art, culture, politics, democracy

Month: October, 2013

The Ephemera(l) Institution 4

I watched the proceedings as if they were a dream. But they were a dream. We rose, along with hundreds of other long-forgotten ephemera, on the back of a gigantic curl. It rushed rapidly down its surface and spilled onto Venice Boulevard. We sped past the Museum of Jurassic Technology, then the Center of Land Use Interpretation, finally coming to rest upon an appropriately mellow pond amid the art fields of La Cienaga Boulevard in Culver City.


The Ephemera(l) Institution 3

There is a point I get to, during the process of any project that I am working on, when I am compelled to consider whether what I am doing has any intrinsic value. In the case of The Ephemera(l) Institution that time has arrived.

Notice I used the word “case” above when labeling this project, for that is what this process is, an investigation. It is an investigation not only into what is an ephemera(l) institution, but also into what is ephemera and whether ephemera, in some senses simply a representation of the past, holds any relevance for a fast-paced, hard-charging, get-out-of-my-way kind of society. There is a complication in doing a research into this kind of subject, and that is that the value of the material is sometimes shrouded by its lack of explication. What significance is there in having such material appear before us without the least notion as to why?

An investigation like this sometimes uncovers a singular conclusion. Other times its answers are divulged solely through the reception effected by the aggregate material accumulated during the investigatory process. This case may be one of those where the determination of value comes through its collective mass or, alternately, simply by having gone through the process itself.

The Ephemera(l) Institution 2

There is a viewpoint that must be placed on this speculative table, for to ignore its possibility would be a disservice to this investigation that I have undertaken. It is important to reflect on the likelihood that The Ephemera(l) Institution serves merely as a distraction from the other more immediate, necessary, and concrete ingredients that persist within the framework of what we see as a productive life.

It is important to take into consideration that this (potential) distraction, the institution, was created neither through an organic passing nor through some inexplicable Darwinian episode. The institution came about purposefully and thus it would be inexcusable if one ignored the prospect of a calculated deception. Ephemera, the memory of a passing, is at the same time the name of and the clue to this potential conceit.

Under the guise of serving to awaken one’s perceptual horizon and toward broadening their noncognitive gaze, The Ephemera(l) Institution can entice one to tiptoe into the mucilaginous sand of a surrogate, but not necessarily counterfeit, existential construction. With its paeans to such disparate occurrences as the massive destruction of World War II Cologne, a remnant of earth taken from the remains of Pompeii, or the despondent trek of W. G. Sebald through East Anglia, not to disregard, most relevantly, its irresolvable embrace of Fata Morgana, the fleeting and dissembled images that sometimes distract our visual passage; even the most cautious traversal of the institution can addle our attention causing us to lose sight of more significant and suitable mindfulness.

Our determination to attend to our “concrete existential environment” allows space for the formation of the pond from which such an institution may spawn. Its embryo, ephemera, affirms that this fabrication is not a reliable substitute for a considered path since, at any time, The Ephemera(l) Institution, in keeping with the evanescent character of its ideology, could simply dematerialize leaving only a residue, a burnish, upon all of the other constructions upon which we gaze.

The Ephemera(l) Institution

Tomorrow, I begin residency at the ICI, Institute of Cultural Inquiry. Http://

The Ephemera(l) Institution

She waved the back of her hand carelessly toward the old cabinet, slowly, palm slightly opened, as if wafting steam from a cooling cup of tea. “This is our ephemera,” she said.

Ephemera, suspended as a disappearing cloud before our eyes, yet hanging there nonetheless. A suspended, yes hung, wisp yet somehow manifesting before us, physically, in spite of its well know penchant toward disappearance. For, again, in spite of its diabolical tendency toward phenomenological reversal: physicality/memory, illusory/concrete – in spite of that willingness to attempt to mystify just exactly, or even coincidentally, what is meant by presence, this term, ephemera, wills itself to remain within common usage.

It is unusual for a term, one that somehow can reverse itself (potentially) by the addition of one letter, ephemera(l), to be able to prolong its efficacy. One would expect a word as marginal as this to have floated invisibly down the river of archaic practice – a footnote in the OED. But ephemeron has never been noted for its disappearance, only its prolonged morphosis toward the state of barely imagined – though still meaningful and visible.

Within the Institute, one’s eyes may rest on an object, a large solid wooden cabinet, with drawers presumably filled with all manner of earthen materiality; and hear, stated in a demeanor fraught with pride and virtuous triumph: “Our ephemera.”

One, such as perhaps I, might take from this declaration that what appears before me, something upon which I would think I could break the back of my hand; that I could manipulate by opening, closing, removing, and perhaps even destroy by stomping upon its contents, is at the very same time something that should be almost disappearing before me, dissipating dust in the cosmic breeze while its sense of itself remains, enhancing or stigmatizing all earthly thought until the sun has finally done with its own presence – and everything.

Of course morphosis is relative to time and so, I must now accept, due to the Institute’s almost flippant usage of phrases previously revealed, that ephemerality, the distance from physical manifestation to cognitive memory, is similarly relative. I don’t want it to be this way. I want to know what exactly physical presence (material) is, and conversely, what is visually present yet unseen. The Institute, through its demonic determination to confound the accepted known, is now compelling me to confront these notions.