Interview with Mariana Tres

by Anna Gritz, Independent Curator, London

What can be known about the Society for Nebulous Knowledge?

I recently had the chance to meet with artist Mariana Tres, Director & Steward of the Society for Nebulous Knowledge Archives, a fragile and rare collection based in the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. The scope and content of the archives has long been hidden from the public and is only now starting to open its gates to the interested scholar. It is viewable by appointment and only for limited periods of time.

ANNA GRITZ: So tell me what exactly is the Society for Nebulous Knowledge?

MARIANA TRES: The Society for Nebulous Knowledge provides the academic community and general public with access to a rare collection whose mission is to preserve research that seeks to unburden science of its grave purpose and offers a more open interpretation of the natural world. It is a repository for previously discarded chronicles and objects emphasizing the influence of astronomical, metaphysical and other certain obscure phenomena. These influences impacted scientific and artistic discoveries in ways that, until recently, have remained unclear.

ANNA GRITZ: How did the collection start?

MARIANA TRES: It came to be through the work of visionary chemist Emma Peale who founded the Society in 1918 when she discovered the profound effect of certain cosmological events upon her potions and intoxicants. The popularity of the tonic and spiritual cleanser Tincture of the Moon amassed considerable wealth and made it possible for her to begin collecting work of a similar mind. The collection has continued to grow unencumbered by scientific purpose, focusing on the common creative impulse of both scientific and artistic processes and the influence of extraterrestrial and metaphysical concerns on these processes.

ANNA GRITZ: So how has this collection been received in the scientific community?

MARIANA TRES: It is the most comprehensive collection of its kind and reveals as yet unknown accounts of forgotten histories and befuddling natural events.

ANNA GRITZ: Tell me, who was Anabella Gaposchk?

MARIANA TRES: Among the most celebrated discoveries of the collection is nineteenth century astronomer and photographer Anabella Gaposchk. Her culinary illustrations of celestial observations astounded the scientific community. Her discovery of the controversial Bikini Nebula in 1905, which she illustrated with a serendipitous sprinkle of baking soda, not only revealed the certain poetry of our human subjectivity but also paved the way for the actual invention of the bikini.

One can’t help but feel the passion and devotion that she invested in this. The scientific accuracy and elegant illustration of her findings is breathtaking.

ANNA GRITZ: Anabella Gaposchk’s inventive mirroring strategies are indeed extraordinary. One can only wonder what influences her untraditional approach might be having on people today. What are some other accounts that the Society has investigated?

MARIANA TRES: Some years later we stumbled upon a musicologist’s archives and discovered Viviana Spokoininich, a Russian composer who wrote the first musical to be performed on the Moon. The majestic and haunting melodies in her 1909 musical Upon the Orange Moon: The Lunar Musical had remained in obscurity and now captivate audiences everywhere. Spokoininich dreamed of the day when humanity would take “a giant step for musical theater” so we have begun negotiations with NASA.

ANNA GRITZ: What are some of the recent areas inquiry that the Society has been engaged with?

MARIANA TRES: In addition to culinary arts, astronomical photo-illustration, musical theater and medicine, contemporaneous areas of research include idiosyncratic superstition and accounts of plant, animal and mineral communication with humans.

ANNA GRITZ: That is indeed quite astonishing.

MARIANA TRES: We often receive letters inquiring about the veracity of such extraordinary accounts… the Society for Nebulous Knowledge simply acknowledges, documents and preserves these lost archives of history.

ANNA GRITZ: One last question: is the Bikini Nebula actually viewable in the sky?

MARIANA TRES: It is sixteen degrees north of Leo in the summer sky.

ANNA GRITZ: Thank you very much for your time.

MARIANA TRES: Thank you for your interest in our collection.