Commissioned by Projet Casa for the exhibition “Sonnet to Science. Ode to Magic.”
‘Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’.
— T.S. Eliot, The Rock (1934)
In fossilized cerebella
Live The Antikythera mechanism
Like so many other
Universal tales Of progress
A collective memory
Drunk on future
Remains in an eternal December
Though through every step of mankind
I try to remember
All the things we lost
The role of the Artist in a society where Science and Technology overtake Magic
In his much regarded debate with the American linguist Noam Chomsky, French critical theorist Michel Foucault detailed the notion that grids of knowledge, as they emerge, are layered on top of each other and suppress previous ones. This concept may give us a clue of the evolution of knowledge through human history. We often ask the fundamental epistemological question “How do we know what we know?”, when we should beg for the contrary, “How do we know what we know not?”.
The modern subject has been emboldened to believe they know everything. Armed with Alphabet’s quasi-infinite portable library, we see this borrowed information as our own. This false sense of knowledge is engendered by the misconstrual of access for ownership. Because we have access to all this information, we believe it to be knowledge. There are two main reasons why we live in the age of twilight knowledge: we do not own the information (ownership) and we do not know how it is produced (production).
Picture this: Prisoners chained so that their necks and limbs are fixed, forcing them to gaze at the screen in front of them. Behind the screen, particles of melted beach sand interact through an electromagnetic waltz and produce the shapes of “men and other living things”.
And what exactly is this waltz? How exactly do these particles produce these shapes? How does the bit go from there to there? Why are certain shapes more important than others?
The modern subject is a consumer of information. We have lost touch with the sources of knowledge. Our technology which provides it is opaque and proprietary. Try to open the black aluminum boxes through which we access information.
Remember the words of Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
What separates advanced technology from magic is knowledge, the understanding of how the advanced technology is produced and how it works. We are constantly compelled to “Trust the science”, but the Scientific Method beckons us not to believe but to replicate. Empiricists claim that knowledge is the active product of experience and not belief.
“Then she got into the lift, for the good reason that the door stood open; and was shot smoothly upwards. The very fabric of life now, she thought as she rose, is magic. In the eighteenth century, we knew how everything was done; but here I rise through the air; I listen to voices in America; I see men flying – but how it's done I can't even begin to wonder. So my belief in magic returns.” — Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography (1928)
It is called Fantasy when no scientific explanation is provided for the impossible, it is called Science-Fiction when it is.
If Science transfigures Magic into Information, which evil demon can reverse the alchemy? Who else but the Artist to obscure technology and extract through their own liberated production its unknowable characteristics? Oh, the Prestige!
Memory is a radical act.
“Sing to me, oh Muse” — when she does, it is from the dome. Evanescent shapes cannot hold a people together. Memory is the safeguard against the perversions of History. Hold on tight. Go forth and disseminate all that you remember before your secrets are forever lost. We cannot claim to know if we do not remember, if the knowledge is not within us, if we do not own it.
Where is your knowledge?
Probably somewhere in the cloud
Where you are granted access to it?
No longer yours
We ask permission
To those who control the data
Those who control Collective Memory
What if The Song of the Revolution disappeared?
How to Remember
Dig deep within the archives of disappeared peoples, and you will find traces of recent futures. Imagine the advanced creations of forgotten Atlantis, the foregone algorithms lost forever beneath Alexandria, each layer of Troy is a new opportunity to uncover that what was once fiction can become reality and what was once fantasy simply is.
Do not believe the ones who claim the future will not be a certain way. They do not know: it has already happened.
Our only hope
Perhaps, You, dear Reader, will
One day awake
From uneasy dreams
Transformed a monstrous beast
Heavy and slow, blackened by
Reminiscence an Artist:
Someone who remembers
All the things we lost