Science, art, capitalism, and Marxism rely on Western concepts of time, space and being. If we want to think new futures we must question deeply those concepts.
Greek philosophy set the foundations for an objective knowledge of the world. They understood being as an object that could be measured: an ontology of the quantifiable (onto=being, logy/logos=knowing). This paved the way for science, which is based on an objective understanding of the world. In the same line of thought, Aristotle theorized human experience by separating the senses as independent functions. It is easier to quantify the data of the senses separately. The same happens with the separation of time-space into two separate variables.
Our personal experience of the world has been influenced by the ontology of the quantifiable. For example, Western arts are a pedagogy that emphasize the segmentation of the senses; music for hearing, visual arts for eyesight. The name “Interdisciplinary art” already announces the need of the re-integration of the segmented senses. Think of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. AI learns by quantifying reality, by separating the senses, by separating time and space. Only after that disintegration of experience, AI can re-integrate the data provided by its “senses” to emulate human experience.
But what about experiences where the ontology of the quantifiable is not useful? Questions such as the meaning of life, the origin of the universe, or death. These questions show us the limits of the ontology of the quantifiable. Like in the video-game Pac-Man, the ontology of the quantifiable only makes sense within the limits created by itself. Pac-Man is functional when navigating within the screen. However, when it reaches the top limit of the screen, it re-appears at the bottom of the screen.
Western culture cultivates an experience of time, space and the senses, based on an ontology of the quantifiable. Can we cultivate an experience based on an ontology of the non-quantifiable? Embodying an ontology of the non-quantifiable can lead us to questions at the border of the Pac-man screen. Powerful questions such as the one raised by Heidegger: What is Being? Not the being of an object, not the being of a chair, but Being itself. To accept that there is no quantifiable answer to that question leaves us in a deep anxiety. This Western anxiety comes from the inability to answer “What is Being?” with the language of the ontology of the quantifiable. The ontology of the quantifiable is the basis not only of science but of all Western meta-narratives, including science, Marxism and religion. And there is no escape, because we are Western and we cannot stop being that. The West already occurred to all humanity, to a greater or lesser extent, and there is no way back.
During my residency at The Kitchen (NYC, 2021) I developed a project titled “Still”. Through very minimalistic changes in light and sound, I lead the audience slowly into darkness and silence, in order to let them experience the “Stillness” of the room. This was a strategy to confront them to an ontology of the non quantifiable, by bringing together space and time, and re-integrating the senses.
As part of creative process, I interviewed biologist Carlos Carmona (here), philosopher Alejandra Borea (here), historian Yukyko Takahashi (here), and musician Brian Adler (here), on issues related to time and space in Western culture.
I also wrote a series of poems influenced by the ontology of Martin Heidegger (scroll down), and an essay titled “A critique of Western Silence” (available soon).
Please visit the site of the project at The Kitchen (here) and an interview for The Kitchen Magazine (here).
Installation at Queenslab for The Kitchen, NYC April 2021