a history of an entirely different sort

Exhibition Notes by Terry Toedtemeier

The history of human accomplishment has been shaped by the minds of a litany of distinguished thinkers, artists, and scientists who have themselves been inspired or influenced by the works of individuals who, for the most part, have remained obscure. The obscure: why are the obscure… obscure? How often does the desire to observe and the passion to create lead to visions and discoveries outside of the realms of daily document?

Indeed: are not the celestial observations of Anabella Gaposchk, not the products of an intuitive leap of faith? And is not the lunar music of Viviana Spokonoinich, not the tune of a different drummer? Were it not for the efforts of Miss Emma Peale to establish the Society for Nebulous Knowledge, a chronicle of these and other such seminal contributions may well have remained obscure if not altogether discarded.

Sometime during the 1760’s a group of amateur experimenters banded together to create the Lunar Society of Birmingham in the English Midlands. Meeting on the nights of the full moon this optimistic group of inventors, physicians, poets and a toymaker, incubated ideas and innovations that gave birth to the Industrial Revolution. Their ranks included: James Watt and Matthew Boulton, inventors of the steam engine; Joseph Priestly, discoverer of oxygen; and William Withering, who identified digitalis. Though typically from humble backgrounds, we remember them today for the many things that brought them their fame and often, great fortune.

Within this fascinating collection of materials from the Permanent Collection of the Society for Nebulous Knowledge we have the opportunity to reflect on the influential works of little known women who, a century and a half after the Lunar Society, shaped a history of an entirely different sort.

In listening to the haunting notes of Spokoininich’s Arrival on the Moon or the hypnotic melodies of Loo-loo-loo and La-la-la do not we anticipate the compositions of Erik Satie and Raymond Scott? And do not such elixirs as Eclipsing Tonic and Tincture of the Moon presage their solar equivalent in such cult concoctions as Dave’s Ultimate Insanity and Piri-Piri Picante so widely enjoyed today?

And finally, does not Anabella Gaposchk’s mysterious observance of the Bikini Nebula suggest that behind the most evolved measures of modern day String theorists there lies perhaps a deeper intent— a desire for an inner cosmology transcendent of our own limited temporal consciousness?

Terry Toedtemeier
May 2004

It is with great sorrow that we mark the passing of Terry Toedtemeier, an early enthusiast of the Society for Nebulous Knowledge Historical Archives and Curator of Photography for the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon.

Terry Toedtemeier’s Obituary can be read here.