(Roughly) Daily

“I went to the museum where they had all the heads and arms from the statues that are in all the other museums”*…


The [Metropolitan Museum of Art] has entered the age of Big Data, and the catalogs have become a database. In December of last year, the museum uploaded its master spreadsheet, “MetObjects,” to a repository on GitHub, an online data and code repository; the version I’ll use here, uploaded on March 13, contains 446,123 objects. It’s a data set born of paint and pens, of scepters and swords…

When taken as a whole, the database reveals the Met’s cultural double helix. One strand is the institutional history of the Met, probably the single most important museum in the country. All of its global ambitions are present: its deals with foreign governments, its curatorial preferences, its big-dollar gifts and funding, its public failings. The other strand is the geopolitical history of the world: the rise and fall of empires, conquest and killing, natural disaster and migration, industrial revolution and invention. Together, those two strands form the Met’s DNA…

Now, thanks to FiveThirtyEight, you can see those genes– the Met’s collection– “sequenced” at “An Excavation Of One Of The World’s Greatest Art Collections.”

* Steven Wright


As we opt for the audio guide, we might recall that it was on this date in 1893, in the text of Alfred Jarry’s play Guignol in L’Écho de Paris littéraire illustré, that the term– and the concept of– ‘pataphysics first appeared.  Jarry defined ‘pataphysics (derived from a contracted Greek formation that means “that which is above metaphysics”) as “the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.”  Jarry insisted on the inclusion of the apostrophe in the orthography, ‘pataphysique and ‘pataphysics, “to avoid a simple pun”… indeed Jarry’s aim was to compound the puns:  The term pataphysics is a paronym (considered a kind of pun in French) of metaphysics. Since the apostrophe in no way affects the meaning or pronunciation of pataphysics, this spelling of the term is a signal–a sly notation– to the reader, suggesting a variety of puns, among them patte à physique (“physics paw”), pas ta physique (“not your physics”), and pâte à physique (“physics pastry dough”).

Jarry’s concept was resurrected after World War II  with the foundation (in 1948) of The Collège de ‘Pataphysique, a “society committed to learned and inutilious research” (“inutilious” = “useless”).  Its members have included  Raymond Queneau, Eugène Ionesco, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Julien Torma, Roger Shattuck, Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx, and Marcel Duchamp.

Alfred Jarry


Written by LW

April 28, 2017 at 1:01 am

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