Newsletter Issue:
Spring 2024

Learning to Worship: A Review of Dejan Lukic’s The Oyster (Or, Radial Suppleness)

by Kylie Ellis Cariddi, Cohort ’21

Leave it to Professor Dejan Lukic to situate us toward the “supple amassing of the sea” (6). Bivalve mollusks, born from maternal seas of the Cambrian era, are the neither-fauna nor-flora subject examined in his book, The Oyster: Or, Radial Suppleness. Published in 2020, Lukic co-authored this treasure with Nik Kosieradzki using a method called ‘hallucinalysis.’ Echoing Hannah Arendt’s introduction to Walter Benjamin’s Illuminations, “there is no more effective way to break the spell of tradition than to cut out the "rich and strange," coral and pearls”,Lukic’s approach plays on 20th-century neologisms psychoanalysis and schizoanalysis (42). Through an informal exchange regarding this method, Lukic writes that it reveals his disposition toward reality as “a hallucination of sorts” that calls for “a lucid and precise hallucinatory analytics which works as passwords for reality ciphers,” like an “oracular language” capable of decoding our kaleidoscopic encounters with the world, and substantiating our translations of it. He says the ongoing development of his spell-breaking hallucinalysis leads to “a million other tiny spells,” a dilation that is actualized in this roving examination of oysters.

The Oyster is an assemblage of nine parts, each dense with interdisciplinary material yet effervescent through unimposing poetics. Lukic and Kosieradzki open by acquainting readers with “culinary materialism,” an ontology that articulates earth as a stewpot and the world as “filled with sieves, strainers, skimmers, and filters” (2). The Baroque, which comes from the Portuguese term barocco, meaning irregular pearl, is established as a regulating network for their investigation, in which the shellfish is sown within an ornate and holy tenor, extricated from the periphery of attention (Lukic and Kosieradzki 5). Beyond the aesthetic and temporal, Lukic and Kosieradzki distinguish the Baroque as a fulcrum, suggesting the world is not only hinged to it but that it enables the world to pivot (8). And it is through such motion that the authors direct us toward a briny sensitivity.

From this Baroque orientation, the oyster, both a food and filter, “is raw life” (Lukic and Kosieradzki 2). A pre-theologic sacristy, the mollusk contains “mantles of the sacred'' within its soft insides (Lukic and Kosieradzki 4). It is armored with an adorned stone exterior, animating an “ahistorical baroque expression” which is “impermeable except for a single crack” (Lukic and Kosieradzki 8; 4). The interior and exterior binary is emphasized only to sculpt the dualism into a dialectic fruit: the pearl.

Fig. 1 Joshua McCarty, An Oyster, Cracked Open (2014). Diagram for a meal. Source: Lukic, Dejan, and Nik Kosieradzki. The Oyster: Or, Radial Suppleness. New York, Contra Mundum Press, 2020.

Before this sui generis is brought forth, the authors embark on a panoramic dissection of the oyster. The blessed plush interior is where “chaos reigns” (Lukic and Kosieradzki 12). The innards’ likeness to spit enkindles George Bataille’s visions of the cosmos, and our consumption of this heavenly drool is a sort of gastronomic liturgy; a ritual in which the shell is cracked open “through cruelty” before gazing upon the sentience “with fascination and disgust before we swallow it” (Bataille 31; Lukic and Kosieradzki 16). Lukic and Kosieradzki bestow delicate sketches of dish diagrams (see Fig. 1), clarifying the quality of affection that goes into arrangements before such rapturous ingestion ensues.

Fig. 2 A cladogram showing divisions and convergences of life. Source: Lukic, Dejan, and Nik Kosieradzki. The Oyster: Or, Radial Suppleness. New York, Contra Mundum Press, 2020.

The authors then call attention to the current tree root-like taxonomic order which cannot place the oyster in its system. They introduce cladograms as an alternative that makes space for mollusks while offering an alternative model for evolutionary thought (see Fig. 2). These spherical technical drawings position time at the nucleus. Through this aesthetic reconfiguration of evolution, we may rectify species into “aggregates of sieving”, chemical amalgamations strained back into the planetary stewpot (Lukic and Kosieradzki 18). They describe the cladogram as “a chaotic harmony of relations, falling arcs of spontaneous initiatives,” which evokes the polyphonic sounds of the Baroque (Lukic and Kosieradzki 18). Like Bach’s fugues are both awkward and euphoric, dissonant and embellished, so are species falling through time. It is through this macro meditation on polyphonic evolution that readies readers for the synthesized barocco.

By way of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Lukic and Kosieradzki introduce the pearl: “the crystallized saliva of the goddess” (20). Through its single crack, the “oyster absorbs the world,” the mundane, the marvelous, and the monstrous (Lukic and Kosieradzki 23). For a pearl to be born, a parasite must infiltrate the mollusk's mantle, the dark outer ring of the shell that cradles the satin belly we devour. This tissue distills calcium carbonate from the elements in the surrounding water and entombs the alien freeloader in mother-of-pearl.

The perfect sphere is thus secreted into the world, as a revolt inside the oyster. In this sense, life is revolutionary as long as it produces variations based on internal conflict. (Lukic and Kosieradzki 25)

The authors conclude by unconcealing the pearl as a cohesion of the formlessness of the oyster, that “will either nourish or poison”, as a sign of the satiated impulse to preserve and admire what is amorphous and non-binary (26). Through the circular motion of a world which pivots on the barocco, to the round dish serving $1 oysters, to the ring of the cladogram in which time is its navel, to the pearl; Lukic and Kosieradzki render the radial as where “throbbing dark elements” and light are indivisible (26). 

The book’s insight seems applicable to our current physical-virtual experiential medley. While many technological applications negate bodily experience and critical thought, which may be ‘poisonous,’ they also offer the ‘nourishment’ of democratized information, which may facilitate solidarity unbounded by distance; can the spells unfurled from The Oyster conjure a revaluation of other formless forms? Through their hallucinalysis, Lukic and Kosieradzki demonstrate a contemplative sensing (tasting) of the world as it is, an inquisitive and perceptive worship that recognizes the internal friction it spawns as pearlescent. By inviting these invisible and precious storms stirred within us by encounters with the world, we restore radiant suppleness to our wildlife.


Bataille, Georges. Visions of Excess: Selected Writings 1927-1939. U of Minnesota Press, 1985.

Benjamin, Walter, et al. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. New York, Schocken Books, 2013.

Lukic, Dejan. Personal communication. 11 April 2024.

Lukic, Dejan, and Nik Kosieradzki. The Oyster: Or, Radial Suppleness. New York, Contra Mundum Press, 2020.

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