This is the third in our series of posts on a number of recent Actions of the Prosphorion called by the Order of the Third Bird. The following is a response to the previous post, from a Bird calling her- or himself “Whistling Duck,” who appears to have participated in the Action devoted to Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc.” This brings the number of Birds known to have been involved in this historic event to two – further revelations are perhaps to come.
Extraordinarily, it is a letter addressed to the Tilted Arc itself. But what will also be of greatest interest to our wider research community is that this latest document represents a first-hand account of how the Birds themselves might see our devoted labors and our tireless efforts to follow the thread of the Order’s history through the great tangled skeins of the ages. We would also do well to consider the profound implications of the questions it raises.
Dear Tilted Arc,
Reading the description of your experience, I am overwhelmed by the conjuring potential of the Prosphorion. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, alerting us to dimensions of our practice that were heretofore unknown.
You speak of a symmetrical power of which we are unaware, and you are right, I (at least) was certainly not attuned to this specific aspect of our communion on February 5th. And yet, I feel like I can confess to you a needling suspicion I have had since that day. As an amphibious bird and agnostic person, I am not accustomed to such beliefs, and yet, you were there. So here it is: Do you think it is possible that there were others?
Let me explain: In preparation for the practice, I had been thinking about my relationship as a Bird with our great historiographers and sometimes kinsmen, the editorial committee of ESTAR(SER). I feel deeply indebted to them for their research efforts, their sensitive and passionate intellectual pursuit, their poetic tributes. It is because of them that the Prosphorion has been rescued from obscurity.
But it seems that this resuscitation is also fraught. What does it mean for the Birds to appropriate research as practice? In a more emotional vein, how do we contend with our heritage? Our ancestors, if you will.
The Prosphorion brings these questions to the forefront of my mind, for in addition to the Practice, it has also revealed a mysterious genealogy of forebears in practical aesthesis. For instance, in correspondence with the Secretary Locotenant [of the Order of the Third Bird], I learned of the highly secretive Czernowitz volée of the 1930s. This volée is “remembered almost solely for an unusual ‘choreographical’ variation on the Practice, carried out for the most part in that city’s public squares; several of its members being Jewish, such gatherings were increasingly dangerous in that difficult time.” As ESTAR(SER) answers the call for more research, I realize that there is an equally important duty when we re-enact these esoteric, quasi-mystical actions. We become, in effect, torch-bearers, carrying on a tradition of which we know only fragments. Like all people who turn to history to make sense of themselves, our present-tense actions become infused with an imaginary intimacy, an inevitable longing.
Which, in our case, mirrors the action of the Prosphorion itself. We meditate on the absence of an object, and in some way we contend with that reality, and perhaps briefly undo it.
But what if a side-effect of this conjuring is not only to bring back an object, but also, to bring back those Birds who are no longer with us? Is it possible that those who practice the Prosphorion unwittingly undergo another symmetry, becoming Bird-Representatives? Does the Prosphorion have, tucked away within it, the longing not only for the object, but the lost Bird? In practice, do we all embark on an act of radiance, and thereby carry within each practice countless more?
Further practice, it seems, is necessary.
But tell me, Tilted Arc. How many of us did you see?
With great admiration,