RESPONSE #2 Florian Roithmayr

Foraminifera model, one of twenty-six, Grant Museum of Zoology

Foraminifera model, one of twenty-six, Grant Museum of Zoology

From the start it already felt like attending to them. Even before my attention was so deliberately brought to the front of everything. And it’s them all, as in all of them, a group, for there are 26 and it would not do to single one of them out. 07/26 –what would that mean?*
But to return to attending to them, or more precisely, to attention, my attention, as it was evoked by the Order Of The Third Bird. A series of exercises to be carried out in sequence to develop my faculty of attention.
Harder than one might think.
But there were guidelines, some for approaching, some for dismissing, and some for turning my back.

How to surrender?
For the sake of practice, the proceedings engaged with a ten-pound note, presented to us on the table. But already this caused great disarray, as I didn’t quite comprehend how it came I know which table. And which note to attend to.
Damn instinct.
But of course, it wasn’t just me attending. And thinking back it’s clear that it immediately became a group decision, which table and which note to attend to, i.e. for the former, the one everyone went for, and for the latter, the one nobody else went for.
There you are.
And me too.
Shall try and love you now?
Oh no!
Better just to take note for now: there is this and that of course, and at first, I attempt to consolidate what I notice, the front and the back maybe, a bit of folding and the two faces appear next to each other. But it still doesn’t really add up, and my impulse, predictably, is to just rip the note in half. And it’s here that I notice how intense my involvement has already become, how entangled I am on many different levels with the note in front of me.
Here, I fail entirely to get over myself.
What I set out to do – encountering this thing as a device that bridges and so registers the chronology linking who has handled the note before to me handling it now – is completely blocked out by my own investment.
Did I forget what I set out to do? Is that it?
Of course, it’s not the note I didn’t notice: as object of exchange, passing from hand to hand, as was indeed noticed as well, it is a perfect example. What pushed out any sense of someone else some time before was everyone else here in the present. The sensation of the group’s focus, each one individually attentive, but paying this attention collectively,** drowned out all registers of a previous elsewhere.
I couldn’t see beyond.***

* My object is really a group of 26 plaster models of foraminifera and, of course, their biographies proceed them and continuously weaves around them, as much as I try to resist. But these are other stories, for now, not to be confused with what’s in front of me.

** When I first visited my group of foraminifera models, placed on a table in the Grant Museum of Zoology, they were nodding their approval. Carefully mounted on wires and secured to wooden blocks, they responded to my movements of the pen across the pages of my notebook by moving their plaster tops in unison, left to right, front to back. Yes, yes, yes! they seemed to signal, just keep on writing, it’s all true. All 26 of them, because they seemed to be doing things together.

*** It has to be noted that the following evening, I was invited once more by the Order Of The Third Bird for a group exercise on the faculty of seeing in reference to Aldous Huxley’s instructions in The Art Of Seeing – An Adventure In Re-Education.

One response to “PAYING ATTENTION TOGETHER – Florian Roithmayr

  1. Your phrase ‘I fail entirely to get over myself’ seems really apt Florian. I think what bothered me with the exercise was the attempt to make the object entirely about our single relationship with it, when actually the interest is in myriad relationships both historical and modern?

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