Matthijs van Boxsel (1957, Amsterdam) is a Dutch writer, speaker and a “stupid sage” (someone with wisdom on stupidity). He graduated in 1983 Cum Laude at the university of Amsterdam in Literary Sciences with a thesis on the subject “stupidity”. His most important work is Encyclopedie van de Domheid (the Encyclopedia of Stupidity). Matthijs is regent of Collège de 'Pataphysique, an institute for 'patafysica, editor in chief of De Centrifuge, Orgaan van de Nederlandse Academie voor 'Patafysica (Organ of the Dutch Academy for ‘Patafysica) en gives lectures and workshops on stupidity and the 'Patafysica in the Netherlands and abroad. He published in De Held, Raster, Ästhetik und Kommunikation, de Revisor, De Witte Raaf, Trouw, Les Cahiers du Collège de 'Pataphysique, Le Correspondancier, Tirade, de Gids and DWB.
Matthijs van Boxsel
Panamarenko and the Morosophics
Driven by the pleasure derived from useless erudition, I’ve been collecting research studies that, due to their complete and utter idiosyncratic nature, have never been linked to any tradition whatsoever. Grouped together, these unsung theories comprise a new field of epistemology: morosophy. Morosophy literally means foolish wisdom or wise foolishness. The morosopher’s wisdom is delusional, creating obviously absurd theories on existence. Unlike mediocre theories constructed by New Age gurus, ufologists, creationists, etcetera; morophist studies are so unusual that they’re ricocheted into the realm of the literary, granting them the title Fous Littéraires in France.
Morosophists deliver outrageous answers to burning questions. Is the earth flat? Was Dutch spoken in paradise? Are atoms spaceships? Is the world entering the Lilac phase?
The Morosophist is always someone whose world has fallen to pieces by a shocking event. With his theory, he manages to rebuild a new universe out of the ruins through which he can, once again, find control over his surroundings. His theories are not fuelled by a search for a higher truth, but by the desire to cope with existence. They are not patients, but are instead held sane by the belief in their delusion. Nor do they live in a world of dreams, but lead a normal life thanks to their fantastical belief in the idiotic.
At this point do we arrive at the most important characteristic of the morosophist: his ability to lead a normal life while being absolutely committed to an absurd theory. The originality of the morosopher stems from a life lived in two worlds, each with its own system of thought. With surprising ease, they alternate between the world of magic and the world of the every day.
AE. Ing. Panamarenko
The Belgian theoriest and artist Panamarenko designs enormous flying machines with magical names such as General Spinaxis, U-Kontrol III, and Meganeudon.
Städtische Galerie, Bremen
Like Leonardo da Vinci, he can be categorized in the tradition of those who unsuccessfully attempt flying. Da Vinci’s projects retain their poetic value up until today, despite their total lack of scientific value.
The catalogues paint Panamarenko’s primitivism as a poetic protest against the “coldness” of modern technology and the inability for the everyman to grasp it. Or that he’s motivated by the nostalgia for a mythical era in which science was still a personal adventure.
But all this is nonsense, as is evidenced by the thousands of pages scrawled full of Panamerenko’s quasi-scientific calculations.
The morosophist explores areas that are uncharted by the delineations of science. Their work grants us a glimpse of a universe that runs parallel to the official, recognised truths. Morosophy releases us from the acceptance of a world vision that we often see as the only correct and possible one.
The Frog Prince
On Sunday, April 13 1913 Brisset arrives in Paris, shortly after his coronation as the Prince of Thinkers for his discovery on linguistic grounds that man descends from the frog. In Hôtel des Sociétés Savants, Bisset delivers a public lecture named The True Doctrine. In the small hall, more than eight hundred spectators struggle to fit in as the Prince of Thinkers unfolds his great metaphysical theory on the ‘batraccic’ descent of man.
Brisset relates how he spent evening after evening sitting by the swamps of Saint-Serge to learn the language of the frogs:
Gradually, Bisset understood that man came to being when the frog started to develop visible sexual characteristics. This was coupled with the development of language.
‘The emergence of gender in this ancestor was the new development which changed the sound of the frog, and gave it its already perfect accuracy. In that moment the current words arose, and have not changed ever since.’
Brisset proves his theorem with a series of deductions:
'Quel sexe est que j’ai?/What sex do I have? Que excès que ça!/What excess! Qu’est-ce?/What is it? que sexe a? Qu’ai? que sexe a? Kékséksa? […] Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça? These analyses by themselves suffice to show, with the infallible Law that leads us in our efforts, that our most impertinent question was born in creatures who developed sex organs and knew nothing of this exe-crescence, of this exe-tension.’
Unfortunately, this wealth is only accessible to French speakers. Brisset says in this respect that his work is untranslatable, which is peculiar for somebody who searches for the common primordial language of man. However, every language can be dissected according to the Law, and so different aspects of our past will continue to surface.
‘The one who said for the first time: Je m’examinai/ I examine myself, in fact said: J’ai mon sexe à la main/ I have my sex in my hand’. Study of the sexual organ (examen du sexe) is also the first thing that occurs as one is born into the world naked.
And the hall responds to Brisset’s elucidations with spontaneous croaking.
A camel is a horse designed by a committee
I owe my first encounters with the frog theory of Brisset (a man who was declared Prince of Thinkers for having proved on linguistic grounds that man descends from the frog) to ’Pataphysics, the science of imaginary solutions that has been developed by the French writer Alfred Jarry (1873-1907). ’Pataphysics plays with philosophical notions, scientific discoveries and technical attainments. In this way Jarry invented a de-braining machine, developed Perpetual-Motion-Food, and calculated the surface of God.
Jarry was not only influenced by the sciences, but also by morosophers like Brisset. And Victor Fournié who claimed that the same sound has the same meaning in all languages, brought Jarry to the fundamental insight that IN-DUS-TRY means one-two-three, in all languages.
’Pataphysics is, in the first place, a science; according to Jarry it is science par excellence.
The NAP approaches all phenomena with the same curiosity. Everything is investigated for its unique natural laws, for what makes it something exceptional and monstrous. Every ordering produces its exemplary demons, but even order itself is monstrous. According to Jarry, monstrosity defines beauty. Every aesthetic theory is a teratology. Bâtaphysics holds that nothing normal or abnormal exists, every event is equally monstrous ergo beautiful.
‘A camel is a horse designed by a committee.’ If necessary, the NAP single-handedly creates the deserts in which the camel appears to be the ideal animal.
Bâtaphysicians appreciate time, space, identity, profession, nationality and other beacons that man steers by in daily life as imaginary solutions. If bâtaphysicians use a pseudonym, a mask or a disguise, if they pass beyond trodden pathways, or if they use a different calendar, it is therefore no protest against the status quo, but an attempt to taste and challenge the bâtaphysical character of existence.
Bâtaphysics solves problems that are experienced as problematic by nobody. Moreover, Bâtaphysics is like Expertology in that it frees us from problems by turning them into emblems, into polyhedrons of ideas.
’Pataphysics was born out of a fertile mixture of science, faith, art and morosophy; in other words, these signs of human inventiveness are pataphysical attempts to get to grips with the idiocy of existence.
On the one hand, ’Pataphysics can lead to remarkable creations. On the other hand, ’Pataphysics stands for an ethos. ’Pataphysics is no philosophy or literary view, but a perspective. Put more strongly: ’Pataphysics has to be lived by first and foremost. This does not mean that you display eccentric behaviour, but that you are aware in your every act, no matter how banal, of the pataphysical character of what you do and think.
You can thus write most ordinary books, go to church, have intercourse, be married, read the papers and still be a pataphysician. It is not about a resigned detachment, nor is it about an ‘innere Emigration’ or postmodern irony, but about an awareness of the fantastic nature of your behaviour and a keen eye for the exceptionality (idiocy) of even the most common routine. In other words: the world is really the true Academy for ’Pataphysics. Everyone and everything is pataphysical, the only difference is between those who are aware and those who are not. A difference of almost nothing makes a whole world of difference: routine that is approached ignorantly and passively numbs the mind, but the same routine experienced with an awareness of the inherently pataphysical character of it can lead to enthusiasm, even ecstasy.