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--- A.HAHN On the Nature of Things

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ON THE NATURE OF THINGS

--- Abstract:
Chance and coincidence. Random or necessary? Beyond the grasp of our rational frame of mind, yet obviously deeply rooted in the laws of nature, they have always been responsible for evolutionary change and escape from the tyranny of entropic sameness. On the Nature of Things speaks of these matters.

--- Framework:

"We live in a post-Einsteinian universe, a space without places." (Arnold Mindell)

Everything is closely interconnected. All our actions, conflicts, thoughts and emotions mix with each other, creating a global body of networks. Nothing can be discarded, because in a body there is no place where anything could disappear. This terrestrial body is the mythological Anthropos. The coincidental ways in which events and conflicts on earth seem to develop, manifest that we partake in its dream. In an oneiric world everything becomes symbol, not only words and concepts, but also people and things engulfed in a continuous state of becoming. Knowing the signs, "going back to the beginnings of things and pursuing them to the end, we come to know the lessons of birth and death" (The Book Of Changes, Ta Chuan - The Great Treatise)

On the Nature of Things initiated in frequent personal encounters with coincidences corresponding so precisely to my occupations, that I began to doubt their accidental nature. Three examples: The day "State of Being" (1982) was released, cyanate laced Tylenol was discovered. In the tape I had used images of Tylenol capsules extensively. On production of "Secret Sanctions" (1985), illegally video taping on the roof of the Port Authority Building, I pressed the recording button. At this very instant, over on the New Jersey shore, a building fire started and a column of smoke rose. The moment of departure from Rome (1991), my computer got stolen. During the preceding months I had secretly recorded the workings of pick-pockets. The computer was later returned… (s.f. "Fundamentals of Legerdemain," or my booklet "Rats").

Science, the most systematized branch of human knowledge, is rife with accidental finds: Friedrich August Kekulé's dream of the benzene ring, the fortuitous discovery of penicillin from a primarily bacteriostatic mold, or the unexpected fauna around deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, and, way back, Archimedes grasping the principle of specific gravity while taking a bath. The biologist Wolfgang Pauli proposes that these serendipitous sparks occur because "from an inner circle the psyche seems to move outward, in the sense of an extroversion, into the physical world." Rupert Sheldrake speaks of "morphogenetic fields." C. G. Jung who coined the terms "synchronicity" and "luminosity" wrote of "patterns", where the subconscious part of the psyche is in some way in tune with a world beyond our sense perception. This view associates with the writings in the I Ching, the Book of Changes, also of Lao-tse and Confucius, that every event in the visible world is the effect of an "image", an idea in the unseen world, i.e. the subconscious of the Anthropos.

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Hence, coincidences are only seemingly random. The Book of Changes postulates that they appear in intelligible configurations, which develop in accordance with calculable numbers. If these numbers are known, e.g. divined with the yarrow stalk oracle, decisive intervention in the course of events ensues, observation turns into the vital act of participation: a concept recognized again by today's quantum mechanics.

The basis of the I Ching is a binary oracular pronouncement, originally of "Yes", indicated by a single unbroken line (-), and "No", a broken line (- -). For greater differentiation, the lines are combined in triplets, trigrams. Pairing of these eight primary signs yields the total of 64 hexagrams and their associated images. (Incidentally, nature obtains the 64 code words for building amino acids by combining any three of the four nucleotides on a strand of DNA.) These symbols do not represent things as such, but ponder upon their functions and tendencies in movement. In this way, the Book of Changes presents a complete image of heaven and earth, a microcosmic model of all possible configurations and events in the phenomenal world.

--- Project:

Reflecting the dynamic workings of the subject matter, On the Nature of Things treats coincidence in a twofold manner: it talks about coincidence, while at the same time also embodying a process subject to coincidence. The working title translates from Lucretius' (95 - 55 B.C.) epic poem "De Rerum Natura". His theory of simulacra is charming, but the evocative power arises from his imagery, which finds in the most simple and disparate daily situations telltales of complex universal workings. Often in my electronic gathering of images, a shaky pan, an awkward zoom or even an unintentional record, best transmit a given moment - mirroring the way the subconscious encodes the keys to change and renewal in the disturbing details of dream. On the Nature of Things traces such indicative fragments from my video and computer archive, covering a period of 10 years, sort of magnetic "songs of experience". The choice follows the classification of primary, archetypal images suggested by the trigrams in the Book of Changes, i.e., in brief: heaven, earth, thunder, water, mountain, wind and wood, fire, lake. Initially, I planned to determine sequence and (re-) combination of images by consulting the oracle, employing both the yarrow-stalk and the coin methods. This procedure turned out to be inadequate because I felt it to be too biased by the traditive symbols. Length, speed, color and transition parameters, and key levels of individual scenes were to be entered numerically, with values computed by a randomizing program. I also abandoned this approach because it would have overlooked and even destroyed the structure already inherent in my electronic memories, i.e. people and objects of interest, length of observation and kind of shoot, linear sequence, etc.

When the sun strikes a CCD, the light sensitive recording element of a video camera, the image tends to collapse and begins to pulsate between dark and white, maybe as result of stabilizing efforts of the circuitry. The images of the edited video stripes are embedded within such a solar pulse and appear and disappear with its rhythm, bathing the gallery space in the spectacle of memory's light.

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ALEXANDER HAHN



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