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Pataphysics, a French absurdist concept, is the idea of a philosophy or science dedicated to studying what lies beyond the realm of metaphysics. It is a parody of the theory and methods of modern science, and is often expressed in nonsensical language. A practitioner of pataphysics is a pataphysician.

In the 1960s pataphysics was used as an conceptual principle around various art forms, especially pop art and popular culture. The most prominent mention of pataphysics from this period is in the Beatles's song "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". At around this time, the Paris based Situationist International referred to pataphysics as a new religion. (see pataphysical situation).

Pataphysics is sometimes defined as "the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments" (from Alfred Jarry's Book Faustroll[?]).

An example of a pataphysical solution to a problem: A group of people have to walk up and down a steep hill several times a day, in order to get from their place of work to the nearest bus stop. The problem is solved by installing a ski-lift to take them up the hill, and distribuing skateboards for coming down. Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson were artists who invented (pictorial representations of) machines of a pataphysical bent.

See also: Pataphysical situation - a situlogical critique of pataphysics

The London Institute of Pataphysics

The London Institute of Pataphysics was established in September 2000 to promote pataphysics. It organised the Anthony Hancock Paintings and Sculptures: A Retrospective Exhibition.

It has three departments:

  • The Bureau of Subliminal Images
  • The Department of Dogma and Theory
  • The Department of Reconstructive Archaeology

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