Wikimemory Multifunction Palace


Dear 50 contributors,

We have been working on a West Space Journal text and we’d like to ask you to contribute. Our proposal is to give an aural tour of a ‘Wikimemory Palace’. It isn’t a palace, though—it’s an imaginary two-storey complex, adapting the device of the memory palace in order to examine our structural understanding of individual and collective memory. We’d like to conflate the feeling of sites like multifunction halls and hospitals with the pathos of ‘thinking about memory’, as well as look at the links between physiological and computer memory.

The wiki- prefix indicates that we’re asking around 50 people to contribute to the text and the ‘rooms’ within the palace. We’ve written a rough draft — Rowan took floor one and Kelly floor two. We invite you over the next week to read the draft as it is, and then add and edit it however you like. You should be as bold as you like with contributing and editing. You could change or even remove whole sections, as well as alter the intent of specific details, and introduce new ideas. We have access to all the revisions, so can bring back older versions of the text if needed when editing the final piece for cohesiveness. Our general sense is that we’ll reach an equilibrium across the 50 or so editors—and we wouldn’t mind if the piece was wholly different at the end.

We’ll read the text at Saskia Schut & Scott Mitchell’s reading room, as part of OCTOPUS 14: NOTHING BESIDE REMAINS, curated by Tara McDowell.

Sincerely yours,

Rowan & Kelly

Wikimemory Multifunction Palace

We are in the Roman Room on the first floor of our Wikimemory palace, decorated with an IKEA eye for how a Roman Room should look. We slowly scan the room. There are a number of framed pictures & carefully placed objects, and we know hardly anything about any of them. There’s a laminated image of a lacquered timber box and a structure made up of many hen eggs, focussed sharply in the foreground. There is something that looks like a tape measure, but instead of measuring length, it measures spatial harmony and energy flow. It seems to operate in four dimensions. Feng shui masters used to use these, but there are no extant instructions. In the background, a concrete replica of the Colosseum is half-built.

Who the hell put this stuff here? Why are there JEANS and a BASSOON hanging over our 19th-CENTURY CHAIR in the room’s left-hand corner? And, from where is the chair even hanging? It’s suspended mid-air just above the seat of the silver chair—as if being played by an invisible individual. We thought the bassoon appeared in its modern form in the 19th-century (just like our chair) and now, two centuries on, failed to follow us here truly. (History is always ten years too early, or ten years too late.)

Anyway, all the portraits in the Rome-via-IKEA room are of the subsurface light scatter we get when we take a picture of the tip of our finger. We touch one of the portraits, like a cat pawing a mirror in a brief moment of splendor—it’s us.

The room itself is warm, slightly humid and stuffy, like the nose that points your face: there is an odour of dust mixed with stale almond meal. The more we concentrate on that smell, the more we take notice of the rusty-coloured piles of sand scattered around the room. The piles are tall and narrow. On closer inspection, things appear to be living and working industriously within them.

We’ve been trying to remember something. We were trying to remember it long before the trip to Ikea for signifiers and long before we vaulted the ceiling with the columns of ancient Rome. That’s how we came to be here—through remembering. Every memory palace is a suspect bridge between the regions of our minds, a space we inhabit and furnish, and in which we kind-of die. It’s a type of internally-interdisciplinary architecture: framing unstructured information with columns, louvred windows, Rosetta Stones and bookcases, and then filling these frames with indexical objects, new Us.

The frames of the subsurface light scatter portraits are all the wrong size for their pictures. Portraits in landscape frames. Some of the pictures, painted on thin photographic paper, have fallen out of the centre and are dangling now like shiny teeth from babies’ mouths. One of the frames is clamped over a picture that is much too big for it, like the balsa wood border of a cross-stitch starter. Actually, one of the portraits is a cross-stitch starter framed by a balsa wood border, but it is the perfect size.

There’s no way of knowing whether this bad framing was deliberate; it has a certain charm. But the portraits will age badly as the ill-fitting creases become more fixed and rigid with time.

We think about fixing them, but the mathematical puzzle of rearrangement is too boring to bear—grizzly, but some of us enjoy the challenge, we do it without realising—or too easy. It’ll be too stop-start a process to do heuristically. But it might be fun.

We look back at the 19th CENTURY CHAIR and realise that the BASSOON looks now more like a BONE FLUTE. (The JEANS are still GENE’S.)

Anyway, we hear a whooping nausea from the next room.

In response, we head out into the hallway. This isn’t a palace after all. (Someone may have been messing with us.) From the looks of the hallway, it’s more like a hospital or a disused community centre. We’re reminded of our health. The walls are a half-chewed mint, textured with a less electric version of the speckled light patterns that wiggle across our eyes when we sit up from the couch on a clear day while the windows are open.

We look down at the RUBBER STREAKS on the hallway floor. One of them looks to have been caused by a FISHTAILING STRETCHER CART. The others are more straight—they could be thought of as a set. We follow the beeping to the next room, and grab the door frame, but stop to appreciate its DOVETAIL JOINT, which allows us to jauntily swing into the Vivisection room.

We all know the Vivisection room—it’s similar to the one we were in yesterday, around lunchtime. It makes us think about that room. What was in the room? What did we have for lunch, again? How is it that we have been in TWO vivisection rooms on consecutive days? And why did we eat lunch there? For a minute, we stop thinking about lunch and fixate on all of the TOTALLY and UTTERLY dead animals and the room disappears entirely. But we don’t notice. Anyway, this room is pretty roughly delineated: the cornices around the floor and the ceiling are rounded, like those in a photography studio. We have to look specifically at them to perceive where they are. We see a vent, though, near one of the near-invisible corners. Does that connect us to the library? We can see books in the vent. Someone’s left them there. Is that the book we pretended to read just recently? Surely if we stand here long enough, mouths open, the important points will blow through the vent towards us.

As we exit the Vivisection room, we catch a glimpse of the faintest lines on the wall outside. Oddly, there is a square door here that we hadn’t noticed until now. Below the square door lies a tape measure—the cloth type, not retractable. The markings on either side of the tape are in red and black. The feng shui tape measure from the image in the first room comes to mind. In these tools, the markings and dimensions on the top are applied to homes for the living while the ones along the bottom are meant for coffins and gravesites. We inspect the tape measure, pulling at it like an escape rope of tied-up bedsheets. It appears that the orientation of the text is alternated along the tape, so it is not clear which side is which. Amongst the numbers on the tape, we read the words WOOD, MONEY and PEOPLE. We further unfurl the tape. Chinese text begins to replace the English words. But what does it say?

‘Track changes’ in Technicolour.

Whatever. Back to the square door. It seems very impractical. A waste of space? Or perhaps an excessive use of door? The workmanship is irate, with only the slightest space between where the wall ends and where the door starts. Door Jamb Blues. We’d estimate that the area was no wider than a single 12-point full stop. We have to squint to make out the gap. It is remarkable that we saw it at all. We get bored with being pre-occupied by the space between the door and wall and decide that we will set ourselves a challenge to find the square door again another day. Also, our eyes hurt a little from all that squinting. (Ow.)

This next room is an analogical depiction of Searle’s Chinese Restaurant experiment, where a person in a closed room is negotiating symbols in order to appear able to read a Chinese menu.

Our understanding of memory seems to have been analogised in the idea of computer memory. Bright and dense, short term memory exists in RAM as well as the hippocampus. The temporal cortex is the assumed location of our Sega hard drive. But this analogising now runs both ways. An essential facet of the way we understand working memory, the ‘episodic Hummer’, was coined in 2000, some fifty years after the idea of the ‘data Hummer’ which allows for memories in computer hardware. It’s as if we’re aspiring from two directions to some ideal storage methodology. The analogies are getting more complicated. We’ve out-grown the telegraph, the Model-T Ford and the Fix-It man. Computers are still ones and zeroes, but we stand in a field, and we’re not sure from where it is coming. The grid.


Lights in the ceiling. The light is travelling from one light to the next in a looping, square pattern. ‘We’ move our head around to follow the light around, which stretches out our neck. Does that feel good? ‘We’ think, so the lights go out. ‘We’ keep moving our head around in a looping, square pattern.

A looping square pattern. ‘We’ de-tangle ourselves from the urge to trace, go back to that last ‘corner’ and explore. Gently. Slowly. We sped past so many nerve endings in our looping obedience, but we know what they lie between and we can find them in the dark.

Light filters through a threshold ahead that once bore a door. The hingeless slab of wood is propped up just beyond the hole to the other side and is stenciled with the words, ‘Through To Triage’, and, ‘Press Green Button’ with an accompanying arrow; following arrows seems the most reassuring course to take at this stage. We flow on into the small reception area. Is this general reception? Aren’t we too far into the building? There is no plexiglass and no grill for the clerks to hide behind, like down in ER – no cones of silence. Most of the traffic here is telephonic. By the looks of the large switchboard, whoever sat here transferring calls and forgetting people on hold must have been a veritable Wizard of Oz. Here they sat, buffering the suffering masses from the cloistered specialists with reassuring tones while piping Adult Contemporary directly into ears with the touch of a button.

This one looks like some kind of game room. It’s decorated optimistically. There are at least six CURLED POSTERS from state-funded outreach programs. On the posters: an owl, reading a book while caught in a Net. An orange with arms and legs playing tennis. Below the posters, a green half-table tennis table, two bats, one speckled hen. On one side of the table, divided by a white line, there is an unhinged person made of steel, painted red. On the other, there is a bowl of rice, and a plastic-comb-bound DOCUMENT about WALTER MANAGEMENT. (Underneath, a receipt for the printing from OFFICEWORKS.) There is a basketball ring here too, but it’s one of the miniature ones that go above rubbish bins. We pick up one of the bats and the ball, and play for a while, knocking the ball in between each of the objects on the half-table. Looking around again at the posters, we notice that we are featured on many of them, at different stages of life. Here we are at 10, hugging a koala mascot that is explicitly not smoking a cigarette. And here, shown at 25, filling out an unemployment benefit form correctly.

This is a room that resists explicit episodic memory, as in infants.

This room has WHITEBOARD MATERIAL on all of its surfaces. The floor is chipboard with an acrylic coating. There is residue of previous markings across it, as if more than one idiot has used a permanent marker. The whiteboard material on the walls and ceiling, made of a higher quality enameled steel, is more pristine. We scrawl a word on the wall and watch it start to fade of its own accord, quickly. When it’s nearly gone, we write the word again, and this time, every time it starts to pale, we say the word out loud, and look as the black ink marks re-knit themselves on the steel. We do this for 40 seconds before becoming distracted by Alexander Sokurov. << Rebuttal >>

The smoke trigger goes off, and water starts pouring out of the floor in patterns, TARKOVSKY like the WATER FEATURE at Southbank, in front of the casino. This room depicts explicit episodic memory. Events should have an ecstatic character.

We step from the lift into a concrete tunnel, walls painted in Dulux Mint Macaron™. The ground is raw concrete. We are standing on a raised platform of GRATED STEEL installed in modular pieces. It is the kind of material that structural engineers must learn about in university, the kind that interior designers are bound to discover at some point. There is CAT5 CABLING running along the underside of the GRATING, fixed with cable ties at polyrhythmic intervals. The colours of the cables are pretty nice. Silver, black and gold. There is a bit of slack in the cable between each cable tie, probably to preserve the wiring? There is a perceptible hum, and there’s large ALUMINIUM TUBING running along a shelf, also of STEEL GRATING, to our left. The TUBING shudders as material passes.

The analytical philosopher John Searle asserts, via the thought experiment of the Chinese Restaurant, the way that a computer thinks formally, syntactically: a computer program just moves symbols around without attaching meaning to them. The computer can’t interpret the symbols—it only knows their form and how they relate. Whereas, Searle figures, a mind has semantic content —the things within it have meaning—in this case, meaning refers to mental events caused by specific biological phenomena that have concrete referents.

We go back to the foyer, towards a new wing – becoming implicit, e.g., wayfinding markings disappear.

There are potential rooms for this wing:
—implicit procedural memory;
—implicit perceptual memory;
—implicit priming memory—no objects.

We spent so many days writing for you /
We cannot get any of the time back /
The days were thrown away with frenzied fever /
And it’s all that we can do /
So we did it again.

The staircase is quite long. Dude descending staircase. It looks to run the entire length of the building, so the incline is slight. We climb the stairs. The light fittings are the same the whole way, but the material on the walls changes, so people change too. By the end of the staircase, the walls are cork, or chipboard? We take a closer look. MDF.

Floor 2

Tapping on one of the loose boards, it gently swings back. Behind is a carnivorous space in the gothic revival style, maybe the nave of a cathedral, maybe a Kunsthalle. There are no PORTRAITS or FIGURES. We can’t guess the denomination, but we think we’re in Baghdad? We walk down the aisle as large SANDSTONE BRICKS hang beside us. The sun is low outside: the STAINED GLASS windows throw dark thick shadows of red, green and blue onto the ground in front of us. We tread on them.

Here comes Temple. Temple says, ‘Hey, Trevor, not all people think in words. Some people think in pictures while some of the most interesting people that we know think in models. Do we think words can make models for some people as well?’

Who the hell is Trevor? Not me, but Alexander seems to know him. This room depicts explicit episodic memory. Witnesses should multiply. Prediction: The stadium and the crowd.

At the dark end of the hall, something glows then flickers. Still images appear on columns as we continue along the aisle… Are they iron films? We can’t name them, but they feel somehow familiar, as if their origins rest in our sore eyes. We’ve been having trouble with memory. But maybe we’ve been heading in the wrong direction, thinking about computers and patterns. A sense of the root of these images nudge at our eyes, our fingers, our stomachs. Maybe our memory is there.

We think back to the room we encountered downstairs. Searle’s Chinese Restaurant experiment posits that syntax cannot constitute semantics in itself, so we shouldn’t think of our mind as some type of computer. In the other direction, a machine designed to act like a mind could not emerge from a programmatic computer that moves symbols around. The physio-chemical, biological aspect of our mind underlies the difference between a computer’s arranging of symbols and the mind’s creation of semantic meaning—every thing in our mind is tied to particular physical phenomena. Even a computer program that perfectly simulated every neuron in the brain would still be a purely formal machine, pushing things around without any sense of their properties.

We seem to hinge our speculative, retroactively-modeled understanding of memory as a system of various databanks with systemic relations, though how these databanks relate to our biology is still mysterious in many ways. Johnny Mnemonic?

And we reach the crossing of the nave. In the southern transept, an arm gestures to the wall behind it whilst speaking to a large audience. We look closer. The facade of another structure lines the wall behind it. A carved WOODEN apex reaches out of the SANDSTONE, 15 meters from the GALLERY floor, thatched with WALTER REED and PALM LEAVES, inlaid with BOTTLE GLASS windows decorated with symbols and framed by BAMBOO MUSIK flyers. The speaking arm claims that the symbols evoke his ancestral spirits. He begins this story:

A woman started to stress that what had happened before will happen again, so she walks to the Spirit House that we now stand before. The Spirit House calmed her down, and she lay on the ground. A Spirit Arm went to her side and told her to get some walter and some leaves from outside and bring them to him. So she did. The Spirit Arm then made a small song with the walter and told the woman, ‘Drink this walter and you will deliver your baby. And so it was. Since then, many WOMEN have gone to the SPIRIT HOUSE with WALTER and LEAVES asking for the SPIRIT ARM’S SONG.’

By the end of the story, everyone has left. We are the only ones listening. We reach forward and run our fingers along the carved residue and sticky varnish. Our hands follow the materials until they abruptly meet the plastic shiny wall. There is a small label, printed on inexpertly cut acetate. Or is it perspex? Either way it is a foreign language. The world is a foreign language. We don’t bother asking anyone to care.

A gentleman, tired and overheated, reclines at his ease on a great circular divan. We can tell he’s American. He wears a name tag. The tag reads Henry J. He sits on a commodious ottoman at the centre of the nave, our visitor taking possession of its softest spot. With a hat, opera glass, and guidebook thrown down beside him, our protagonist lounges listlessly, his attention strained, his vision dazzled. His eyes wander from the paintings, focusing on high and reproducing the masters. Our weak-kneed lover of the fine arts suffers, retreating to the museum divan to relieve “an aesthetic headache.” Instead, he picks up a text—the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (translation by Edward FitzGerald):

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

We return to the flickering light behind us and climb the wide, soft stairs before the altar. Behind it—within the chancel—is a small THEATRE, with wooden stumps arranged in an orderly half-circle around a projection. We enter the space and lower our eyes to the dark. The screening is now over, with credits scrolling toward the top of the screen. The audience slowly starts to walk away toward the CORRIDORS and AMBULATORIES of the cathedral. A figure stands—an ORANG MINYAK—and points at a nearby TEACUP, instructing: ‘Apple your eyes to its detail, to its tiny contours, its imperfections. Try to extract its milk jewels’. We stand near the TEACUP and stare without blinking. The ORANGE TANG MINYAK quietly slips away.

We want to define a Celluloid Line (CL): a line in practice that runs between the use of celluloid to capture and the use of celluloid to project.

))) >———————————————< ((( We can consider what happens in cinema on either side of the CL: if we picture the CL as vertical, on one side is the production of the film, and on the other is the film-viewing experience. We want to argue that moving outward, left and right from the CL—into ‘deeper’ production and viewing experiences—is the axis of increasing abstraction, due to the subjectivity necessarily involved in both the production and viewing of films. Our eyes are sore and begin. TV ON THE RADIO is playing; the wolf is howling. We follow its mumbling noise into a secluded CLOISTER. ‘... Mexico returns to the FORMULA ONE calendar. Mexico City will host FORMULA ONE in 2015. UBS has been charged with tax evasion by the FRENCH government. SIDESHOW BOB GELDOF at the world Aids conference in Melbourne asks for more funding to spread HIV in Africa and the third world. Law firm MAURICE BLACKBURN said that government authorities gave permission for medical staff to access refugees on Christmas Island but when the doctors arrived their equipment was not allowed into the detention site, citing no MEDICAL PRESENCE at all. Tasmanian SALMON PRODUCER has secured a $3.8 million grant for a FISH MEAT PLANT near Triabunna. Federal government proclaims 'handouts to business will last forever'. New Zealand BANKS have raised their INTEREST for the third time this year, and the Australian people clap politely.’ This room needs a transition, or a HECS DEBT. We’re in a pine forest now. It’s cold, deathly quiet. We watch them stumble over roots. The thing they are carrying is heavy, awkward… and we are back. This is a room for placing memories together. A room for BOOKS, NOVELS; a place for POETRY, art, film and literature reviews; extended critical essays in all of the languages; encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses; atlases. The rows of books go on for some time. We squint. This place goes on forever. Maybe it’s a MIRROR. Maybe our EYES are getting softer. Pinned on the walls, and corners of shelves, are short, pithy reflections on events and debates, sometimes transposed as parables. Once, if we remember correctly, we had a conversation with a friend about a particular film. Starring the finest actors of our generation, we asked, was it any good? For a film that ‘seamlessly’ blended stinging social commentary with BIKINI KiLL CHEESECAKE and a brouhaha Shaun Gladwell performance, we naturally had our doubts. He told me that he didn’t really think about whether things are good or bad. Instead, he likes to consider whether they exist or not. This he contended, insurmountably let down, didn’t exist. We guess we’re not sure for what time all these instances relate, or why they stick with us (because we think they should?), but we know they have been selected and written by The Great Automatic For The People. Rebel Girl, Rebel Girl Rebel, you rule my world! THE APARTMENT (AFTER PEREC). Moving studios. Leaving the apartment. Vacating the scene. Decamping. Clearing up. Clearing out. Cleaning. Cleaning. The meaning of Cleaning. Making an inventory tidying up sorting out going through. Eliminating throwing away, palming on, palming off. Breaking unscrewing unhooking. Unplugging un-detaching cutting pulling dismantling folding up cutting off Rolling. Burning. Taking down unfastening un-nailing unsticking. Removing carrying lifting. Sweeping. Closing. Leaving. Moving in cleaning checking trying out changing fitting signing waiting imagining inventing investing deciding bending folding stooping sheathing fitting out-stripping bare splitting turning returning beating muttering rushing at kneading lining up slicing connecting hiding setting going activating installing botching up-sizing breaking threading filtering tamping cramming sharpening. Tired, WE slump into an Eames CHAIR pose, in front of a MATT BLATT REPLICA NOGUCHI TABLE with a Poulsen LAMP. In the centre of the KOGAN REPLICA NOGUCHI TABLE, a Lazy-Susan of free-turning cheese, with 6x8 photographs inserted between slices slowly rotates. We pick up the flipper stick and pause it: Our new haircut (options)... The Penguin cover of that BIFO we’re “revisiting”. The freshly minted HOLE, those newly purchased GOLD Nike Frees, a still of the AGNES VARDA film we’re watching right now from our ASUS G750JH-T4133H Core i7 GTX780M/4G. We’re in bed; our Samsung Galaxy S5 is curled up at our feet, there is a crochet BLANKET. WE do not know who we know who ___ are. But we know ___ know exactly who YOU are. With editing and without fidelity, these lives look similarly ___ attractive. This is room 4. It’s cultural-functional memory, and it’s a trap.We are in the room, a moment later. The door slowly shut behind us leaving creaking sounds in the room. The sounds started to duplicate and bounce on the walls to reveal the shape of the room. We follow the sounds. Is that a map is that a map is that a map is that a map is that a map. Words began to pour from our lips as though a dam inside us had broken. Immediately the room was filled by our voices. We cannot be heard by each other anymore. When we look at one object in these rooms, we are looking at all the objects. Their objective remains the same. Here the ___WE serve the servants with themes of time and memory, truth and fiction, over and again. What the ___WE are doing here is well-done. Necessary. The currency of time forged into Bitcoin futures. Tap tap, tap tap tap. Why is the Wikimemory Multifunction Palace so fucking cluttered? We haven’t added anything since we arrived, but nevertheless we find ourselves climbing over CABINETS and ROLLED UP CARPETS, stacks of OLD NEWSPAPERS and tripping on LIVE WIRES. Where did all this stuff come from? Is there somebody else here, putting things in the palace while we have our backs turned? Is there somebody else here, putting things in the palace while we have our backs turned? We think we will need to put some of this JUNK away in the basement. Let’s go down there and see if we can find some room. Gee, it’s dusty down here. First, we see this old CLOSET down by the foot of the stairs. At first it is locked, but a HARD YANK forces it open. It contains an old HUNTING JACKET, a SHIP IN A BOTTLE, a teenage LOVE LETTER. A stuffed GIANT WOMBAT. And over there —look! — is that our old STAMP COLLECTION? We wondered where this had gotten to. But it seems to have gotten a bit damp. And moldy. And over here. Some rolled up posters. Wow! JOHN FARNHAM—YOU’RE THE VOICE; as if! And these ARCHITECTURAL BLUEPRINTS look impressive; they have a garden with triangular trees near to the fountain; a conservatory with high ceilings and great large windows; two levels. Wait! These must be the blueprints for the Wikimemory Multifunction Palace. Yeah, that’s it—level one: lobby, stairs and hallway of individual memory. Level two: dining room, conservatory and parlour of the collective. So, where is the map for the basement? There doesn’t seem to be one. wmp3

Presumed, though anonymous, contributors:

Kay Abude
Akira Akira
Tim Alves
Christina Apostolidis
Gav Blau
Kim Brockett
Sheena Colquhoun
Julia Dunne
Toby Fehily
Kelly Fliedner
Channon Goodwin
John Hand
Kate Harper
Anna Higgins
Tamsen Hopkinson
Eugene Howard
Wei Huang
Susan Jacobs
Jess Knight
Ron Koo
Danny Lacy
Geoff Lowe
Sarinah Masukor
Kyla McFarlane
Rowan McNaught
Scott Miles
Scott Mitchell
Arlo Mountford
Dan Munn
Phip Murray
Oscar Perry
Lisa Radford
Jacqueline Riva
Jonas Ropponen
Saskia Schut
Patrice Sharkey
Charlie Sofo
Isabelle Sully
Sam Szoke-Burke
Masato Takasaka
Estelle Tang
Peter Tyndall
Michelle Ussher
Pip Wallis
Makiko Yamamoto
Simon Zoric

The Albatross Around Everyman’s Neck

Kelly Fliedner


In the manner of a morality play, here begins a treatise of how Everyman set upon a journey to an island, giving account of some characters with whom he meets along the way. Please, come, attend to the action outlined below, and heed its lesson, I pray.


Here I sit upon this deck, of my ferry called Desire.
Travelling for some weeks, awaiting my story to transpire.
Seeking destination to a new home I will swiftly chart,
Away from horrors left alone; pure and untainted, I depart.

The land named Capital, from whence I did come.
Absorbed in wealth and riches, it remains under thumb.
But alas, I shall not dwell on this for too long,
I am travelling to Emu Island, paradise far from civil wrong.

Emu is a place of reckoning and critical reflection,
A place of moral judgement as well as artistic creation,
A magical place, a holy place, a place of political virtue.
Fit in well and thrive, in this place I will sincerely nurture.

ALBATROSS circles the ferry DESIRE.


Good day Everyman—I’ve listened to your puerile story,
Be wary of Capital, behind you, it cannot be assumed a priori.
Look all around, in the waters swell a strong current beneath
Even here, even now, it is filled with Capital’s insidious grief.

It is vital on this pilgrimage
That you act in accord to your belief,
Justify your position in the world and
transparency will be your key to relief.

Trust me and you will do well.


Albatross, I will follow you to the end,
Please accept me as your trusting friend.

EVERYMAN looks out into the horizon.

Ah, what is this I see so small:
Shimmering in the horizon, a billboard tall?


Haven’t you heard the trouble? Heretofore,
Citizen, the virtuous inhabitant of Emu,
Realised that their guardians, the Fellowship,
are compromised by the residentiaries of Capital.

In a bid to placate the pure,
And avoid the pretence of corruption,
While sensing that your presence was near,
Steward, as she has done in the past,
—and in unavoidable blinding light—
has scrawled upon the gates,
“Modern western culture is in large part
the work of exiles, émigrés, refugees.”


I am shocked that Steward would think so low of me,
I need not to be reminded of these words I plea.

But wonder I, what is the true nature of their catalyst,
To perhaps pacify and placate a potential tryst?


Do not be angry at Steward, she merely acts in defence;
Unfairly bound, yet resistant, to the Fellowship.

EVERYMAN rubs his belly in hunger and looks into the ocean.


Below, I see large fish jumping up out of this stream
That laps Desire. In this starved stupor,
I salivatingly watch on.

A fish called MEDIUM launches himself out of the water
and onto the deck of the ship called DESIRE.


Here Everyman, I offer my flesh and council.
I sensed your confusion and hunger for the truth.

Don’t worry, I’ve been sent by Fellowship
to allay your concerns, and fill your belly.
If you listen to me and believe my words
Fellowship will greatly reward you.

Trust not the rogue band of nine,
who have broken away.
Do not throw in your towel with theirs,
Those naive and thankless complainants.


Alas, surely there was a reason?


Watch that you are not likewise viciously ungrateful,
for within an instance you too will be deserted.
Left alone to your own devices,
Cast away into your own echo chamber.


Of course, I have no reason to distrust you,
Or the Fellowship (who have long cared for Emu)
I, like Citizen, are constantly aware and forever grateful
For the attention you’ve bestowed, to make Citizen stable.

Feeling sickly full with this information, 

EVERYMAN suddenly lost his sea legs, and fell.



Where have you been? Can you not see
I am unwell here, that my situation is dire,
How dare you forget me, we need to talk
More of my plight, put out this nervous fire!


Do not be foolish Everyman. I did not abandon you,
You are healthy and well, get up and be true.

I have been with Otherman. Like you, he makes this journey,
By ruinous boat, hungry, cold, more treacherous is his story.

Don’t assume to understand, compare his hunger for yours,
His are more acute and devastating than you can give pause.

Beware the Fellowship, though they champion Emu.
In those that holler, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”,
There is malice and control—their true intent.
For those that really love, let live their love
without demanding assent.

They are embedded within the network
that extends through these waters.
So do not underestimate the Fellowship
Or the Capital supporters
—each forever masks and maintains one another.

Here ends this treatise on how Everyman came to realise Emu Island did not belong to Citizen, who duly fill its void. It belongs like most other things, to Fellowship who takes advantage of their ploy. Although drowned out by the Fellowship controlled Medium, in a place far from Emu and against all odds, Citizen is able to still create sorcery that is worthwhile and effective. This sorcery will perhaps thrive in environments that have turned their back on calculation—let us refute rational by rejoicing in the unreasonable speculation.


Image by Rowan McNaught

Yoking the Ox

Rowan McNaught

The Creative Power of the Arts is an ox, yoked simply into effectiveness with a marketing plan and rolodex.

It makes light work of the late-romantic elegance that science demands of it, lowing keenly and regularly in the face of complexity.

We study the lows1 of the ox, and discover that it doesn’t appreciate its own elegance and power. Our studies say, it’s making that noise just because. Or anyway, from some interplay of the metabolic and contextual. So, is it possible that the yoke improves the sense of power that the ox has, and/or registers to us that it feels more like itself? Yes, of course. Anything is possible.

It’s not clear to us, even, that the unyoked ox knows what species it is, preferring a floating and chameleonic unclarity, often hawing like a donkey.


Sometimes the yoke is heavy, and requires more than one user to install it on the ox. In these circumstances, it’s effective to establish your role in the lifting clearly and early on. We have printed material on established precedents that you can utilise to establish the roles required to yoke an ox, such as from brushing a horse, or turning a horse into glue.

Yoking the ox yourself does not mean that you own the animal, though it will take your direction, carry your pack. A yoked ox belongs to all of us, regardless of whose direction, whose pack. What this means for you is that you must keep that in mind, OK?

(An unyoked ox belongs to the prints it leaves in the desert, or whoever’s closest at any given time, or whatever.)

The ox’s stomach has remedial abilities, though they are non-sensible on our registers. Alongside loading your goods onto the ox’s pack, you may choose to rinse your eggs and the glue that you made from your horses through the stomach of your oxen.

Users have constitutive tenderness (‘love’) for the yoke, for a few reasons. They can’t remember a time when the ox wasn’t yoked, and so the act is embraced as inevitable. Without a yoke the ox won’t carry, we think?

Additionally: the movement of the yoke, as it negotiates and is negotiated by the beast, has a poetic-kinetic ‘voice’, as if it behaves rashly within the established physical relations between things. Users enjoy the wonder that this voice stirs in them, and hope that more things move to speak like it.

But the yoke is primarily an economic institution, as it functions as a translation-interface between the animal and the pack that it carries: the animal’s power moves the pack for you. (It doesn’t matter what the pack is. It might be glue. It could be Polycrystalline solar energy panels.) The intermediate translation of the relationship between the animal and its pack is spoken in that poetic-kinetic voice of the moving yoke. So why is this pleasant to the user?

Arguments are had on the relative effectiveness of the different forms of yoke: the head, the bow and the withers yoke. It’s unclear and so is relatively unimportant.

(It’s important, though, to consider the pain of the animal as it carries your solar energy panels to Manly, or to Cockatoo Island. You can do this in the same way that you keep in mind that you don’t really own the ox, OK?)

Orthogonally, it’s illustrated in anecdotes that very large oxen may have weaker organs & constitutions attenuated in comparison to their smaller and more wiry counterparts. It’s strange, then, that the large oxen still carry most of the pack.

Sometimes your ox will bolt. You mustn’t let it, though it helps to adopt a stance of incredulity to dishearten the animal’s charge. It is experiencing an ophthalmological-ontological panic arising from a shape that it has made out. It is not a metabolic drive.

The yoked ox of Arts’s creative power should be persuaded to barrel into the future, a tax-deductible catalyst threshing discourse from possibility.

  1. (What do we call the sound of the ox? I think I’ve heard the phrase, ‘the lowing of the oxen.’) []