The Museum of Vestigial Desire


tags: cosmos published on:

We don't differentiate between students and carpenters. The only reason we are a university and not a church is because the word ‘university’ is sometimes related to the word ‘universe’. And, we like to think that we have one of our own. We have one of our own only because not having one of our own is a crime. Because if you do not have a universe of your own then that must mean that you live in somebody else's universe. And, that is a shame.

Our university is a community of scholars, students and anarchists. We are sure that we miss many categories and that reflects the nature of the organisation of our members. We don't ask you why you want to join us; we welcome you and kick off a session of engagement almost as soon as you install your presence in our community. So you might want to join Surfatial to teach; you might feel you have all the knowledge in the world and can't really use any more, but we will still extend you an invitation to join. You see, when you join the university, you become a corpus of content that we can access to. Not that we need it but in a way that has something to do with how presence works, when you enter the room the repercussions of your presence matters. Of course, if yours is a presence that we'd rather not acknowledge, then with a lot of work it is also possible to ignore your presence. But, if we want to acknowledge it, we have the tools. The body of knowledge keeps growing as minds join us and in some ways we remain the same and in some ways we keep growing. Growth is not always a good thing; if more was always merrier and if the size of your body was relative to the size of the database of your knowledge, then some of you would be dwarfs and some giants. Your species would go extinct in a couple of generations; sex just would not be possible. You would be born as tiny specks of dust and then grow and shrink progressively. Regression in the quality of life experiences (manifestation betrays knowledge) would mean regression in height. So, in our case there is no relationship between the corpus of the pool of knowledge and experience of our members and our body of knowledge. The relationship does not exist.

We offer no differentiation at our university; everyone who joins is a potential surface to bounce off our content stream. In a very optical way, every surface that our content stream bounces off, from gets coloured or shaded that much more. For us, the community is more about the mode of participation of its members. There is no response that we seek; in cognition, all processes are equal. We bake a surface and we offer it. It can be scraped and consumed with different (or absent) levels of reverence. The trick to avoid the glare of cynicism is that we know that once our messages are parsed, once the intended knowledge has activated in the parser's head, no other perspective, other than the one which we initially outlined, can be envisaged. Nothing more can be conjured. So, we are confident of engaging with whoever chooses engagement. We are not averse to having paparazzi in our classroom, even casual strip-club performers, pizza delivery boys, rabid salesmen - all are welcome. We welcome hate-mongering, fetish noise-producers. We do not mind any presence and deal with the offshoot of every presence with equanimity. It is true that a sofa cannot be a human being, but it is also true that a bird can be a cloud. Very easily!

But then, there is peer-learning. The extent of any institution’s role is limited to being an efficient magnet and function as an attractant in collectivising a community that then intermingles and leaves the wolf at the door - the wolf being the institution itself. The institution that is interested in surviving beyond the first splash and first impact has to factor in its redundancy into its vision of itself. We have done that.

We picture that in a few iterations, anything can become routine. Ask torture victims. It is the first day that is most traumatic. After that, it is just slow-time filled with unpleasant memories and a dead sensory experience of time. Repeated torture definitely aggravates the nature of crime for the perpetrator but for the victim, it is all the same. Right from the moment when torture begins, beyond the shock of the first episode until the disbelief of the last episode, all that gets registered is white noise. So, even our rupture of monumental impact will be rendered as part of the landscape at some point. It will cease to be enigmatic, surprising or exceptional. It will be considered a standard item of inventory. But, at that time when we will choose to pass, we abandon each ship that becomes too safe. If the fear of dismissal - the fear of sinking - is absent does that make the experience bland for us? No, we will enjoy our act of disappearance. Every element - not part of the landscape - stands out. It is like standing butt-naked in the shopping window for the world's examination. But, after we are part of the landscape, we will disappear. Nobody will notice the shit we do at all, as far as the world is concerned; our enshrinement as a landscape element was the end of our struggle but we want to be the enemy within. We want to be the happy nihilist. There is an axe to grind: true. But also there isn't. Suddenly, we can forget the higher purpose to our struggle and we can lie back and enjoy the possibility of being away from the examining glare of the audience. Think of it like catching chicken-pox after being diagnosed with cancer. Of course, a certain amount of disassociation does come in, it can't be blamed. What can happen at this point? Once you are a part of the landscape, even if it is a toxic-waste dump, it is valid. The nature of the glare that looks at the landscape and the one that looks at potential agents of alterations of the landscape are different. We don't mind the casual, scanning brooding stare of the former.

We do not discriminate and then we ask everyone to apply. We offer a university campus, do you visit a school only to study? Can we imagine a space for education that is not hygienically removed from the thick of life but instead embedded deep within it. A school that one goes to for having a cup of coffee, to stroll in the garden, to become a spectacle of sorts. We could become random material on display that can be referred to in a lecture like a speck of dust, a stray fibre floating in the air or a fly squatting somebody's cheek. Anything can become a model for extrapolation, the material needs to be present. Clinically hygienic spaces are too artificial and do not serve as ideal spaces for education. We need to add noise onto the whiteboard. We need to offer crust and core to draw the threads of experience. We need to stop discriminating between the spaces meant for education and the spaces meant for prostitution, partying or drug abuse in the city. All molecules and coordinates are equal.

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