The Currer Bell College and The Faculty of Minor Disturbances

Faculty of Minor Disturbances (FMD) – A History

As we know today the history of the Faculty of Minor Disturbances or Fakultät für geringfügige Störungen is non-linear and can thus in principle be told from any moment in time. For the sake of ancient human understanding it has here been mostly kept linear but will start anyway with the fact that in the year 2058 the Faculty once more reoccurred after a long disappearance to celebrate its 300-year existence. Important to know is that on that occasion the Faculty had finally managed to leave Earth and install itself on the ecoplanet K2-18b. This was thanks to an unexpected major and very necessary progress in space travel, a fact caused by the initial cancellation of an all-female[1] space walk in the year 2019. The official reason for this was that the available space suits so-called did not have the right size, but in reality, it was because one of the astronauts had discovered a way to space travel in acceleration. Afraid for piracy NASA had thus cancelled the walk which caused a major uproar as the reason given was obviously ridiculous, once more reducing female activity to wardrobe problems and related expenses. The incident was secretly picked up by the Faculty who supported the female astronaut for the upcoming years in the development of her further research. This however implied that the Faculty had to disappear from about 2025 in order to reappear as said in 2058 at ecoplanet K2-18b. Dis- and reappearances tend to be the Faculty’s on-going feature which has rightfully been compared with the characteristics of a comet that lie in fact at the basis of its initial inspiration.

The Faculty was originally set up in 1758 in the German town of Trier as part of its university by Helena von Bohnwarten. As women were officially not allowed at the university, she took on the pseudonym of Heinrich von Bohnwarten. She was inspired by the work of the female astronomer Maria Margaretha Kirch, also called Kirchin, who had discovered the so-called ‘comet of 1702’ and was befriended with Kirchin’s children Christfried, Christine and Margeretha Kirch who were all astronomers. The main purpose of the Faculty would be the study of comets and more specifically that of the Halley-comet that was predicted to return in 1758. Von Bohnwarten for that reason travelled to Hawaii where she actually witnessed the comet. The brief, fleeting appearance of the comet was interpreted by her as “eine geringfügige Störung” or Minor Disturbance. She was particularly interested in this fleetingness that nevertheless seemed to reappear at regular intervals. The fact that the substance of a comet, its solid nucleus or core, consists mostly of ice and dust, was something that she assumed at the time and that fascinated her immensely. 

Von Bohnwarten would continue her research until a high age and was followed up by her daughter Christine Meister. After the closure of the Trier university in 1798 by the then French administration, Meister moved the Faculty to Paris as she had met and married the French astronomer Michel LeBlanc. In honour of her mother, Christine Meister decided to turn the Faculty into a so-called ‘wandering’ one that could be situated anywhere. With the disappearance of the university, the Faculty thus more or less turned into a comet itself, a wandering star so to speak. At the same time, Meister intended this move as a critique of academia, a task that the Faculty still maintains wherever its whereabouts. Through her husband’s connections the Faculty in those years became part of the Currer Bell College in Saint-Nazaire[2], although it kept a strong, if somewhat underground presence in Paris throughout the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

During the so-called Fumistes period at the end of the 19th century it was discovered that the card game Comet could be used as a major research tool. It had been played since the 18th century, but through the contacts of Janine LeBlanc, the granddaughter of Christine Meister and Michel LeBlanc, who not only worked as an astronomer but also as an artists’ model, it became highly popular in scientific and artistic circles.[3] An early depiction of the game can be seen in Cézanne’s Card players from 1890-1892. Both in the version at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the one at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris the players are actually members of the Faculty, astronomers and not as long time was thought accidental players observed by Cézanne in some establishment or other. A later, more abstract, depiction can be seen in the Card players by the Dutch painter Theo Van Doesburg (1916, now in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag) who frequented Paris regularly and would become a Faculty member in 1915.

An important role in the history of the Faculty must also be allocated to the Lycée Henri IV in Paris where Henri Bergson had Alfred Jarry as one of his pupils. The latter took extensive notes of Bergson’s lectures between 1891 and 1893 and although most of these have survived an important part is missing. It is generally thought that the missing cahier actually contains the notes on crucial conversations between Bergson and Jarry on the subject of duration. The first connection with Plymouth was established by Arthur Conan Doyle who had visited Paris in 1894 where he met Janine LeBlanc.[4] Doyle had briefly lived in Plymouth in 1882 where he set up his practice in Durnford Street. From this period date his contacts with the Athenaeum which would be instrumental for the connection with the Faculty. Equally important was his acquaintance with William Freese Greene, who had a photographic studio in Plymouth and made a now lost portrait of Doyle. Freese Greene would later claim to have invented the first device for projecting moving images.

Marcel Duchamp, who was charmed by Janine LeBlanc and her early connections with Alfred Jarry, became a member of the Faculty around 1912. Highly influenced by Cézanne’s Card Players[5] he painted a couple of versions himself, before deciding to replace the card game with that of chess players. Duchamp would later establish the link between the Faculty and the city of Rouen where he lived with his parents around 1920 and would ultimately be buried in 1968. While in Rouen regular meetings of the Faculty took place in the still existing Brasserie Paul at the Place de Cathédrale under the guise of the Rouennais Circle of Chess Players of which Duchamp became a member on 23 January 1924. In 2019 Currer Bell College returned to Rouen (and with that also the Faculty) by becoming part of the Cabinet of Singular Deviations that originated at ESADHaR in Rouen.[6]

About hundred years earlier the first link with Portugal was established by Rafael Baldaya, an astrologer and author of Tratado da Negação and Princípios de Metaphysica Esotérica who regularly visited Paris and presented the Faculty in Lisbon in 1920 during a talk at the university. From this period, it was also established to make the subject of mist and temporary disappearances central to the faculties concern. Not only did this subject connect to the dis- and reappearance of comets and their fogginess, it also eluded to the dis- and reappearance of the Faculty itself. The fact that the subject originates in Portugal and more specifically Lisbon is quite possibly to be connected with several intriguing factors. First, there’s the possible connection with Sebastian, King of Portugal who disappeared in battle and who is said to return, in a foggy dawn, on Portugal’s greatest hour of need. Fernando Pessoa, who was associated with the Faculty, dedicated the last poem of his Mensagem cycle to this advent which he equalled with the situation of his country at the time, ending the poem with the unambiguous

Ó Portugal, hoje és nevoeiro…

É a Hora!

(Oh Portugal, today you are mist…

‘Tis the hour!)

The second factor is the Great Lisbon earthquake of Lisbon of 1755 in which the whole of Lisbon practically disappeared and that explicitly interested Bernardo Soares, author of the famous The Book of Disquiet and eminent Faculty member. Interestingly the Faculty itself disappeared not long after the link with Lisbon was established. Some suspect Arthur Cravan to have taken it with him on his trip to Mexico where he was last seen in 1918. There was a brief recurrence of the Faculty during the beginning of the fifties with the publication of Mount Analogue by Rene Daumal that some see as proof that the Faculty in fact had been abducted just before Daumal’s untimely death in 1944. Although often seen as a comparison between art and alpinism the following passage is seen as rather suspect:

Alpinism is the art of climbing mountains by confronting the greatest dangers with the greatest prudence. Art is used here to mean the accomplishment of knowledge in action.

You cannot always stay on the summits. You have to come down again…

So, what’s the point? Only this: what is above knows what is below, what is below does not know what is above. While climbing, take note of all the difficulties along your path. During the descent, you will no longer see them, but you will know that they are there if you have observed carefully.

There is an art to finding your way in the lower regions by the memory of what you have seen when you were higher up. When you can no longer see, you can at least still know. . .

It further has to be noted that the last chapter of Mount Analogue was to be titled “And you Reader, What Do You Seek?” which is generally seen as an allusion to the Faculty.

The recovery of the Faculty can be attributed to Georges Perec who briefly met with Marcel Duchamp on the occasion of his inauguration into the Oulipo group in 1967. They discussed the Faculty during a meeting at the Paris café Le Rouquet in honour of Daumal who used to frequent this establishment regularly and it was agreed to keep the Faculty a secret in order to protect it. Duchamp therefore took it temporarily into his grave in Rouen the following year, causing a slight disturbance, whereby he had the famous epitaph “D’ailleurs, c’est toujours les autres qui meurent” or “By the way, it’s always the others that die” engraved on his tomb. Both Perec and Duchamp have been instrumental in the most recent reappearance of the Faculty at planet K2-18b where they continue to develop their collaboration. It must be noted that the recent official discovery of the ecoplanet somewhat hampers their ongoing work and they consider moving to another planet. The fact that ecoplanet K2-18b is at a symbolic 111 light years from earth currently keeps them from taking a decision on this part as is the considerable amount of feline Faculty members, amongst which Perec’s cat and several of Chris Marker’s and Agnes Varda’s cats. It is suspected that Celine’s cat Bébert is a lifelong member as well but research into this is ongoing. The presence of feline Faculty members is not only due to the fact that it has been well established that cats have more brains than dogs, but also because cats’ brains have a remarkably close resemblance to human brains, to such an extent that it can be safely assumed that humans derive directly from cats as was already discovered by the Egyptians. Cats immediately recognised the endless possibilities of the Faculty and were also relieved that their nine lives could finally be used in a productive way. The length of their lives is by the way completely flexible which in practice means that cats live eternally. The Faculty on Planet K2-18b for that reason, was taken over by cats who prefer to stay anonymous as they don’t agree with the mostly ridiculous names that humans have tended to give them. There’s of course also the practical reason that due to their nine lives they have at least nine of such names which would add to the insult. The names by which cats name each other are unsuitable to include within this current record. They consider Perec as one of their own since he is a known cat lover and merely tolerate Duchamp who has never stated a preference.[7]

From the year 2019 to somewhere in 2025 – the exact date remains unfortunately unclear due to a glitch in the recording software – the Faculty of Minor Disturbances was mainly situated somewhere between Saint-Nazaire and Plymouth, occasionally wandering more towards the northern region of Rouen, or southwards towards Lisbon. It was equally observed in Hong Kong and Wales during this period. In Plymouth its Director was Prof. Dr. Michael Punt at Transtechnology Research, while Dr. Edith Doove and Dr. Rita Cachao held the reigns in Saint-Nazaire and Lisbon. Dr. Jean-Louis Vincendeau, a French artist, film maker and specialist in gardens as well as Daumal’s Mount Analogue[8], thus directed together with Punt and Doove the Currer Bell College as a subdivision of the Cabinet of Singular Deviations in Rouen. Research in this period was mostly into rejuvenating academia and trying to keep Britain afloat as it was dangerously close to sinking due to a process that has further only be indicated as the ‘B-word’.

Recent research by Dr. Vincendeau[9] has further brought to light that the Currer Bell College was cited by the scholar Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) also called “the prince of the curious”, advisor to the Parliament of Provence, and knowledgeable in several subjects being an astronomer, numismatist, archaeologist, physiologist, botanist, zoologist, etc. Peiresc constituted a cabinet of curiosities and a remarkable library, symbols of his great humanistic thought. Vincendeau further discovered that on 21 May 1701 Alexander Pope signed the golden book of Currer Bell College:

               Happy the man, whose wish and care   

               A few paternal acres bound,

               Content to breathe his native air,                            

               In his own ground.

Bonnie Prince Charlie, or Charles Edouard Stuart (1720-1788), eldest son of prince James Francis Edward Stuart, himself son of King James II of England and pretender of the English and Scottish thrones. The mother of Charles, Maria Clementina Sobieska, was John III Sobieski which makes Charles a cousin of Louis XV. He started his studies at the Currer Bell College in the years 1730-1737 in the Black Mountains of Wales, most probably to keep him away from his family in Scotland.  

Vincendeau also notes that around 1880-1881, Alfred North Whitehead spend several days at the Currer Bell College during his study travels. This is most probably due to his contact and friendship with Gertrude Stein. Research into Stein’s connection with the Currer Bell College is ongoing.

Activities of both the Currer Bell College and its Faculty of Minor Disturbances remain unpredictable. It is thought that the recent strike announcement in France for daily strikes of only 55 minutes at different moments of the day between 24 September and 31 December 2019 is the work of an as yet unknown member of the College and/or Faculty. The notation of the moments of the strikes as a long series of ‘minor disturbances’ supposes that this member is in direct contact with Georges Pérec – see illustration below.

During this period of strikes, the Faculty launched an invite for a Minor Disturbance to coincide with the passing of the interstellar comet 21/Borisov on Sunday 8th December. Whether this led to any result is at the time of writing this history unknown.

Edith Doove

Art historian based at Rouen, France

Please note that this history of the Currer Bell College and Faculty of Minor Disturbances can be subject of unexpected changes and further embellishments or may be rewritten at any time.

[1] It must be noted that although the terminology ‘all-female’ might give the impression of a multitude, actually only two female astronauts were implied.

[2] Dr. Jean-Louis Vincendeau discovered that Bonnie Prince Charlie studied botanics at the College during his stay in Saint-Nazaire in 1745.

[3] The Comet is a wild card and has special affects on the game when it is played during a player’s turn. A player may play the Comet at any time during his turn in place of any other card (usually replacing a denomination he does not possess). Once played, the individual who played the card may begin a new sequence with any card in his hand. In addition, when the Comet is played, each other player must give the player of the Comet two chips from their own stock. If the Comet is found in the Dead Hand during a round, it’s scoring value is increased by two additional chips for the next hand. Thus, for the next hand after a hand in which the Comet was found in the Dead Hand, the player of the Comet would receive 4 chips from each other player. If the Comet did not appear during that hand either, in the next hand it would earn the player 6. Thus, the scoring value for the Comet will increase by 2 for each hand in which it is found to be in the Dead Hand. Once the Comet is played during a hand or found in a player’s hand when another player runs out of cards, on the following round its score reverts to the normal score of 2. See for more information

[4] This visit to Paris resulted in Doyle’s article published in The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Paris in 1894: A Superficial Impression’ which ends with the following observation that actually refers to LeBlanc: “And then there is the position of woman, in which, again, I think that we are far in front of the French. The unmarried girl is still fenced round with restrictions which seem to us to be preposterous. And the lover arranges matters on a strictly cash basis with the parent or guardian. We met one young lady who had had three offers, all of which had fallen through because there was a difference between what the lover required and what the guardian could promise.”

[5] See;;doc.view=print

[6] Currer Bell College acquired a new status in 2019 when on initiative of Dr. Jean-Louis Vincendeau a convention was signed between ESADHaR Le Havre|Rouen and Transtechnology Research, Plymouth. The convention was signed by Prof. Thierry Heynen and Dr. Edith Doove on 24 November 2019 in the abbatial church of St. Ouen in Rouen on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition ENSEMBLE. Unfortunately, neither Prof. Dr. Michael Punt and Dr. Jean-Louis Vincendeau, nor the scientific collaborators Dr. Hannah Drayson and Dr. Rita Cachao were able to attend due to the B-word and strike related issues.

[7] A noteworthy undated photo of the Duchamp brothers shows Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon both cradling cats while Marcel Duchamp stands ostensibly empty handed in the middle.

[8] See L’ascension continue autour de René Daumal, collective publication under the direction of Xavier Dandoy de Casabianca, Editions “Voyelles”, Charleville Mézières 2010

[9] The information in this paragraph is a translation of Vincendeau’s findings.

An Invitation to Create a Minor Disturbance [version française si-dessous]

Inspired by Charles Ives vision of spatially distributed creativity in his unfinished Universe Symphony, The Faculty of Minor Disturbances (FMD)[1] cordially invites you to create a minor disturbance as we corral the forces of the universe together with 2I/Borisov, an interstellar comet which will be visiting the solar system.

We hope that precisely at noon (12 GMT) on the 8th of December 2019, you can take a moment and collaborate with colleagues, friends or other life forms to perform a creative act in your preferred form, shape, location, way of life and reality.

We are expecting that this distributed act of creativity will adjust some of the wobbles in the planets and, consequently, the Faculty will rely on the Universe as the default witness to your contribution. However, if you would like your contribution to be included in the event website we will be happy to accommodate you and host whichever documents you may want to send us. You are also welcome to circulate this invitation between whomever you feel like.

Attached to this invitation is one of 676 anaglyphic images which were developed to begin the vibrations (they can be stabilised by viewing through red and green lenses like: bottles, plastic wraps, cinema glasses, etc). If you do join us, please enter a three digit number of your choice at, and you will be able to see part of the series as a film along with the history of the Faculty. We will also send you back your personal frame from the film. 

We do hope you can join the Comet 21/Borisov, the Faculty and fellow travelers in this project to recover creativity from its earthbound parochialism.

Rita Cachao, Edith Doove, Hannah Drayson and Michael Punt

[1] FMD has become part of the recently revived Currer Bell College (CBC) at ESADHaR Le Havre/Rouen, partner of Transtechnology Research (TTR) at Plymouth, and Seiza at Lisbon. An history of the Faculty can be read at:

Invitation à créer une perturbation mineure

Inspiré par la vision de Charles Ives sur la créativité distribuée spatialement dans sa Symphonie de l’Univers inachevée, La Faculté des Perturbations Mineures (FMD)[2] vous invite cordialement à créer une perturbation mineure alors que nous entrerons en corrélation avec les forces de l’univers, avec 2I/Borisov, une comète interstellaire qui visitera le système solaire.

Nous espérons qu’à midi (12 GMT) le 8 décembre 2019, vous pourrez prendre un moment et collaborer avec des collègues, des amis ou d’autres formes de vie pour accomplir un acte créatif dans votre forme, lieu, mode de vie et réalité préférés.

Nous nous attendons à ce que cet acte de créativité répartie ajuste certaines des oscillations des planètes et, par conséquent, la Faculté s’appuiera sur l’Univers comme témoin par défaut de votre contribution. Cependant, si vous souhaitez que votre contribution soit incluse dans le site Web de l’événement, nous serons heureux de vous accueillir et d’héberger les documents que vous voudrez nous envoyer. Vous êtes également invités à faire circuler cette invitation entre qui vous voulez.

A cette invitation se trouve l’une des 676 images anaglyphiques qui ont été développées pour commencer les vibrations (elles peuvent être stabilisées en regardant à travers des lentilles rouges et vertes comme : bouteilles, emballages plastiques, lunettes de cinéma, etc.). Si vous vous joignez à nous, veuillez entrer un numéro à trois chiffres de votre choix sur, et vous pourrez voir une partie de la série comme un film, ainsi que l’histoire de la Faculté. Nous vous renvoyons également votre cadre personnel du film. 

Nous espérons que vous pourrez rejoindre la Comète 21/Borisov, la Faculté et d’autres voyageurs dans ce projet pour récupérer la créativité de son parochialism terrestre (esprit de clocher appliqué à la terre entière).

Rita Cachao, Edith Doove, Hannah Drayson et Michael Punt

[2] FMD fait partie du Currer Bell College (CBC) récemment relancé à ESADHaR Le Havre/Rouen, partenaire de Transtechnology Research (TTR) à Plymouth, et Seiza à Lisbonne. Une histoire de la Faculté peut être lue à l’adresse suivante :