The Origin / Zero / Emergence Of The Whole
"Certainty" / "Physical Knowledge" / '"In The Beginning There Was" / Music / Vibrations / Logic
Substance / Mode / Downward Causation: INFORMATION
Machine & Tokens / Things As Standards For Words / das Nicht-Dingliche der Sprache / Sprachwerkzeuge
Prima Materia / What is the link between psychic and physical events? /
ORIGIN - EMERGENCE OF THE WHOLE
It is so difficult to find the beginning. Or, better: it is difficult to begin at the beginning. And not try to go further back. - L.W. On Certainty
To begin to consider any-thing is retrospection. My work proceeds exclusively by reaching backwards at each instant: focussed on its own emergence and origin, on the origin of each idea and spontaneous emergence of a form in my sub-/conscious mind, on the origin of forms in and from the cubic volume of wood itself, and on how these forms may be related to fundamental elements in Nature and to the ultimate Origin of Space and Time.
To contemplate the Origin / the Fundamental from all angles and (new) knowledge available to me in present day culture is to reach for an absolute limit - of form, matter and thought. To consider that which emerges as new as close as possible to both sides of non-existence: between emergence and annihilation, and thus to think of the emerging space or form in-between as absolutely fundamental and necessary. To ask what is absolutely fundamental, non-arbitrary and necessary in the realm of 'sculpture' or 'art'; to always examine what else can be taken away without destroying it / the form / 'the sculpture' or 'art'. Or: to find this limit / to define what is fundamental as if from the other side, by pushing the work through a thought process which the object as 'a sculpture' / as 'art' may no longer be able handle.
To define an absolute limit is a paradox. Each paradox encountered is a limit. Numerous paradoxes in wood have surfaced over the course of my work and appear absolutely essential, fundamental and perhaps even original - ? The forms which emerge and manage to exist in this way are the most pared down and bare forms possible in wood. Stripped down to an absolute limit of what form and thought in matter can be, they are the 'purest' / simplest -and most fragile- tools of thought possible. To examine forms at the moment of their emergence limits my field of activity to the minutest realm, which upon close inspection opens up and reveals - if not 'histories'- then evidence not of a 'pre'- but a permanent / all-pervasive (?) existence of logic and of 'laws' in matter determining and shaping everything that is new according to their own 'rules', thus allowing me to contemplate the question and the concept of the new and of free will (information itself calling into question the concept of the 'new' and 'free will').
So originally my work in wood was triggered by music / the Cello Sonatas by Benjamin Britten (a fact that to this day is crucial to my system of thought). At first I had tried to translate the nature of this music into drawings (sets of straight lines drawn with a ruler). Puzzling qualities observed in these drawings led to my attempt to try and translate these into three-dimensional matter / wood - which led me to discover my most fundamental tool: the idea of a circle 'folded' into and carved from wood.
The introduction of the idea of a circle/loop produced radical paradigm shifts in the status of the wooden matter, my relationship to it, as well as the fundamental properties of the circle. When 'folded' into wood, inside and outside of the circle are no longer opposed along the circle line, but envelop each other and merge. Matter and mind become equally indistinguishable as the wood 'takes on' qualities and properties of the mind, and becomes flexible, fluid and potentially infinitely stretchable, and the limit of where the mind ends and the wood itself begins becomes a matter of deep uncertainty. In the process of carving (carving thoughts / carving wood), causality -a clear sequence of events / the arrow of time- cannot be defined with certainty as cause and effect have no fixed and definitive 'location' and appear to be located on 'both' sides. The observation of the material thing in wood, external to me, is introspection at once: of thoughts, language and images inside my own mind. The quest for the Origin through carving is my quest for an understanding of the relationship between cause and effect, between language and matter, and of Time.
Over time it became clear that the findings right at the beginning of my work in wood had touched on something that seemed far 'bigger' than the individual forms that I had made thus far. I realised that the work in the very first and few individual manifestations had emerged as a complete Whole, and my work ever since has been the attempt to try to analyse and understand this wholeness. It is this emergence of the Whole at the very beginning of my work which is responsible for its retrospective character. Every single detail and aspect in this process is of significance; absolutely nothing is accidental or unimportant. The work oscillates between being this emergence and being about its emergence. My work is: trying to understand what it is that I do when I work. It is best understood when told as a story which is its own history; a circular narrative where that which develops and is understood much later turns out to have already been present in its very first seemingly all-encompassing beginning.
It seems that because of the focus on Origin and on that which is fundamental the work makes horizontal and vertical connections which reach far beyond itself. Carving wood has not only led me to explore, but has -strangely- enabled me to understand concepts and questions from a wide range of fields. It has come as a complete surprise to me to find essential concerns in my own work echoed in central themes in science and philosophy, in particular in the philosophical implications of quantum physics, topology and the information revolution. This surprise has over time given way to the understanding that my work has evolved as a kind of 'cosmological model', where the immediate findings about what is fundamental and/or original in the process of the emergence of 'a sculpture' can serve as scaffolding for thought in a much more fundamental and therefore wider and bigger context.
The physical act of carving acts as a motor, producing a literal and extra-ordinary insight by taking me deep into the conscious and subconscious mind-matter-language-body situation that I myself am, and which cannot be accessed and understood through logic and language alone. Carving has not only given me an insight into the extraordinary complexity of introspection / the relationship between myself and 'the world', but has also enabled me to see that the impossibility of a clear separation between subject and object in the process of introspection has a formal similarity with atomic / quantum physics, the discovery of which had forced scientists to abandon the ideal of causality and certainty, and with it everyday language as well as any visual models which were unable to describe, or account for, the quantum event. The loss of causality -of a clear subject/object separation- was the condition for a total loss of visualisability. The examination of this formal similarity of introspection and the processes in quantum physics, and of the loss of causality - the breakdown or limit of the language / visual form of causality, as well as the limit and role of measurement itself- and the role symbols may play in visualising joint processes in mind and matter - is absolutely central to my work. I believe these to be some of the most central questions that should be addressed on the whole in art today; a frontier which today in art lies largely neglected. The information turn over the last four decades or so has exacerbated and deepened this challenge. To explore the philosophical implications of quantum physics and the information turn in the age old and simple medium of wood / in the realm of art, to me is the Mount Everest - the greatest challenge possible - which is from the outset: utopian.
The Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, the writings of Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, the work of Wolfgang Pauli und C.G.Jung (whose close friendship was crucial to each of their most fundamental discoveries), Merleau-Ponty's 'The Visible and The Invisible" and Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'On Certainty' are some of my most constant and seemingly infinite sources for my meditations in wood.
The exploration of each of the above mentioned fields and works has in turn fundamentally shaken and changed my understanding of 'sculpture'. Scientific revolutions and paradigm shifts have radically transformed our understanding of the nature of 'reality' over the last three centuries, developments to which contemporary art generally seems to turn its back. Deeply rooted in the tradition and history of art, carving is my tool not only to explore various concepts, but to observe and measure how these conceptual revolutions and paradigm shifts in turn affect 'sculpture' and 'art'. Carving is an in itself abstract and invisible window-like 'machine' through which thoughts coming from this activity itself, as well as from other fields can be observed. Thoughts, words and ideas are run through this machine like tokens, enabling me to measure, analyse and crystallise their essence, and to contemplate, test, measure and attempt to verify language and knowledge. The given and fixed paradigm of the same volume of wood used in each work of 9cm x 9cm x 240/280cm is the in-itself seemingly invisible frame which actively shapes the emerging worldview. Thus I root myself in this world.
The process of carving is a tool which is produced through the very use of itself . The wooden things (if they survive - and most don't) are left-overs / by-products of this process. In this context it is very interesting to me to see that, for example, Baruch Spinoza manufactured highly sophisticated optical lenses whilst developing his philosophy, or that Isaac Newton was deeply involved in alchemy whilst developing a scientific 'rationalist' world view at the same time. I have no doubt that their immediate involvement in and experiments with matter were absolutely instrumental for the development of their most progressive and essential philosophical and scientific ideas. A pity Kant did not carve! Every philosopher should have her stone. Woodcarving to me is alchemy.
Yet - Spinoza's lenses went on to be sold and used as optical instruments, and thus fell back from their status and role of being philosophical tools to being mere practical tools like hammers and nails. Yet in his writings I believe one can sense and perhaps trace the lenses in their original function. Should it be possible to make lenses, or in my case 'sculptures', that are nothing but this in-between - held right at the point of production -of being a machine for thought- and before being sold on to do daily things in other realms - like being telescopes - or 'art' ? This kind of 'sculpture' would require a response from the audience that is very different from the one that is currently given to contemporary art.
'Sculpture' was an entry point in the beginning, at which I took the field of art for granted. But over time the idea of 'sculpture' and 'art' as such, as presupposed 'givens', and for which one may strive, through my work have completely disintegrated - and with it the possibility of my work automatically having this 'given' audience that 'belongs' to this very field.
The work has a dynamic of its own, creating a reality of its own, a realm of its own - and this reality falls between the given categories of art and philosophy as if in a blind spot. This falling-in-between-the-categories of my work is a direct expression of the nature and status of these wooden 'things'. They withhold something from each of these realms.
What exactly is withheld?
Is perhaps that which is withheld the most fundamental part of what I do?
As an injury has brought my carving activity to a (preliminary?) halt, the 'machine for thought' that this work is to me continues to work, albeit deprived of its heart, and thus of the acuity that can only come from a complete immersion in matter.
"Further, from what has just been said—namely, that an idea must, in all respects, correspond to its correlate in the world of reality,—it is evident that, in order to reproduce in every respect the faithful image of nature, our mind must deduce all its ideas from the idea which represents the origin and source of the whole of nature, so that it may itself become the source of other ideas."
Tractatus Intellectus Emendatione - On The Improvement Of Understanding, Baruch Spinoza, 1661