The Laboratory of Unreasonable Attention

(26 May 2012)

Posted in Adam Dickinson, Past Workshops

Instructor: Adam Dickinson

When: 26 May 2012, 1:00-4:30 PM (Saturday)

Location: 918 Bathurst Street, Room L5


The Laboratory of Unreasonable Attention invites participants to a 3.14159 hour workshop on the science of imaginary solutions.  If discussions of truth and falsity have increasingly been determined by scientific discourses in the 20th and 21st century, then how can poetry intervene as a kind of Maxwell’s demon in such entropic discussions?  Pseudo-science is a dirty word these days; how can pataphysics serve to potentially shift cultural Umwelten in productive ways?  Pataphysics is variously defined as the science of imaginary solutions, the science of the particular, and the science of exceptions.  It involves the employment of unorthodox methodological constraints in poetic composition (like the controlling of variables in a laboratory setting) in order to uncover marginalized and unique frames of signification (think of readymades and other found or appropriated texts, imaginary encyclopedias, extraordinary research reports, constraint-based and procedural writing, intentionally useless or impossibly realized forms).

Participants will be required to conduct research and gather data in advance of the Laboratory workshop.  Following the original pataphysics of Hellenic science, participants are asked to conduct research involving one or more of the classical elements: Air, Fire, Earth, Water, and Aether.  How these elements are defined, what sources are consulted or burglarized, how the experimental variables are controlled, and the amount of data gathered, are entirely at the discretion of each participant.  Participants are encouraged to think of the elements in unexpected ways that might serve to re-imagine them for contemporary contexts.  Each participant should come prepared to share and discuss their research projects.  Ideally, this group effort will result in the assembly of a viable giant molecule.

The laboratory will unfold in the following manner:

1.     A discussion of science and poetry, particularly pataphysical methods and indiscretions and their significance to issues of nature/culture.

2.     A brief break to re-imagine or prepare the data and projects.

3.     A workshop involving group discussion about the various imaginary science projects and resulting data proposed and created by the participants.  It would be helpful to have something written to distribute to the group (project description, data, etc).

Recommended readings (these are not required, and cannot all be discussed, but they may provide useful examples of different kinds of pataphysical work):

Christian Bök, Crystallography
Gabe Foreman, A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People
Kenneth Goldsmith, Soliloquy
Sharon Harris, Avatar
Alfred Jarry, Exploits & Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, ‘Pataphysician: A Neo-Scientific Novel
Eduardo Kac,
Jay MillAr, Mycological Studies
Harryette Mullen, S*PeRM**K*T
Lisa Robertson, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture
Juliana Spahr, The Transformation
The Capilano Review
, “Ecologies” issue 3.16 (Winter 2012)
Toronto Research Group, Rational Geomancy: The Kids of the Book-Machine: The Collected Research Reports of the Toronto Research Group 1973-1982
Jakob von Uexküll, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: with A Theory of Meaning

Price: $85.00

*For questions about the research assignments, participants can contact the instructor: Adam Dickinson,

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