Out Of Our Heads: Philip Shepherd On The Brain In Our Belly
“Our culture has been intolerant of attempts to reclaim this lost center of consciousness. In the early 1900s a Chicago anatomist named Byron Robinson wrote a book called The Abdominal and Pelvic Brain in which he describes the neurology of an independent brain in the gut. His work was quickly forgotten — it had no relevance to our cultural story. Then, in the late 1920s, Johannis Langley mapped out the autonomic nervous system. He said there were three divisions: the sympathetic, the parasympathetic, and the enteric. The enteric nervous system, which governs the gastrointestinal functions, is exactly what Robinson called the “abdominal brain.” Langley’s book became a classic, but the enteric nervous system was widely ignored, and students were taught that the autonomic nervous system has just two divisions.
Finally, in the 1960s, Dr. Michael Gershon rediscovered the brain in the gut. In his book The Second Brain he describes how it took him fifteen years of presenting his research and answering refutations before his fellow neuroscientists capitulated and agreed that the neuromass in the belly is indeed an independent brain. [Gershon is a professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University. — Ed.]
Robinson, who first discovered the pelvic brain, was much freer in his assessment of its importance than scientists are today. He talked about it as the “center of life.” I completely agree with that. It is the center of one’s being.”
Tools for Conviviality
[Ivan] Illich offers the telephone as an example of a tool that is “structurally convivial” (remember, this is in the days of the ubiquitous public pay phone): anyone who can afford a coin can use it to say whatever they want. “The telephone lets anybody say what he wants to the person of his choice; he can conduct business, express love, or pick a quarrel. It is impossible for bureaucrats to define what people say to each other on the phone, even though they can interfere with — or protect — the privacy of their exchange.”
A “manipulatory” tool, on the other hand, blocks off other choices. The automobile and the highway system it spawned are, for Illich, prime examples of this process. Licensure systems that devalue people who have not received them, such as compulsory schooling, are another example. But these kinds of tools, that is, large-scale industrial production, would not be prohibited in a convivial society. “What is fundamental to a convivial society is not the total absence of manipulative institutions and addictive goods and services, but the balance between those tools which create the specific demands they are specialized to satisfy and those complementary, enabling tools which foster self-realization.”
Albert Camus talks about his stage adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “The Possessed” in 1959.
Hold the Landscape Culpable
“…part of our mission is to imagine the urban landscape as the cultural equivalent of a crime scene and a scientific subject; to seek out the landscape as a “person of interest” in our investigations; to hold the landscape culpable. Walter Benjamin, in his assessment of Baudelaire’s flaneurism, referred to such a thing as ‘botanizing on the asphalt.’ In doing this, so runs the artistic conceit, we can capitalize on the visible representations of the neighborhood’s sins and glories, and step back to imagine a mythological pantheon of characters, actions, and sites that more truly represent its Truths, rather than merely its Facts.
To do this, we walked.”
The object retreats, fast
as my quickening.
Or is it the other way
I love, are bigger than. Bigger, certainly,
than me. Blurred without spill.
Does love itself eclipse?
Hides it’s face just
as I begin
to pronounce it.
As the artist said, seeing
is forgetting it’s name.
Where are you going?
Where are you going?
“One important thing that’s never been done until now is to prepare the public how to see performance,” [Abramovic] says.
But Alaina Claire Feldman, exhibitions assistant at Independent Curators International and another Summer School participant, disagrees. “I don’t think it’s necessary, because I don’t think there’s one way to prepare yourself for a performance or for art,” argues Feldman. “Every performance is subjective, based on the person who is experiencing it. And sometimes, yeah, you need to clear your head to experience something, but sometimes you also need your head to be full of things and full of your own personal history so that when you experience something it can be more full,” Feldman says, rather than less.
“Seeing Performance: The Marina Abramovic Way”, by Jen Ortiz
“I was living in Hitler’s private apartment when his death was announced, midnight of Mayday … Well, alright, he was dead. He’d never really been alive to me until today. He’d been an evil-machine-monster all these years, until I visited the places he made famous, talked to people who knew him, dug into backstairs gossip and ate and slept in his house. He became less fabulous and therefore more terrible, along with a little evidence of his having some almost human habits; like an ape who embarrasses and humbles you with his gestures, mirroring yourself in caricature. ‘There, but for the Grace of God, walks I.’” - Lee Miller
"All ethnography is part philosophy, and a good deal of the rest is confession."
Matters of life and death are not, inherently, partisan. They have become so. Lately, heated partisanship has occasioned much hand-wringing. But the anxiety, commonly voiced by moderates, about the coming political apocolypse—..surely the two party system is doomed, surely the American people have never before been so bitterly divided—is characterized by the same made-for-TV cliff-hanger intensity as the thumping zealotry that moderates worry about. …
That’s because life is often what we’re talking about, even when we seem to be talking about something else, and, maybe even more important, do-or-die is how we’re talking. We have always fought about rights, but life is different from liberty and property. When politics turn on a right shrouded in the sacred, issues demanding debate become matters inviolable, and political conversation is no longer civil, pluralist and yielding. And when this happens, day after day, year after year, there is no more politics; there is only one sort of impasse or another."
Jill Lepore, “The Politics of Death: From abortion to health care—how the hysterical style overtook the national debate.” 2009.