Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Renaissance of the Prosphorion [Part Three]

       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,
Whistling Duck 

The Renaissance of the Prosphorion [Part Two]


        As a response to our recent report on an Action of the Prosphorion held in Istanbul, and of its resurgence of late among the ranks of the Order of the Third Bird, another extraordinary document has emerged. It would be unseemly to encourage any kind of sleuthing, since the mystery surrounding its author appears salutary – but it is written from the perspective (in the voice, as it were) of the “object” of an Action in New York devoted to Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc,” and its email address of origin is the provocative “tiltedarcotb.” Its provenance clearly lies within the circumference of the Order and its distinctive modes of collective activity, but further details would be difficult (and we suspect, impossible) to determine.

       Who is this “Ovenbird” (as we know, members of the Order take on “Bird names”), and why is “solidarity” such a central part of his or her nature? Could the text have been written by this “Ovenbird” in the lingering throes of Prosphorionic metempsychosis? Or by some other Bird, a galvanized link in the Action’s chain of Platonic enthusiasm? Why does the Tilted Arc seem already to know its devoted attendants so well? And why does its “me” give way so freely to “us”?

       Perhaps we will never know, and perhaps we should not. But we reproduce the document here in full, along with the photograph that accompanied it.


New Shot

The Renaissance of the Prosphorion

       We have just received documentation of an extraordinary event that took place in Istanbul this past week, one which seems already to have created a stir amid associates of the Order of the Third Bird.

       A number of Birds of the Order, it is reported, held an Action of the Prosphorion, a remarkable Protocol recently resurrected from our very own archives, in an instance, among many others, of fruitful exchange between the Order and ESTAR(SER). Although versions of this Protocol have remained in continuous use, through word-of-mouth channels ultimately traceable to the very 1940s Istanbul milieu that first discovered it among antique sources, the researchers of ESTAR(SER) pride themselves on leading the charge for its systematic revival.


       A group of latter-day Istanbul Birds gathered in that city on a Friday in late January, and drew lots to determine which of their number would act as the “Representative” – that is, undergo a series of psychospiritual exercises designed to empty out the self and replace it with the being or emanation of an object presently missing, far away, or long gone. On this occasion the object in question was the wall that once encircled the old Istanbul neighborhood of Galata.

       We draw what follows from reports by a number of the Birds who were personally involved, on the condition that we omit the more intimate of the revelations and encounters of the Action, particularly beginning with the phases of the Prosphorion known as “Abscission” and “Veillance.” However, the general atmosphere of the events – though perhaps not as charged as it was for the participants – can still be reconstructed for our readers.


       The Representative, having entered what is called the stage of Radiance – in which the being of the Wall of Galata shone forth from what had been the lineaments of her body – began her path in disoriented and halting fashion, a stranger in a changed city, but slowly recovered her natural regal bearing. The Wall, wending its way, was seen to halt pedestrians and vehicles in their tracks by a single raised hand. At each turning, the bustle of city life paused, if only to blink once and continue, at the sight of her.


       The Wall’s increasingly sure path led it among the building supply shops and family hardware outlets of Galata as the afternoon waned. The streets bristled with signs and portents, as with sparks of static discharge.


       Eventually, as we gather, the procession of supplicants following the reincarnated Wall reached what appeared to be a dead end. The Wall desired to reach a certain one of its former gates, but was blocked by new construction and the maze of shops and depots. The Wall spoke in a human voice to ask for directions to this gate, insisting to a group of bewildered and half-hypnotized shop owners and delivery clerks that it must be just around the corner, despite all appearances.


       After some negotiations, the procession was led deeper into the labyrinth, by way of a short, steep flight of stairs into the basement floor of a building. Undersea light filtered down from an unusually large central skylight several stories above; workmen in small alcoves bent over indefinable tasks and objects; a bucket swung from a rope disappearing into the haze above. Up another spiraling flight of stairs, around a corner, and by way of an unexpected second story exit to another street, suddenly it was before them – one of the remaining fragments of the original wall of Galata. A passage through the wall – the gate – linked two anonymous and disused pockets of Istanbul. An elevated train thundered by.

       It was precisely at this point of revelation and reunion, we are told, that the Prosphorion Protocol demanded an act of renunciation and negation (or “Abscission”). It was a lesson for some, and very moving for all; but here is where the outsider must step back and be silent.

       The recent revival of the Prosphorion Protocol and attendant Protocol of the Representative appears to be one of the more fascinating and promising developments within the Order. Further information, documentation, and meditation is welcome.