19 October 2011

Stress the Civilization

"Characteristic of such dietetic regimes (régime diétetique) is the view of mushrooms as 'anti-food'. This view is testified to by legends about the fact that at one time, a time prior to the beginning of 'culture' and the emergence of the first culture hero, the ancestors of the given collective ate mushrooms (cf., for example, certain myths of the Mundurucu and Tucuna tribes cited and analyzed by Lévi- Strauss, or Russian nicknames of the type griboedy 'mushroorn-eaters'). Often the refusal to use mushrooms in cooking is connected with one of the first and most important acts of the culture hero of the given tradition and is equated to the transition from the state of 'nature' to that of 'culture'. Mushrooms as food are usually identified with the mold or fungus that, in many versions of such myths, appears on the hero's corpse. Such myths go back to a period prior to agriculture or cuisine, the introduction of which resulted in the formation of the oppositions raw-cooked, rotten-fermented (cf. the opposition honey-beer). From the point of view of the 'culture' as a whole, mushrooms begin to be viewed as something related to death and hunger (as is the case among many South American Indians), as the food of the dead (the Ojibwa Indians), as excrement, often that of celestial objects (e.g. of thunder among the Siciatl or Seechelt Indians, of the rainbow among the Toba Indians and so on). Yet many cultural traditions with such a negative attitude toward mushrooms, once they have made the transition from 'nature' to 'culture', turn to mushrooms with more particular needs. (Cf. the burning of mushrooms for the archetypal conception, a function of sorts, that may be embodied in a whole series of concrete signs, mushrooms being only one of them). If one is attempting to define this function and the conceptions, legends, myths, etc. corresponding to it, then, naturally, one must turn to the whole class of objects which are synonymous (isofunctional) in the given relation. In general, we can state that the objects are chosen in such a way that the opposition of active, penetrating and passive, penetrated (receptive) principles is particularly underscored. Such a structure permits one to define the function and pragmatics of this entire relation as the overcoming of disconnectedness, the achievement of a state of unity, of primeval fullness and self-sufficiency." Leaving aside for the moment an examination of these two principles, it is sufficient to limit ourselves here to three remarks.
The first of them has the aim of establishing a certain temporal reference point in the development of these forms (convex: concave, round: pointed, and the like). This has to do with the fact that the ancient megalithic culture reflected by monuments extending in space from the Mediterranean to India, Tibet, China and Indochina, used objects which embody these oppositions. The evolution of these objects led to the appearance of such structures as the stupa, the pagoda, and so on, on the one hand, and the pillar, the pole, the scepter, the Vajra, and so on, on the other hand. (It should be emphasized that both types of objects have a direct relation to funerals and weddings.) Moreover, in several traditions the semantics of these objects was preserved with extreme clarity; cf. the distinctly expressed phallic meaning of the pole Ma-ni or its diachronic variant, the arrow, the spear, and so on, in Tibet. (Incidentally, one or another of such forms may have entered as well into a set of other identifications.)
The second remark relates to the umbrella or parasol as the isofunctional object which is most clearly linked with mushrooms. Inasmuch as the identification of these two objects assumes, in many cases, a sufficiently direct character (cf. the names of mushrooms,' riddles," symbolism," and so on), the complementary data relating to the image of the parasol and its unconscious reflections in mythology and symbolism may be used, albeit with care, in a semiotic analysis of the image of mushrooms as well.
The third and last remark is aimed at directing attention toward the purely hypothetical, but in principle quite important, assumption that visual images for the convex and concave, which are constructed by identical forms conversely positioned to form an opposition, may corre- spond to linguistic expressions built precisely according to the same principle and used correspondingly as names of mushrooms. Moreover, in some cases, it is quite probable that such 'converse' linguistic expressions were used precisely for the differentiation of 'masculine' and feminine' types of mushrooms. We have in mind the successors in various languages of two nostratic roots which are in a relation of metathesis one to the other, namely *b/p-N-g/k-:*g/k-N-b/p- (where N is a nasal irchephoneme) or, on the Indo-European level, *bhoNg-:*goNbh-. Cf., on the one hand, Uralic *paqg-1*poqg- (cf. Mordvin [Mordva] payga, o, Cheremis [Mari] poyge, pagge, Hanty Ostyak [Khanty] poyx, payx, yga, Vogul [Mansi] paqx, pi,7ka), Paleosiberian *poy (cf. Ket haYgo, Yukagir [Odul], Chukchi, Koryak, Kamchadal [Itelman], and others, all extinct)," Indo-European - Ancient Greek u7r6yyoq, u7r6yyq, o-(p6yyoq, Latinfungus, and so on, and, on the other hand, Slavic gpba (Old Indic gabhd-), Hungarian gomba (cf. bolondgomba 'mad mushroom', similarly German Narrenschwamm, Serbo-Croatian ljula g1jiva, and so on), Lithuanian guthb(r)as, Old Icelandic kumbr, and others. In the capacity of io paUg pa semantically marked members, cf. Ket haygo in connection with the igend mentioned above and Slavic gpba in its two meanings. If this hypothesis is correct, it opens the way toward the explanation of a series of other words which, until now, have also remained etymologically unclear. Finally, it is not to be excluded that words of this root may occur in other languages as well."

—V. N. Toporov "On the semiotics of mythological conceptions about mushrooms"


Michel Rennie said...

I remember reading this website a long time ago late 90's, I liked it very much but then I like all kinds of arts no matter how good or bad it is.But then I haven't read it since then so am left with only memories of this and other art websites as their isn't any way for me too find out where I can purchase art at any store in Toronto, as I don't like buy forgeries because the quality can be dreadful. So if anyone knows where I can purchase arts from a store around the city it would be a great relief to me. As I have been getting my self up to date on Artforum about these arts and learning more about the artists I admired as a teen I thought that I could get someone in the KNOW to help me locate some of the arts I would like to see again. Like I said before I have some low budget compilations of art but am searching for more.

Anonymous said...

you've come to the right place Michel