Monthly Archives: November 2014

A Bibliographical Find/Loss of Significance

A London-based book collector recently sent to the secretary of ESTAR(SER) several images from an unusual volume that came onto the market last year.  The specific exemplar has since been sold, but the images themselves tell a great deal.  Follow up work has enabled me to consult another copy of the same volume, and that preliminary research informs this contribution to the ongoing series of “Notes and Queries” posted here in the Communiqués.

The image below depicts the (soft) cover of JEUX D’OBSERVATION, published as the first volume in a series of pamphlets issued under the editorial imprint of the Revue “Camping.” This third edition would seem to have have been printed in 1942, in Paris.  Of the author, one “J. Loiseau,” relatively little is known.  Jean Loiseau (1896-1982) appears to have been an archivist at the Bank of France, and a committed devotee of scouting clubs (in which he was known as “Renard,” or “the Fox”).  His (apparently) given name, which means, of course, “The Bird,” hints at his other preoccupations, which will be our concern here.


The booklet — which consists of 160 pages, many illustrated — is an extraordinary compendium of attentional exercises and collective practices of attention, presented as a sequence of games to be played by young men and women (primarily, it should be said, by scout-aged men).  Loiseau promises that these collective practices will teach “how to look,” “how to observe,” “how to discern,” and, finally, how to “pay attention” in ways that conduce to the “maîtrise du caractère” — the mastery of character/selfhood.

Full enumeration of the remarkable scope of these exercises is beyond the scope of this brief note, but many of them bear a striking resemblance to the kinds of attentional practices familiar to scholars of the Order of the Third Bird, including a number of proposals for how to arrange and engage group participation in sustained sensorial seances with specific objects.  Anyone who has worked with Associates of the Order, or who has reviewed historical material related to Bird “Actions,” will surely be struck by the image below, which depicts a notably “phalanx”-like line of participants configured before an art-fetish “object.”


Significant divergences from orthodox usages of the Order will not be overlooked (the flat social architecture of the modern Practice has no equivalent to a “controleur” or “arbitre“; the physical posture of the crawling supplicant — while not unknown in the annals of Bird habitus — is, nevertheless, extremely rare; the general gamesome theatricality of the “Jetons Totems” is at odds with the putative seriousness of the Order’s occasions), but it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that J. Loiseau has here encoded, as elsewhere in his volume, instructions to adepts and/or initiates in the Order.

This suspicion is exponentially heightened, if not indeed confirmed, by a look at the title page of the specific volume sold at auction earlier this year:


Which reveals a tell-tale book-stamp, clearly marking the volume as part of one of the “Attentional Libraries” commonly associated with a volée of the Order.


Closer work with this remarkable text is clearly desirable, and it would be a great boon to the work of ESTAR(SER) if the purchaser of the copy in question were to come forward and offer it for further examination.  It is possible that the volume, which appears to have crossed the Channel sometime after the Second World War, contains marginalia or other paratextual material that would be of enormous value in our ongoing work.  Till then, we are left with strong evidence that “Loiseau” was the nom de plume of a notable Bird in midcentury France, and that his popular works were designed to be read as romans à clef by associates of the Order.

Familiar Queries: The Origin of the Order

A member of the IFRAO (International Federation of Rock Art Organizations) and associate of the Order from Lublin, Indiana who would like to remain anonymous has sent to Communiqués a comment on an item among the “familiar queries” regarding the Order with which many of our readers will be familiar.

The original item reads as follows:

What is the origin of the Order?

In the broadest sense, the Order has always been. Where there are persons, where there are objects, there exists, in potential, a relation between them. The science of that relation is the Order, under whatever name or configuration. In a narrower sense, there is a positive history of the Order as a formal community of avowing practitioners, but much of this history remains contested and obscure.”

Our correspondent’s message concerns an ancient object which our readers will recognize from their college art historical surveys. We reproduce the message here in full and without commentary, agreement, or disagreement.

                  3 million years ago, the earth had just entered the Placenzian Age of the Pliocene, and Australopithecus africanus walked the earth. It was the age of the giant Arctic camel, and of the largest ever flying bird: Argentavis magnificens. In a cave in the present-day Makapan Valley in South Africa, an A. africanus community left a small lump of reddish-brown jasperite, later retrieved by 20th-century archaeologists.
                 This bit of stone has two deep, close-set eyes under a flat brow, broad cheekbones that sweep up to a round microcephalic skull with a ridge marking a hairline. Below a nose-like indentation, there is an open, meditative mouth with gently curved lips.
                Did A. africanus somehow work this stone to make a crude face, so so long ago? Hardly, we are told. They could not have made tools capable of it. Microsopic examinations indicate that natural, nonhuman (or non-humanoid) processes were responsible for the stone’s appearance.
               What apparently happened was that, struck by the resemblance of this stone to himself – or rather, to those like himself – some Australopithecus picked it up from a stream bed and carried it back to the home cave, over tens of miles. What did he and his cavemates do with it when it arrived? Whatever they did, would it have met the definitional requirements of a “formal community,” however isolated in space and time from other such communities?
               The utter mystery of what a manlike animal and a manlike object would have had to communicate to each other partakes of the darkness of the Order’s origin. It becomes clear to me that a Birdlike relation to an object – before such a category as the made artwork existed – would have encompassed and enfolded all our ulterior categories, like making and finding, like encountering and inventing, like art and non-art, like things made to be looked at, and things that, being looked at, are made.
               It is not that this encounter with nature awoke a slumbering sense of “aesthetic appreciation” in this apelike man. It is not that the category of aesthesis was discovered in this moment. It is that aesthesis was already in the world, ape and stone being of course part of this world.


Nietzschean Tactic for the Negation Phase?



Scholars of the Order have in recent years taken an interest in attempting to recover/reconstruct the slates of discrete “Tactics” used in past times by practicing communities of Birds in different locations. Detailed accounts of past Actions remain rare (even in the documents of the W-Cache), however, and this makes the enumeration of specific ways of performing the different phases of a Practice extremely difficult. Published references, even if only oblique or glancing, must be used to supplement the available archival sources.  A correspondent from Ohio recently sent the above excerpt from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft), with the following note:


I thought many of you would appreciate this moment at the beginning of Book Four, where Nietzsche as much as blurts out, in one of his ecstatic trumps, his commitment to a kind of “affirmative” negation, achieved through simple aversion of the gaze — a kind of negation-by-obliquity.  The beautiful cry — “Let looking away be my only Negation!” — summarizes what, I think, many members of the Order have felt as they attempt to pry themselves from their attentional cathection to the object at the end of the Attending phase.  Not that I would know.  I am just guessing, of course.

With a sweep of the Feather,