Kimey Peckpo Hatches Out: A mythopoeic self-destruction story

DOI: https://doi.org/10.33008/IJCMR.202019 | Issue 5 | October 2020

Dr. Mikey Georgeson

University of East London



Abstract


Kimey Peckpo Hatches Out is the title of the film around which I created a performative installation and features a fictional projection of a nomadic keynote performance speech persona. The problem in identifying the film’s place in a causal creative chain highlights my methodology of using the fiction machine as a means of speculating about an aesthetic ontology, which I regard as a realm where making and making-up are the central mode of being or becoming. The film is a further development of a methodology established in the keynote performance I gave of the Technological Nonconscious, created with my then supervisor Professor Tony Sampson for the 3rd Affect and Social media conference at the University of East London in October 2018. This performance had the effect of situating the peripheral story of KPHO in the middle of my practice and led to the development of the film as a direct interrogation of how an aesthetic ontology could be inhabited by a relational, opening-out of the self, moving towards an embodied knowledge. As the film’s opening demonstrates, KPHO became a means of exploring this self as the body without organs:

The body without organs is an egg: it is crisscrossed with axes and thresholds, with latitudes and longitudes and geodesic lines, traversed by gradients marking the transitions and the becomings (2003:19)


Research Statement


Having found myself struggling to define myself as an artist via representational values, I am grateful for the speculative aesthetic ontology my doctoral research helped me to construct. Central to this process was my early intuition that art has an excess that delivers understanding outside of conceptual cognition. Which is to say, art operates through material and aesthetic registers that need to be given space to reconnect audiences with the artist in shared experiences of discovery. In this speculative realm for the construction of art, feeling becomes the essence out of which reflective cognition emerges. Towards the latter stages of the doctorate in fine art, my research shaped itself into an idea of the aesthetic machine (The Vision of the Absurd: 2019) - a sideways reaching for the Abstract Machine (2005: 75) and Whitehead’s actual occasions (1979: 54). Through a process of encouragement and collaboration with Professor Tony Sampson I let my aesthetic machines bleed into a dialogue with fiction machines. Sharing a mutual interest in affect and non-representational theory, we asked how we could, at the very least, disrupt the manner in which the human command-post within academia demands that all data is processed via cognition to be understood. We aimed to achieve this by entangling theory into an aesthetically vital audio-visual performance. I delivered a speech at the 3rd Affect and Social-media conference UEL, as Professor Kimey Peckpo, which was the name of a character in a quasi-creation myth I had written several years earlier and had meant to return to. I found myself contingently engaged as a fictive key-note speaker (The Fiction Machine Bath Spa, Affect and Social Media UEL) and thus the ability for art to become an assemblage tapestry, into which theory was woven, took on a personal and more immanent meaning. A doctorate in fine art was a way of turning me back again and again to face my practice, like a meeting with an alien culture, “Art as aesthetics then becomes the acculturation of the senses.” (2015). To make sense of this use of the word, Terry Eagleton returns the aesthetic to its original etymological meaning: "Aisthetikos is the ancient Greek word for that which is "perceptive by feeling." (ibid) With KPHO I sought to place myself and my work in the heart of A N Whitehead’s idea of the aesthetic, distilled so clearly in Debaise’s Nature as Event:

In this way, Whitehead’s gesture consists in making feelings the most fundamental characteristic of nature, rather than a supplement added onto it. The aesthetic becomes the site of all ontology; it is the plurality of manners of being, manners of doing, capacities to be affected (2017: 58)

In terms of practical methodology, KPHO is a digitally assembled video that treats the use of technology with an analogue sense of contingent emergence. I see it as a broadcasting of the pleasure of the green screen’s capacity to “take everything and make it a matter of expression” (2000: 67) – the moment when I remove my socks (I had forgotten to) and the geometric concrete breeze blocks showing through at the side of the blue tarpaulin green screen. My reading of Deleuze and Guattari’s above idea is to use aesthetic (feeling) to assemble stuff (filmic episodes) as matter for expression in which tangible moments of material vitality produce a percolating feeling in my tummy. As a fictional figure, Kimey Peckpo thus embodies the reinsertion of pleasure into art-making via the understanding of material vitality. In 2018 I spoke at the Royal Geographic Society’s annual conference on a panel about Felt Understanding. I applied because I had a hunch it was something affecty and relevant to my practice. My practice, such as this film and accompanying installation, is about a desire to manifest the hunch and understand it through the process. Rather than transporting the symbols to the command-post, perhaps we can experience them as integral to bodily experience. There seems to be a new materialist idea here that the body and the act of making itself is central to the generation of ideas within a temporal relationality. This assemblage model of fictioning is succinctly captured by D H Lawrence in the collection of his post-human writing the Phoenix:

The whole is a strange assembly of apparently incongruous parts, slipping past one another (1936: 536)

The methodology of the aesthetic machine became a means of constructing a realm for assembling all capacities for experience of felt intensity, and I was thus able to freely weave song writing into a visual digital tapestry. Perhaps song-writing is a way of understanding my approach to the fiction machine as generating a contingent or temporary realm of aesthetic ontology. I often feel that when asked about my songs it’s better to sing them – to accept the phenomena as a means of knowing. When you report back to the human command-post (outside of the song’s inside), ideas about understanding through relationality and feeling can be reduced to a valuing of flux over stasis. Deleuze’s invitation to reshape the model of thought is what the fiction machine gives me access to. The human command-post (possibly sometimes represented by the Woodal Owal in KPHO but not always) demands the spatial activity of shuttling from fixed point to fixed point where all sense data is converted to symbolic values for it to be processed cognitively. Kimey Peckpo’s skin is thermal underwear painted as a translation of one of Blake’s reimagined classical figures. This is an absurdist act of material vitality inviting the sense of unification in Blake’s paradigm-defusing fictional thought mode of fourfold vision,


"Now I a fourfold vision see

And a fourfold vision is given to me

Tis fourfold in my supreme delight

And three fold in soft Beulahs night

And twofold Always. May God us keep

From Single vision & Newtons sleep" Letters, To Butts, 22 Nov 1802 (1976: 210)


Blake’s aesthetic ontology emerges in a unified atmosphere of immanence, quite unlike the conceptual idea of connecting ideas as a mind map, because nothing was separate to begin with because we are in the middle of things and this is world Kimey Peckpo hatches out into. Kimey Peckpo could be seen as an attempt to manifest Blake’s radical empiricism, which has a similar unified register as Whitehead’s invitation to expand our modes of thought:

Connectedness is of the essence of all things of all types. It is of the essence of types, that they be connected. Abstraction from connectedness involves the omission of an essential factor in the fact considered. No fact is merely itself. The penetration of literature and art at their height arises from our dumb sense that we have passed beyond mythology; namely, beyond the myth of isolation. (1968: 9)

Spatial thinking of the fixed coordinate variety continually installs hierarchies and KPHO is my way of speculating about an aesthetic ontology where the processing is done within the emergence itself and the conceptual signifiers are footholds in a collective rock scrambling endeavour. I think now that KPHO was an attempt to express a temporal openness. The story was written as part of my 10-year practice of writing for 20mins upon waking and the idea was to keep writing until I felt the story was complete. I dared myself to continue beyond the point when my toes began to curl and my bottom shifted uneasily on my seat. The result would be, not a moral fable but the textual equivalent of a gongshi. My understanding of how this methodology might produce an artefact that continues to emerge and reveal new understanding was not fully formed but I knew that I needed to write it to work out what this could mean. My approach to writing the story was shaped by a sense that writing could be part of a materially vital approach rather than a synthesis of pregiven ideas. This mentality towards fiction as generative is embodied in Blake’s idea expressed in a letter to letter to Rev John Trusler in 1777 that ‘the imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself’. My sense that text and symbolic motifs could be haptic, imaginative material was clarified by the unclasping of signifiers displayed by Deleuze’s stage-maker bird harnessing,

the appropriation of something in order to use it in a completely different way… the base or the ground of art. Take anything and make it a matter of expression (2003: 349).

My awareness, then, of how the story and film would function was not complete when I created them, but I knew I wanted to make something emergent that would retain a fascination by feeling known yet alien. I didn’t want to be weird for the sake of it, but instead tried to follow a familiar feeling into the unknown. So now when I return to the story and the film, I can see how much of a part the act of walking and movement plays in its meaning (percolating feeling in my tummy). In the film Kimey can be seen stumbling along through the pink blancmange desert landscape digitally crafted for me by a lifelong friend, Benjamin Evenden, now working in in Egypt. I see Kimey like Kierkegaard in The Old Ways, “so overwhelmed with ideas” that he can “scarcely walk” (2013: 21). This stumble-walking occurs right after the hatching and the whole thing takes on the form of thought itself but not as a strange loop but as something always in the middle but outside of the causal shuttling from point to point that rejects felt or embodied understanding as folk-science. The film’s use of path walking and path forming occurred to me when reading the Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane who suggests, “paths are the habits of landscape. They are acts of consensual making.” Kimey finds himself in a blancmange desert where creating a path might be difficult but the text already feels as if the path was always there. The Old Ways also gave me an insight into my use of landscape in the story. The landscape is like a character in this sense – the ubiquitous consciousness of an all engulfing b-movie blob – but also a manifestation of the sense of emergence found in the model of Massumi’s thought in becoming (2002: 15) where there is no beginning only the middle of things. Steven Shaviro’s Discognition was also instrumental in animating my understanding of the blob organism’s nonhuman consciousness I intended to evoke with KPHO. In one chapter he asks how slime mould might:

Think and feel, and encounter the world? The organism known as Physarum Polycephalum is so strange that it seems like an alien life form from a science fiction novel (2015: 193)

The delay’s for taking stock and grieving brought upon us by the Covid 19 pandemic have allowed me to return to the film and rework some of the stitching. Having made a video for a song using the collaborative entanglement of the internet I was engaged by a friend’s performance that seemed to embody the same physical energy of deaf signing. I felt myself drawn to the possibilities for expression in this physical language. In my thesis 'The Vision of the Absurd' I discussed how part of my methodology has been shaped by my life-long deafness and late arrival in the fixed clarity of hearing aids. My education and social-life as a child were muffled but this, I speculated, gave me access to understanding the feeling of things as a strategy for filling in the gaps. It was only after art school that I entered the defined space of hearing hard sounding consonants designed to speed you through life like the info-graphic signs found in an airport. Ironically Kimey Peckpo strikes me as a kind of senseless character having no face and no obvious means of channelling sensory data. Instead they feel almost entirely immersed in sensation – a more visceral experience of the landscape than the refined data processing of the Spring Watch presenter, who despite their arm waving, embodies anthropocentric critical distance.


With these feelings in mind, I invited the above collaborator, writer Dee Davie, to contribute what she described as lackadaisical signing as a further deconstruction of the videos background and foreground landscape patina. Her signing is not entirely fictional, and it emerges wholly from the joy a physical engagement with the content in the same way that any humour in my practice is found not through a satirical reconfiguration but instead by descending to the state prior to linguistic order. As a fiction machine KPHO speculates that symbols are built into the nature of the cosmos and therefore by extension the human body but the trap of modernity is to think the symbolic as solely part of intelligent human ingenuity. Whitehead suggests that language arises from and works within bodily experience and offers a way of diffusing the split we have in thinking of it as a codified version of experience, “this general relation of words to things is only a particular instance of a yet more general fact” (1985: 13). KPHO operates as a fiction machine generating this symbolic mode of bodily experience.

My aim in making KPHO was to immerse myself in a speculative approach to inhabiting an aesthetic ontology via a methodology of feeling and sensation, which is not a rejection of linguistic concepts but an experiment in placing them within the context of felt understanding. In the introduction to Deleuze & Guattari and the Production of the New, Simon O’Sullivan points out that, “It is a belief in sensation as an antidote to our shame at being human that animates much of Deleuze and Guattari’s writing on art” (2008: 13). My understanding of this statement comes not from a citation or borrowed knowledge but from having experienced it as a dislocated, stuttering and yet fully committed assembling of what I call a digital self-annihilation myth. In creating the story as a vinyl LP and video I was trying to summon the thrill I had felt as a child on hearing and seeing vividly coloured albums and television transmissions of stories that felt meaningful yet confusing because I wasn’t sure where their feeling of a familiar longing came from. Part of the doctorate artist's methodology is to seek out feedback from audience members. One suggestion was that my practice was a kind of “optimistic nihilism” and now when I see the entangled journey of Kimey Peckpo seeking a cuddle from Momo, I recall Simon O'Sullivan’s further suggestion that “art returned us to Nietzsche’s innocence of becoming and to the child’s wide-eyed visions of the eternal return.” (2008: 17)

References

  • Bivar V. (2015) Theories of Media available here: https://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/senses.htm

  • Debaise, D (2017) Nature as Event Duke University Press

  • Deleuze, G and Guattari, F (2003) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Continuum Press

  • Georgeson M. B. (2019) The Vision of The Absurd available here: https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/872qq

  • Kazim A. Ed (1976) The Portable Blake, Penguin

  • Macfarlane R. (2013) The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, Penguin

  • Massumi B. (2002) Parables for the Virtual, Duke University Press

  • McDonald E. D. ed. (1936) Phoenix. The posthumous papers of D. H. Lawrence Viking

  • O’Sullivan, Zepke S. eds.(2008) Deleuze, Guattari and the Production of the New, Continuum

  • Shaviro, S (2015) Discognition Repeater Press

  • Whitehead, A N (1968) Modes of Thought Lecture 1: Importance Macmillan

  • Whitehead, A N (1985) Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect, Fordham University Press

  • Whitehead, A N (1979) Process and Reality Macmillan

  • Zepke, S (2005) Art as Abstract Machine: Ontology and Aesthetics in Deleuze and Guattari, Routledge

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