encyclopedia of the second hand: evocation


     Let's say door.

     A poor enough object.  Not a thing you are inclined  to

study  with too much attention.  I can imagine missing  this

room someday, but not the door to this room.

     So  in the sense of not being overloaded with  meaning,

the door is the thing.

     Because  this  is how it is, this is what I  am  doing. 

I've  tried  to explain the project to people and a  lot  of

them  don't  see  it, so I feel like  damn  it,  this  isn't

incomprehensible.  There is a method here and I can  explain


     I  go through this routine.  I write a word down, or  I

daydream and I think of a thing. For instance, I look up and

I see the door of my room and I think, door.  Then I let the

image, or the word - and at this point these things are very

close  together  - act as an agent of evocation.  I  let  my

mind wander through a list of doors, remembered doors.

     In  one  way, this is a simple  procedure  embodied  in

other  aspects  of my life.  For instance, when  I  want  to

define a term to somebody who doesn't know it, I often  find

myself  running  through  a list.  It might  be  a  list  of

examples,  or it might be a list of synonyms.   Usually  the

person I am talking to will get it, the way a person gets  a

joke.   The  getting  of  it will  be  the  moment  of  that

transformation  which  happens in the world  when  the   the

unfamiliar becomes, suddenly, familiar - which includes such

situations  as recognizing a street as well  as  recognizing

that something is funny.  And what the person gets, and what

I  have  been  trying to get at, is that  there  is  a  list

principle, something that holds together my list of examples

or  synonyms and makes them relevant. The relevance of  each

item  on  the list is the voucher that  each  item  silently

holds that makes them eligible to be on the list, and it  is

with  reference to that voucher that I would know if one  of

the items shouldn't be on the list.

     But there is a difference between the grocery list  you

took  to the store with you and the grocery sack you  unload

in  the kitchen.  You don't peer into the sack and say,  ah,

I've bought the list.  No, the list is to help you  remember

to buy milk, butter, eggs, bread, etc.  The question is, are

the  memory  images  that you call up  when  you  decide  to

remember  doors the type of things that are more like  items

on  a list, or are they the type of things that lists  refer

     Insofar as the things I am remembering are like  things

on a list, they are like terms.  Now terms usually  function

in  syntactic structures to give meaning.  They are part  of

statements  and  questions,  they are  parts  of  linguistic

structures which say things about the world.  My  comparison

of  memory  images  of such things as doors  to  terms  does

extend, actually, beyond the fact that both terms and images

function   in  syntactically  simple  lists  to  include   a

similarity  in  the  way in which  they  function  within  a

semantic  ecology, an environment of references. The  memory

of this door or that door refers to something outside of the

memory, namely the door.