Fictional Influences.

I do not make any distinction between fiction and reality. I do not believe in reality – I see it as a capitalist fabrication as much fiction as any fiction. I am a second order cyberneticist who believes that we “make” our individual, personal worlds by operating and “building” within them. Whatever that “building” is, whether it is a conversation, poetry, prose, the design of objects or buildings. We are changed by conversations and the relationships we make with what we perceive as the outside world.

NEIL SPILLER / shem's_wallpaper1

NEIL SPILLER / shem’s_wallpaper1

I use narrative in my work because it is important to allow the space of myth and mythmaking in architecture. To strip myth and vicariously the ability of architecture to relate to deeper human fears, joys and stories often retards architecture. Myth, story and symbol begat an architecture that is above formal gymnastics and therefore has a longevity that can be measured in centuries. Much of humanity’s recent architecture is devoid of this longevity precisely because it denies architectures greatest ability to awe, and to present deep cosmic epistemologies. In this way architecture can engage the full range of human emotions and intellect. My work searches for an architecture that brings architecture back to a critical, central position in human culture and does not forget the thrill of the enigma or the rebus.


I do not make any distinction between fiction and reality. I do not believe in reality – I see it as a capitalist fabrication as much fiction as any fiction.



It is perhaps obvious to many that to dwell is much more than to live – to survive.  To dwell is to populate the world – to build our world by operating within it and those constructions, whether actions, events, situations, poems, pictures or buildings leave mnemonic traces within minds and spaces.  Rooms and brains are witnesses to individual pasts.  The room is a memory theatre that the agile and synchronised mind can read.  The room’s objects provoke memories, aspirations, failures, loves, loves lost and so much more, a lifetime of existence can be recorded in a single room or house, for example John Soane’s House in London.  So rooms are mnemonic – this of course is not a new idea, Frances Yates in her seminal book “The Art of Memory” traces such ideas back to Roman times via Cicero, Ramon Lull, Giordano Bruno and many others.  Indeed “The Art of Memory” brilliantly describes the enigmatic “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili” 1499 (1)  which portrays a surreal landscape, transversed by a just awoken love-lorn Poliphilo, that is laden with pageants, architectural edifices, strange sculptures and pert nymphs  as ‘Perhaps an artificial memory gone out of control into wild imaginative indulgence… [it] makes one wonder whether the mysterious inscriptions so characteristic of this work may owe something to the influence of visual alphabets and memory images, whether, that is to say, the dream archaeology of the human mingles with the dream memory systems to form a strange fantasia.” (2)  Whilst Yates’ book failed to make a full connection to the present day (it did reference the, at the time, primeval development of the computer).  The “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili” is a great work of surrealism.  The Surrealists had studied the arcane, hermetic arts and were familiar with the memory theatres and their advanced use of syntax, semiotics and symbolism – primary among those Surrealists that used mnemonic devices to animate their work were Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Leonora Charington.  The memory theatres are also implicitly tied up with the alchemic arts and the secret languages (both graphic and spatial) of the alchemic adepts.  Mnemonic forms are symbiotic with their context and the viewer simultaneously.  Marcel Duchamp understood the mnemonic imperative and the act of viewing, the desiring gaze and the knots of association of objects and forms implicitly. Duchamp’s work resonates with associative geometries, reflexive conditions, shape-shifting and semiotic extravagances.

But let’s go back to another beginning.  During 1998 I started to create an architectural theoretical project that set itself the following brief:  with a combination of virtual, cyberspace and real-world architectural notions, is it possible to embroider space so that activities elsewhere, at whatever scale, can condition the formation and growth of an architecture?  Such an idea is capable of producing a sublime space that grows and decays, changes and rearranges, that speaks of human beings as actors in a series of linear , non-linear and quantum events.  Small expansions, minute stresses and strains, both virtual and actual, all can be utilised.  This project I have called “Communicating Vessels” and after essentially twelve years, it is ongoing and currently consists of approximately 250 drawings and thousands of words of text, poetry and prose.  It has many interlinked parts all somehow related reflexively and all flirting with the choreography of chance and all rejoicing in Surrealist protocols of space-making and symbolism.  Like the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili this is an unfamiliar terrain and like Duchamp’s large glass activated by desire and this creates the illusive ‘holy gasoline’ that is the ‘fuel’ of the ever shifting system – a cybernetic system.

Many Dada and Surrealist personalities appear fleetingly in the “vessels” and these include Dali, Duchamp, Hugo Ball and the Baroness Elsa Von Freytag- Loringhoven.  But the project is most in debt to Alfred Jarry and his poetic conceit of ’Pataphysics with its three declensions of anomaly, hybridity and  clinamen – the swerve.  The project is often autobiographical and the otherworldly island that most of Communicating Vessels is situated on is run by a strange Professor.  One of the set pieces in the project is the Professor’s Study and it pursues notions of dwelling, mnemonics, virtual/actual parallax and memory theatres.  Like all the pieces of the Communicating Vessels the study is inspired and rubs up against ideas of art history and architectural space and myth-making.

notions and asserts a belief in the following:

1) creative people represent their life-learned epistemologies time and time again in their work ;

2) that they dwell in these epistemologies, that they are them, and them are they;

Objects can transmute creating families of semiotic association.  For example the anemone headed clinamen in my work stands in for the painting machine in Jarry’s Dr Faustroll, Duchamp’s vibrating masculine  malic  moulds in the large glass and Tingely’s metamatic drawing machines.

James Joyce also understands the Room as a witness, chunking engine of memory and the centre of dwelling.  He is the final reference in the study. Here he describes the House of O’Shea in Finnegan’s Wake

“The warped flooring of the lair and sound conducting walls thereof, to say nothing of the uprights and imposts, were persianly lituratured with burst love letters, tell tale stories, stickyback snaps, doubtful eggshells…upset latten tintacks, unused mill and stumbling stones, twisted quills, painful digests, magnifying wineglasses, solid objects cast as goblins, once current puns, quashed quotatoes, messes of motage, unquestionable issue papers, seedy ejaculations, limerick damns, crocodile tears, spilt ink, blasphematory spits, young ladies’ milkmaids’…”

Indeed at the Dali-inspired end of the Study is the Professor’s wallpaper of Shem consisting of some of the Professor’s homely essences of fountainly battles, sceptic plans, scarlet crosses, balls of intellectual fluff, mental chewing gum, bridesmaids trains, Drill alters, Plump black lines, light in the black, Nelson watchers, Pinter Splinters, optimistic commissions, disappointment, drop cutting acridity and phlegm.

William Anastasi’s reading on Finnegan’s Wake sees Alfred Jarry as an important character in Joyce’s masterpiece.  Joyce refers to Jarry as “ me altar’s ego in miniature” and retells or recalls many scenes from Jarry’s life, as well as every novel and major character of Jarry’s.  In addition one of the main characters is Shem, aka Jerry (Jarry). “Me inner man monophone”.

Indeed the Study in intended to describe the Professor’s “Inner man monophone” – For that is all we have. Indeed “rooms” happen outside as well

1.      Frances Colonna, Hypnerotomachia Poliphilo trans Joseph Goodwin (London: Thames and Hudson 1999)

2.      Frances Yates. The Art of Memory (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1966 p123.







Comments are closed.

Copyright 2019 TEKS / A Matter of Feeling · Webmaster & custom web design: Espen Gangvik · RSS Feed · Log in

TEKS - Trondheim Electronic Arts Centre