Untitled Enthymeme, Chaos Gallery, July—August, 2020

Untitled Enthymeme by Elliott Wall, July 2—August 23 at Chaos Gallery, Portland, OR, US

“In love all the contradictions of existence merge themselves and are lost.”—Tagore


88, 2009-09, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, oil on panel, 58 x 90″ (148 x 228cm)

147, 2018-08, Begjær… og Seterjentene (Lust), oil on linen, 82 x 90″ (208 x 228cm)

148, 2019-08, Earth vs. Spaceoil on linen, 60 x 90″ (152 x 228cm)

149, 2018-12, There is one story and one story only., oil on linen, 60 x 90″ (152 x 228cm)

152, 2020-01, OOBE (Le Rêve— Temple of Artemis, Song of the Sleeping Forest, Symbol of Life, Love, and Aesthetics), oil on linen, 60 x 90″ (152 x 228cm)

153, 2020-03, SACRIFICIVM (Potaliya Sutta), oil on linen, 60 x 90″ (152 x 228cm)

154, 2020-05, L’Apocalypse des Animaux, oil on linen, 82 x 90″ (208 x 228cm)

155, 2020-06, Black Hula (Satellite Serenade/Brightness Hiding), oil on linen, 82 x 90″ (208 x 228cm)


Architecture and Construction by Sapata Fofana-Dura and Santigie Fofana-Dura; electronics by George Lee, Zeal Mayfield, and me; concept and painting by me. Composed of about 1200 bricks cut from wood salvaged from multiple sources, including a from house fire, The Shrine of Humility was made to exist for only three months of 2019, and is now no more. The unsuspecting, possibly reluctant supplicant would enter the shrine alone and be cast into darkness, enduring this for some time, when at last they are granted a vision.

The relevance of any undertaking can only ever be proportional to its purposiveness.

The Shrine of Humility, or ANIMVS·SVMMISSVS is a reaction to the affronts to consciousness and dignity we face in a world of ever greater depersonalization and isolation. Technology has allowed us to consume more than what we could ever hope to actually assimilate, more than what our own native sensorial metabolic rate can sustain, whether speaking about the merely material, or sensation, or thoughts and ideas. It’s expected that we will consume many hundreds of images and impressions in any single minute of any day, a single image only commanding perhaps at most some few seconds of direct attention. In this way, impressions and thoughts remain only the constituent parts of unformed ideas, and may then never go on to ever being anything more than assumptions which cannot be consciously attended to, where no inquiry is possible. This sort of overloading of the faculties induces a psychological state of passivity, somnambulance, confusion, and purposelessness. Life is thus proportionally less lived.

What if we were to have an image which is only seen by one observer, in a liminal space, for longer than a few seconds, yet perhaps only for as long as any reasonable directed attention might last, knowing that the image is not extant elsewhere in any form and that sharing the experience is not possible. Neither artist nor viewers are looking for “followers” because there is no association of images to be had. And the image may only ever be experienced once. The purpose of this exercise is to remind us that this is in fact always the nature of any experience: an image that can be seen by only one observer does not possess an objective reality— objective experiences are the varying attempts to share what is ineffable, observed as a functional state by any present consciousness. Only you know for sure what you have seen, and of course even that is impossible.

Take back your Subjective Truth because it is the only Truth. Here is a humble shrine where we hope you may find a moment of illumination and awakening.

For further elaboration on these ideas and how this relates to the message of the Encyclical theme, please see the accompanying project monograph.

Public Works — Substance

Please Applaud with Hands Only

I have often held in my hand a black walnut. It has a shell like stone. It has many internal stony reinforcements. But in between is an unimpressive, unimportant-looking meaty substance that has a mysterious and tremendous power. If you plant this seed under certain circumstances, heat is produced inside.

Now, whether it is a seed, or a teacher, or a businessman, or a student, when we begin to heat inside, something begins to happen. Your leaders may put a lot of heat on you from the outside, but that doesn’t always do much good. The heat that does the greatest good is the heat that is generated on the inside. Success, like failure, is an “inside” job.

When this walnut begins to heat inside, it produces a mysterious power that breaks that stony shell as though it were paper, and a little shoot works its way up through the soil to become a great walnut tree. That is, there is some mysterious power inside of a walnut shell that has the ability to attract out of the soil and the air and the water all of the elements necessary to become a great walnut tree—including wood, and foliage, and blossoms, and fragrance, and fruit.

From The Miracle of Personality, by Elder Sterling W. Sill

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Noam Chomsky wrote me back

Like most people, one of my favorite subjects is how the United States is going to hell in a hand-basket. I’m not that different from the average rabid Tea Partier in this sense really, except that I tend to attribute certain problems to different causes.

Noam Chomsky is in my pantheon of household gods. My favorite attribute of his is not his intellect, or apparently eidetic memory for facts, or his empathetic humanism and compassion– these are everywhere (though not often in the same person). It is his iconoclasm and contrariness. Even the most doe-eyed supplicants to his genius often find that when they attend a talk and voice their assumptions in questions to him they are casually, effortlessly shot full of holes.

Also, he enjoys sticking it to elites. After speaking at length about the vices and interests of the “secular priesthood” of so-called intellectuals in the US, he was asked who he thinks the true intellectuals really are. His response was, “I think there’s less real intellectual work going on in a lot of university departments than there is in trying to figure out what’s the matter with my car, which requires some creativity.”  And it seems, like I think that I think, that he doesn’t believe in the authority of individuals– it is only the ideas and expressions of individuals that should carry any authority (or not). He advises his listeners that we are as capable as he in finding answers ourselves, as his opinions come from reading mainly material that is available to anyone. When was asked what kind of specific qualifications or authority he has to speak about these issues, being as how he is supposed to be only a linguist… his response:

None whatsoever…. I don’t pretend to have qualifications, nor do I pretend that qualifications are needed. I mean, if somebody were to ask me to give a talk on quantum physics, I’d refuse– because I don’t understand enough. But world affairs are trivial: there’s nothing in the social sciences or history or whatever that is beyond the intellectual capacities of an ordinary fifteen-year-old…. In fact, I think the idea that you’re supposed to have special qualifications to talk about world affairs is just another scam– it’s like Leninism: it’s just another technique for making the population feel that they don’t know anything, and they’d better just stay out of it and let us smart guys run it.

In early 2009 I wrote to Professor Chomsky, asking a question about the liquidity crisis:

Possible remedies to the current financial crisis that have been discussed in the major media outlets, that I have heard, have not included the idea of simply annulling the contracts concerning the questionable financial instruments often blamed for much of the trouble. Have a big bonfire: the material and intellectual capital of the world has not substantively changed since before the “financial crisis” until now; all that seems to have really changed is the Sense of Value foisted upon people by the “authors of The Sense of Value.” (this last statement sounds sort of schizophrenic… I’m not a good writer)

I.e: Just cancel the Credit default swaps, etc., back to, say, 2000 [I was referring to the time of the repeal of Glass-Steagal]. Since there is so much circularity to the debt, it seems that if it is all called off then there would be a general restoration of a sense of liquidity. The beneficiaries of these techniques have had their fun, but it isn’t as if wealth has been metabolized and expended as heat into the cosmos any more than usual, is it? This seems a question of efficiency, not of the dynamics of capital. We could stop it all now– the idea of balance book receivables derived from what seem to be totally fraudulent means. There would be no need for phony “bailout” schemes.

I was shocked that he actually responded to me…!:

There have been proposals from leading figures to “wipe out” shareholders, break up the banks, charge CEOs with criminal fraud, etc. But wiping out all of these contracts would have unknown and possibly catastrophic effects, for just the reason you mention: “circularity,” or more fully, the opacity of the whole system.

This shows that he actually is one of those people who thinks that important things should be done carefully and deliberately, whereas I have a tendency to run roughshod over everything I see. So… I still sort of like my bonfire idea, even though it’s a bit late for that now.