Saturday, 28 June 2014

pataphor or décervelage

There is a branch of philosophical thought that transcends metaphysics (hard enough in itself to define but dealing with fundamental laws and first principles) developed by a French avant garde artist and his followers called ´pataphysics. Though it is a challenge to imagine much less convey what this discipline deals in, one meaning is that it is the study of imaginary solutions, answers without questions, and the science that governs those exceptions that make the rules.

The prime or apostrophe that precedes the word signifies that the pataphysican adheres to Alfred Jarre's original school of thought, and not some unorthodox sect of pataphysics—unscored, but I suspected it had something to do with the soft-breathing diacritical marker of classical Greek orthography. Growing out of the movements of theatre of the absurd and dadaism is media, an institute of higher learning, the Collège de ´Pataphysique based on Jarre's philosophies was founded in Paris in 1948, and attracted such pupils as the Marx Brothers, Joan Miro and many of the artists of the surrealist movement. During the 1960s and 1970s, campuses opened up around the world and there are still some formal classes held, dealing with concepts like clinamina, from the early atomists which describes the smallest possible swerve that can translate to the biggest impact, antimony—duality, mutual-incompatibility or cognitive discord—and of course the pataphor, a figure of speech that departs from the literal message two-fold but more than a stretched-metaphor. The crest of the college and associated organizations is the image of the greedy and wanton King Ubu, the title character of Jarre's play that was on the surface some strange, juvenile pastiche of King Lear, Hamlet and Duck Soup but was a powerful and discomforting social-commentary on avarice in war (and was never produced again, except in puppet form).