Monthly Archives: January 2015

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.

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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:

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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.