Visual and Biological

One imagines festivals like Burning Man. One imagines the lost world of labyrinth walking. Tracing a path as a means not to forget.

These thoughts were inspired by Bruce Brown “Memory Maps and the Nazca” in Reframing Consciousness where he revisits the landscape of ancient Peru to draw us into a practice of cultural transmission formidable in its scope …

The most dramatic example example of this process can be seen in the gigantic drawings made by earlier Nazca cultures on their desert pampas. These enormous images of birds, animals and fish were not intended to be looked at by some other being. They were intended to be transported from desert surface into the memory landscape of each person. A closer look will show that each drawing is made from one continuous line. Each a processional route to be walked, not to be looked at or seen. And the proportions of each line conformed to the digital mnemonic of all other structures in the culture. By walking over the surface of each symbol, the digital information it contained would be transported into the memory of each person with the images finally being held within the landscape of memory.

The explanation of the Nazca lines bolsters the take later in the article on the transition from oral to literate culture in the West (a take that eschews that brand of technodeterminism that one associates with McLuhan).

The invention of the printing press also saw the end of a tradition whereby objects and buildings were seen as texts. For example, it was no longer necessary for the side of a bowl or the wall of a church or cathedral to visualise a story from the Bible when it could be read in book form. So the role of objects and images as carriers of knowledge began to decline. And this gradual loss of our capacity to handle visual language resulted in a progressive erosion of our ability to design and navigate biological memory.

Pattern recognition, implanting information in the pattern, retrieval. What seems to mediate visual language and biological memory is tactile or kinesthetic manipulation. Famous slogan: “Let your fingers do the walking”. Automatism. Even stronger associations can be built with tactile and sonic processing of visual material. Mantra. Mandala. Mala. (Keyboard, screen, speakers). A constant sensory translation to register what is not to be forgotten.

And so for day 355

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