The Thalamus, or "bridal chamber," is a large ovoid organ located between the brain stem and the forebrain. It is a central relay station whose major function is to translate neural impulses from various receptors to the cerebral cortex, where they are experienced as sensations such as touch, pain, and temperature during the waking state. Besides its connections to the cerebral cortex, it also projects to the limbic system, and to the hypothalamus below.
Marcel Duchamp's work on glass, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. consists of upper and lower realms. On top is "The Realm of the Bride," where the bride is in isolation, "perhaps crucified;"1 while below, the bachelors, nine malic moulds who "live on coal or other raw material drawn from their not them,"2 are engaged in acts of unending, agonizing masturbation. The only connection between the bride and her bachelors seems to be a circulation of "illuminating gas."
The hypothalamus, the "lower chamber," is a tiny organ whose main function is homeostasis, or maintaining the body's status quo; however, by controlling the pituitary gland, it dominates the body's hormornal system, thus effecting metabolism, growth, and sexual processes. It also has a hand in regulating sleep and wakefulness cycles, influencing mood disorders, and in producing the physical changes when the organism is threatened.
Myths are deceptively simple and fantastically complex. In simple telling of one of the most important Greek myths, Hades, with the blessing of his brother, Zeus he spirits Kore, the young virgin daughter of the goddess Demeter, down to his dark domain, where she becomes his bride, Persephone, "Queen of the Underworld." Demeter, the Goddess of Grains, futilely searches the Earth for her daughter, until, with no alternatives left, she causes the crops to fail. Fearing a famine, Zeus orders Hades to return Persephone. Instead, he reaches a compromise with his homesick queen, allowing her to return to the world of the living for half of each year, blossoming each Spring, dying again with Autumn's chill.
Thus, the thalamus, "a dark and mysterious place of union between streams of incoming information;"3i.e., consciousness, regulates synaptic transmissions during resting states, interspersing burst discharges with long periods of neuronal inactivity, or silence. While the hypothalamus controls the production of tears, saliva and sweat.
(1) Janis Mink, "Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968: Art as Anti-Art." Benedikt Taschen, 1995.
(2) M. Duchamp. A crossed-out entry in The Green Box.
(3) D. Niehoff, The Biology of Violence. NY, 1999. p.85.