the m john harrison blog

Category: the Theory Cadre at the Ambiente Hotel

on the pier

C Pierre & one other (seen here with knitted mermaid) on a recent fact-finding tour of south east coastal towns by a working party of the Architectonics Committee.


Photographs by CB Phillips.

the vacuous-realist image

Alice Finkel writes: “We use the term ‘vacuous-realist’ to describe group photos like these. In a vacuous-realist image, the subjects will always be seen looking, or moving, in different directions. This reveals a startling, hitherto unsuspected lack of coherence to their activities, undercutting our intuitive sense of the structuredness and continuity of human behaviour. But it also enables us to project & manipulate the deep group dynamic.” It’s not possible, Finkel believes, to plan a vacuous-realist shot, “although the accomplished vacuous-realist will have an intuitive grasp of the occasion which might produce one.”

parsing the bedrooms of lily

Imagine this as a photograph found in the usual collapsing shoebox at the usual car boot sale, you know the score by now. The Dali family’s urge towards meaning is as mistaken as your own. Their attempt to force an arrangement on the world by composing themselves in it collides with your attempt to interpret their attempt: in the ensuing confusion, nothing can be understood. It would help just a little if you didn’t see it as a picture of the Dalis–or, especially, of Dali. Everything else in it would begin to matter. The boat, for instance, which you see as leaving rather than arriving, might suddenly become a lot more important.

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.

core membership

(1) R.I. Gaines, a photograph taken in Oaxaca within the last ten years.


A team led by Lisi Fearnall established that the painted image displays “gains & losses of clarity” on a twelve day cycle. (“Though it is always sharper and brighter,” Fearnall reported to a private session of the Steering Committee, “whenever the vehicle is present.” Fearnall, emphasising the complexity of the physics, dismisses the view that R.I. Gaines is actually in the wall.)

& more here.

keep watching the walls

Beige Ops team: we fade into the background. Beige Ops are in the walls. They are in the paint on the walls. Beige Ops are so secret & so pivotal they are in the paint itself. They are in the grains of pigment, and how the grains of pigment arrange themselves. No one sees a Beige Op. No one ever knows if they were part of one. Ask yourself if you are a part of the paint on the walls. There’s no answer to that question. We are all in the most comprehensive Beige Op ever staged. The whole of the 1950s was a Beige Op, run out of a livingroom wall in Harrow. Beige Ops are a decision made by the visible spectrum. Unpredictable but inevitable. Beige Ops are galactic. They are nationwide. Keep watching the walls.


children welcome

Guests, normally kept in the most humane of conditions elsewhere in the hotel, are sometimes encouraged to leave their quarters and practise their skills in the public areas. They are surprisingly gifted! Talents include karaoke, balancing small items on their edges, and a kind of dance particular to the Midlands. Children are always welcome. Here, two guests can be seen enjoying their liberty in the upstairs back bar on Two for One Tuesday–


Well done!