A group exhibition on art, science and neutrality

sphere of accuracies

zone of truth

Exhibition Catalogue text By Gary Peters

5 to 31 March 2011

Bar Lane Studios, York

Greg Bright

Tracey Holland

Luke Jerram

Frédérique Swist

The unashamedly esoteric title

of this show is offered as one

response to the philosopher

Martin Heidegger’s claim (way

back in the 1930s) that, while

science presupposes truth, it is

something that forever remains

hidden from it. This might sound very much like a critique of science,

but in reality it represents a much more challenging and fundamental

attack on all thinking and doing (including philosophy) that ‘forgets’ the

essential truth of Being through an entanglement with the inessential

truths of beings.

What has this to do with art? Quite a lot, because in his endeavour to

unveil the truth Heidegger increasingly turned to art as the privileged

mode of ‘unconcealment’ and illumination, thus breaking with the

aesthetics of taste and beauty, and replacing them with a post-aesthetic

ontology of revelation.

So it is art and not science or philosophy that inhabits the ‘zone of truth’,

a claim that demands not only a re-thinking of art but also a re-thinking

of truth.

Art is no longer conceived as the representation of a given (beautiful/

sublime) world but re-conceived as the ‘creation’ and ‘preservation’ of

the ‘lighted’ space where truth is disclosed. Truth in art is not an end

but a process of infinite dis-closure (opening/closing)-interminable

revealing/re-veiling.

It is not that truth ‘belongs’ to art rather than science (it ‘belongs’ to no

one) it is just that the work of art discloses truth in a way that scientific

explanations do not.

However one might respond to such a way of thinking (and I cannot

imagine many scientists responding with enthusiasm!), it is likely that all

of the artists presented in this show would recognise something of what

they think and do in Heidegger’s words even though, ironically, they are

all in different ways profoundly engaged with science. All acutely aware

of the aporias of re-presentation, particularly when exacerbated by any

attempted visual interrogation of the sub-atomic, the microscopic and

the mathematical, their work, while doing many different things, reveals

a shared sensibility that recognises and confronts the transformative

nature of seeing and visualising. In a culture where everything must

be seen it is strange to think that it is visual artists who make us most

suspicious of seeing!

Sphere of Accuracies/Zone of Truth

Science is not a knowing in the sense of grounding and preserving an essential truth. Science is a derived

mechanism of a knowing, i.e., it is the mechanical opening of a sphere of accuracies within an otherwise

hidden-and for science in no way question-worthy-zone of truth. (Martin Heidegger)

Art approaches truth in order to witness (and articulate) its withdrawal:

unconcealment/concealment-description/de-scription (writing/unwriting)-

explication/replication (unfolding/re-folding). Thus, truth and

error are by no means opposites as are truth and falsity; to be in error is

not to be wrong but to be at a distance from the truth. In fact, errancy is

essential to the task of thinking and the work of art, both understood as

the pursuit of the truth.

To pursue something that is extinguished as it is illuminated; to be

constantly proceeding without the certainty of a defined goal requires

mindfulness rather than thoughtfulness. To be full of thought is to

already contain everything within oneself, the beginning and the end.

To be mindful is to be care-full, and care is always required when

proceeding without certainty. Care is always needed when thought is

exposed to its limit.

Mindfulness can assume two main guises, both of which, within the

field of art at least, draw it back towards science in the form of accuracy

and neutrality-both central pillars of this show.

Clearly, by opposing the truth of art to the accuracy of science,

Heidegger pays insufficient attention to the fact that artists too must

work in a sphere of accuracies. As Descartes recognised, uncertainty

resembles being lost in a wood; to proceed one must adopt a method

(walking in a straight line rather than running hither and thither). And

given that, for Heidegger, artistic truth has nothing whatsoever to do

with certainty, and that the ‘zone of truth’ within which art works is a

zone of errancy in the face of truth’s infinite ‘withdrawing’, then it is

not surprising that so many artists place such an emphasis on rigour,

precision, purposiveness (albeit without purpose) and discipline. Here

accuracy is a function of infinite uncertainty and an individual method

of managing it rather than, as in science, aligned to finite uncertainty

and the collective methodologies designed to eradicate it.

So, one of the ambitions of this show is to try and shift the focus away

from those increasingly ubiquitous art/science dialogues continually

enacted at the level of visual representation and the dubious

aestheticisation of the non-aesthetic. Instead is proposed a shared

but quite distinct engagement with accuracy as it is played out within

a ’sphere’ where truth is hidden (science) and a ‘zone’ where it is

revealed/re-veiled (art).

Taking care-as it relates to accuracy-requires

commitment to a method, understood as an

individual mode of proceeding. But mindfulness

also produces a form of care that invigilates both

commitment and the subjective contingency

of choosing this or that method: Heidegger

describes such watchful care as ‘reserve’; in this

show we are describing it as neutrality.

Once again we can detect a rapprochement of art

and science here to the extent that objectivity and

neutrality are proximal and thus easy to confuse.

But as the notes of a musical scale will confirm,

the closest proximity of melodic pitch produces

the greatest harmonic distance-dissonance-

and so it is with objectivity and neutrality. In spite

of its much-heralded scientific credentials and

pretensions, objectivity is in essence an ethical

principle: objectivity is good; subjectivity is bad.

But where the moral dialectic of objectivity

and subjectivity is human-all-too-human, the nondialectical,

amoral inhumanity of the neutral has

something monstrous about it, a severity that is as

cold as it is fascinating, and it is fascination that

rules at the end of the human.

In Heidegger’s view, art is responsible for both

the creation and the preservation of truth. This

task does not require the liquidation of the bad

subjective subject in the name of an impossible

objectivity but, rather, the mindfulness necessary

to resist the will; to rush in and gather up all the

facts in the name of truth and knowledge. As

Nietzsche understood it, the strongest will is the

will not to will, this is the strength required to

achieve accuracy and neutrality, and this show is

a testament to the fascinating space illuminated

by such discipline.

Professor Gary Peters

Chair of Critical and Cultural Theory,

Faculty of Arts, York St John University