the Theory Cadre

(1) the Theory Cadre in Snowdonia

In its earliest years, Michael Jackson & Mickey Rourke committed the Ambiente Hotel’s shadowy but powerful Theory Cadre to a regime of Crowleyism, mechanical engineering & systemic self-doubt. The accompanying docufictional image restages a crucial moment from the 1948 May Day Phenomenology Camp: an anonymous member of what was then little more than a clique retreats down the Watkins Path from “a sudden organic lurching movement half-glimpsed along the lowering ridgeline”. “Several hanging cubical structures,” AE Fenell was later to recall, “were observed briefly during a lightning storm around the isloated peak of Yr Aran.” On the same day some younger members of the Camp, tragically decoding Rourke’s shopping list as an instruction, became disoriented & committed political suicide by simultaneously immersing one another in one of the deeper pools of the Afon Cwm Llan. [Photograph & text courtesy Alice E Fennel, both from her forthcoming monograph "Actioning the Optimal: The Theory Cadre in Wales".]

(2) more on the Theory Cadre

B writes, of my recent post the Theory Cadre in Snowdonia, “Mike, although a ‘docufictional image’ is mentioned, there’s no picture here.”

Yes, B, there is a picture. But the Theory Cadre, unwilling to give away anything of itself even in such a deliberately revelatory document, has encoded it as text. Another way to look at this is that while the image exists, but is not present, “AE Fenell” does not, & yet is.

Ellis van Fenel

In 1979 someone calling herself “Alicia Feignall” addressed the guests at the Ambiente Hotel from this location in the old kitchen garden.

(3) room 121 at the Ambiente Hotel

While endeavouring to stamp down the cracked & buckled lino in the first floor corridor I heard voices from Mrs Decateur’s old room, number 121. When I put my ear to the door, they stopped. It was Tuesday, & the wind was rattling the balconies on that side of the building, bringing with it the sound of a siren, the faint yellow wail of a saxophone from one of the Parton Street bars. Flipping the cover off my uncle Maria’s tarnished old silver hunter, I turned it so that its dial caught the forty watt light: exactly two nineteen. Ah, I thought, so the rumours are unfounded. The Theory Cadre was back.

I made my way quietly down to the lobby & later sent Fleur, the girl who works in the back bar, up to 121 with a bottle of sixty year old British sherry & as many clean glasses as she could find. At midnight the lobby phone rang three times. I let a minute go by, then picked it up and said, “Hello, Alice.”

(4) “windows” in the 121/125 stub corridor

Elements of the Theory Cadre believe that the structure of the hotel is rather older than appears. Speculation centres on the short corridor behind rooms 121 to 125, which is reached at one end from the rear stairwell & from the other by a flight of five descending stone steps, themselves perhaps the remains of a wider, older staircase. While this corridor is presently windowless, two or three tall, incomplete framelike structures can be detected beneath the plaster of the inner wall. “Is it possible,” Alyssia Fignall asks, in the forty second edition of Wallpaper, the Architectonics Committee Journal, “that the 121/125 stub once gave on to a courtyard ?” Unless this proves to be the case, she continues, the opposite conclusion–that an internal wall once looked outward–is “as inescapable as it is impermissible.”
Meanwhile, within the Architectonics Committee, a closed group consisting mainly of materials-technology students has already begun to discuss the possibility that an entirely different building occupied the ground as recently as twenty years ago.

(5) a key event in room 121

Incidences of telekinesis disturb the hotel at night, rearranging small objects, papers, items of clothing. A pair of shoes moves an inch to the left. A cupboard door is rattled so quietly that no one wakes. Bunches of keys, placed on their hooks in Reception in the early evening, are discovered under a breakfast table at eight am. Some objects are moved once, others several times across two or three nights. “An intellectual history founded on anthropocentrism,” writes Alicia Fennec in the Theory Cadre journal, “encourages us to think of telekinesis as caused. In fact these events occur without agency, intent or telos. They are not communications. They do not support a ‘story’.” Tiny changes of air currents are recorded at the base of the kitchen range. A computer, switched off at eleven, is switched on again by seven. A brief flash of light is observed to have occurred in an empty fourth-floor bathroom.

For several weeks, waves of improbability ripple nightly along the corridor outside Room 121 &, meeting the back bar staircase, which seems to act as a barrier, disperse.

(6) the Guests at the Ambiente Hotel

A reader from Leicestershire asks, Why are guests seen so rarely at the hotel ? Reader, there are plenty of guests, but you only see them when you first arrive! The rest of the time they are stored in humane conditions.

Deployed primarily in the dining room and the lobby, the guests in this picture are for the most part kept underground. Of the guest problematic, AE Funnel has written recently: “Their hold on reality is tenuous. Although there is a sadness to their voracity & yearning, the behaviour of guests resembles that of any other flock or swarm. They pour constantly through a given room even though there is only one of them resident at a time. To the long term habitues of the hotel,” she concludes, “they don’t seem very robust.” For this reason, never address a guest seen in a corridor late at night.

(7) a hotel christmas

The permanent residents at the Ambiente Hotel will be looking forward even more keenly than usual to both Christmas dinner in the Function Room & the traditional Boxing Day immanence vs transcendence debate (taking place this year in the downstairs back bar). Best of luck to everyone! Left: Alyssia Fignall is seen discussing the Christmas menu with an unnamed member of the Architectonics Committee. Below: A view of the Function Room windows, as viewed from the pavement in Codmorton Street.

(8) the guest in room 444

K, who for some years has lived on the fourth floor rear corridor of the hotel’s retirement wing, attributes an unremitting depressive disorder to (a) birth at the outset of the “atomic age”, (b) secondary school food in 1957, (c) the decaying John Calder publications which even now take up sixty percent of the bookshelves in Room 444. But the event that most shaped his view of the world was, indirectly, the death of Sacheverell Sitwell. Faced with the incompleteness of Journey to the Ends of Time, K’s intellect–such as it was– became trapped forever in the first & only volume, a book he can’t remember except by its dustjacket, which featured the layered colours of a dull yet ferocious sunset.

(9) the library at the Ambiente Hotel

For some years a sub-basement beneath the hotel’s parking facility was used to store texts generated by the guests. These, ranging from thin volumes of verse to literary horror novels the thousand pages of which might be read in any order, were discovered in predictable circumstances: an immaculately tidy room with fifty years of stored nail clippings & a mysteriously opened window; urgent written or recorded warnings against reading or even turning the pages of the manuscript; the death, wandering off or unexplained evaporation of the writer in circumstances which suggested they too had been an item in a text. During the pre-war period, the Theory Cadre threw open this library three times a year, but though its contents drew visitors from most major universities, no scholarship emerged & in May 1946 the sub-basement, along with the passage that leads to it, was sealed.Elements of the Closed Architectonics Committee of the Theory Cadre visit Le Tourniquet, circa 1930.

(10) broken symmetries

The poet Kenneth Patchen’s function in the Cadre has been debated since the 1940s. Was he a member ? Was he, as RI Gaines suggests in issue 7 of Wall Mart, a founder member ? The appearance in the Library of Patchen’s magnum opus after the sub-basement door was sealed (see left) suggests otherwise. But Alexia Ficknow puts it best when she writes: “In those days a door might be sealed by the Architectonics Committee, but no door was ever sealed to the Architectonics Committee.” And we are left with the following tantalising passage from the manuscript itself: “…pimps, pickpockets, carpenters, finger-men, chorus dolls, housekeepers, second story men, watchmen, cops, priests, soldiers–Mildred–The Dwarf–The Man In The Palm Beach Suit–The Masked Man In The Car–the story that was coming to life under his fingers… Truth cannot be symmetrical, he told himself. As he rounded the hill, he saw all of them down there below him. Not one of them but would die. He had seen no danger in toying with them like a monster cat in a box of mice. But their cries were beginning to worry him.” –Kenneth Patchen, The Journey of Albion Moonlight, KP’s italics, AF’s ellipsis.

(11) occupant of room 121

Few medical procedures are neccessary to maintain an occupancy once it is established. A bucket of disinfectant every two days, one or two injections of penicillin. The wiring, the other technical procedures, even the selection of the original subject all seem to have a preservative effect. What is meant by this ? Well, not simply that the more durable guests are chosen. In fact the reverse can be said: being chosen actually confers a quality of spiritual endurance the guest may not have possessed in ordinary life. Of course a certain physical toughness is also necessary, and guests can often surprise in that respect. Some won’t survive the first two or three days; those I always recognise, and dispose of quickly. But others seem so frail and last so long.

The original posts, with their comments, can be found here. The Ambiente Hotel will continue to open its doors to everyone, but please avoid the second floor back bar when the sign is up.

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