Posts Tagged ‘pharmakon’

The Signifying Monkey-Devil’s Opposable Green-Screen-Thumb: not sewing, but felting a rhizomatic seed for an electronic Lurning Man event

August 19, 2008
The Imperative is GO GREEN

Devil's Thumb will go GREEN


Derrida’s chorography [and Ulmer’s by extension] (using an actual place as the inventio of a discussion) recalls Plato’s use of the landscape in the Phaedrus. Socrates goes outside the walls of the city, in order to discuss the lessons in rhetoric that the latter has learned from the sophist Lysias.  They find their way, as if by accident, to a significant spot…

… [it is no accident that] the landscape occupies a much more significant place in the Phaedrus than anywhere else in Plato.  Nor is it accidental that the story of Boreas is told while Socrates and Phaedrus are taking a walk along the banks of the Ilissus, or the story about the metamorphosis of the crickets while both of them are lying under a plane tree luled by their chirruping voices in the midday heat of a southern sky.  All these things belong together.  Hour and place, along with the mythical tales, form the actual and symbolic landscape of the work.  (Friedlander, 190)


Socrates compares the written texts Phaedrus has brought along to a PHARMAKON: a ‘drug’ or ‘medicine,’ – a philter which acts as both remedy and poison….  This charm, this spellbinding virtue, this power of fascination can be – alternately or simultaneously – beneficent or maleficent…. Operating through seduction, the PHARMAKON makes one stray from one’s general, natural, habitual paths and laws [strange attractor].

Jacques Derrida, Plato’s Pharmacy

The primary poison is the Word – the Pharmakos – the one who stands-in-for.  All other poisons function through this one, the signifying poison.  Signifying monkey.  Jesus should have been stoned, not crucified.

Pharmakos also meant ‘poisoner,’ and ‘sorcerer,’ and ‘magician.’  Plato banned the pharmakeus, the shaman, from his Republic in 480 BC.  The Chinese kicked the shaman out of the government in the first century, along with her whole family.

Standing-in-for, the Logos.  Morphine wearing the mask of endorphin, tetra-hydrocannabinol dressed up like anandamide.  Molecules standing in for stimuli: sensation symbolized on the cortex, rhodopsin a metaphor of light.  Intellect is mediated and mediator, a mapping of pattern to patterns of ions, ratios, concentration of amines, layers of neurotransmitters themselves in flux, charged and shaped by emotion and memory.  Mind acts it out, moves mountains, changes its own environment, altering the very reactions that led to the alteration.

and that’s a good trick

Patterns, likeness of pattern, and some analogous likeness of likeness: the swelling of sound in adagio and its neuronal reflection.  The great bead game, poetry is poison – echoes of phonemes, ghosts standing in for ghosts.


My proposal for an electronic monument is to set up a series of VJ performances in green light on the surfaces of Devil’s Thumb [light is highly LNT].  People observing the performance from the suburbs of South Boulder would get a low resolution sense of the Collective Signifying Monkey-Devil’s Opposable Greenthumb, and people watching the performance at the thumb itself would glimpse the content of the projected video images, which could include remix mash-ups of global-environmental music-thrillers (Koyaanisquatsi, Baraka, Manufactured Landscapes) and a video collage concerning the disappearance of Lance Hering from El Dorado Canyon in 2006, among other things.

A relay for remix source material:

The electronic monument would convey its meaning via fractal resolution.  In other words, it would offer similar meaning structures across different scales.  Viewed from far away, the message would be general – Devil’s Greenthumb.  Viewed from closer, the message could be more specific – remixed image content developed by individual VJ’s.  If the performance were allowed to happen a few weeks in a row, it would be ideal if people who saw the program from the suburbs one week were lured out of the city toward the mountains the next week by the Devil’s Greenthumb, making it a veritable Strange Attractor.  The added benefit of this electronic monument’s location is that people who are lured toward the Strange Attractor are lured out of town, at night, into the psuedo-wilds of the hills, where they might very well encounter various forms of the Other.

Then, one day, walking the usual route across the Shadow Canyon ridge heading West toward the Continental Divide, a restless spirit took hold of him.  It was as if he were walking into yet another phase space he had no control over…  Within ten minutes he was at a thin oval-shaped cave.  A green and yellow and red tapestry of lichen surrounded the cave entrance.  From where he stood it looked like an enlarged vagina with technicolor pubic hair.  He thought he smelled the dank erotica of a woman just come.  Closing his eyes and breathing in deeply, he felt an uncontrollable urge to masturbate out in the open air [this is PANIC masturbation, the vice of the shepherds in the hills.  In this version, the wind whipping through the hills is pheromonal medicine woman scent].  A rush of blood funnelled straight to his cock and he pulled it out softly taking hold of it and slowly jerking the entire shaft imagining that all of Nature’s open space was his to jizz in….


The Medicine Woman explained that the psycho-pharmakinetic effect of acidophilus mixed with a special legume grown near the Aztec ruins in the Yucutan would provide him with the necessary proactive stimulant one needs… She said that the Mexican bean was responsible for activating the latent Sexual Blood (she used the term Sexual Blood as if it were a way of life).  This activation caused a mirrored aphrodisiac effect.  Instead of producing in the person who took the drug an incredible urge to screw anything that had a genital attached to it, the intaker of said drug would emit an aura of irresistible libidinal energy that would make certain select Others mad with the prospect of screwing IT... Once one took the drug and started encountering Others who were interested in becoming IT by physically loving IT, then one was allowed to share the secret of Sexual Blood with this Needy Other.

Sexual Blood is the product of a poison, a pharmakon [which can be words whispered on the winds, but can also be vegetal matter].  We can wonder about the percentage of people who’re turned onto Sexual Blood by abstraction/poetry/signification alone, by the pharmakon WORD, logos.  But let’s get materialistic about it.  Let’s get away from monkey signification production, even if we always have to come back to it.  Let’s focus on breeds across the boundaries of reproductive isolation, inter-special production of hybridized affect.  The growing growing grown concern for the earth and the problems that arise around the cultivation, commodification, and transportation [read Capitalistic Control] of plant life is reason to focus on the public policy issues in the green material dimension of the production of so called Sexual Blood.

Phaedr. What an incomprehensible being you are, Socrates: when you are in the country, as you say, you really are like some stranger who is led about by a guide. Do you ever cross the border? I rather think that you never venture even outside the gates.

Soc. Very true, my good friend; and I hope that you will excuse me when you hear the reason, which is, that I am a lover of knowledge, and the men who dwell in the city are my teachers, and not the trees or the country. Though I do indeed believe that you have found a spell with which to draw me out of the city into the country, like a hungry cow before whom a bough or a bunch of fruit is waved. For only hold up before me in like manner a book, and you may lead me all round Attica, and over the wide world.

Ethan Brand is an aspiring alchemist, which is to say a pseudo-materialist, interested in the transmutation of matter into spirit, the emphasis in the case of Sexual Blood being the green matter at hand [the Devil’s Greenthumb, another version of the hook shaped alien appendage].  What matters, in this register, are the organic conditions under which the strange attractor expresses itself.

And, despite the sprouting of fractal ferns and algorithmic roses, there are no plants in cyberspace – not that one could eat, anyway.  Nor in the noosphere.