Issue 17 : Fall 2009







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Story of a Fructiferous Society


9 Sep 2009

"Story of a Fructiferous Society" is an e-book/movie. It's divided into 51 chapters but the division is often blurred by having continuity across ends to beginnings. It's intended to be witnessed as a movie 1st so that the visuals & sounds can be experienced in a highly compressed form over approximately 86 minutes. It's also suggested that as a DVD it be gone thru frame-by-frame as if each frame were a page in a book. At 30 frames per second, 60 seconds per minute, 86 minutes, this equals 154,800 frames/pages. Fortunately for the very hypothetical scholar who might undertake this task, many of these pages are black/blank. As such, much of this Story might be a praecisio - to use a word I learned from Geof Huth's column of the same name in PhotoStatic magazine. Praecisio being defined in some places as "stopping before finishing a sentence" (perhaps overcome by emotion) or as a silence (perhaps indicative of an unwillingness to even begin speaking at all). Huth has given the black page of Laurence Sterne's "Tristram Shandy" as a literary example. Finally, the perceiver is encouraged to just listen to the soundtrack separately.

"Story of a Fructiferous Society" will probably be completely overwhelming to almost everyone who witnesses it. For the 1st half, there's an increasingly dense barrage of images, texts, & sounds that're almost 'impossible' to consciously take in in their entirety. However, there is actually a story running throughout as the skeleton that the rest of the meat adheres to. This basic story, at one level, is almost as simple as a tale for children.

How to begin to explain? "The Fructiferous Society" is the English translation of the name of what is sometimes called the earliest German Language society, "Fruchtbringende Gessellschaft". My German collaborator, The Forked One, proposed (re)creating The Fructiferous Society in 1997EV as a context within which we might conduct various language experiments. We each chose our names in connection with this society as an attempt to be somewhat in the spirit of the original Gessellschaft.

Since we're both also neoists & since a series of neoist events was being planned for Hungary that summer, I set to work on creating Fructiferous Society material for Hungary. Hence, in April, 1997EV, the "Story.." was born:

Once upon a time there was a Fructiferous Society.
At one point it consisted of The Forked One and The Ballooning One
and they met in Hungary and it was GOOD.

Simple, eh? NOT. Like any twisted movie intended to keep its (v)audience on their conceptual toes, "Story of a Fructiferous Society" is full of twists & turns & smoke & mirrors to continually keep things moving. The above narrative is very calculatedly presented in cumulative fragments that become more & more embedded in relevant distractions & tangents. The purpose of this obfuscation is not only to engage the mind at more complex levels than the basic material wd be likely to do but also to attempt to generate an artificially induced epiphany - to almost subliminally hammer in puzzle pieces that eventually coalesce into an AHA! experience. The nature of the specific "AHA!" being less important than the form of it.

This story was then turned into an audio piece. Below is the original score for it in English. This was then recreated in Hungarian (Magyarul) as "Egy Gyümölcsérlö Társulat Története". However, we're concerned with the English version here.

Once upon a time

there was

The #s under the phonemes indicate their approximate position in seconds & hundreths of seconds in the 15 track computer edit version. (Actually, there are 17 tracks - as explained below)

1st the simple story was written. Then a slow reading of it was timed at 15 seconds. This determined that there would be 15 tracks of the phonemic fragmentation version. Then the text was broken into the phonemes & read into the SoundEdit program very slowly (taking 2:30) to enable easier editing. Different phonemes were isolated on different tracks as shown above. After laborious editing the 2:30 was condensed to 15 seconds in such a way that the vertical coordination between the tracks still followed the horizontal continuity of the original text.

The tracks are then played in a progressively accumulative manner:

Track 16 is the recording of all the phonemes added together. Due to inadequacies of the editing program's playback abilities (frequent pauses interupt the playback as the # of tracks played back simultaneously increases) this track is played to make its predecessors slightly more comprehensible. Track 17 is a regular reading of the text (ie: not 1 built from individual phonemes - but simply spoken) to bring it into a final clarity.

A live performance of this would be possible with 15 reciters each pronouncing the phonemes of 1 of the tracks in the same order as described above. A conductor &/or extremely accurate visual timer would be helpful. Slowing the tempo would make it more plausible. Ideally, the performers would only speak using their track phonemes for at least 1 day leading up to the more 'staged' presentation.

SOoooooOOoo, this original structure, in which the story gradually forms as its phonemes accumulate, became the seed for the movie. If one were to look thru the Scene Selection of the DVD menu, one would find the chapters/scenes labelled as such: "Beginning", "title", "1", "2", "3", "4", "5", "6", "7", "8", "9", "10", "11", "12", "13", "14", "15", "intro to 1st bk", "APT 81 - 3 Part Action", "John Dee's Monad", "16: 1-2,2-3,etc..", "17: 1-3,2-4,etc..", "18: 1-4,2-5,etc..", "19:1-5,2-6,etc..", "20: 1-6,2-7,etc..", "21: 1-7,2-8,etc..", "22: 1-8,2-9,etc..", "23: 1-9,2-10,etc..", "24: 1-10,2-11,etc..", "25: 1-11,2-12,etc..", "26: Reenactment", "Free-Wheeling Distillation", "27: 1-13,2-14,etc..", "Expanded Texts", "Preparation for a..", "Language Experiment", "& Afterword", "28: 1-14,2-15", "Play Out Regress", "Telepathy Receptivity Training", "Sound Thinking", "Puzzle Writing", "Phoneme Waves Only", "Luther Blissett Kabbalah", "Story", "'PH][IQ card", "Anonymous", "John Dee's Monad Reprise", "KH w/ subtitles", "Verbophobia", "Credits".


[In the movie version, each appearance of the phoneme as sound is accompanied by both a written version of the phoneme & a wave graphic of the sound (specifically: my voice pronouncing the phoneme). These are precisely synced to microsecond levels. The above is an example of the beginning of "Once".]

Each of these Chapters/Scenes has an 'unrelated' ending which separates it from the next. This ending consists of a drawing of an eye by Gregor Reisch from circa 1503 with Alexander Roob's accompanying text as a series of stripe subtitles. Both are taken from Roob's fantastic resource book entitled Alchemy & Mysticism. This book had 1st been shown to me by The Forked One. The drawing is not only presented here but is also presented later in altered form as a tattoo on the chest of my friend Mikey Siemens. Reisch (also spelled "Reysch") assumes deeper significance near the end when a text reveals that he was one of the 1st people to depict the brain as the locale for such faculties as language, imagination, estimation, & memory - prior to this it was hypothisized that such faculties were located in the heart or liver.

After Chapter/Scene 17: "15", when the basic 15 tracks have been gone thru, the presentation of this story is interrupted by "intro to 1st bk" - in which I mention a book of mine that I published in 1977EV. This may seem to throw the movie into a new direction but it stays true to the primary theme of language & helps set the stage for the following C/S: "APT 81 - 3 Part Action". This consists of footage from an action that I 'performed' at the 2nd Neoist Apartment Festival in Montréal in February of 1981. Each part presented a different approach to language. I'll concern myself with just the 1st part here:

In my 1st book I had used a system for assigning a numerical value to each of the many names that I used. These values were arrived at by consulting letter frequency in a list of words for pleasure in 26 different languages. When I would sign these books for people, I would subject their names to a similar process & would pick the name of mine that was closest to theirs numerically. This was then declared to be the name of mine that was most pleasurably aligned with their name. This could be called Cabbalistic.

For the 1st part of this APT 81 action I (poorly) pronounced each of the "pleasure" words (taken from The Concise Dictionary of Twenty-Six Languages in Simultaneous Translations) while kissing every attendee of the festival who would allow me to do so. They were then requested to rate which of the words they found most pleasurable to be kissed during the pronunciation of. Such a procedure addresses issues of whether there's a direct relationship between words & what they refer to. This is a central concern that gets developed further - particularly in the subtitles to Chapter/Scene 24: "19:1-5,2-6,etc..". These subtitles are the transcription of an interview with the Forked One conducted by the Ballooning One in Berlin circa July 22, 1997EV. To quote:

"Story of a Fructiferous Society" is highly infused with the history, theory & practice of such possibilities. After the 3 C/S break from the fragmented narrative, it resumes with the beginning of its combinatorics in Chapter/Scene 21: "16: 1-2,2-3,etc..". The soundtrack becomes much more complex as it adds an augmented Speech Crutches Sequence from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - featuring the voice of etta cetera. This sound adds 2 types of speech synthesis as well. Additionally, new stills & video are added into what were previously black space areas between the phoneme graphics AND quoting subtitles start to become a dominant feature. I find that for most (v)audience members, these texts become the main thing that they're capable of paying attention to for most of the remainder of the movie. Even these go by so quickly that they're often hard (but not 'impossible' for a quick reader) to follow.

The additional still material starts with an image of a statue of Giordano Bruno - a key figure in the history at hand & someone who was tortured & executed by the Inquisition for having such 'heretical' theories as that the universe is infinite. Video footage is also intercut of a manipulation of a tattoo, again on Mikey - this time on his arm, of John Dee's Monad - a basis for a proposed highly thought-out language system. These images are added systematically. At the end of this C/S. Mikey's tattoo of the altered Reisch eye image is shown.

With each additional sectional change more & more materials are added. In Chapter/Scene 22: "17: 1-3,2-4,etc..", images & texts (in both German & English) relevant to the original Fruchtbringende Gessellschaft begin to appear. We're not even 14 minutes into the movie yet. C/S 22 ends with yet another snippet of transitional video - this time of the beginning of my pretending to play a game of solitaire with cards that I made from botanical prints of medicinal plants made by Matthaeus Merian. The book in which these prints 1st appeared was called Die Fruchtbringende Gessellschaft & was published in 1646 when the original Fructiferous Society still existed.

To give an exhaustive listing of the materials that continue to pile up is too large a project for this essay. The common threads are both the Society & expanded language use. The subtitles come from texts taken from the internet, from Umberto Eco's great book The Search for the Perfect Language (which, in turn, quotes from Herodotus, Harsdörffer, & many, many others), from Myles na Gopaleen (Flann O'Brien)'s hilarious "The Gaelic", from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE & Luther Blissett, etc, etc..

At 20:00 in, near the end of C/S 23: "18: 1-4,2-5,etc..", tENTATIVELY's "Lost in Translation - Part 10", with Ben Opie on alto saxophone, begins. This piece, (d) composed in early 1997EV, was created especially for a 'Latin American' festival that cONVENIENCE had been asked to coordinate at a Pittsburgh college. It incorporates synthetic voices reading blurbs from Latin American books that've been translated back & forth by software between English & Spanish to drive them to humorously reduced comprehensibility. "Part 10" is the most complex "concrete mix" of these readings + a variety of Latin American musics - folk & classical, etc.. Ben Opie's always highly accomplished sax playing propels the sound to soaring intensity before it fades into gentleness with a touch of Yma Sumac at the end of C/S 30: "25: 1-11,2-12,etc.." By this point the fragments of the base narrative are almost all conjoined into a comprehensible telling of the Story but the intensity of the distractions has more or less superceded in importance.

As the 1st half of the movie builds & builds, the extent of the language experiments represented becomes denser & denser. tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE pieces bring in such things as braille & sign language. The latter specifically appears in the form of a Deaf Education SMILE magazine made as a neoist project. The former appears as a photo of cONVENIENCE's cock with braille writing on it spelling out "HSV2" - the abbreviation for Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (the type that appears on the genitals). cONVENIENCE's hand is shown rubbing the braille on a Playboy magazine for the blind & then rubbing the braille on the cock image. Not surprisingly, such esoteric masturbatory humor is often missed by (v)audiences.

Chapter/Scene 31: "26: Reenactment" is a poor recreation of the original performative presentation of the version presented in Hungary - but in English instead of Magyarul. "26: 1-12,2-13,etc.." is beamed from a hand-held projector onto the gyrating intertwined bodies of The Ballooning One etta cetera. Wearing an alleged bomb squad coverall specially modified to be held together by velcro at the seams, One holds cetera upside-down so that her feet protrude from the sleeves & her hands protrude from the legs - they're both inside the same outfit. Both the crotch area & the head are slightly disguised by pillow-cases. The clothing falls apart as they struggle with holding this position & they fall out. The image is turned sideways & effects-mirrored. While the narrative is almost completely understandable (albeit difficult - by virtue of the choppiness of the phonemic crudity), the newness of this live action is, once again, a distraction - as is the subtitling.

C/S 32: "Free-Wheeling Distillation" follows as yet another tangent. This is "Lost in Translation - Part 11" in movie form. The following text scrolls against a black background with a reading of the text that's systematically blasted with white noise & repeated readings of "@". The introductory sentence holds out a somewhat misleading promise of a "distillation" of the furious activity that preceded it.

In A by day of Life-@@escrito Low Countries to summarize part couple of the batch of this rare @ @ @@masterwork @ @ @@trivializes it. The book @ @ @@swirls, coils, joint would be bombed in the mind rewarded the ++Nobel of Premium insane visions of Perfect Order on their/its/your/his magisterial stylist-@@parejo in the translation to deride frequently noisy is the modernism-@@o the part than what jealously pursues in a way pure theories in the Cloud-Cuckoo-Earth and the rare deep revelations and the funny so it is the low crumbling of India tribes or the misery of the mislaid @ @ @@transmigrant who the blow in it carefully and @+be pike special @ @ @@mindscape, beyond the space and linear thought that contain thirty-two of party cases (the tapers, as them say) screwing an martyred Gloom president in a new way, powerful and new but not new-@ + fang was ++Canudos-hogar to all the damned of the land as manned itself and somehow easier to understand: the strange death purpose, the furious activity that swells up around the prosperity and then disappears as well as suddenly as wine jumps to the life in bullfight in an old lover with an immediate resumption and the passports absurdity, rises in a powerful sea-@ @ @@fantasia and end as an ++MOBY ++DICK of the @ @ @@stokehold.... Exchequer of the Mother Saw party that it has attracted many Indian from neighboring arrangements been about to begun, the death marched silently in the ++Wobblies or philosophical anarchism to enjoy these histories only.

C/S 33: "27: 1-13,2-14,etc.." brings us, at 40:16, tantalizingly close to closure. The narrative almost assembled, images of plants intercut w/ more Reenactment footage. But, no, having us get so close & to then arrive is too simple - so another distraction appears: C/S 34: "Expanded Texts". These texts had appeared before but now they're organized together. This section begins with a hand rubber-stamping "What Question is this the Answer to?". One might say that this is a key way of summarizing a hermetic approach to exploration of the mind. Questions serve NOT to produce answers but to lead to other questions. Many, many expansions of language use from tENT are displayed. A piece of magnetized tape is shown with tiny iron filings making visible the magnetized patterns. Organized numbers, international symbols.. - mostly works from cONVENIENCE from his youthful days as an experimental writer in the 1970s.

&, then, at 43:28, the tide turns. The vaudience has been plunged thru a roller coaster ride that suddenly flings them gliding into an opened space. Into the experience of "Preparation for a..", "Language Experiment", "& Afterword". 22:22 of slow-moving titles spelling out what's being said in the soundtrack. Simple. NOT. The barrage ends (for a while) & the July 24th, 1997EV Language Experiment in Berlin begins. It was agreed amongst the 4 participants to speak using English words but within a separate language system created by each person without any explanation to the others. In the midst of this we made our way to the Comenius Garten - Comenius having been an important pedagogical figure that many of the subtitle quotes had referenced. The titles are either against black backgrounds or against slowly morphing & otherwise altered stills from this excursion.

Do NOT underestimate the importance of this Language Experiment 'digression' just because it's given short shrift here (after all, this is a SHORT article that's nonetheless bound to be TOO LONG for the editorial purposes of the book it's being written for). As is established early on in "Story of a Fructiferous Society" in the 2nd part of "APT 81 - 3 Part Action", when people are prompted to write the names of objects onto those objects, words are all around us in relations that're taken entirely too much for granted. Even the simplest disruption to these relations can lead to dramatic new neural pathways being created in the brain & these new pathways may just lead into substantial unforseen dimensions.

C/S 38: "28: 1-14,2-15" brings us back to the narrative again but only briefly & with even newer distraction in the form of the unexplained activities of 2 friends. Then Chapter/Scenes 39: "Play Out Regress", 40: "Telepathy Receptivity Training", 41: "Sound Thinking", & 42: "Puzzle Writing" take us back into further development of the realms of Expanded Texts - this time in the form of slide-show explication with voice-over. For perhaps the 1st time since the subtitles have been dominating the attention of the English-reading (v)audience, a speaking voice provides a more dominant attention-grabber. Each of these sections is substantial, but, again, article limits restrain me.

Chaper/Scene 43: "Phoneme Waves Only". Can you bear the suspense? I can easily imagine that someone who's witnessed "Story of a Fructiferous Society" may have a hard time even associating my description of it with their memory. It could be described in so many ways. At 1:13:54 the Story has had all its phonemes assembled together but the accompanying visuals show only their wave forms - the syllabifications are gone (well.. not quite - minimized by reduction to Mere Outlines). The complete skeletal plot of the title is heard for the 1st time. But will anyone notice? Or care? Or realize that the movie's been building to this?

Is it anti-climactic to just rush along to C/S 44: "Luther Blissett Kabbalah"? The cover to Luther Blissett's CD "The Open Pop Star" is shown animated as ripping in half down the middle. & The Forked One's crowning text "LUTHER BLISSETT CROWNED ETERNITY" appears to fill the crack. THIS is a culmination. The intensive immersion of this movie in what I've called (as an echo from Eco) "an ecstatic kabbalist's eruption of language" & (as an act of practicing promtextuality) a "homonymphonemiac's orgy" has taken its (v)audience thru the parallel paths of Rosicrucianism ("It was in this climate, [of extraordinary spirtual tension] then, that, in 1614, there appeared an anonymous tract written in German: 'Allgemeine und general Reformation der gantzen weiten Welt.' [..] The second part [..] took the form of a manifesto, entitled 'Fama fraternitatis R.C.' In this, the mysterious confraternity of the Rosicrucians openly declared its existence, supplying details concerning its own history as well as that of its mythical founder, Christian Rosencreutz." - Eco) & Neoism. &, yet, where lies the boundary between Consensus 'Reality' & Solipsism?!

The Forked One's text begins in an apparently Cabbalistic manner:

& that's all well & good. This seemingly final explication may very well tie together Neoism & Adamitic Language & The Kabbalah to enable the initiate to finally plant the kernel for Undermining 'Reality' Maintenance Traps thru being able to BE the territory just by virtue of making the map. Concluding, we learn that:

- thusly, perhaps, explaining just WHY "it was GOOD". Or not.

By now, of course, Chapter/Scene 45: "Story" is allowed total clarity. The (v)audience's mind has been prepped. We're over 81 minutes in. Our "'PH][IQ card" appears, "Anonymous" is given proper credit, "John Dee's Monad Reprise"s, "KH w/ subtitles" brings back Kasper Hauser with thanks to Werner Herzog, & "Verbophobia" puts you in your place, Matt.

& don't forget to read the"Credits". They kick butt don't expect to check out this movie at LUFF (Lausanne Underground Film Festival) or Onion City Experimental Film Festival (Chicago). They both rejected it.

Click here to download a PDF version with tENTATIVELY's original layout