Twice Upon A Time: Magic, Alchemy and the Transubstantiation of the Senses
Conference at the Centre for Fine Art Research (CFAR), 26-27 June 2014
Jonathan Day - Kant and Zen as Precursors of Object-Orientated-Ontology?
Abstract: Recent developments in cosmological thought (Maldacena, 1998, 231–252 and Beane, Davoudi and Savage, 1:14, 2012) have re-opened a rational engagement with magic. The ‘Modelled Universe’ theory espoused by many leading scientists including the astronomer royal, and supported experimentally by recent German research creates a model of existence in which previously accepted certainties are no longer reliable. I am particularly interested in the nexus between image, word and sound and this paper explores transmedia experiments which seek to signpost the transcendent within this new environment and specifically through the collisions associated with globalisation.
Great movements and shifts of people followed the end of the cold war, with economic migrants in their millions responding to the clamour of more affluent nations for cheap and willing workers. The dizzying industrialisation of many developing countries similarly fuelled the movement of people, with ethnic tensions following the withdrawal of colonial powers displacing many others.
The globalisation of information, the incredible explosion of the ‘internet’, accompanied by widespread exploitation of satellite communications technology, has brought a great tide of information into our work and dwelling places, and, increasingly, our pockets.
These demographic and technological shifts have emphasised and accelerated the practices associated with the ‘globalisation’ of creativity, causing new ‘accented’ cultures to develop, absorbing, influencing, reflecting and refracting their new milieux. These changes are impacting on creative practices, destabilising core assumptions and disturbing long established hierarchies.
The compositional undertaking which Aveiia: the politics of navigation represents, is a seeking for wisdom through ‘navigation’. ‘Aveiia’ is derived from the Polynesian for ‘star-sailing’, the traditional navigational practice of the islanders, who relied on the rising and setting points of stars, along with prevailing wind and swell directions, to find their way from island to island. Following the stars in search of a new landfall is an inspiring idea. This work is an ‘odyssey’, modelled to an extent after those of Homer (Homer, 1980), James Joyce (Joyce, 1998) and Joel and Ethan Coen (Coen, 2000).
I wanted to better understand the images and sounds of a number of islands, so decided to go and listen to and watch performances within their foundational milieux. These visits were undertaken in an attempt to place myself within the widening world, the walls of which had so suddenly, unexpectedly, and in some cases literally, fractured or fallen. I felt a little lost in this new landscape, so, having visited and experienced, I explored my responses in images and music, thereby exploring my temporal, spatial and cultural positioning as a creative. Confining myself to spaces circumscribed by ocean or sea, offered a necessary sense of security and containment, like stabilisers on a child’s bicycle.
It was clearly also important to engage widely with ‘globalised’ output. This consideration seeks to explore this through the exploration of compositional strategies contingent to a number of biological, linguistic, philosophical and musical discourses.
Ethology suggests that humans inherit ‘blocs’ of behaviour. When elided with recent genetic research, this supports an argument for music as, in part, genetically determined. Humans are biochemical entities and the writings of Chomsky and others suggest that language and music are partial mirrors of these a-cultural biochemical structures. These arguments suggest that unmediated musical experience may be possible. This possibility is explored through the application of the Surrealist notion of ‘bi-sociation’ to composition.
Images and music exist physically and can be apprehended by any hearing human being, regardless of culture. The ‘super-cultural’ aspects of visual/musical systems are explored here, developing the strategy of ‘immediacy’. The resulting images/music are evaluated.
Kant’s Critique of Judgement (Kant, 1952) is examined from the perspective of Zen writing, resulting in the suggestion that aesthetic experience and the ‘beautiful’ may signpost the ineffable. The writings of a number of composers support this. The exploitation of chance as a contingent creative strategy is explored and evaluated, resulting in the proposition of an alternative paradigm.