation on a “bird language.” We would welcome any information our readers might have on the matter, and we submit that, if no such practice has existed, one might at any moment be adopted.

Beak Doctor

The Corresponding Secretary recently received a laconic message – a note scrawled on the back of a band flyer, but more oddly still, neatly folded and stamped in an envelope. The note states that it would behoove the editors of Communiqués to have read a short story titled “The Beak Doctor,” written by Eric Basso in 1977. Beyond a polite intro and outro, this is all it contains.
We have read the story, and have a few comments to make.

The early modern entities known as beak doctors were plague doctors. As the black plague ravaged the cities of Europe, those hired by municipalities as plague doctors – often at great trouble, and with elaborate contracts – often wore a kind of hazmat suit to make his rounds. Here is one description of the costume:

“Attributing the disease to corrupt vapours, the physicians protected themselves by means of suits of leather, with large crystal glasses and a long snout containing aromatic spices, employing also a wand with which to issue instructions” (“The Plague Doctor,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Vol. 20 Issue 3).


 [Cover art for Marc Estrin, The Annotated Nose. Unbridled Books, 2011.]

The foul vapors or “miasma” believed to be responsible for spreading the plague filled the role later held by germs in the medical and hypochondriacal imagination. The beak in the beak doctor’s costume acted as an air filter, being stuffed with substances and materials understood to prevent the plague-particle-bearing miasma from reaching the nostrils, by overpowering it with stronger aromas: lavender, sage, rosemary, mint, camphor, dried flowers, garlic.
The beak doctor was avoided like the plague, as it were, by the healthy, and was expected to live cut off from ordinary society. Those commissioned as beak doctors were also frequently empirics – which is to say, lay practitioners who believed in the virtues of observation and experience in medical practices, rather than in studium. Now, aside from the fact that members of the Order of the Third Bird, by a short stretch of the imagination, could themselves be called empirics, lay-midwives of experience; and aside from the fact that they frequently engage in the self-isolations of ritual; or to take it further, that the protocols of the Order could be considered prophylactic in one or more ways – what exactly did our correspondent have in mind with his literary recommendation?

[Cover art for Stephen Massimilla, The Plague Doctor in his Hull-shaped Hat. Stephen F. Austin UP, 2013.]

Here is the opening paragraph of Basso’s text:

Now I will try to keep awake. The fog. They must have come for me before morning. Empty streets. Across a dimly lit room. She lay in the shadows. The steps. One at a time. Not that I’m old. It was the mask. Plaster chipped off the walls. She lay asleep on a couch. A network of cracks and branching veins like the surface of an antique painting. Chiaroscuro. Figures half formed…. .”

There are several things to point out here. First, the plague in this story is not the bubonic plague but a kind of sleeping sickness: one falls asleep and never wakes up. The cities of the sick are blanketed and blinded, as well, by a thick fog. There are no longer landmarks or destinations, only things stumbled upon by chance. In the fragmented articulation seen in the passage above, it is almost as if this fog had infiltrated the narrative itself, transforming it into mere gasps and glimpses of meaning, just as the fog reveals only what is closest. The world is reduced, both by the fog and the diction, into a series of “macroscopic vignettes.”

The beak doctor, in Basso’s story, carries a penlight, prescription pad and vials of penicillin instead of a staff, but the accoutrements of modern medicine are as useless to him as bloodletting would be. Moreover, his mask doubles the effects of the fog and the disarticulated language. Through the small eyeholes, everything he sees is isolated and framed; everything becomes an image without ground or context.

[Paul Fürst, engraving, 1656. From Wikipedia Entry, “Plague Doctor.”]

It is possible that our correspondent wished to indicate to us what Bird-like acts of attention might look like in a Gothic mode, which is to say as a series of acts of adaptation and survival in a world rendered labyrinthine, fragmentary, uncanny and miasmatic – or perhaps a series of acts that render the world labyrinthine and mysterious, vignettes pearled out along a tenuous thread, each an enframing that makes what is seen and sees what is made.

Ecologies of Attention

Before the turn of the new year, we at Communiqués came into possession of some material, concerning the Order of the Third Bird, that at first appears to be part of a book by a valued associate of the Order. We are told that the Birds of the Order did not for a minute believe that the author, Yves Citton, was responsible for this material, which as it turns out was inserted into the book manuscript by an unknown malice-maker in the final stages of publication. It would be difficult, in any case, to understand how a Bird could have written the pages reproduced in part here.

Citton himself, of course, has been speaking of aesthetic experimentation as a kind of athanor of social values – or as a prayer-like suspension of everyday praxis that ultimately allows new forms of praxis to take shape. The contrast between this setting and the alien pages concerning the “Troisième Oiseau” (Third Bird) is substantial for those who – like the Birds themselves – know how to look.

Attention, in these pages, finds itself defined as a kind of nursing or midwifery, as performance, as “artistic action,” as activism, basically as anything other than itself. The practices of the Order are then co-opted as a kind of re-framing or restabilization:


If the act of looking, in these pages, is what transforms the fundamentally formless into an image, the objects of attention are literally created by acts of attention, as if one were constantly Photoshopping a sea of shifting pixels. In other words, to lend one’s attention to a painting has the effect of arbitrarily consolidating and confirming this painting as a discrete and single object. The practice of the Order begins to look like a conservative act, one of maintaining and reinforcing familiar partitions of the given (the division of reality into things like paintings and sculptures), and a kind of willful forgetting of fundamental instabilities.

One almost begins to imagine acts of Birdlike attention partaking of something like the righteousness of the 36 hidden saints, or tzadikim nistarim, who humbly and silently keep the very world standing on its pillars.

All this, of course, is absurd – and we are glad that M. Citton has clarified the matter for us.


Bird and Turtle

The following is a note from a correspondent member, called Plover, of the Order of the Third Bird, on an image of great interest – captioned “Negation, unspecified Amazonian region, late 19th century.”

bird and turtle
Our correspondent comments:

“There is some discussion about the role played by the turtle in this image; while some believe it to be the object of attending, others maintain that the turtle was in fact part of an experiment to extend the practice to the animal kingdom, the turtle being considered of sufficient slowness to qualify for eventual membership of the Order. The inversion of the turtle remains a mystery, with some interpreting it as an uncharacteristically energetic attempt at negation. Also of interest is the cross-cultural nature of this practice, which some have interpreted as evidence of the universal appeal of bird practice as an antecedent to post-colonialism.”

We submit an additional thought: It is not only the turtle that feels oddly placed and that seems to call attention to itself – insofar as an object might be said to “call” an action, as much as do those who attend upon it, and insofar as an echo of this “call” might persist in a subsequent image. The hat – presumably belonging to the man who is reading – feels almost to have fallen onto the image from above, like a crumb, eyelash, or paper cutout; the same for the palm leaf petiole that seems about to transfix the hat, and for the large folio swaying at the petiole’s tip like a new leaf. The uncanny juxtaposition of the hat, petiole, and folio parallels the mysteries of the action itself.