On Numinous Objects and Their Manufacture

(Part One of a Potentially Endless Work)

By Peter Blegvad (Amateur)

acompanying graphics
Morphological Key (74k JPEG)
First Morphological Table (62k JPEG) Second Morphological Table (62k JPEG)
Third Morphological Table (77k JPEG)

Objects proliferate as never before, but they are mostly dead husks, the shells of things, wherein no daemon (1). resides. We own them merely, or covet them, we are not nourished. Meanwhile, the fundamental appetite for numinous (2) objects grows ravenous. Nevermind that it remains unconscious in most citizens and unacknowledged by the authorities. Only numinous objects can make possible the communication between people and so-called "dead matter" (3). which must be established if we wish to avert calamity.

I am not here referring to fetishes, which are a means to evoke a system of belief and not properly ends in themselves. Nor am I referring to fantasy constructs like, for example, a fine thing, but it is only feebly numinous compared to a block of sodium in a meadow, its edges mollified by the tongues of cows into a lopsided loaf like snow. And, while my more sceptical readers my scoff, it is a fact that if this salt-lick be removed from the meadow and placed in a confined enclosure or, better still, sealed into a lead container, its numinous charge will be boosted many fold (4). It may be, as some have theorized, that the object, "au naturel" or in its "accumulator" (5) is numinous to the degree that it functions as a "mirror of the spirit", to the degree that you or I can imaginatively see something of ourselves, something we do not ordinarily have a name for or an image of, made objective in it. That salt can function as a mirror of anything, especially when sealed in lead, will smack of blatant hocus-pocus to the sceptics - but it is in such unlikely ways that the imagination actually works.

A numinous object is charged like a condenser. It distorts induction and resonates ambiguously. In Surrealist parlance, it is "convulsive", with the power to abrogate definition from its surroundings and become the solitary and radiant focus, the omphalos or navel, of an entire world. An object with sufficient numinous charge can stop time.

The numinous objects which already exist in our environment are easily overlooked by our harrassed and addled species. Education is the remedy, teaching people of all ages to resist distraction and become sensitive to the subtle radiation emanating from these items (which often masquerade as common refuse on the street). I imagine students returning, bright - eyed and exultant, from expedition to dumps, factories, zoos, firing-ranges, hospitals, quarries, ships, farms, forests, cinemas, circuses, cemetaries, and recording studios with their eclectic spoil. Objects thus collected would be tested, graded and catalogued before being made available to the public from a chain of lending libraries.

Besides numinous "found objects", fresh numinous objects must be manufactured. To meet this need a new science is being evolved here at the offices of Amateur. The plates which follow illustrate the first phase of this work: discovering the morphologies or forms most conducive to numinosity, I am still compiling the list of materials of which these forms or objects might be compounded. The selection is vast, and the distinction is critical, in terms of numinosity, between a ball, let us say, of snow, and one the same size, made of, for example, soluble glass (6) - although both balls, viewed from a certain distance, might otherwise be twins.

How would an alchemist seeking the lapis or Philosophers Stone picture it in his mind? (The Tractatus aureus says the precious Stone is "altogether vile", but aside from that...) Would he imagine an amorphous lump, a perfect sphere, or brick? Would it be oily or dry, dull or polished, cold or warm to the touch? Would it be fused into a dense solid or porous, ventilated like a honeycomb? Such grossly materialistic speculations demean the spiritual associations the stone evokes, no doubt, but in seeking the recipe for numinous objects I have found it useful to ask myself such questions...
To return to the morphologies - I have deliberately restricted the choice to basic forms and objects, at least for my first tentative experiments. If an object can be inserted into the phrase "the object is _______-shaped", (e.g. cigar, bullet, barrel, or teardrop-shaped) it will usually qualify for selection. Other objects qualify as nearly archetypal "signs for themselves" (e.g. gallows or gibbett, coffin, and house (7) ). It is a basic "building block" quality that I seek. Certain forms, by their inclusion, automatically disqualify others. Hourglass, for instance, renders dumbell superfluous, because the latter is too nearly the former on its side.

I have seperated the forms and objects into three categories: those composed entirely of straight lines ("Straight"); those in whose lineaments curves and circles are involved ("Curved"); and, lastly, those indefinite units of matter, the humble blob, chunk, chip, lump, heap, hill etc which, while sometimes suggesting the quantity of matter involved, do not imply more than a very approximate form ("Amorphous"). The reader will notice that some two-dimensional figures have been included on the Tables, and even a few negative shapes (holes, cracks, and crenellations). They are there because it seems certain that an aperture or apertures could contribute to the numinosity of an object, and that a two-dimensioanal tattooo or other type of marking might do likewise.

Many forms and objects are missing that should be included. Some of the forms currently under consideration are pictured on the last page of this article. Should more letter-shapes qualify? L,T,V,O,S,U,X and Z now seem to me to be all basic forms, maybe the rest are too. Sometimes I wonder if a numinous object could not therefore be a word...

It may transpire that unless I find the appropriate context in which to place a finished object, it will not "convulse", it's numinosity will remain dormant. Conventional gallery design since the middle of the century would indicate that the aesthetic qualities of an art object are supposedly savored best in an antiseptic interior and under electric lamplight. But an object such as I propose to maunfacture, and which I do not think of simply as "art", might requuire a specific site, a specific hour of day or night, specific support "props", weather conditions, and so on before "its soul, its whatness, leaps to us from the vestment of its appearance" (8) and it becomes numinous.

reproduced here with permission from Peter Blegvad and assistance from Phil Zampino.