Friday, 5 November 2010

Sir John Soane's Museum, 16.10.10

Soane the second and the problem of Now
a series of playful meditations on time and presence

by Ole Hagen

The group meet first in the front room, where O gives the following introduction:
Sir John Soane was a quite successful neoclassical architect and an initiate (1813) in the fraternal organisation of the Masonic Lodge. But despite being a member of an organisation with an idea of a Supreme Being called G.A.O.T.U, the Great Architect of the Universe and constructing and preserving some monumental architecture himself, John Soane was not immune to the problem of entropy and the passage of time. His remains are buried at a tomb he designed for himself and his wife at St.Pancras Old Church graveyard, a site with an ancient pagan history. But that is not the main point here.
While still alive, entropy also played Soane some tricks. At some point he had a draftsman, Michael Gandy, who was prone to depicting Soane’s buildings as ruins and ended his days in a private asylum, a dead wife, a dead dog, a dead son, a living son who hated his guts and a fictional monk called Padre Giovanni (as in father John, after himself) who lived in his basement. We’ll return to some of these figures later.
So John Soane became more and more acutely aware that no matter how he tried to stabilise space in time through his buildings, the problem of how to inhabit the now eluded him. He pondered the finitude and limits of his own being and came to the conclusion that what he needed was an alter ego or avatar self that could provide another perspective less limited to the locality of space and time. This is how Sir John Soane discovered John Soane the 2nd. So from now on I will refer to John Soane as John Soane the 1st. We can say that John Soane the 1st downloaded John Soane the 2nd from the virtual imagination of the future-past.
John Soane the 2nd is an idea, but he’s not an idea in the ordinary sense. He is an Idea with a capital I as in the Deleuzian sense of being a multiplicity defined by relations within the virtual. For that reason John Soane the 2nd doesn’t really belong to either the future or the past, but to a potentiality that can be actualised as either. As you know the virtual does not resemble the actual or it would just be the possible, so John Soane the 2nd, though still alive today would only actualise as an unusual sensation, perception or idea in John Soane the 1st’s mind when John Soane the 1st was confronted with a difficult question relating to the problem of now. Then John Soane the 2nd would even take a ghostly physical form and bring along other spectral companions to play with. He would be joined by John Soane the 1st, and other likeminded individuals, so that a whole group of actual-virtual people like ourselves and virtual-actual people like John Soane the 2nd and his friends would perform rituals and exercises together.
We can hope that John Soane the 2nd and his virtual friends will be with us here today as we’re re-actualising some of the exercises and mediations that they used to orchestrate when summoned up by John Soane the 1st. So what I need you to do is participate in a series of contemplations in relation to the problem of now. Each contemplation relates to a specific object or feature of this museum, what we could call a ‘focal point’. Whether this is crystal clear or clear as mud we will now engage with the first focal point. The heading is:
Affirmations of the Post-Newtonian Orrery
We now gather in front of the astronomical clock.
This astronomical clock is in effect an orrery as well as a time-piece. It is exhibiting both the state of the world as acted upon by the measurable progress of clock-time in relation to the diurnal and annual revolutions of the heavenly bodies immediately connected to our globe, and the corresponding position of the heavenly bodies in their respective orbits. It is of course a Copernican device with the sun as the centre. The Copernican revolution was arguably completed by Newton who showed that the planets are kept in their orbits by gravity. Newton’s idea of the universe as a deterministic clock work set into motion by a logical God or first principle equates with John Soane the 1st’s freemason friends idea of G.A.O.T.U, and their Enlightenment notions of mechanical rationality.
But John Soane the 1st became troubled by the consequence of determinism. In his search for an adequate way of inhabiting the now, he found the idea that if we just knew the co-ordinates of everything we’d be able to predict the whole of history as if its already happened. He felt that any approach to nowness must come about through some freedom of choice. So it was that when John Soane the 2nd first made his entrance in relation to a real problem it was here at the astronomical clock.
John Soane the 2nd brought with him some of the post-Newtonian ideas that we now start to see making its entrance into solar-system cosmology. He pointed out that an orrery breaking with such mechanical ideas as objectivity, causal determinism and locality would need a lot of extra features. Features such as space-time curvature, quantum uncertainty, dark matter and multi-dimensionality are hard to build into a physical model. But at least, he suggested, John Soane the 1st would need to add a few black holes, possibly some wormholes and some baby universes. But of course the multiverse would need a phenomenal link to a notion of virtual time to defeat determinism.
So John Soane the 1st and a few unorthodox friends and John Soane the 2nd and some companions would meet here and perform the little ritual that we’re about to do. On this string are tied together some replica of post-Newtonian orrery features that John Soane the 2nd manifested as plasma. (black holes, worm holes, multiverse, baby universe, moebius strip and string from membrane). In order to bypass the grip of determinism, we will do a little affirmation. So please repeat after me: (don’t be embarrassed, look at me)
All here hold one cosmic sculpture. They are all tied together on a string. The group rpeat the first affirmation after O.
‘We are multidimensional individuations of the asymmetrical manifold, actualisations of new folds within the holographic superfold.”
Sometimes John Soane the 2nd would add other evocations such as:
“ We appeal to the impossible configurations of the hypermundane supraabundance to activate the membranes of our heterodox anatomies against the totalitarianism of unimaginative probability”, or vows such as the following:
“Instead of trusting in the known and directing sceptisism towards the unknown from now on we will direct sceptisism towards the known and trust in the virtual potential of the unkown.”
We don’t repeat these two latter statements, they are just introduced as examples.
We have now entered the initiation necessary to proceed to inspect and enact some of John Soane the 2nd’s more secret machines. The first one of these is the mirror-duplication unifier machine.
So with the affirmations of the post-Newtonian orrery, John Soane the 1st now understood multiplicity. But that did not solve for him the problem of immediacy and presence, on the contrary things seemed more complicated than before given the notion of a multidimensional individual. This is why John Soane the 2nd introduced him to the understanding of qualitative space through the mirror-duplication unifier.

The Mirror-Duplication Unifier Machine

You’ll all get to enter the mirror-duplication unifier machine in a second, but let me first instruct you in how to use it. What does it mean to be here as in occupying the now, John Soane the 2nd would ask John Soane the 1st. John Soane the 1st would say that it was impossible given that any here is just a there to another point of view, so there are just lots of ‘theres’ depending on your position, particularly if we exist in several different dimensions at the same time. So John Soane the 2nd inspired John Soane the 1st to build a mirror-duplication unifier machine, using the idea of the mirror to unify the potential of self-duplication within one single virtual mirror. So now I’ll explain how it works:
You can only go in one person at the time. You go in and stand right in the middle of the double mirror, so that you create to identical mirror images of yourself. Don’t identify with the image, don’t think about or judge your appearance in any way. The difference between your two images is just that there’s more than one, i.e. it is a ‘pure difference’. Now totally relax and concentrate on the idea that these two figures are just images. You can move them about, but they’re not you. While you’re stood there you can’t see your own body. Generate the idea that the real physical you is also an image reflected in a mirror. This mirror is omnipervasive, it doesn’t have a particular form, only a quality and that quality is your own lucidity. You are that mirror. Notice how any physical sensations you might have at this moment are also fleeting, transitory images, if only of a less visual character. So to summarise, you must perceive three interrelated images of a human form happening within a mirror-like surrounding space. So that should be easy. It can help spreading your awareness in all directions (also behind you, but instantaneously).
The focal point here is a V-shaped mirror in the corridor towards the next rooms that are shaped so that if one stands in the middle one can observe two identical mirror images of oneself. Group members go in one by one and take the time they need.
So John Soane the 1st was so impressed with the mirror duplication unifier machine that he sought to replicate the effect in his architecture. So to get an actual space to simulate the effect of an ominpervasive mirror, he started to place small, naturally round, mirrors in the corners and edges of certain rooms. We can see a good example of that in the living room and also in the breakfast parlour. So we’ll have a quick look at that. Obviously the mirrors might function particular well at certain hours of the day or under certain lighting conditions. If you set the optimal conditions you can get a kind of omnipervaisve mirror simulation effect.
In any case after designing and visiting the mirror duplication unifier machine under the guidance of John Soane the 2nd, John Soane the 1st got the idea that ‘here’ does not have a location, that ‘being here’ is more of a quality as in being here. But although he understood the idea of a space without boundaries, direction, up and down or distance, he still felt that he wanted to better understand what the phenomenal qualities of a specific local point would be. After all, why should there be something rather than nothing? So when thus summoned, John Soane the 2nd instructed John Soane the 1st to build a much more dangerous machine, the zero-point vacuum focus machine

The Zero-Point Vacuum Focus Machine

As you can see the zero-point vacuum focus machine is just a chair. But it is no ordinary chair. It is built up of micro-Casimir cavity captivators, that absorb zero-point energy that exists everywhere in the universe and suppresses it within an electromagnetic quantum vacuum to release energy. If you were to sit on this chair without protection your body would spontaneously combust from mitochondrial explosions at the level of your cellular metabolism. It can happen occasionally that a member of the John Soane Museum staff accidentally or intentionally combusts. Being virtual, John Soane the 2nd could use this machine to travel back to the origin of the universe. Before the Big Bang the universe was just a speck of infinite density called a singularity existing before time and space that suddenly was set in motion by what is called a vacuum fluctuation. So at the point of origin everything exists as a kind of point with no real extension, with no time and on the phenomenal level, maybe a sense of emptiness but no thinking mind. So John Soane the 2nd used this machine to travel back to that point. John Soane the 1st could not do the same, or he would spontaneously combust, so on his return John Soane the 2nd set up a zero-point exercise for John Soane the 1st and his friends to do so they could approach the phenomenal equivalent of his time travel out of time. Now we’ll conduct a replicate of those exercises.
The focal point here is a chair used by the guards rather than a regular exhibit. It is placed beneath a staircase next to the Hogarth room.
Each of you get a paper with a spot on it. The spots looks more or less the same, but are of course not identical. Likewise the exercise leads to more or less the same but not identical experiences for each and every one of you. If I told you to think of as many distinct things as you possibly could within 30 seconds, your minds might go blank. On the other hand if I told you not to think at all, your mind might explode with thoughts. So, because the mind is bewildered without an object, a common meditative exercise to cut distractions is to focus on an object. That object can be the breath, as we will explore on retreat, a physical object or in this case the dot. We don’t have much time now, and also we have to conduct this exercise to explore the origin of the universe, so we will do it in the following way: We’ll attach your sheet of paper to the chair. Then you have to stand very still and focus intensely on the dot, so intensely that you block out all thoughts. If you’re still thinking you’re not concentrating hard enough. But then you only do this for a few seconds, such as 10 – 20, then you close your eyes and imagine that that spot now is transferred to the centre of your head. Then you relax and imagine that you are that spot, and that it shrinks and shrinks until it completely vanishes into nothingness. You dwell on that nothingness for a few seconds, then open your mind while still focusing on the external spot, but now in a very soft relaxed way, and let the universe expand from that spot. You don’t block any thoughts. Whatever thoughts arise, they expand into the world like the expansion of the Big Bang. And whatever it feels like to have those thoughts is what the universe itself felt like in the very beginning. It is not the content of the thought, like when can I have a croissant that counts, but what it feels like to have thoughts arise that corresponds to the origin of the universe.
Here the group gather in a side-space to the Hogarth rrom and are given individual pieces of paper with near-identical dots.
After this exercise can anybody tell me where thoughts come from, where they go? Is there anything there? What about your lucidity? Is there any difference between calmness and movement, thought and no-thoughts?
We discuss the experience, not necessarily following the exact questions above.
After doing this exercise himself, John Soane the 1st was quite content that he had a better idea of what a singular point containing everything and nothing might be. But he felt that he needed to return to the real mundane world that has other people and other critters in it, the world in which politics take place to see how the here and now would be defined on the more concrete relational level. The idea that you yourself is the entire universe is one thing, but how does that translate into relative points of view and ethics. John Soane the 1st again appealed to John Soane the 2nd who again provided a new focal point, namely the Spinozist Transformation of Hogarth.

The Spinozist Transformation of Hogarth

The group focus on one particular painting in the Hogarth section.
So John Soane the 2nd picked this painting, Chairing the Member from 1754 for his Spinozist mediation. The whole series The Humours of an Election is a satire over an election in an Oxfordshire village between the Whigs and the Tories. Both parties were controlled by elite politicians that also controlled the elections in the days before the Great Reform Act. In this painting we see one of the victorious Tory candidates carried through the streets on a chair in a traditional ceremony. He is about to tumble down because one of his carriers has just accidentally been hit on the head by a flail carried by a Tory-supporting rural labourer who is attempting to fight off a Whig supporter (an old sailor with a bear). The Whigs leaders watch from a nearby house. At the right two young chimney sweeps urinate at the bear. A group of frightened pigs run across the scene. This is a reference to the Biblical story of the Gadarene swine. Gadara was a city in ancient Palestine where Jesus met a man possessed by devils. Jesus transferred the devils into a flock of some 2000 nearby pigs who promptly ran off a cliff and drowned. Bertrand Russell has argued that this wasn’t very nice of Jesus. Considering his omnipotence, Russell asks, wasn’t it a bit harsh on the pigs. But I think we should have a more Spinozist idea of this event as one determined by necessity and regularity. i.e. there was only one way in which the participants of this event could act, but their ability to exercise freedom within these limits would be relative. In any case the Gadarene swine represents the fallacy that just because a group is in the right formation they’re not necessarily on the right course, so we need to always bear that in mind.
In the Ethics Spinoza presents an ethics of affect. His basic ideas relates to the scene of Hogarth that we’ll be transforming in the sense that for Spinoza free will is something that comes in degrees. The more we acquire an adequate idea of causality the more free will we can exercise. Basically there are three kinds of knowledge for Spinoza. Knowledge of the third kind is adequate knowledge of the one cause, which has to do with the immanence of being, like being free rather than becoming free. We’ve already explored this a bit in our previous two exercises, so won’t dwell on that here. Knowledge of the first kind is called imagination. This is just the type of imagined free will we execute when we’re acting passively to the passions justified by various superficial judgments and opinions about finite causes. Affect is a passion when we’re not the adequate cause for it, or in line with the adequate cause. Ordinary prescriptive morality falls into this category. Knowledge of the second kind is what we’re interested in here. This is a knowledge of causes less partial to sympathy and antipathy. As a body one should seek joyful passions by expanding one’s power by connecting positively with other bodies, even those that seemingly disagrees with one’s own, not as we see somewhere in this painting, maximising collision. The way to do this, or to acquire a further degree of freedom is to better know the inevitability by which things have to act the way they have to do, as governed by the passions. Then we’d have less animosity towards our adversaries as well.
So now we’ll at least try to imagine a previous moment in time in relation to the current scene, whether we are describing a moment in consciousness or a material cause. So you each pick a character. We should at least cover a single piglet/or flock of pigs, a blind fiddler, a Tory politician, an old sailor, a bear, a Tory supporting rural labourer and a fainting lady. Who wants to be…………
Everybody picks a figure, many prefer animals.
So you each have to compose a sentence that starts with the same phrasing, in the case of piglet: “ I am a piglet, and I’m running because a moment ago………….”
“ I am a blind fiddler and I’m laughing because a moment ago………….” etc.
Use your imagination, it can be thoughts, out of frame incidents, asymmetrical events and forces etc.
Everybody has said their sentence, and we discuss it, not necessarily with the exact words below.
So how can we say this character was compelled to act? Could this moment have been avoided? What will the next moment be? Does this knowledge set up a new relationship between the characters we couldn’t have known just from looking at the picture. Are there any invisible forces at play in this painting?
When John Soane the 1st and friends performed this exercise, they reached a completely different picture to us. But the important idea is that they came away with a notion of freedom of degrees, in the sense that if one of them were a protagonist is a similarly chaotic scene, that person would know not to judge it by appearances and by political opinion only.
After this exercise, a few men and women who were close to John Soane the 1st said that they still had unanswered questions about space and time. Some had scientific questions, some existential questions, some spiritual questions, some had practical questions and some had psychological questions. These questions were so diverse that when John Soane the 1st asked John Soane the 2nd for help, John Soane the 2nd decided that the appropriate context for these questions would be to ask a wise sage. So he suggested that John Soane the 1st and his group would put their questions to the fictional monk that lived in the basement or cellar. John Soane the 2nd would then connect the fictional entity to real virtual forces through the process of inspired chance. So down to the Monk’s Parlour is where we are going next. The next focal point is called:

Padre Giovanni: The Stupid Oracle

Initially, the Monk’s Parlour was a bit of a pastiche on the gothic, and the name Padre Giovanni a play on John, Soane’s own name. Now it doesn’t really matter whether an oracle is stupid or wise. The point is that for every answer there is a question and for every question an answer. From the point of view of immanence, all answers already exist, and from the point of view of an answer the question can be self-evident. But on the other hand sometimes the question is itself a productive virtual force that bares no resemblance to the answer, or there would be no need for the process of trying to find answers. So relatively speaking a question and an answer always arise together and have to be understood in the context of each other. If Padre Giovanni was an unorthodox Christian mystic, he could be reading the semi-heresy mystics like Meister Eckhart and Jacop Bohme, who were not creationsists but a type of reabsorbsionists. In which case the answer is immanent in the question, and originally resided together with it. If the answer does not make sense for us in relation to the question it is our alienation to use a Marxist term that is at fault. We would need some sort of species-collectivist communism of the spirit to understand it. So now we’ll do a collective question and answer session originally staged by John Soane the 2nd. It merely uses Padre Giovanni as a sort of present medium that speaks through the participants. So if Padre Giovanni is under the influence of John Soane the 2nd, he could be quoting quantum physics or cartoons for all that I know. That is up to you to decide. Each of you will write down one question to Padre Giovanni, that you really want answered. It has to be about the nature of space and time, but it could be scientific, personal, spiritual, mathematical or banal. Likewise all of you write down one answer, but it cannot be the answer to the question you posed, likewise it can be of any type. Then I will mix them up in 2 piles and let chance or the virtual Padre Giovanni decide the combinations. Given that there will be six answers and six questions we will have to trust in the idea that our collective psyche is wiser than our individual selves. It would be handy to have a good mix of responses I think.
We can’t enter the Monk’s Parlour at first, but we get some impression. The matching up of questions and answers led to some surprising synchronisities.
After doing this exercise, John Soane the 1st and his friends felt a stronger bond to their virtual sisters and brothers, John Soane the 2nd and friends. But whether we go with Spinoza’s idea of selecting joyful passions or believe Jacop Bohme’s idea that evil is just a necessary evolutionary tool, a sort of by-product of the dark side of God, suffering is a human problem. So there is a kind of question of how suffering or unpleasant experiences relates to the now. Because that is what John Soane the 1st next asked John Soane the 2nd to address, that’s what we’re addressing next. How come as we are all part of immaterial forces, we still have our own separate personal sufferings to attend to? John Saone the 1st, asked John Soane the 2nd. John Saone the 2nd answered that separation itself is a mode of suffering. He could not make suffering go away he said, but could at least acknowledge it. So the next focal point is called:

The Seven Pointless Sorrows of Mary

Now Bohme as I mentioned held a kind of Marian view, where the virgin is some sort of aspect of the absolute. What we’re looking at in this picture is a classic representation of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. According to the story, these sorrows have to do with Mary’s various experiences of fear and separation and loss etc. in relation to her son, Jesus. We’re not going to focus so much on that story. Lets just say that this figure could represent some aspect of the already perfect androgynous unity of things (as in Bohme) or the idea of the separated lonely individual. As John Soane the 2nd pointed out to John Soane the 1st we tend to think that guilt and sacrifice will somehow remedy suffering, when its just adding to it. I originally thought we would be seven here today, so I felt it was very suitable to replicate this exercise, but we now have the six sorrows of Mary, in this replica of a replica I have here. Each of you is allowed to pull out a sword or sorrow from Mary. This time make it personal, and we will not share or tell each other about which suffering we’re pulling out. But generally we should think of suffering as a perceived mental limitation. So internally, you should say to yourself, “ I’m pulling out the suffering of ………” and then think of removing some sort of limitation. Then I’m going to put the swords in a little envelope that I will burn when we get out of here. That does not mean that you’ll never have this problem again, but just that you contemplate how unnecessary it is next time it arises, so you can burn it in a mental fashion.
We get a glimpse of the Virgin in the stained glass window. O’s printed own version with little paper swords sticking out that are gathered in an envelope. We later had a lot of problems burning them, but managed somehow…………….
Now of course making one little dent in time, like putting a subliminal intention into a continuity does not solve the problem of now. For some philosophers presence is impossible in principle. So for example, Derrida would be right in pointing out that from the point of view of thought, the now is already in the past, the moment you introspect it, hence his theology/ontology centres around a split in Unity, using the allegory of the wandering Jewish people to explain how the present moment is hollowed out by what it is not. There is an interval that separates the present from what it is not. An interval always functions in relation to the not yet or already was. But the reason it is so hard from this Derridean point of view to get a sense of the quality of space that we explored in the Mirror-Duplication Unifier Machine is that there is too strong investment in a kind of reification of the now-moment as some sort of little object of comprehension. In a contrast to this view, in terms of being-time or embodying time, what John Soane the 1st wanted to know next from John Soane the 2nd was how to get the hang of continuity. For this John Soane the 2nd introduced him to The Book of Gates related to the Sarcophagus of Seti the 1st. The Book of Gates he told John Soane the 1st is a manual of continuity.

Death: A Users Guide

So the sarcophagus was separated from its Cairo-based mummy at some point in history. In 1824, John Soane the 1st snapped it up under the nose of the British Museum for just £2000. It was carved out from a single chunk of alabaster some 3000 years ago. When John Soane the 1st secured it, apparently he threw a three-day long party here for the London glitzerati and the entire room was filled with oil-lamps including the sarcophagus. We’re not going to replicate that here and now. But a part from having at its base the goddess Nut, it also contains scenes from the Book of Gates, which is a guide to the netherworld portrayed as a series of gates. It describes the nocturnal journey of the sun during the 12 hours of the night, which is also the journey the pharaoh must take to rise again with the sun, or this is how it is interpreted. Personally I think we tend to be to literal in our interpretations of past spiritual ideas. But in any case, for your benefit I’ve singled out the hour Eight. This has a very interesting image of time in it, where time is depicted as an endless rope spooled out hour by hour, and also the towrope of the barque. (In the middle register the lord of provision, in the west who stand before the barque commissioned by Re to allocate provisions to the blessed and inflict evil on the enemies. In the lower registers are some mummies. Nearby a council of judges). Anyway, we see that continuity can take the form of a rope and that consciousness can be divided into a series of veils or gates. So John Soane the 2nd compared the task of following the metaphors of this manual to the task he’d seen among some Australian aboriginals, who somehow need to map or sing a the land they inhabit into existence through a number of song-lines corresponding to petrosomatgyphic marks in the terrain, thereby securing to keep things existing as they were first made to exist in a similar fashion by the ancestors. In any case, that, said John Soane the 2nd, means that to exist is to be perceived. Imagine, he told John Soane the 1st that we’re already dead, and that this map therefore is a map of life. It is possible, he said, to use a kind of map like the Book of Gates to trace a line of existence. So if this is a map of consciousness, the sun is a qualitative presence, that either moves or everything else moves through a series of alternating conditions that has to be negotiated. Now I’m drawing a time line and a space line on this drawing. We’re going to go up to the study room to complete this. Each of you will get a different coloured pen. You have to trace your own individual route across this drawing. But please remember that this drawing is two-dimensional. In Flatland a prisoner in a circle is a dot. If suddenly this figure was removed vertically, it would be like it disappeared in the eyes of the other flatlanders. So do feel free to draw a line of flight that operates with other dimensions. According to Deleuze and Guattari, a line of flight has to do with connections between all sorts of implicit bodies and processes, that transforms connects or deterritorialises a space. So also feel free to use multiple lines of flight to represent your passage in time. Remember the line is not a substantial body but a movement, possibly also connecting bodies to other bodies through a series of affects.
We’ve done the drawing that is like a little DIY piece of art.
Sadly we don’t have a copy of the drawing that John Soane the 1st and his friends used. But we can keep the one we’ve made for now or reduce and copy it into bookmarks or something. After this exercise, John Soane the 1st summarised what he had learned so far:
1. Humans are multidimensional beings with a mobile virtual component, so the now is not about locality. 2. The primordial space of awareness encompasses everything in a sensation of illusion, so multidimensionality cannot fragment the now. 3. Everything is continuously born out of the plenum or fullness of nothing, so the now has no substance, nor static fixed point. 4. On the relational level, we must find freedom of degrees through the notion of adequate knowledge of causes, because even if there is a now that encompasses all events, from a local point of view there is also the extension of minor events. 5. Every question already contains its own answer and cannot be separated from it, just as the now appears divided only from a dualistic point of view. 6. Suffering is not a necessity and serves no noble purpose other than to block the individual’s sense of infinite potentiality of the now. 7. For the sake of continuity, even as the now should feel open ended and outside time, on the relative level it is also necessary on to use the imagination to project an intentionality into the future to sustain a sense of participation with the unfolding repetition of the universe. But John Soane the 1st still had some more mundane questions, what to do about his mad draftsman and dead wife. In other words he still felt that the now could not encompass the irreversibility of time’s arrow. So he summoned John Soane the 2nd again with this complaint. With this we only have three focal points left, and the first of these is:
O realises at this point he’s prepared too much stuff, and after brief discussion skips the exercise below, which is not essential anyway. (Just shows a copy of the Gandy, as we can’t get to see the original due to numbers of visitors at this stage).

The Magical Museum of Past Hubris

We should now go to North Drawing Room and ask the warden if he or she will show us behind the picture plane; Michael Gandy’s drawing of The Bank of England as a Ruin. Look, said John Soane the 2nd, the past does not exist until the moment you call upon it. It is always experienced as an idea in the present. But as you can’t help but to have ideas, the ideas that matter to the past is your current projections and intentions with regards to the next future moment. All the things you don’t want to see in the past, you shouldn’t project into the future. Now it is very possible that you may one day have this museum you’re dreaming of, where things are preserved just as you want them to be represented, but you might not be here to enjoy it. Eternity is a time-based concept, whether as the now should not be reified in that way. Meanwhile, this image by Gandy really depicts the archaeology of a future site, a nemesis matching your own hubris. It is a future museum experienced in the now. In every room of this museum there is the present ruins or debris of anything you’ve tried to drag with you that represents some sort of folly as in any fixed concept or idea of who you are or where you’re going that is a projection based on adding or constructing some sort of fixed image of stability to a now that is already perfect just as it is in its open potential. This is just the representation of a virtual museum dedicated to this kind of hubris said John Soane the 2nd. But then John Soane the 1st was very perturbed and said that he didn’t really have any intention of visiting a museum like that. As John Soane the 2nd also didn’t want to embarrass John Soane the 1st in front of his friends, he said; very well. What is magical about this museum is that it can easily be seen at a different scale, like a dolls house, so that it only shows up collective material. John Soane the 2nd clicked his fingers, and the virtual museum he was referring to shrunk. So visiting the museum together, with some other people, John Soane the 1st found that each drawer, corner, room or cupboard of the building contained the debris, ashes or remains of some sort of collective idiocy. Considering the recent banking crisis, it might be suitable that the whole museum as such is a former bank. Taking a banal example, in one small room of the bank/museum that did not seem to serve any purpose, John Soane the 1st knocked over a huge urn, spilling a pile of ashes everywhere. John Soane the 2nd told him that this was either the future or the virtual ashes of something called the Millennium Dome, that John Soane the 1st had never heard of. So now we’ll take a quick tour through the museum together, where I’m expecting some contributions from you as to what remains of collective vanity we might encounter. It does not have to be buildings, it can also be abstracts, like the poll tax or identity cards.
1. Coming to the top of a steep staircase somewhere in this building there is a gothic sculpture of a very pathetic, not too scary demon. This demon is an embodiment of…….
2. On another occasion we’re inside the old bank vault. And inside this bank vault there is a smaller safe. The door is rusty and hanging on one hinge. When we open it, we find a yellow envelope containing some faded documents. What are they……………….
3. On a windowsill in a foyer full of spiders web, there is a tiny model of some kind. It is hard to see at first whether it is a construction or a figurative representation of a scene. This model is a representation of……………………………
4. There is a cupboard we’re passing in a corridor. When opening it, we see there’s a jester’s uniform hanging inside full of mould and moth balls. This uniform is a ridiculing attire that should have been worn by a person, instrument or institution of some kind. It should have belonged to…………………….
5. Finally we enter a giant hall that used to be the main space of the bank. In here there is a little crystalline object on the floor. It seems to be something that previously had a completely different shape, and now through the aeons of virtual time has been transformed into a beautiful structure, where once it was a very ugly structure or system of some kind. What did it used to be?
As it is always easier to slag off something more public than to confront your own nemsis, John Soane the 1st felt quite relived and uplifted after visiting the virtual musum. This was all part of John Soane the 2nds plan because next they would be visiting John Soane the 1sts wife. It is evident from this museum, that John Soane the 1st was a bit of a show-off, and John Soane was well aware of this side of JS1, so he wanted to soften him a little bit, before looking at some of the very difficult issues in JS1’s life, his past and his tendency to rigidity about certain present issues. So the next focal point is:

The Virtual Telephone

So by the time JS2 enters JS1’s life, JS1’s wife and one of his sons are already dead. Soane had two sons called John and George, that we see over in that painting there. I’ve tried to find out what his wife’s name was, but they don’t seem to have bothered much about this in the online biographies. She’s generally referred to as Mrs. Soane. Apparently both his sons married unsuitable women, whatever that means, and John junior died an untimely death. Neither of the two had pursued a career in architecture, which is what John Soane the 1st wanted them to do. George didn’t do well career wise apparently. They had to bail him out of debtor’s jail a couple of times, and also he got his wife’s sister pregnant. At some point he wrote an anonymous defamatory letter to a Sunday paper, where he called his father a cheat, a charlatan and a copyist. His mother found out that it was him, and died not long afterwards, of what was said to be ‘a broken heart’. So John Soane the 1st blamed George for his wife’s death, and made absolutely sure that he didn’t inherit a thing. Hence this house was not passed into private hands but became a public museum. Over here by this drawing by John Flaxman of JS1’s wife we have a letter he’s pinned to his dead wife, which says something like: “ Dear friend, I can no longer hear your voice, teach me what I must do to fulfil your wishes”. So far John Soane the 1st hadn’t received any reply. But John Soane the 2nd explained that even though he had no idea where Mrs. Soane’s spirit might be, and could not operate as a direct medium, there would be a virtual residue of her, containing the virtual aspect of all her living mind and whatever trace she might have left at her departure or passing through some other dimensional frequency band. These virtual imprints, he explained are not dead, they are like little life-forms transforming and multiplying to become more than they already where and to combine or connect with other virtual forces of a mental kind, that is other modes of intention. So what he would do was to set up a virtual telephone that could transmit these signals into something resembling a reply to John Soane the 1sts letter to his dead wife. This device exists virtually, but has some actual parts, which is this little antenna and this drawing. So John Soane the 1st had to look at the drawing of his wife, while holding his question in mind and also holding this little antenna. This way then he would receive a reply, if not directly from his wife, then from the virtual medium through which her consciousness continuum had passed, much like a sound wave passing through some recording devices, that are also feedback loops within the wider whole of an implicate order.
We do the exercise below one by one holding the little antenna on one finger. After discussion, group thinks best idea is not to share their individual intentions with the group, but take them with them back into the world.
So now were going to do more or less the same. You only need to stand in front of the drawing from a second, and might not hear or perceive anything at all at that point. You just have to trust that you’ve made a virtual call. So that when you’re given a piece of paper, you just write as a reply the first thing that comes into your mind, without thinking. Let me just explain something first regarding the question you will hold in mind. John Soane the 1st question to his wife was, what must I do to fulfil your wishes. Now soon as a contact is made with a strand of virtual becoming like that, given all the exercises John Soane the 1st had already been through, the contact itself will create a further feedback loop or encounter. That means that when we are now directing this question to the virtual residue of Mrs. Soane it already contains some previous imprint of all the excises we have done so far today. So we’re not asking what John Soane the 1st’ must do to fulfil his wife’s wishes, but what any one of us must do. So the answer you receive should have something to do with your future, in relation to the fidelity to this event or encounter that we’ve just been through. It can be abstract, concrete, nonsensical or rational, but you should not invent anything, just write down the first thing that comes into your mind. Now if your reaction is ‘I will never take part in a participatory art event ever again’, it might be possible that it is too much of your own reaction, so it is important to imagine absolute alterity, an answer coming from outside yourself. You can choose to share your answer wit the group or not. Ok then there is just one more focal point to pass through before we’re out of here. This is a point that does not relate directly to a problem that John Soane the 1st had. It is more of a portal or gateway that John Soane the 2nd used to enter and exit this building. He wanted to show it to John Soane the 1st so that he could also use it to call upon him, should he become less available in the future. So the last focal point is:

The Lion Dogs of the Temple of The Next Moment

We could also have called this focal point, the Lion Dogs of the Temple of Now. But whether we are talking about just the next moment or an all-encompassing now, the point is that you can’t leave this building, or leave this event until you have presented these guardian lions with the correct password. The door is not literally through the wall, we’ll exist the door we came in. In any case, let me just say a little bit about the origin of these guardian lions. Sometimes they’re called Foo Dogs in the West, fu meaning prosperity. They are common in China, particularly pre-modern China as guardians in front of temple doors or other buildings or gates, but might as a tradition have originated in Northern India, while at some point also becoming typical for Buddhist temples. They are always represented in pairs, a male and a female. The male often plays with a ball representing the flower of life, and the female with a cub. The female has the mouth closed, and the male has it open. This is said to represent the enunciation of the sacred letter OM that contains the universe, or in the Japanese tradition it is said to represent in and out breath or the cycle of life and death. The male guards the structure of the building, in the case then the entire matrix of the world outside this building in the context of this event, while the female guards the dwellers in the building, in other words all the people in the world, or in the context of this event us, when we’re out of here.
So what you have to do to enter a password is make a new word or a new sentence out of the word spacetime. I’ve written the word on this paper. Each one of you should make a word or sentence. If by chance you make the same word unknowingly that is fine. It can’t be completely nonsensical, but it can be relate to pronunciation or how you want to pronounce it, and have some nonsensical components and plenty of grammatical faults. I don’t want to use up all the possibilities here, but I’ve made a couple of examples here:
‘emtie paces’
‘ce – it – pas – me’
If any of you are completely stuck I might have one or two spare ones to get you out of here, but not more, so you should aim to do your best.
‘it – is – a – me – pc’ / ‘me – ce – it – pas’/ ‘mitee pacs’ / ‘me-ce-te-pai’/ ‘mee-sap-ce-ti’ / ‘t-mi-cee-spa’.
Some really good and telling code words and sentences emerged from this. And then we’re out!