Front: Beginning

Boyan Manchev's Blog

Front: Beginning


This blog is an experimental philosophical laboratory of Boyan Manchev.

It consists of two autonomous libraries-workshops:

THE RETURN OF PAN

THE NEW ATHANOR

Each of the libraries-workshops can be read as a stand-alone blog. The libraries are available in three different languages ​​(English, Bulgarian, and French), and the different language versions are not identical.

The blog is translated into English by Boyan Manchev (BM) and Philip Stoilov (PS).

Sirius, Diana of the Wood

 

Diana and her hound, c. 1720
Diana and her Hound, c. 1720

Caeli cum torrentissimus axis

incumbit terris ictusque Hyperione multo

acer anhelantes incendit Sirius agros,

iamque dies aderat, profugis cum regibus aptum

fumat Aricinum Triviae nemus et face multa

conscius Hippolyti splendet lacus; ipsa coronat

emeritos Diana canes et spicula terget

et tutas sinit ire feras, omnisque pudicis 6 [p. 146]

Itala terra focis Hecateidas excedit idus.

ast ego, Dardaniae quamvis sub collibus Albae

rus proprium magnique ducis mihi munere currens

unda domi curas mulcere aestusque levare

sufficerent, notas Sirenum nomine rupes

facundique larem Polli non hospes habebam,

assidue moresque viri pacemque novosque

Pieridum flores intactaque carmina discens.

forte diem Triviae dum litore ducimus udo

angustasque fores adsuetaque tecta gravati

frondibus et patula defendimus arbore soles,

delituit caelum et subitis lux candida cessit

nubibus ac tenuis graviore favonius austro

immaduit; qualem Libyae Saturnia nimbum

attulit, Iliaco dum dives Elissa marito

donatur testesque ululant per devia nymphae.

 

(Statius, P. Papinius, Silvae, 3.1,  55-75;
John Henry Mozley, Ed., с. 145-147)

 

It is the season when the most scorching region of the heavens takes over the land and the keen dog-star Sirius, so often struck by Hyperion’s sun, burns the gasping fields. Now is the day when Trivia’s Arician grove, convenient for fugitive kings, grows smoky, and the lake, having guilty knowledge of Hippolytus, glitters with the reflection of a multitude of torches; Diana herself garlands the deserving hunting dogs and polishes the arrowheads and allows the wild animals to go in safety, and at virtuous hearths all Italy celebrates the Hecatean Ides.

(Quoted in C.M.C. Green, Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Giampietrino, Diana the Huntress, 1526/1549, Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

(Context)

Such is also his guardian Dog, seen standing on its two legs below the soaring back of Orion, variegated, not bright overall, but dark in the region of the belly as it moves round; but the tip of its jaw is inset with a formidable star, that blazes most intensely: and so men call it the Scorcher. When Sirius rises with the sun trees can no longer outwit it by feebly putting forth leaves. For with its keen shafts it easily pierces their ranks, and strengthens some but destroys all the growth of others.

(Aratus (c. 310BC-260BC), Phaenomena, translated by Douglas Kidd)

 

To the Greek mind there was a direct causal connection between the arrival of Sirius and the onset of the hot dry days of late summer. Sirius, as it emerged from its conjunction with the sun, was thought to induce the heat and dryness of August. This heat could not only wither plants but influence the behavior of animals as well. Goats would gaze towards Sirius in the east and emit a cry, the wild Egyptian oryx was said to turn towards Sirius and sneeze. People could contract deadly fevers at this time of year, brought on by Sirius; men could weaken during this time and women could be overcome by carnal desire. People, who suffered from the heat of Sirius were said to be “star struck” (astroboletus). Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, warned of the effects of Sirius.

Sirius was thought to produce “emanations” which could place people and animals in danger of these effects. The idea that Sirius was a source of these emanations could well be linked to the visual appearance of the star when the atmosphere is turbulent and unsettled. At these times the star appears alive and active; seemingly splashing colored rays of light into the sky. Because of its brightness and bluish-white color, Sirius displays such activity much more prominently than other stars and was therefore perceived to be capable of producing effects in humans, animals, plants, and the environment. There was also a widespread association in the Greek mind of the twinkling and flashing of Sirius with such physiological conditions and states as seething, shaking, emptying, and oppression: as if the star was in distress and spewing its light about the sky. Indeed, Sirius acquired such epitaphs as “the Shaker”.

 
(Jay B. Holberg,  Sirius. Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky, Springer-Praxis Books in Popular Astronomy, 2007, p. 19)

 

Starstruck, or the Unimaginable Freedom

To my Hollins friends

 

Sirius is rising.

After fifty seasons under Sirius the Scorcher, 25 of them under the sign of Saturn the Philosopher, I never thought the white and black star could set a figure together.

Sirius, the Herald of canicula, the ecstatic days of heat – the apogee of the other time, the time of a world out of joint, of Chaos Unbound, world of wild freedom; days of frenzy and anxiety, of inspiration and turmoil. The Scorcher star hits hard.

Saturn the philosopher, compelling dark seducer, asking for commitment, for dedication to the consuming delights of thought, to arduous study and teaching, to the sober dignity of a slow and patient formation of a world. The imperative of Common Cosmos.

However, today, for seven summers I know that there is unimaginable constellation out there, where Sirius the Scorcher and Saturn the Philosopher, the ardent white star and the meditative dark star meet.  Freedom and Dignity meet there, and the starstruck terrestrians foresee a possibility for future.

 

31 July 2020

 

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(Context)

Such is also his guardian Dog, seen standing on its two legs below the soaring back of Orion, variegated, not bright overall, but dark in the region of the belly as it moves round; but the tip of its jaw is inset with a formidable star, that blazes most intensely: and so men call it the Scorcher. When Sirius rises with the sun trees can no longer outwit it by feebly putting forth leaves. For with its keen shafts it easily pierces their ranks, and strengthens some but destroys all the growth of others.

(Aratus (c. 310BC-260BC), Phaenomena, translated by Douglas Kidd)

 

To the Greek mind there was a direct causal connection between the arrival of Sirius and the onset of the hot dry days of late summer. Sirius, as it emerged from its conjunction with the sun, was thought to induce the heat and dryness of August. This heat could not only wither plants but influence the behavior of animals as well. Goats would gaze towards Sirius in the east and emit a cry, the wild Egyptian oryx was said to turn towards Sirius and sneeze. People could contract deadly fevers at this time of year, brought on by Sirius; men could weaken during this time and women could be overcome by carnal desire. People, who suffered from the heat of Sirius were said to be “star struck” (astroboletus). Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, warned of the effects of Sirius.

Sirius was thought to produce “emanations” which could place people and animals in danger of these effects. The idea that Sirius was a source of these emanations could well be linked to the visual appearance of the star when the atmosphere is turbulent and unsettled. At these times the star appears alive and active; seemingly splashing colored rays of light into the sky. Because of its brightness and bluish-white color, Sirius displays such activity much more prominently than other stars and was therefore perceived to be capable of producing effects in humans, animals, plants, and the environment. There was also a widespread association in the Greek mind of the twinkling and flashing of Sirius with such physiological conditions and states as seething, shaking, emptying, and oppression: as if the star was in distress and spewing its light about the sky. Indeed, Sirius acquired such epitaphs as “the Shaker”.

 
(Jay B. Holberg,  Sirius. Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky, Springer-Praxis Books in Popular Astronomy, 2007, p. 19)

 

Hollins Dance: Under the Ardent Star

For seven years now, I am teaching for three weeks during the summer sessions of Dance M.F.A. program of Hollins University, taking place in Frankfurt and Berlin. These are the days of summer heat under the sign of Sirius, days, in which I was usually, or unusually, experiencing freedom in another realm. That is why, at the beginning it was an unusual experience indeed, which, in few sessions only, started becoming more and more natural, though in an extraordinary way. I realised that it had to happen in these glowing days of summer. It had to happen in the days when experience of freedom seems to know no boundaries, when imagination is enflamed, when thought is ready to drift. When bodies discover what is beyond their limits. When art starts to be something more than cultural practice limited in time and space. When knowledge rediscovers its origin as force within nature, along with nature. When the possibility grows, and the will to a better world with it. When the Arduous Star becomes an Ardent Star.

And the miracle happened, a miracle that repeats. For seven years I continue to encounter curiosity and wisdom, courage and determination, audacity in experimentation and will to face a world in turmoil, to imagine its better future.

Thank you all, dear Hollins students and colleagues, dozens of incomparable Hollins friends, for making me persist in the belief of a better future for art, creation and philosophy.

The trace of our world will grow. It will persist. 

 

31 July 2020

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Hollins groups in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020: the very last day of studies!
M.F.A. Hollins 2018 and 2019 M.F.A. Hollins 2019 HollinsDanceMFA-2019Hollins2020

 

Comet, Body of Time

Comet-Augsburger Wunderzeichenbuch, Folio 28, c. 1552
Augsburger Wunderzeichenbuch, Folio 28, c. 1552

 

The comet is an enigma. It comes from the spaces beyond the bounds of the world, it brings serene peace and joy.

Secret is the opposite of lie.

The comet’s acceleration, where the breath stops.

Does the breath stop?

Above the roaring continents, miracle traverses the space.

The body of time emigrates into the cloud.

 

30 October 2015 – 22 July 2020

 
Fragment from “Witches, Comets”

The Music itself

To play the body as you play a perfect instrument,

Every organ produces a new melody, a new variation,

To wield perfect mastery over the rhythm of cells.

The cells trained to perfection

To sense the shining sting of the genius infiltrating your biological course,

To cut through the body like an icebreaker,

through the ocean

To master the complexity

To overcome the ethical abyss

To never get stuck in the shallow waters of pettiness

To not survive the wreck of unbearable exigency

Yet to not humble yourself, to not haul in sail and leave the stock rust in the shallow waters  

To be your body

Stasis without metastasis

To not allow death catch up with you in malice

To be right and to look the worthy life into the eye

Like in the morning when you look at yourself in the mirror

To gaze not at death but at the serene life in dignity

To be exactly this death of yours and this life of yours

Measured as a perfect mechanism

Like the perfect mechanism of the unfathomable

The disorganised choreography of the starlings murmuration in the springtime

The splashes of the sea the waves of the storm

To collect every memory so as to see it in the eyes of worthy life 

To shelter it in the wilderness

To not rescue it or give it promises

But to stop it, to humble it, to nourish it

The images are the fragments of the body

Of our body remain only fragments

The hedgehogs of the images

Yet hedgehogs that

collect the forest mushrooms with dignity

at dawn

at dusk

 

*

No scale playing no register studying

But the music itself, outright, all at once

The music itself.

 

 
Excerpt from the philosophical poem The Virtuoso of Life (2011-2012)
Translated from the Bulgarian by Filip Stoilov

Cloud, Script

The cloud isn’t a mysterious script (as Theophrastus believes), a hieroglyph, an ideogram in the open book of the sky. The book of celestial omens, the alphabet of paranoiacs, of necessity, fate and determinism, has been outlined by the Chaldean readers ever since the first Morning Star lit up the night of reason. But no, the cloud is neither a secret code nor a primitive alphabet. A dynamic of meaning of the adventure-here, it is a meaning which, before writing and drawing, before meaning anything, persists in metamorphosis, in an unravelling form; it paints, swirls, thickens, strikes and attacks. The meteor is a stellar cloud, or stellar lightning. It isn’t an omen, it is a rupture of the fabric of omens, of the looming signs. It rips a hole in the void where the cosmos draws the stunned gaze into the vortex of the void.

*

The cloud isn’t a script, a cryptogram of fate, a meteor, a comet, an avenging supreme force, a giant brain in the sky – its vapours, a thinking cosmos, solaris, a plastic brain of matter; it is a neuronal dispersion, an agent, subject, agency without a place and in a synchronous time that unfolds in parallel times and spaces, an alter-actualization that sediments matter in anachronous forms, an immanent dynamic, an unimaginable technique, volcanic cartography.

Yes, the cloud isn’t a writing system but it is an agent of writing, it is an author of the revolution, it is a force of cosmic history, being also its effect. It is a front of Chaos – the cloud of all clouds that stretches along the ridge of the Universe as its unbeginning but also unending core – it is a force not of the finality but of the counter-finality of the world.

The cloud isn’t only a part of the meteorological system, it is a force of the metabolism of the biosphere, of the noosphere, of neuronal, insect-like dispersion.

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev Clouds. Philosophy of the Free BodyTranslated from the Bulgarian by Katerina Popova, Sofia: Metheor, 2019 (2017), Chapter II: “Ontology of the Cloud”, p. 47.

The quarks create

The Creator is not gone. Let us quit the apophatic mysticism of the God gone missing, of the gods in retirement. We know no less than Hölderlin and all the delirious patients in the waiting-room of the Messiah that the gods who have retired may fancy coming back. No, the creator never chanced upon the creation and this is why the creation never stops creating. An open universe is a creating universe. And this means that even the quarks create.

This impulse of creation, Chaos as a force of differentiation, Eros as clinamen, the flux of the apeiron, the creating vortex – the meteoric time that binds together thermodynamics and alchemy, cosmology and magic, this practical extremization of knowledge, is the passion of the philosophical fantastic.

Bruno’s definition of the Magician – the Magus – precedes and seemingly preconditions Marx’s famous definition of philosophy as transformative praxis (Theses on Feuerbach):

‘So as it is used by and among philosophers, ‘magician’ then means a wise man who has the power to act.’

(Giordano Bruno, Cause, Principle and Unity, And Essays on Magic, trans. Robert de Lucca, Richard J. Blackwell, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 107).

[A philosophis ut sumitur inter philosophos, tunc magus significat hominem sapientem cum virtute agendi.

(Giordano Bruno, De magia naturali, in Giordano Bruno, Opere magiche, Adelphi, 2003, c. 166).
Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), Book V: Chaos Unbound, p. 205-206.

Goethe, Webern

In the introduction to his Theory of Colour, Goethe speaks aphoristically of the “impossibility of accounting for beauty in nature and art … We want to sense laws . . . one would have to know them.” But Goethe sees this as almost impossible – but that doesn’t make it less of a necessity to get to know “the laws according to which nature in general, in the particular form of human nature, tends to produce and does produce when she can …”

What was that? Goethe sees art as a product of nature in general, taking the particular form human nature. That is to say, there is no essential contrast between a product of nature and a product of art, but that it is all the same, that what we regard as and call a work of art is basically nothing but a product of nature in general. What is this “nature in general?” Perhaps what we see around us? But what does that mean? It is an explanation of human productivity, particularly of genius. You see, ladies and gentlemen, it does not come about as ” Now I want to paint a beautiful picture, write a beautiful poem,” and so on and so forth. Yes, that happens too but it’s not art.

And the works that endure and will endure for ever, the great masterpieces, cannot have come into being as humanity, more’s the pity, imagines. What I mean by that must be clear to you from those Goethe sentences. To put it more plainly, man is only the vessel into which is poured what “nature in general wants to express. You see I would put it something like this: just as a researcher into nature strives to discover the rules of order that are the basis of nature, we must strive to discover the laws according to which nature, in its particular form man,” is productive.”

 

(Anton Webern, The Path to the New Music, transl. by Leo Black, Theodore Presser Company / Universal Edition, 1963 [1960], p. 10-11)

The Return of Pan: User’s Guide

This blog is dedicated to the Great God Pan. 

In search of the lost god, the philosophical diary inevitably develops into a philosophical quest. In Pan’s forest the quest branches out and takes various paths: a forest stilled in the midday swelter; a forest fire; unimaginable bounds.

A cutting, a breaking, a section of chaos.

Three sections of the text:

PANIC

THE BURNING GOD: MAY 1945 – MAY 2020

THE FUTURE NATURE

The sections differ in direction, rhythm and mode of exposition. Each corresponds to a different requirement:

Panic, pandemic: figurative ontology of the present.

The flaming god: May 1945 – May 2020 : historical epistemology of poietic forms.

Forthcoming nature: imperative ontology.

In the labyrinth of Pan’s forest, the paths of the quest branch out, but their threads intertwine into a common tissue: the tissue of the second volume of the Philosophical Fantastic. 

If during the reign of Emperor Tiberius superstitious sailors spread throughout the empire the rumor that the Great God Pan was dead, and if this rumor was furthermore found to be an unconditional truth for two millennia, today the Great God Pan shuts the mouths of liars by his own hand.    

Today Pan returns.

The New Athanor: User’s Guide

The New Athanor is a laboratory of the Philosophical Fantastic.

The Philosophical Fantastic is not a hybrid genre, it is no mixture of philosophy and the fantastic. It is an experiment with the very form of philosophy: an experiment with new possibilities of articulating the philosophical form. The Philosophical Fantastic is an act of philosophy in the mode of desire. It yearns the invention of the New Athanor.

Athanor, a fragment from the book by Heinrich Khunrath Truthful Report Concerning the Philosophical Athanor, Its Use and Effectiveness (Warhafftiger Bericht Von Philosophischen Athanor, Und Dessen Gebrauch Und Nutzen [Magdeburg: Johan Botcher, 1597]). Engraved frontispiece (signed Hein. Muller) on the title page of the Leipzig edition (1783). Digital image: strx.

Athanor, a fragment from the book by Heinrich Khunrath Truthful Report Concerning the Philosophical Athanor, Its Use and Effectiveness (Warhafftiger Bericht Von Philosophischen Athanor, Und Dessen Gebrauch Und Nutzen [Magdeburg: Johan Botcher, 1597]). Engraved frontispiece (signed Hein. Muller) on the title page of the Leipzig edition (1783). Digital image: strx.

Athanor – the philosophical furnace (from Arabic at-tannūr [التنور], ‘furnace’, ‘kiln’, ‘tandoor’, ‘a baker’s oven’, ‘hot spring’), is an alchemical device for maintaining a constant temperature required for the process of alchemical transformation of substance, its crystallization as lapis philosophorum, a philosopher’s stone.

The New Athanor is the philosophical furnace of images, which must synthesize pure concepts, the matter of the philosopher’s stone, of the philosophical crystal. Alchemy of the philosophical image, nuclear acceleration of philosophy.

Nowadays, when thinking and imagination are being constrained no less than bodies, the Philosophical Fantastic sets the goal of inflaming imagination and thinking, of imagining new possible worlds. It restores to philosophy the task of being an active force in the world, and to the world – of discovering its fantastic pith.

The New Athanor is a methodological experiment where the philosophical quest engages in a shared adventure of concepts, theories and hypotheses from the domain of modern science, while at the same time mobilizes the latent potential of mythological and fantastic figures. Anaximander, Heraclitus and Aristotle encounter Chaos, Cronus and Aphrodite, and all of them join with Boltzmann, Prigogine and Atlan.

The stake of the Philosophical Fantastic’s laboratory is a prolegomenary one. It deals with imagining the horizon of a forthcoming philosophy of nature.

The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic

The laboratory The New Athanor accompanies the publication of the first volume of the book series Philosophical Fantastic by Boyan Manchev, the eponymous book The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic. The blog presents fragments and expands topics and concepts, introduced in the book, without being identical with it. Much of the material included here is published for the first time.

Boyan Manchev has been working single-mindedly on the project of a Philosophical Fantastic during the past ten years. The trajectory of this experimental methodology includes the books Miracolo, [Miracle] (2011) and Clouds (2017); the method was already outlined in The Unimaginable (2003) and L’altération du monde, [The Alteration of the World] (2009). The newly published The New Athanor (2019/2020) is in the strict sense volume one of the series ‘Philosophical Fantastic’, yet it is also the figure of its unity. The New Athanor includes the Prologue ‘Principles of the Philosophical Fantastic’, followed by the first five books of the philosophical fantastic: ‘The Perils of Philosophy’, ‘Apeiron, the Boundless’, ‘Fire’, ‘Chaos’ and ‘Chaos Unbound’, all of them unified by the idea of the world’s origins. The dynamic trajectory of the five books draws the outlines of complex conceptions about time and causality, readjusting the compass of the subject in the high seas of the world. Will the helmsman of the incoming ship be the one who first embarked on the quest? Is this the same ship? Is this the same world?

Magia Naturalis: User’s Guide

Magia Naturalis is the new library of the New Athanor: Boyan Manchev’s experimental laboratory for philosophical fantastic.

Magia Naturalis mobilises the hypothetical core of the philosophy of the (future) nature, crossing it with the anachronistic history of the idea of creating nature.

MAGIA NATURALIS: CONCEPTS, THINGS, FORCES AND STAKES

Is nature an artist? Is creation peculiar to stars, metals, fire? What does the stone imagine? What does the cloud want?

It is high time we took on these problems in all seriousness and on the level of their eccentricity. Magia Naturalis – not so much an exhibition, as an artistic environment, a reflexive space and a reflexive time – sets itself the goal of introducing these problems into an experimental dimension. At the very heart of it is the fantastic question of the possibility of (creative) subjectivity beyond the bounds of the human subject.

In this respect, at the heart of this reflexive space is not so much the question of how we reflect on nature, how we creatively relate to it, how we refashion or transform it, how we invent or create it.

Quite the contrary, the question posed is: how ‘nature’ reflects on ‘us’. How it reflects on ‘itself’ through ‘ourselves’.

In what way do forces correlate with themselves, so that where was once oneness there is now a multitude, and where was once a multitude there is now oneness?

Where is the beginning of ‘this’? Where is the beginning of ‘the other’?

Does the track traverse the force, so that it becomes knowledge of itself?

What is the scope of (con)scientia?

How does substance reflect (itself)?

Is art natural?

Is nature artificial?

What does the nature’s desire imagine?

What imagines us?

What do forces reflect on?

What reflects on us?

What creates? Does it create?

What does desire in itself desire? Does it desire?

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It is not so long ago that philosophy proclaimed the end of anthropocentrism and anthropocentric metaphysics; philosophy of science and anthropology followed up, imposing the idea of different types of metaphysics, as well as different concepts of nature, concepts of different natures. Their criticism is necessitated, urgent: in a world deprived of its own foundations, reaching the boundary of the possibility for the production of meaning (a production, of which nature remains both a universal imaginary foundation and a universally proposed justification), nature demands a turnover. Nature bursts into luxuriance, cracking up the shell of its ossified concept. It demands to be conceived not as nature, but as something else, as something completely different: an unnamable span of forces and constellations whose temporary traversing constitutes the human perspective.

Hence, upon this foundation the interest towards the ‘things of the world’ has been affirmed anew. The common denominator of this new front: the rejection of anthropocentrism and the central category of humanist metaphysics – the subject. Regrettably, the legitimate radical criticism has led to an overdetermined privilege of ‘objects’, while the concept of object remains inseparable from the subject/object dichotomy, i.e. it has been negatively re-affirmed by this concept. 

In opposition to this unreflected tendency, the dynamic ontology I have been struggling for the last two decades insists on the surcritical retention of the concept of subject, that is to say an agent.  We cannot exclude the forces, the dynamics and the negativity from the world; we cannot reduce the poietic and transformative power of chaos or the cosmos. Our task is to confront things – or rather confront them in their midst – as agents of complex simultaneous or even hetero-simultaneous processes. In this respect, dynamic ontology, and the transformative materialism related to it, establishes the preconditions for understanding and experimenting with the poietic and auto-poietic potentiality of things.

There is no intransient thing. Things are agents – actions that effect transformations of complex multitudes and constellations of forces. This is why the central problem of transformative materialism is the problem of change, the problem of movement, μεταβολή, hence the problem of the dialectical connection between things and processes, between compositions and transformations. In the perspective of transformative materialism, things are conceived as dynamic forms and forces. Therefore, things can and must be conceived only as elements of dynamic ontologies.

Furthermore, the experimental hypothesis of this reflexive domain is based on the suggestion that the presently proposed method of transformative materialism is grounded in the very origin of the concept of nature. 

Art does not just imitate nature: already Aristotle moved beyond his own revolutionary idea which has become a misconceived dogma. What we call art is a complex conceptual instrument, allowing first and foremost the manifestation of potentiality that has preconditioned the definition of nature as nature – its poietic, creative character. Thus, in his Physics – rightfully considered to be the key work for the invention of the concept of nature, at least within the ‘Western tradition’ – Aristotle states the following: ‘generally art in some cases completes what nature cannot bring to a finish, and in others imitates nature.’ (199а14). However, this posits nature and art in an initial relation of supplementarity that will be elaborated and radicalised for centuries onwards. 

The idea of magia naturalis, natural magic, is grounded precisely on such dynamic foundations, developed and elaborated by philosophical and scientific conceptions, as well as by the practice of mystical knowledge, primarily by Neoplatonic Aristotelianism. This idea was to be further developed by Renaissance humanists where it expressed the heretic notion of creative acts produced by natural forces and of nature itself as a creator. The concept of creative nature, later on termed by Spinoza as natura naturans, which progressively attains self-autonomy detached from the idea of an all-encompassing Creator, or rather conceives itself as an absolute Creator, was at the very heart of alchemy and astrology, while giving impetus to the development of natural sciences. The magical power of nature: uncanny figures, unimaginable forces, inhuman desires.

 

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Magia Naturalis expands the reflexive and experimental field of MAGIA NATURALIS, Phase 1, the eponymous exhibition conceived and organised by Boyan Manchev and Vesselina Sarieva with the participation of Bignia Wherli, Marta Djourina and L.

 

MAGIA NATURALIS, Phase I: EXHIBITION, REFLEXIVE ENVIRONEMENT

Magia Naturalis

by Boyan Manchev and Vesselina Sarieva, with Bignia Wehrli, Marta Djourina, L

Magia Naturalis, a meeting ground of complicities, coincidences and clashes, explores nature as force by way of fantastic philosophical acts and unexpected transformations of artistic media. It operates not so much with objects, acts or relations, as with a scope of intensities where ephemeral constellations and stark powerful lines flash forth. In this respect, the exhibition raises the question of cooperation: the agents, the subjects, the forces. The forces that animate concepts and (art)works.

Magia Naturalis will therefore open up an experimental space of reflection where simulated possibilities of the unimaginable (forthcoming) nature and the unimaginable (forthcoming) art will be investigated. It is not a question about nature conceived as an ungraspable origin duly furnished as a museum herbarium – it is about nature as an ever forthcoming unimaginable force, as an art of what is yet to come.

Natural magic: an experimental possibility for creative intervention into the space-time coordinates of a singular system of relations, which sustains it on the level of a delicate, yet intensive meta-stability.

So, magic is to be here conceived as the unimaginable power of forthcoming nature which can be grasped either through some sort of fantastic science, or through the creative potentiality of matter itself – the artistic poiesis. At this point, the future of nature and the future of art will be conceived as one and the same thing.

Nature is a space of sprouting forces: it is forthcoming by necessity. The reflexive space where the problematics of Magia Naturalis will operate in the experimental-fantastic mode of this philosophical laboratory will also provide a scope for the activity of these unpredictable forces.   

 

(To be continued)

The Knot of Time, Meteora

Every beam of space is tightened into a knot of time, every fiber – into a stitch. A spider-orifice, this hole in the belly whence time passes through. We are the dis-paired, the paired children of time, our cobweb is the insect-star dissemination, our vice is the section of the event. There, under the meteor shower, is the section of the event. There, under the meteor shower, we unfold the feathery fan of the comet. 

*

Thus, weather manifests as existential alter-temporality: it is the weather of potentiality as opposed to the time of actuality.

The weather of our potentiality.

Hence, we are obsessed with meteorology: our shared obsession is a symptom of our co-partiality, or even our complicity with the weather of fluids, with the unpredictable and potent weather of meteors. We are accomplices of the fluids and the meteors.

We are meteors.

The weather of meteors is ripe with (unconditional) contingency, with (fatal) exigency, with energy and with beauty.

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), p. 172-173.

The other time

Let us presuppose the existence of two species of times, which are in any case separated by language (at least in some languages, while in others they coincide significantly): tempo and tempo, temps and temps, време and време, das Wetter and die Zeit, weather and time.

The first one, time, is vectoral and linear, while weather twists, folds and tangles. The one seems immaterial, empty, an all-encompassing ether of existants and of existence itself; the other is a material force that passes through bodies, takes over them, bends them, intertwines them, spins, unfolds, swells up beneath the earth, traverses the stratosphere, develops plans, spreads into fronts, displaces them, whirls them about, precipitates them into a spiral of acceleration, cuts sections. The weather of the whirlwind and the storm, of tranquilisation and sedimentation, of intensification and extension, of expansion.    

The weather of the pine-tree, of the yew, the weather of the iceberg and the fjord, of constellations and comets, the weather of the gaseous substance. The weather of the body.

The weather that sediments and spins the fabrics of us.

We are fabric. What lives is fabric. Matter is fabric. Weather is fabric. The starry fabric. The spindle of the Milky Way.

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), p. 167-168.

The time of the subject

The point, at which time touches upon the storm: this is the space of the subject, of its surge-metamorphosis-persistence. The point, at which time touches upon time.

Time is the time of the subject. The subject emerges only in the hiatus of Cronos. The subject is not a cronid. The subject is a chaoid – or an erotoid. Heterochrony that designates the cosmic rhythm of Heraclitues is its temporality. A subject means the following: pro-leaf-eration of time, transformation of the time mechаnic into a complex organic that exceeds itself, a thermodynamic arrow that expresses the irreversible elasticity of chaos.

The subject is a super-machine that produces complex time. The subject is the technique, with which complex time arrives into the world. The cloud, the galaxies, the gases – the subject is all of these. A/the subject knows them as a subject. The forces reinforce themselves even when they annihilate one another. The thinking reed cannot obliterate the thought of fire. 

The subject is a dynamic system. A meteoro-logical system. The logic of the subject is the logic of meteors.

Not a thinking reed bent by the wind, but: a thinking wind, a thinking storm, the thinking hair of sand, thinking sedimеntations and stratifications of the earth, of minerals, of forms, of chromosomes, of the reed’s luxuriance and of this bundle of reeds, here at the lake shore; a force that thinks. Thinking climate. Thus, the cloud, the storm, the rain, the sun-blaze flow along our bloodstream, spurring our fibres into a vortex. We spurt climate and whirls, we are nothing but vortices and (thermo)dynamic processes, ourselves. We fume. We measure and slash time. We grow.

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), Book V: Chaos Unbound, p. 236-237.

Weather Witches

Hans Baldung Grien, Witches, 1508

Hans Baldung Grien, Witches, 1508

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The Weather Witches, they smoke through us, they smoke like the axis of time. See them wrap their black manes in the sky, ride the fire-breathing cats, see them orb the matter of the night, the flesh of the cloud, see these heavy etheric bodies, these irresistible, irreversible, unbelievable substances. 

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They rule over the storm, the volcano, the clouds. They are the mute law of the atom, they break the nucleus as an accelerator, a nuclear paraphernal. Every moment in their tube is a constellation of time, breaking galaxies. The goat’s egg, the cat’s black milk, the witch’s baby, behold, the cream of the black galaxies crosses it. The witches’ feast smokes like a volcano, mandrake smoke, and the dusk licks it with a hungry tongue, and the mice ring like beads on the flasks of alchemical malice.

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Baldung Grien’s witches visit us night and day, early in the morning, often unexpectedly but always rhythmically. They are miracles that breathe flesh and smoke, soaked with dew willow branches and rusty autumn leaves. My witches, indifferent witches, evil beauties, trunks of gloomy joy, turn here in the corner of time, bend more and more the space here, tighten it. No, don’t be sensible, don’t be submissive to the magician’s art. Just like you, I am a restless soul, just like you, radiant flesh and darkness, nothing to do with man.

Excerpts from Boyan Manchev, Weather Witches, 31 October 2014

Weather Front

The Weather Front. Front and War

The American mathematician Elias Loomis, who described the famous geomagnetic storm of the late summer of 1859 when there occurred an exceedingly brilliant display of the Northern Lights, first formulated the hypothesis of the existence of weather fronts as early as 1841. But it was not until 1919, after the First World War, that the Norwegian meteorological school adopted this term and concept, while the US National Weather Service began to mark fronts on weather maps only after the Second World War. It is hardly a coincidence that the history of the concept “front” unfolded directly in parallel to the two world wars. The concept “front” presupposes, in the first place, a planetary, global scale of thought; on the other hand, it is inevitably associated with a clash, conflict, furious onslaught of air masses; but also with a complex strategy, codes subject to deductions, experimental hypotheses, and forecasts.

The mapping of weather fronts repeats, or at least is inspired by, that of military fronts, borrowing its techniques of representation. The militarized imaginary of the front: dynamic forces, polemos, agon, clash. Battle scenes. In this way, the front is at once a loaded but also a symptomatic concept. The military concept of front itself, associated with a frontal surface, with a dynamic curve representing the disposition and dynamic of forces, is in this sense adequate for our thesis on the ontological polemos. Another use of the concept of front, referring to a political movement, can also be understood in the same perspective: Fatherland Front, National Front, Left Front. Obviously, the political concept of front likewise presupposes not just organization based on substantial representation of a particular political identity, of a particular group: “party”, but organization of (dynamic) forces. In the front burns the polemical Heraclitian fire.

The cloud: a celestial battle scene, clash, agon, revolution. The war of the clouds, the revolution of the storm.

 

The Erotic Front

The front: not just a battle situation but also an erogenous surface. Ares and Eros.

The front: an ontological erogenous surface. An erogenous surface of the event.

The element that envelops, that is a front, not a resisting body but the very resistance of the sensual pleasure that overwhelms, exposes, an ultra-erotic front of the total – and minimal – “incorporeal” – caress.

The cloud as an incorporeal body-front.

The cloud is at once potentiality and actuality – that is why the cloud is inhabited by forms: it is the very metamorphicity of the form that carries a storm, that is, transition of the dynamic form into an attacking actuality.

Front – Attack. The attacking actuality as an alter-actualization of the front.

 

Representation of Force, Force of Representation

Thus, weather fronts are traditionally understood as dynamic formations, divisions of air masses which envelop the planet and to which we owe the phenomenon of “weather”, its dynamic morphology and persistent change. Today meteorologists know well that the front is much more a representation of forces than an objective structure. Fronts are the result of the movements of the atmosphere, of its vertical dynamics. They are an effect of the vortical motion of fluids – the apeironic vortex rediscovered by modern thermodynamics. Fronts are the trace of the polemical contrasts that are cut into the vortex; that is why they are a representation of forces.

νέ The front is, on the one hand, a representation/ visualization of forces, and on the other, their effect. On the one hand, it is a concept of dynamic, and on the other, a dynamic of the concept.

Of course, the front is a representation, but it is also necessary to construct the immanent consistency of the conceptual front. The very question – the question about the front in this case – is an immanent consistency of the front of the concept, of the front that is dynamically figured/unfurled in this operation: a conceptual nebula.

 

The Cloudy Edge

The cloudy edge is fringed with gold, with topaz, with silver thread; no, it isn’t a landscape by Claude Lorrain or Jacob van Ruisdael. And yet it is there.

Does the cloud have an edge? What is a cloudy edge? How could these swirling balls, these wispy whorls, these eerie whirls, these feathery curls be an edge? Isn’t the edge a limit/boundary?

No, the edge is a place where spaces, times and modes meet.

The edge is a knot that does not bind but frees, it is not a monolithic immanent technique entangling an encountered body, it is a crossing of the external surface like a body of encounter: dimensions, modes.

 

The Front-Edge. On Celestial Distortions

θ The front is an edge at which actuality and potentiality come into contact.

Here, however, we are not speaking of contact on a two-dimensional surface, nor even of a section of planes or intersection of surfaces, but of the relation of the two sides of a complex surface. A Möbius strip, a Möbius front.

Thus, the alter-concept of the front is in opposition to the dichotomic view of potentiality as a substantial resource and of form-energy governed by entelecheia, which “sublates” potentiality.

θ The edge is the topological expression of effectiveness – the mode of alter-actualization. What we call effectiveness is an alternative process of actualization that does not reduce but expands potentiality.

At the edge, potentiality transforms itself, increasing its power and, in this way, expanding the horizon of the actual.

θ Effectiveness: an alternative process of actualization that does not reduce but expands potentiality.

 

The Event-Cloud

θ The event is the sudden expansion of the horizon of the actual: the transformation of the expansion from a quantitative into a qualitative mode. A qualitative expansion of the horizon of the actual.

θ Horizon of the event; a meteor (that crosses it); an evental cloud/a cloud of the event.

The cloud: a nebula of the event.

The front: an erogenous surface of the event.

θ The effectiveness of time is an event-potentiality, an edge of actuality.

θ We shall call front the site of effectiveness.

θ Front, persistence of change.

 

Ontology of the Front

The front is a sedimentation of forms which, being past, possess both potentiality and actuality. They are deposited in time as sediments, as mat- ter of forms which is itself formed, folded into reliefs – forms. But sedimented time is not exhausted time; it is sedimented insofar as its potentiality is the potential of a returning or re-actualizing actuality; a possibility which is not guaranteed a priori, but which is active in the retrojection of the very moment of actualization, a possibility whose vector always propels and intensifies its own potentiality. Thus, the sedimentation of forms is also an active front that draws the celestial and terrestrial relief of the present, the saturated, neither empty nor full space of the transparent air.

θ The cloud: anachronism/hetero-simultaneity of form. Its complex temporality.

 

The Sedimentation of the Cloud

 

At this moment, after the afternoon pump of sleep, the sudden awakening in the other space-time, the banal after the extraordinary, but also vice versa, Città looks like a lair of clouds, like a landscape of cloudy forms, like compression of time. The hill of the ancient town on which clouds recline, over which they watch or pass or linger, as if the hill itself, overgrown with buildings, proliferation, extension, historical sedimentation of life, mineralization of collective human time, has become a landscape, plane, relief of the subject of the cloud, its shadow, support, accomplice; as if fast connections and slow time are on the same wavelengths, are the same. The clouds think the hill or imagine it; they certainly dream it, they certainly make it stand. The clouds stand as a form of thought on the hill, reasonable chaos, disastrous beauty, our stellar affect.

 

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev Clouds. Philosophy of the Free Body. Translated from the Bulgarian by Katerina Popova, Sofia: Metheor, 2019 (2017), Chapter III: “Meteorologies. Lightning, Storm, Front”, p. 118-127.

The Burning of God Pan

May, 1945 – May, 2020

On this day, May ***, 75 years ago, the Great God Pan was burnt to death.

On this day, May ***, 1945, at the very end of World War II, a few days after the fall of Berlin and on the eve of Nazi Germany’s surrender, during an unexplained fire in Flakturm Friedrichshain, a concrete air-defense tower built in 1941 by the national-socialists in the Berlin park Friedrichshain, part of the Berlin Art Gallery collection (then the Kaiser Friedrich Museum) was destroyed. In order to be safeguarded by hostilities, a big number of works of art were hidden inside the allegedly indestructible tower. Amongst them, alongside Donatello’s, Michelangelo’s, Tintoretto’s, Caravaggio’s, Van Dyck’s, and Rubens’ works, was to be found one of the most enigmatic artworks of modern times – the painting that was provisionally described as ‘The School of Pan’ by Luca Signorelli.

Signorelli’s lost painting was a vast canvas sized 194 / 257 cm., an exceptionally impressive format for the end of the Quattrocento. This painting was one of the largest ones of the age. It was produced in the end of the 15th century, around 1490, by order of none other than Lorenzo the Magnificent himself, and was probably one of his most esteemed works in his collection. 

Signorelli’s ‘Pan’ includes six central figures divided into two compositional groupings. At the center of the painting is the young god Pan: a handsome, long-haired and beardless youngster, his head tilted in reflection, who seemingly has nothing to do with the archaic zoomorphic Arcadian deity, except for his goat’s legs. The god is nude, covered with a mantle embroidered with stars; he is sitting on a rocky throne, his legs frontally spread, surrounded by his suite. He is hornless, yet crowned with a two-horn crescent moon. Pan is in the company of two personages – an elderly man speaking to him with his head tilted in his direction, and a young man playing the flute, while the foreground is occupied by three strange figures: a standing nude woman, a lying young man and another elderly man leaning on a staff with his eyes forward. The god is listening to the elderly man who is leaning in his direction. Pan is also holding a staff or a scepter, his other hand resting on his thigh. What is the theme of the painting? Is it an allegory? An allegory of what? We cannot know for sure. The later descriptive titles of the painting were obviously founded upon different hypotheses. Neither of them, however, is verifiable, even less so are the allegorical interpretations to be discussed later on. The prevailing descriptions that follow up the painting’s titles include: The Education of Pan or The School of Pan, and The Court of Pan.

After the era of the Medici, there was no evidence of the painting for nearly two centuries until it reappeared in the Palazzo Pitti in the end of the 17th century. In 1869, the painting was discovered in the attic of the Palazzo Corsi by the artist and restorer Angelo Tricca; meanwhile, the nude bodies were found to be covered with ‘flabs’. Tricca restored them to their original appearance, thus scandalising the painting’s owner, Cardinal Corsi, whence ensued its sale. After numerous mishaps, including the Victorian censorship in the London National Gallery, the painting became possession of Wilhelm von Bode in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in 1873. Thus the painting reached to Berlin. 

The Fire

The information on the painting and its disappearance available today is unclear, complicated and fragmentary. Surprisingly, the legal successors of the Berlin Kaiser Friedrich Museum (the Bode Museum) do not provide detailed information on the lost works of art. The most comprehensive and systematic information so far is provided by the Magdeburg-based German Center for the Search for Lost Works of Art (Deutschen Zentrum Kulturgutverluste), which also maintains the Lost Art Database. On the basis of the data collected by the organisation and the partial evidence of that period published in the press (for example, a review by Christopher Norris), I will here lay out all known details around the destruction of Signorelli’s ‘Pan’.

The Allied bombings on the night of December 20, 1940 struck the neighborhood around Museuminsel, the Museum Island situated in the heart of Berlin. Due to the concerns of the museum staff, an unprecedented decision was made to transfer the works of art to two of the three so-called Flaktürme (air-defense towers) in Berlin. They were believed at the time to be indestructible under any circumstances. Most of the Flaktürmе built in Berlin, Vienna and Hamburg still exist to this day: they can be seen in the Humboltdhain Park in Berlin, in the central areas of Vienna and Hamburg. The relocation of the artworks to Friedrichshain began in September 1941. For this purpose, along with other collections of the State Museums, the entire first floor of the building, and later the premises on the second and third floors, were used. The relocation was essentially completed by September 1942, and some large-format paintings from the museum dungeons were transferred a while later. Amongst them was probably Signorelli’s ‘Pan’, although accurate data cannot be found. On account of the advancement of the Soviet troops on the Eastern Front, after consulting the responsible ministries the museum administration decided to relocate the artworks outside Berlin and to the ‘Kaiseroda’ salt mine in Thuringia, but only a month later the decision was overturned due to security reasons. According to ‘Lost Artworks’, there were 434 paintings left in the Friedrichshain tower, mostly large-format ones, as their size did not allow their transportation in mine carts. After the fall of Berlin on May 2, 1945, the bunker was handed over to the Red Army. On May 4 and 5, the security guard of the museum was again allowed access to the air-defense tower. Regardless of the measures taken to protect it, on May 6 a fire burst out in the storage room, engulfing the entire first floor, most likely along with a large number of paintings. After the fire, the control over the the tower was seemingly terminated. Free-roaming civilians were observed. A week later, between May 14 and 18, 1945, again under unclear circumstances, a second fire burst out, which completely destroyed the interior of the tower. Both towers were detonated in 1946 by the Red Army, but were not completely destroyed; they were later covered with soil and transformed into grassed and wooded hills in the Friedrichsain Park. It was not certain which of the two fires destroyed Signorelli’s ‘Pan’, as the causes of both remained unclear. This is how the most unusual and astounding representation of the god who personifies nature disappeared amidst the flames inside a monstrous concrete structure at the end of the most monstrous war on earth ever inhabited by god Pan.

Today, the painting has been made known only by the few preserved black and white photographs (the most important of which is the professional black and white reproduction in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum album), as well as by one of the few color photographs of the collection, yet in a smaller format and far lesser quality.

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The unexplained circumstances around the disaster could undoubtedly nourish any sort of fantastic assumptions and inspire the imagination of a new Dan Brown. This trite conspiratorial fantasy, however, can hardly be compared to the fantastic fate of one of the most astonishing and enigmatic artworks of modern times.

This autonomous thread of the blog is dedicated to Signorelli’s enigmatic painting and its mysterious fate, as well as to its enigmatic disappearance.  The texts that follow deal neither with art criticism, nor with history research – they comprise a laboratory of the philosophical fantastic. Its specific purpose is the new volume of the series ‘Philosophical Fantastic’, which is to be entitled ‘The Return of Pan’.

To commemorate the anniversary of the burning of Signorelli’s Pan, we shall here devote ourselves to the return of the Great God Pan.

6 May 2020

Meteorology and metacausality

Meteorology is not only the model science, which deals with the development of the post-classical theory of thermodynamic systems – it also proposes a conceptual matrix that makes possible to understand a constellation of dynamic phenomena, whose descriptive and analytical nature is replaced by an immanent experimental and expressive tendency related to the practical task of anticipation, as well as to the poietic task of inventing conceptual figures that imagine and re-imagine the relationship between human subject(s) and trans-biological agents.

Meteorology is the truest descendant of both alchemy, the science dealing with the transformations of the elements and their immanent figures that manifest the pro-conceptual potentiality of cosmological processes, and magic, which modulates the course of time, i.e. anticipates the future by means of material and structural transformative interventions.

Hence,

The philosophical fantastic shows no indifference either to Fractal Theory, or to Chaos Theory, or to the Weather Witches.

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If beyond or rather before causality there is nothing else but a complex conglomerate of forces, whose crystallising structure is traversed by the fibres of the event, then in this case the transformative perspective would be based solely on the process of reconfiguring the complexity, which would orient the aim otherwise than the causal order not from cause to effect, but from situation to situation

It is precisely this transformative reconfiguring that we call decision.

(Т:) There is no meta-consciousness that decides for metacausality. The very fact of metacausality resides within the order of decision. Metacausality corresponds to meta-modality: a counter-finalist goal. Metacausality is the manifestation of a complex chaoid situation matched to a specific agent. The metacausal situation is therefore based on the meta-stable balance of various aims, and as a consequence presents itself as a multi-dimensional dynamic object, as a chaoid crystal.  In other words, the figure of the metacausal situation is the cloud.

The cloud, as we all know, belongs to a multi-dimensional order, it is an object of manifold dynamics and temporality. It voyages on from the future.

How is it possible for the potentiality of the past to return as the energy of the future?

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), Book V: Chaos Unbound, p. 217-219.