Divinatory Experiment

by Selah Saterstrom

Opening Note ~
In 1893 Henry C. Wood published one of the first self-help books, IDEAL SUGGESTIONS THROUGH MENTAL PHOTOGRAPHY. Mr. Wood’s theory, coinciding with the advent of photography in popular culture, maintained that one’s brain could photograph positive affirmations or “Ideal Suggestions.” The “solar light” of the camera corrected the “lunar imbalance” of the lunatic or otherwise morally flawed individual. In many asylums it was popular to dress the commited in fancy attire and take their portrait. After, the photographed individual would view their evolved “moral version” as part of their correctional therapy.

Over the last five years, I have watched films while simultaneously photographing them, shooting approximately 450 images per film, as part of a larger installation project concerned with generating a divinatory poetics. While photographing, I attempted (and failed) to memorize the dialogue and storyline, and then narrate each film still. I then put this existing language through an exercise outlined in Henry C. Wood’s book, at times invoking and disrupting his language. After, I “took pictures” of the text/image pieces with my brain, and attempted to be redeemed from various moral flaws, which in turn prompted additional revisions of the text.

In this excerpt, I attempt to recover from love through brain-photographing images from Jeff Kanew’s 1984, Revenge of the Nerds.

Lovers separate. Thought confers realism upon ideal

entities. Or: just plain old piss poor conditions. What we

dwell upon we become, or at least God, if it be God, moves

across the waters. It is easy for God to be morally correct

and also a tattoo of some shitty initials on some girl’s neck.

The vision must be clarified. Do this: through the medium

of the outer eye engrave it on the tablet.

True, forms are built by subtle devices, but are also

shadows. Dust is seized through its living potency and

later it is fashioned. Our materialism upon the seen is so

dull and this whole potluck is lame. Every dish is some

shitty hippie casserole. To build with enduring material we

must build with bones. Here as much as in the hereafter. I

hereby link myself to exuberance. My trust is in what I

cannot see. Through it, I am drained.

Lover is the given name. It represents the type manifested

through a dead body. Both of our bodies are already

within, but remain undiscovered. We were children and

we made children. And are crucified in the lower-self

made through suffering. We rise, resurrection. So just

relax and let me finish the sex act.

The Lover perception is self-evident. We were taught that

only unfolding beings need corrective disciplines, the old

timey growing pains of good. We must have an experience

in matter. Hell is a bunch of fuckin’ junk. In constructing

our water park, we should leave it out. Those words of the

Lover, so often repeated, FEAR NOT, are significant. They

are religious and also scientific.

The fact that I am the Lover’s child dissipates the mist. In a

vastly deeper and more vital sense I am the child of the

Lovers who I also was. We have called ourselves Loretta

and Conway. There is no surer way of becoming so and so

then to think so. The Lover’s image must break in line, fuck

all the others, we are getting to the front.

Selah Saterstrom is the author of SLAB (forthcoming), The Meat and Spirit Plan, and The Pink Institution (all published by Coffee House Press). Her work can be found in Bombay Gin, Tarpaulin Sky, Fourteen Hills, and other places. She teaches and lectures widely and is on faculty in the University of Denver’s graduate creative writing program.

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