From Projection to Embedding: Sense-Making and Conceptual Inadaptation


In Pierre Huyghe - Liminal, ed. Anne Stenne, (Venice), 2024. Link

Reality is never ‘what we might believe it to be’: it is always what we ought to have thought.[1]

“Do you ask what it’s made of–earth, fire, water, etc.?” Or do you ask, “What is its pattern?”[2]

The nascent recognition of the planetary compels an inadaptation from the organization of knowledge as it is currently thought. Before elaborating on why this is necessary, it is first of significance to address the enigma inherent to the assertion: that a particular organization of knowledge may exhibit the capacity for certain achievements in knowing, and also be wholly insufficient to think what it, itself, has come to know. Unlike positivist epistemological accounts where knowledge rationally proceeds in a linear, increasingly exacting manner,[3] there are occasions when the frameworks structuring knowledge come into abrupt focus in their normative dimension, and not, as it were, a ‘natural’ one. This is so because the frameworks structuring knowledge constitute an impersonal standpoint “from which the objectivity” they institute “assumes the form of immediacy”: ‘direct’ experience is conditioned by conceptual priors.[4] In these instances, the conditions of adjudication upon which claims can be made to ‘produce knowledge’ at all[5] generate a jarring confrontation with the ‘natural’ as always having been a concept of nature, that is, a mediation of nature. Here, the normative grammar enabling viable expressions of the ‘true’ or the sensation of ‘direct’ experience are made intelligible – as alienating as enunciating the rules of speech whilst in the act of speaking. It is in these instances where we can be said to bear witness to the modelled nature of our world that had been taken for the Real, or conflated with nature itself.

Encounters with the modelled nature of our given world, with our always mediated sensibility of immediacy offers a metacontext for the conceptual environments orchestrated by Pierre Huyghe. Or conversely, environmental conceptions, since these orchestrations operate as a synthesis of the mental and material, playing out in feedback loops that indiscriminate between the seeming dichotomies of form and idea, pattern and substance, simulation and empiricism, the organic and the inorganic, language and noise, technology and soil, animal and mineral, the living and the dead, entropy and negentropy. It is by tinkering with the modelled nature of givenness and mediation of immediate experience this begets, that alien worlds are crafted into existence. Recognizing that there is no thinkable thought without a world for thinking that thought, the purposefulness of said tinkering posits the exhibition as world, enabling a ritual for “the birth of an idea”.[6] At stake in this proposition is not the question of ‘knowledge production’, but concerns the question of how the generation of nontrivial, previously unthought ideas cleaved from models of givenness, can be conceived of at all. Just as planetary thought commands disciplinary porousness, here too the construction of a concept is wrested from philosophical monopolization through the staging of sensorial environments to situate an idea, where conceptmaking is coupled with perceptibility.[7]


1 Gaston Bachelard, The Formation of the Scientific Mind, trans. M. McAllester Jones, (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2002), 24.

2 Gregory Bateson, “Form, Substance and Difference,” in Essential Readings in Biosemiotics (Dordrecht: Springer, 2009), 507.

3 Herbert Feigl, “The ‘Orthodox’ View of Theories: Remarks in Defense as well as Critique,” in Analyses of Theories and Methods of Physics and Psychology 4, ed. M. Radner and S. Winokur, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970).

4 Gyorgy Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness, trans. R. Livingstone, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1967), 156. Introduced by Ray Brassier in his “The Proletariat as Subject-Object: Gyorgy Lukacs” seminar at BICAR, Beirut, June 27, 2023.

5 Sally Haslanger, Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 341.

6 Pierre Huyghe, conversation with the author, 15 December, 2022.

7 “[T]he concept belongs to philosophy and only to philosophy,” see Deleuze & Guattari, What is Philosophy?, (New York: Columbia University Press), 34.

Patricia Reed, "From Projection to Embedding: Sense-Making and Conceptual Inadaptation", in Pierre Huyghe - Liminal, ed. Anne Stenne, (Venice), 2024. Link