Art: Crocodile Sex: Codex Seraphinianus

By Xah Lee. Date:
crocodile sex codex
Cover from Codex Seraphinianus Buy at amazon

«is a book written and illustrated by the Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini, from 1976 to 1978. The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and appears to be a visual encyclopedia of an unknown world, written in one of its languages, an alphabetic writing intended to be meaningless.»

Wikipedia Codex Seraphinianus

Douglas R Hofstadter, a expert on intelligence and mind, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid Buy at amazon and Metamagical Themas Buy at amazon , has this review:

Many of the pictures are grotesque and disturbing, but others are extremely beautiful and visionary. The inventiveness that it took to come up with all these conceptions of a hypothetical land is staggering. Some people with whom I have shared this book find it frightening or disturbing in some way. It seems to them to glorify entropy, chaos, and incomprehensibility. There is very little to fasten onto; everything shifts, shimmers, slips. Yet the book has a kind of unearthly beauty and logic to it, qualities pleasing to a different class of people: people who are more at ease with free-wheeling fantasy and, in some sense, craziness. I see some parallels between musical composition and this kind of invention. Both are abstract, both create a mood, both rely largely on style to convey content.

Apparently, some people find it disturbing. This reminds me that back in my college years ~1992, while some of weird M C Escher's drawings are shown, i remember a guy looking at it and uttered something like “what the fck is this” with serious horrid expressions as if offended. Am thinking: “dude, it's just drawings.”.

But i guess that people find weird and incomprehensible systematic text frightening does invoke something subtle about human psyche.

I guess it somewhat related to when seeing a complete alien language, certain awe comes up. This even happens with common popular languages such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, or European languages when exposed to Asians. We don't get such experience because we have already exposed to their existence growing up, that we just say “O, it's Japanese” or “O, it's just Arabic”. But say if we never knew there's a country Japan, then being exposed to massive amounts of systematic text that are cryptic, i think it certainly would be quite frightening.

Deeply this phenomenon arise because, intuitively, we felt some intelligence unknown to us is presenting itself.


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