the metalepsis workshop

analogy of the three double frames


Using common frame conditions of (1) the frame, (2) the picture, and (3) the mirror, it's easy to see how dysfunctions of each result in a canonical sequence of conditions. When the frame boundary is violated (the representer appears in the represented), a "nose" is created that, if pictured, leads to the Cretan Paradox condition of the mise en abîme. This bad infinity is bested by the full "extimacy" of interior and exterior of the framed/framing space: a combination of satire and J.-P. Sartre's famous voyeur who, while looking through a keyhole, hears a footstep on the stair behind. The double frame, mocked by Zizek as an academic conceit, is actually a consequence the the subject's construction of the Other as a point of view. The doubled frame produced "in-transitive" rather than "transitive" boundary conditions, evident in these three key situations.

the zairja


The critical tool in the workshop is modeled after the 11c. "zairja," an astrological calculation device that was in reality the first computer. But, instead of promising to make sense out of random-looking data, the zairja worked in reverse, to "de-familiarize" what was believed to be known securely. The zairja forces the attitude of experiment and mi-dire, the acceptance of paradox and necessity for suspended judgment. There is an ongoing zairja project that uses the intersections of 66 topics to investigate the concepts of super-symmetry, body loading, occulted signifiers, metonymy, and pharmakos.

The metalepsis project has been carried out through seminars, lectures, publications, and web-site resources. The workshop aims to offer opportunities to expand and revise the program through stochastic measures intended find chance within necessity. After a brief session to introduce the main ideas, projects focus on films and paintings to identify the critical shift from "inventory cathexis" to "sinthome cathexis." Workshops can happen with groups of all sizes as well as individual tutoring conditions; on-line workshops and collaborations with existing programs can be arranged. In the summer, a special writing seminar built around the idea of an ars topica is held at various locations, with the collaboration of the architect-educator, Claudio Sgarbi. Participants cover expenses and a variable program cost-support fee. (Workshops in 2015 include seminars at Penn State and WAAC, Alexandria, and a workshop at Carleton University.)

Erasmus's In Praise of Folly aims at the heart of subjectivity — the failure of the Symbolic's "masculine" desire for consistency and connectivity. Instead of the continuous virtuality of digital simulation, where shadows and reflections are accurately reproduced, metalepsis workshops look at "detached virtuality," the breakdown of order that reveals the roles of automaton and the imaginary — co-producers of the essential anamorphosis that is key to the construction of subjectivity through metonymy, occultation, and figuration.



Chirality is like the double bracket rule in our calculus. It says that there is a right and left hand version of everything, and that because we can’t reduce the spatiality of the right hand to that of the left, we create a space in between. We call this space “loft” because, being architects, we like the idea of a concept that is also a physical place in buildings. Chirality can be created by chiasmus, by an "odds and evens" strategy in visual arts or narrative. In a famous example discovered by Richard Kopley, Edgar Allan Poe used chirality to open up a "stochastic space" within the story of "The Purloined Letter." At the point where the detectiive Dupin is given the reward check, the text divides in half. Phrases on the first part synch with matches on the second, an internal call-and-response system. The final pair is revealing. "It was an odd evening," the first line of the story, pairs with a quote referring to the story of Atreus and Thyistes — twins whose discord led to the famous Thyistean banquet, where Thysistes the adulterer was tricked into eating his own roasted children. Poe's chirality is itself a "purloined letter" — put in plain sight but unnoticed until Kopley's detective work. The workshop shows how chirality is critical to the idea of symptom-to-sinthome cathexis, particularly in works of art whose artists have realized, like Parhassius, the value of the self-referential curtain.



Every workshop is, essentially, a form of the ancient ars topica, an opening-from-within of conceptual possibilities through methods of "stochastic" intersections. The aim is to find, within any resource, what makes it "primary" — able to move from status as phenomenon to that of a "portal" grounding other phenomena, methods, and possible histories and futures. The critical thinker's aspiration is to reach a state of "unlimited semiosis," an understanding of relationships as such. At this point, thinking connects with conditions and evidence of past recognition of identical methods and attitudes. This approach aims to feminize the standard rule-plus-exception of projective science, forever plagued by the issue of self-reference. Just as the Delphic oracle complimented Socrates as being one of the few who "knew that he didn't know," the idiotic methodology of metalepsis workshops aims to suspend questions of meaning in favor of questions of significance. 


A joke Žižek tells freqently is apt. A factory worker is carefully inspected each day leaving the factory, but nothing is found in his wheelbarrow but worthless hay. Years later, the worker meets one of the inspectors in a pub. The inspector is still curious. "We knew you were smuggling something all those years but we could never find out what. Now that it's all in the past, can you tell me?" "—Wheelbarrows." Shifting from metaphor-based meaning production to metonymy-based signification means that the negative must be understood in all its cultural roles, and here ethnography and cultural conditions offer the best evidence. This is the justification for adding Vico's rich ethnographies ("practice") to Lacan's account of subjectivity ("theory").

texts and guides are re-arranged to fit each workshop/tutorial …

additional works can be drawn from the "locus," "films," "links," or "project" collections