What is the College of ’Pataphysics?
The vastest and most profound of Sciences, that which indeed contains all the others within itself whether they want it or not, ’Pataphysics or the science of imaginary solutions was illustrated by Alfred Jarry in the admirable person of Doctor Faustroll. The Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, Pataphysician, written in 1897-1898 and first published in 1911 (after Jarry’s death), contain both the Principles and the Purposes of ’Pataphysics, science of the particular, science of exceptions (it being clearly understood of course, that the world contains nothing except exceptions, and that a “rule” is precisely an exception to the exception; as for the universe, Faustroll defined it as “that which is the exception to oneself”.
The Science, to which Jarry dedicated his life, is practised unwittingly by all mankind. Human beings could more easily dispense with breathing than with Pataphysics. We find ’Pataphysics in the Exact and Inexact Sciences (though nobody admits it), in the Fine Arts and the Foul Arts, in every kind of Literary Activity. Open the newspaper, turn on the radio or television, explore the Internet, speak :
’Pataphysics is the very substance of this world.
The Collège de ‘Pataphysique, founded in 1948 in Paris, France, is a “society committed to learned and inutilious research”. (The word ‘inutilious’ is synonymous with ‘useless’.) The motto of the college is Latin: Eadem mutata resurgo (“I arise again the same though changed”), and its current Vice-Curator is Her Magnificence Lutembi – a crocodile. The permanent head of the college is the fictional Dr. Faustroll (Inamovable Curator), with assistance of the equally fictional Bosse-de-Nage (Starosta). The Vice-Curator is as such the “first and most senior living entity” in the college’s hierarchy. Publications of the college, generally called Latin: Viridis Candela (“green candle”), include the Cahiers, Dossiers and the Subsidia Pataphysica. The college stopped its public activities between 1975 and 2000, referred to as its occultation. Notable members have included Noël Arnaud, Luc Étienne, Latis, François Le Lionnais, Jean Lescure, Raymond Queneau, Boris Vian, Eugène Ionesco, Jacques Carelman, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Julien Torma, Roger Shattuck, Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx, Baron Jean Mollet, Irénée Louis Sandomir, Opach and Marcel Duchamp. The Oulipo began as a subcommittee of the college.
The College of ’Pataphysics study these most important and serious of all problems : the only ones that are important and serious. Let there be no mistake: it is not a question, as some simple minds who take Jarry for a satirist seem to think, of denouncing human activities and cosmic reality; nor is it a question of promoting a mocking pessimism or a corrosive nihilism. On the contrary, it is a question of discovering the perfect harmony in all things, and through this harmony the profound concordance between people’s minds (or, equally, the ersatz which takes the place of mind). It is a question of a few people doing consciously what all others do unconsciously.
The College of ’Pataphysics addresses itself and can only address itself to a minority.
Its activities have an ambiguous character. The superficial observer is amused, even delighted: he imagines he has come across a group of cruel practical jokers, cynical or subtle irony, collections of pungent curiosities, merciless exposures of pretence. Is he perhaps mistaken?
A closer look and a more prolonged acquaintance with these activities will enable the observer to perceive that they correspond to a general viewpoint and an entirely new psychology, beyond laughter and even, perhaps, beyond smiling. Jarry was imperturbable.
Offshoots of the Collège de ‘Pataphysique
Although France had been always the centre of the pataphysical globe, there are followers up in different cities around the world. In 1966 Juan Esteban Fassio was commissioned to draw the map of the Collège de ‘Pataphysique and its institutes abroad. In the 1950s, Buenos Aires in the Western Hemisphere and Milan in Europe were the first cities to have pataphysical institutes. London, Edinburgh, Budapest, and Liège, as well as many other European cities, caught up in the sixties. In the 1970s, when the Collège de ‘Pataphysique occulted, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, The Netherlands, and many other countries showed that the internationalization of pataphysics was irreversible. Consult here on Patakosmos.com, the actualized map of the pataphysical institutions in the world
The publications of the College of ’Pataphysics include a journal, under the title Viridis Candela and the subtitles Cahiers, Dossiers, Subsidia Pataphysica, then,during the Occultation (1975-2000),Organographes, Monitoires and L’Expectateur published under the responsibility of the Cymbalum Pataphysicum, and finally the Carnets trimestriels and currently Le Correspondancier du Collège de ’Pataphysique. Previously unpublished texts, learned studies, pataphysical speculations, epiphanies (in the sense of Joyce) of non-deliberate pataphysics, serials, research in progress, constitute the essential part of it. With the passing of time, one notices that these works have founded today’s understanding of Alfred Jarry, Raymond Roussel and Julien Torma; that the College was the first to publish a play by Ionesco (The Bald Soprano) or by Boris Vian (The Empire Builders), or the exercises of the Oulipo, and that, with ever renewed subjects — from the art of insulting to the life of the saints of the Pataphysical Calendar, from spoonerism to merdicine, from detective stories to Potential Politics, from the draught of Noah’s ark to the celebration of Hair, from Homer’s irony to Gödel’s theorem, a veiled treatise of Pataphysics shows through. Aberrance is universal and the Science of it also.
That is the reason why the College has expanded itself into numerous Institutes out of France (Argentine, Milan, Limbourg, Antwerp, Germany, Sweden, London, Spain, Naples, Low Countries, China…). Translations and anthologies in Czech, Slovak, Swedish, English, Italian, German, Deconstructionist, Polish, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Chinese or Kosovar show that, according to His Magnificence the Vice-Curator Founder, the world is, in its whole, the true College of ’Pataphysics.
Properly enrolled Members of the College are entitled each year to receive four issues of Viridis Candela and, also two Internal Publications that are not available for sale to the public. These publications are not limited to pieces of writing. Stamps, postcards, posters, cassettes, CDs, articles of clothing, varied artefacts, or portfolios of original computer graphics have been offered to the members.
In addition, the said Members have the right to wear the Insignia of the College by day as well as by night, to participate in its Assizes and Private Manifestations, to make use of the Pataphysical Calendar, etc. They have the opportunity, depending on their merits (pataphysically speaking) or their state of seniority, to be received into the Hierarchy, to become members of the Ordre de la Grande Gidouille and to be honoured by the College at their respective obsequies. Finally, they have the Privilege of paying phynancial fees to the Collège.
Visit the ufficial website of the Collège de ‘Pataphysique: http://www.college-de-pataphysique.fr/