michael wetzel + stanislaw lem



These sculptures by Michael Wetzel appeared in a two-person show (with Jeffrey Tranchell) called Standards of Living at Honey Ramka gallery last year. Of the artworks in the show, these objects most drew my eye and lingered in my thoughts afterward. These are blurry screenshots I made from the gallery's photos and don't do justice to the intricacy of the work, but serve as visual notes to accompany a passage from Fiasco (1986), a Stanislaw Lem novel I am reading for the first time. Lem is describing a field of bizarre, fanciful-seeming mineral deposits on the surface of Saturn's moon, Titan.

For the very reason that here nothing served a purpose -- not ever, not to anyone -- and that here no guillotine of evolution was in play, amputating from every genotype whatever did not contribute to survival, nature, constrained neither by the life she bore nor by the death she inflicted, could achieve liberation, displaying a prodigality characteristic of herself, a limitless wastefulness, a brute magnificence that was useless, an eternal power of creation without a goal, without a need, without a meaning. This truth, gradually penetrating the observer, was more unsettling than the impression that he was witness to a cosmic mimicry of death, or that these were in fact the mortal remains of unknown beings that lay beneath the stormy horizon. So one had to turn upside down one’s natural way of thinking, which was capable of going only in one direction: these shapes were similar to bones, ribs, skulls, and fangs not because they had once served life -- they never had -- but only because the skeletons of terrestrial vertebrates, and their fur, and the chitinous armor of the insects, and the shells of the mollusks all possessed the same architectonics, the same symmetry and grace, since Nature could produce this just as well where neither life nor life’s purposefulness had ever existed, or ever would.

Addendum: The first sentence is eloquent and rather long and at first it seemed ungrammatical (perhaps it's the translation from Polish). The core of it is "nature could achieve liberation" but the word "nature," surrounded by other clauses, tends to get swamped, or appears to be paired as a synonym with the word "survival" that precedes it. Regardless, once you have it, this passage is a good example of Lem's Borgesian talent for extrapolation from known phenomena to create "unthinkable" vistas and thought processes. It comes at the end of a description of a volcanic crater where minerals have run riot over millions of years of geological time to create landscapes that seem like amalgamations of our worst nightmares. There is beauty there, as well, which got me thinking about those quasi-biological Wetzel sculptures. Lem is one of the most visual sf writers, and his book Solaris has been stripped down by film directors into something like a simple love story, when the essence of it is his poetic description of the surreal life forms constantly churning in the Solarian "ocean" and human inability to ever understand them.

Addendum 2: Clearer photos of the artworks

ask me nothing

Strange press releases come to this blahg every day. Today one arrived full of talk about AMAs (AMA vibe, AMA feed, AMA queen) -- yet AMA is nowhere defined. The Wikipedians tell us it's a Reddit thing -- someone with expertise in something says "ask me anything" (a la Ask Jeeves) and is peppered with questions by netizens who wanto to know about the subject.
So AMAfeed provides a blog-like "feed" of self-declared specialists opening their minds and clouds to eager questions about their areas of interest.
The feed seems heavy on digital marketeers and their own odd brand of Newspeak. Below are some phrases harvested from the feed descriptions. As William Carlos Williams said about Ginsberg's Howl, "hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies, we are going through hell."

YA fantasy and paranormal romance novelist
Working with Bloggers or Influencers
Brighter Local SEO Results
travel with purpose company
blogger and weight loss success story
mentor and leader
Mature-age workers
Holistic Cancer Coach
instagram influencer
Neonatal Nurse Pracitioner [sic]
mom/creative entrepreneur
Analogue vs Digital, the neuroscience of love, deal breakers or how modern matchmaking works
Boost Your SEO
mobile-first and the future of SEO
thought leaders and experts
building your author platform and monetizing your content
[how I] Resolved Health Issues
online business consultant, speaker & podcaster
starting & growing your coaching business & podcasting
Professional Certified Transformational Coach, Public Speaker, Disabled Veteran, Mentor, Internet talk radio host, and podcaster
use social media to level the playing field between SMEs and large corporate firms
designer, explorer and environmentalist
the first PR Company for Ethical or Sustainable Brands
time and project management expert
space fantasy audio drama
Crime & Trauma Scene Cleaners/Hoarding Remediation
marketing expert focused on the blockchain space
sexual enhancement products
at-risk youth and seniors
holistic health coach and wellness advocate
Personal exit strategy

If one was writing a novel set in 2018 it might be necessary to have characters who speak in this mixture of sales jargon and New Age blather. So chalk this list up as research as well as the poetry of the Damned.

See also: m.po list of banal phrases