As for me – and possibly for many of you as well – metamorphosis is mostly about waking up one morning in your bed in the guise of a giant bug, or turning into a disgusting fly-like creature under the terrified eyes of Geena Davis – an unwanted side effect of some homemade experiments with teleportation.
We don’t necessarily have to bother with such prominent fictive examples to see the terrible and baffling beauty of metamorphosis in action: it is all around us and even inside us. We might have developed a tendency to take it for granted or to forget about it because the constant awareness of living in a Kafka short story or in a Cronenberg movie at the same time – both at the microscopic and macroscopic level – would probably wear us out. We did suspend these protective strategies in order to edit this third issue of Occulto, and we invite you to do the same while reading it.
Life as we know it is based on a few crucial processes that involve plenty of continuous and complex transformations. One of them produces food, and is called photosynthesis; another enables the development of living species, and is called evolution. However, life as we know it and the way it works is just one chance result out of infinite possibilities. It took other directions in a remote past, and it might have taken other directions on other planets.
Metamorphosis in its most common meaning involves shapes and the way they transform. Why has nature favoured certain shapes and what can we learn from that? A beautiful equation as well as a whole new field in mathematics came out of such issues.
Changes always imply losing something and venturing into unknown territories. A novelty is somehow always welcomed with a bit of reluctance – whether open or concealed. In the dialect of the city I come from there’s a phrase which translates as “don’t bring the news”, and means more or less “stop making trouble”. Yet even the most feared change of all – death – is maybe not that easy to define, and the attempts to do it might emphasize a lot of controversial issues about its putative antagonist – life.
Transformations affect human-made things too, of course. Trying to force cultural evolution and to choose the direction it should take often entails not very friendly intentions, but sometimes it does go about chasing a utopian nonbelligerent dream, such as creating a universal language. The most famous attempt is Esperanto, but there have been less-known ones, involving tragicomic debates and plenty of umlauts.
Our cognitive models need to be tested and discussed continuously to keep our minds fit, ready for new discoveries and changes. Again it works both on a macroscopic and microscopic level: it might be about updating the way we describe the universe, it might be about interpreting a chalk drawing found on a stonewall near the (haunted) shore.
Gossip stars become poltergeists, sounds morph into images and a bizarre self-produced zine turns into a biannual publication. Vive la mètamorphose!
Alice Cannava, June 2013