On the Problem of Recognizability in Otherworlds

26 Oct., 2023

Lecture at Willem de Kooning Academy 26 October, 2023 for the “Things and Stuff” class, Rotterdam, NL.

In her “Difference without Separability”, Denise Ferreira da Silva implicitly sketches a conceptual world-building exercise following “the end of the world as we know it”. It is worthwhile to emphasize her plea is the opposite of destruction, unlike the proliferation of apocalyptic representations in the Western imaginary we have seen in the last decades as its geopolitical hegemony wanes, but is rather abolitionist in its demands, premised on a reworking of the organization, adjudication and practices of knowing. Her constructive abolitionist demand takes on the consequences of modes of knowing premised on separation: between mind and body, the tidy separation between things in fixed, self-enclosed categories, etc. We can extend the problematics of ‘knowing’ based on the principle of separability even further: figure from ground, human from nature, culture from technology, form from matter, material from pattern, signal from noise, to understand how deeply ingrained the legacy of this principle of separation has upon the organization of our world and thought within it.

Ferreira da Silva asks of us readers to consider the reorganization of thought, and thus our approach to the world on the basis of inseparability. She draws lessons from physics, notably the principle of entanglement between all things, that nonetheless (somehow) maintain a distinction as different things upon which to base her premise. While we ought to be cautious in mapping the physical or natural domain upon human sociality (i.e. the riskiness of historical precedent when the so-called ‘natural’ overdetermines the ‘normative’), we can see her outline as a demand as a propositional framework for instantiating a new relationship to reality from which to think, perceive, act, organize and make.

In this session we’ll be considering the ramifications upon the field of art, from the propositional condition of inseparable entanglement, one partly manifest in theories of enactive cognition. We’ll be doing so with the understanding that the abolition of the world as we know it, compels the construction otherworlds which are constitutively different due to their discursive and thus perceptual reconfiguration. The curious problematic we’ll encounter in this outline, is if the framework of worlds condition our identification and sensitivity to empirical stuffs, how are we to recognize things and stuff within unfamiliar frameworks, that is in alien worlds? How can the domain of art help train our sensitivities otherwise, from a paradigm of ‘projection’ as a Euromodern predilection based of the separability between figure and ground, to a world of inseparability as embedded interpretants?