Room B321 Portland Square,
University of Plymouth,
Rita Cachão is a PhD candidate at the University of Plymouth within Transtechnology Research, whose research project is entitled Enquiry on the Essence of Space: Khôra, Kinaesthetics and the Sublime. She is a graduate of the University of Lisbon in Fine Arts-Sculpture and holds an MA in Design at the University of Wales, Newport. It was during her MA that an ongoing liaison with space became manifest by surveying space as a dismembered realm while existing in multiple and intricate inter-relations with the human. Such perspective was specifically applied to the possibilities of space as Khôra within a curatorial practice.
While developing her artistic practice, as a series of collaborative Public Art projects by means of the exploration of dwellers’ inter-relations and art appropriations, she also explored different curatorial practices, as when working for a community arts association Extramuros, Associação cultural para a cidade (cultural association for the city). This collaboration took her through the practice and creation of art within urban environments, as well as in the planning of cultural events, as it happened with the Luzboa, an International biennale event about light in Lisbon. Since her degree that she has looked for connections outside the artist domain. These led her to join the founding team of Ectopia, (Bio-art experimental laboratory at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência) as an Arts Project Worker. As a result she jointly curated an itinerant exhibition about the Antarctic landscape, named Nullius_Paisagem Antárctica, in which artistic and scientific insights were brought to challenge the standard educational scientific exhibition.
The ontological debates on space from different disciplinary perspectives, suggest that space appears to be a paradoxical concept, trapped between different sets of dichotomies. For example there are those that define space (infinite/finite, physical/metaphysical, abstract/concrete, material/immaterial), those that reflect the understandings of the role of the concept (interior/exterior, above/below, after/before, separate/joint, limited/unlimited) and those in which the understandings of space are an omnipresent intervenient (subject/object, man/world, myth/logic). This paradoxical state of the concept of space is the topic of the thesis, which is explored as a by-product of the relation between the ontological understandings of space themselves and the notion of dichotomy, the creation of dichotomies and the ideas that inform each dichotomy. The thesis develops a discussion that while this relation is acknowledged within disciplinary epistemologies and methodologies, such implications have not been fully considered and integrated by disciplines themselves.
As an intervention in this discussion, the thesis asks what would happen within disciplinary epistemologies and research methodologies if the ontology of space were to be reframed and observed through the prism of instability, change and potentiality, in an attempt to overcome the logical process of dichotomies while accepting the paradoxical state of the concept of space.
To achieve this ambition the thesis first interrogates a selective number of disciplines regarding the ontology of space, specifically observing the interaction with the different sets of dichotomies while highlighting frictions within the disciplinary epistemologies generated by restricted ontological spatial discussions. This approach will show the impact that thinking space has in dichotomies themselves. Within the discussions opened up in the thesis, space emerges as a concept that sets and forms dichotomies by informing ideas of difference and similarity, limits and boundaries. This sets the stage for categories, structures and order to happen, not only ultimately playing a role within disciplinary epistemologies, but also informing ideas of materiality and object, which will reveal themselves fundamental to a discussion of research methodologies.
In order to reframe the ontology of space the thesis proceeds from a review of the Platonic concept of Khora in its multiple interpretations one that avoids dichotomies in the thinking about space, by privileging the idea of process and becoming. In doing so the thesis opens up a path for the possibility of a discussion within the ontology of space that is informed through change, instability and potentiality. This enables a consideration of the repercussions of a reframed space ontology to informing categories, structures, order and epistemologies, from which to survey the relation between space and order through its taxonomy (organisation, categorisation, structure, hierarchy, concept). The thesis will test the virtue of its processes by opening speculative frameworks to discuss research methodologies that challenge ideas of origin, causality, linearity, evidence, proof and ultimately truth the thesis reviews contemporary debates within historiography and throughout the thesis the mythological/logical, real/imagined existence of monsters will be used as a case study.
Mediating the Infinite Object
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 13th February 2013
(co-presented with Amanda Egbe)
The seminar will unfold from the assumption that there are research ‘objects’ that cannot be altogether understood, that they are unknowable, infinite, but that at the same time these ‘objects’ can be more fully accessed by means other then causal/linear explanation, even utterance.Mediating the infinite object thus becomes the centre of the seminar.
We will proceed from a Foucauldian version of archaeology, as he presented in the works that culminate with the Archaeology of knowledge and The Order of Things. This seminar will particularly refer to the text ‘Las Meninas’ (The Order of Things).
In the text ‘Las Meninas’, Foucault can be seen to show rather than explain (tell) his methodology. Following this effort to mediate the infinite object the seminar will unravel the possibilities for practical applications.
Rita Cachão, will reflect on her approach on using ‘monsters’ as a case study as a corollary to discuss different notions and understandings of space.
Amanda Egbe, will present a case study on notions of preservation in relation to her research on the moving image archive through resurrection, reincarnation, reanimation in religious contexts.
In order to facilitate the discussion, we have made extracts available and ask participants to think on the relations between archaeology and their own research interests.
On Deep History and the Sublime: a brief introduction
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 20th June 2012
(co-presented with Martyn Woodward)
This seminar will introduce the concept of deep history as the driving concept for the next seminar series. As a consequence the seminar will take the form of an open dialogue in which the concept, instigated by Martyn and Rita, will open the floor for reflection by the research group in terms of their own thinking and projects.
The emergence of deep history is shaping a contemporary concern with the human, and artifacts, beyond a reliance upon the documentary evidence of the written word, which has formed a somewhat materialist history as constituted and driven by persons and things. Conventionally, within History, there is a reliance upon documentary written evidence, which is a syndrome of an epistemological framework in which the human controls, works upon and constructs nature. A deep history attempts to re-instate a history that accounts for a ‘pre-history’ of the written word through the traces of human consciousness left within human made artifacts, which themselves become containers for meanings and social relations (Shryock and Smail, 2011, p. 220). Shryock and Smail insist that artifacts such as fossils, tools, pictures, household items, ecological change and genetic variation, just as the written word, contain traces of human kinship relations and exchanges.
A deep history thus attempts to recognize that the human is a part of, and does not exists upon, nature. However, the making of history through a Deep History perspective can be extended to comprise a symbiotic treatment of the material and immaterial -(im)material- dimensions of human experience, which would necessarily implicate a discussion of the sublime both as a descriptive category for the limits of knowledge and its potentialities as a working concept in the making.”
Space, the Sublime and Pre-cognition
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 22nd February 2012
This seminar intends to develop a collective discussion around the possible connections between the Sublime and pre-cognition in order to open up the possibilities of relationship between the concepts of the Sublime and Space as the last part of the discussion in my thesis. Initially we will bracket the concept of pre-cognition and discuss multiple theories of the sublime. We will then approach the Sublime and pre-cognition through the supplement of the concept of counter-intuition.
It would be helpful if prior to the seminar you could read the articles on this seminar’s page at Transtechnology Research website and to bring with you examples of the sublime and if possible some examples of pre cognition drawn from the arts and the sciences.
Heavenly Discourses: Myth, Astronomy and Culture – University of Bristol – 15th November 2011
In questioning space, the every-day life word that shelters multiple conceptualizations of our own understandings and interactions with the world, this paper sets the context to reflect upon the concept of ‘outer space’. This reflection will concern not the nature of outer space as an astronomical entity, but to focus on the adjective ‘outer’. How did these two words come together to form the concept, what does it mean to bring them together, where does the concept have its origins and what is this concept a symptom of? As cosmologies are the study of not only the cosmos, but more broadly a study of the world, as the product of human construction through our interactions and representations of it, we can begin to frame an oppositional concept of ‘outer space’. The reflection will depart from the specific case of Plato’s cosmology, Timaeus, as a work that has embedded the elements of discord. The paper will explore not the physical position of being on or outside the Earth, nor the dichotomy outer/inner, but the notion that cosmologies are principally based upon night skies observations. Consequently, the paper investigates how differently one could conceive of day sky, day earth and night earth cosmologies. What other conceptualizations of ‘outer space’ and therefore of space, would emerge if our cosmologies were based on the observation of such phenomena as clouds and the horizon, or briefly on unfixed and changing ‘naked eye’ references.
Metaphysics of Non-Capitalized Space
Lost-in-Space Workshop – University College London – 2nd December 2010
Let us assume space as a fundamental concept to different disciplines across the sciences, humanities and arts with the particularity of neither being fully understood nor controlled by the disciplines themselves. A concept, which peculiarities and historical convolutions regarding its understanding, have torn apart and in due course disclosed the incongruity of thinking separately space as an abstract and physical entity. Let us also assume that a certain metaphysical question is valid within a PhD framework: What is the essence of space? If a research agenda would fall under the metaphysical realm, or the category of unanswerable questions, how could such a research proceed? And which methodology would allow recovering the subject within a meta-level of discussion? The present PhD research departs from a framework that combines these two interrogations; and the awareness that in order to go beyond standard practices and knowledge, it is sometimes necessary to re-question and revisit fundamental assumptions. Consequently, throughout this research it will be sustained that space as an unsolvable matter can be approached through a speculative and exploratory methodology that mirrors the process of artistic creation and practice in a transdisciplinary approach. It is expected that this approach prizes open room to re-read the concept and through it understand the role of such a disturbing, yet most necessary, concept to our own understanding and consequent interaction with the world. Therefore, the present project is, above all, about the non-capitalized Space, the commonly used word in our everyday life that yet stands for a puzzling and elusive concept.
Mnemosyne Atlas and Cosmologies: connecting the dots or drawing the clouds
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 17th November 2010
Cosmology is a theme that permeates Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas, particularly from the point of view of its place within a network that binds it to the ontology of the human being and Art. Focussing upon panel 1 it is possible to trace this cosmological connection through the images of models of sheep livers and Kudurros. These two types of artefacts portray the discussion not as direct representations of the cosmos but through their role in practices that embody cosmological representations. The influence of the cosmos in determining human destinies through the divinatory practice of hepatoscopy and, again, its influence mirrored by humans in the making of political order and geographical delimitation. Practices that when followed throughout time, geography and cultures reveal shifts that may echo different representational and thought systems, specifically the dialectic between mythological and logical thinking.
The idea that the cosmos could influence human beings and consequently their behaviour is deeply connected with the assumption of everlasting reference points in the night sky that when connected into lines can be used as an interpretative structure. A reading mode that has pervaded the conceptualisation and usage of concepts, as the one of space, and became structural in the way Western civilization has informed its thought system, whether mythological or logical. The realization that cosmologies have been mainly based on night sky readings opens a discussion about what would happen if the colourful curtain of a day sky, through which one cannot see, or the ephemeral clouds, would be at the basis of Western cosmologies and thought systems? Opening up a route for speculation, cloud painting will be discussed as a possible place where thinking about other systems could have their seeds, given the problems that painting clouds present us with.
Unveiling Space Through the Lenses of Hand-drawn Scientific Illustration
Space: the Real and the Abstract – The Centre for Art, Design, Research and Experimentation (CADRE), University of Wolverhampton - 6th July 2010
In this paper hand-drawn scientific illustration will be presented as a mediator between ideals and the necessity to make them attainable which thereby enforces a materialisation. In order to deconstruct this mediation an analytical grid will be created through the exploration of two antithetical order systems and their interaction with subjective and objective dimensions of viewing. The use of this grid reveals how the mediation operates on different levels of the viewing interaction in the process of making and understanding hand-drawn scientific illustration. Consequently, it becomes a case study for understanding the human felt experience on the construction of scientific theories that deal with order and systematization. Observed through this perspective, hand-drawn scientific illustration propels an analogous function to space in mathematical conceptualizations, revealing the links between subjective and objective dimensions in the human-space relationship. Despite the inherent immateriality of this relationship, concrete and tangible signifiers have long characterized our understanding of space. However, given its peculiarities and historical evolution the concept was torn apart which in due course disclosed the incongruence of thinking separately space as an abstract and physical entity. In order to reach a confrontation with the essence of space, the paper will outline my PhD project, which proceeds from space as Khora, a transcendent entity demanding the union of mathematics and metaphysics as to reach a univocal accord. Unveiling the impact of this alternative insight on contemporary discourses, the thesis will discuss two hypothetical confrontations with the khoratic conception of space: kinaesthesia and the sublime.
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 24th March 2010
(co-presented with Amanda Egbe and Joanna Griffin)
Informed by the research from three different perspectives, this seminar will develop a dialogue concerned with the gaps and frictions surrounding a variety of discourses of Space. Through illustration, demonstration and discussion the seminar will present how the subtleties of space emerge, through technologies, man (beings) and ultimately the world at a meta-level.
Amanda Egbe will examine the relationship between space and place, in cinema and architecture. Exploring amongst others the tactics of expanded and experimental cinema, and the attempts to demystify the relationship between viewer and film, the screen emerges as a lever to realise notions of presentness, immersion and reality. Going beyond being just a metaphor of being in space, or a relation of subject to object, the screen can offer a powerful way in which space can be explored, experienced and expressed, as well as the architectures of the cinema in which that exploration takes place.
Joanna Griffin will be discussing the interior spaces of Mission Operations/Control rooms, the control centres from which rockets are launched, commands are sent to satellites and data from satellites is downloaded. She will use ideas from experimental film that refer to the space between the viewer and the screen to look at the spatial relation that mission operations personnel have with the cosmos, from this room. This place of connection with the cosmos happens through a technology that dynamically crosses the threshold from the terrestrial environment we can experience with our bodies, to a conjectured environment in which our bodies would vapourise! Can the experience be described in any way as cinematic? While space technologies create a connection to deeper realms of outer space, the mission control room can be seen as breaking the continuous space and direct experience of the cosmos that we have when we look at the night sky. How does the viewer experience this extension through technology into space and does cosmos become more intellectual and less meaningful as a result?
Rita Cachão will discuss hand-drawn scientific illustrations as a mediation that opens up a debate about viewing and its role on our understandings of space. In the first instance it could be said that these type of scientific illustrations act as a mediator between the scientist and the object of study, however at a deeper level what it reveals are paradigms and theories that are dependent on the knowledge validated by the sciences. Yet the process that brings about the image is led by a subjective being and their response to daily experience. As a consequence, scientific illustration can often reveal a disturbance between the subjectivity inherent to the making of a drawing and the scientific standards of objectivity. The apparent paradox is nevertheless crucial in the understanding and transfer of scientific ideas which are always rigourously edited versions of daily (felt) experience.
The Hollow Body and the Mouth of the Monster
Lure of the New - Cognition Institute launch and conference, University of Plymouth – 21st March 2012
My Research develops around an ontological discussion of space. Within it one of the problems that is discussed is the framework within which space is related with the construction of dichotomies, structures and categorization; particularly when constructing the idea of distinct and irreconcilable logical systems as the ‘logical’ and the ‘mythological’. A clear-cut separation between mythos and logos is often observed as hindering research on ‘objects’ that cannot be altogether understood, that are widely unknowable and inaccessible, even escaping utterance, as space, but also monsters. My research then builds a case study around monsters and their multiple existence status. An ‘object’ that is convergent with space in the questions that poses to transformation, delimitation, instability, morphing dimensions, change, categorization and consequently to logical systems, but regarding which there is no general consensus on their mythological/logical, physical/imagined existence. Monsters as a research ‘object’ becomes an alternative epistemological tool that enables an enquiry unto the unknowable and inaccessible outside a linguistic framework, and that reveals space as a discussion about processes, the construction of epistemological structures and research methodologies.
This poster presents a visual discussion regarding ‘monsters’ as a clash between the known, which informs the body of the monster, and the unknown, what the monster points towards. It is shown a thought experiment on some interactions between the body of monsters and the human body and on how historical medical practices mediate such accounts. This poster will try to challenge the idea of the monster as an imaginary being thought as something that does not have a physical existence, belonging to other dimensions that are only accessible through representational methods, as written descriptions and images. Taking monsters as something that exists elsewhere, or maybe nowhere, how do they become present and material in the world, or which other ways do we have to access monsters beyond representational ideas?
Earth-Sky Cosmologies: a reflection on cosmology through human practices (Part 1)
Transtechnology Reader 2010/2011
Presently cosmology is regarded as a discipline that is mainly concerned with the understanding of the cosmos in the heavens as an external readable structure that can reveal the origin of the Universe. In this context Man is positioned as an external observer detached from the studied phenomena. Such understanding of cosmology has a history that traces back to the origin of the word cosmos within the ancient Greek civilisation, as informed by a Man-world dichotomy and the symbolic placing of the unknown world in the sky. However, cosmology, as the word cosmos implies, is about the conceptualisation of the world, moreover, about the reflection and expression of the interrelation between world and Man and not about a detached cosmogenetic understanding of the universe through the heavens. Overcoming the restricting contemporary accounts of cosmology, the philosopher Rémi Brague presented an argument in the work The Wisdom of the World that rethinks cosmology within a framework where the human is fundamentally and inevitably implicated. Departing from Brague’s work, in this paper it will be argued that re-thinking cosmology requires a shift in focus to conceive of practices, such as drawing, as human worldly experiences bringing to the surface the role of the human as more than an observer of the world. This shift will be supported by a close examination of two hitherto separate discussions: cosmology as an emerging discipline during the Enlightenment and the role of drawing within the epistemological model of 18th century natural history.
Disclosing Space: order and mediation from hand-drawn scientific illustration to geometry
Transtechnology Reader 2009/2010
In this paper hand-drawn scientific illustration will be presented as a mediator between humans and ideals of the physical world, which are needed to be made attainable thereby enforcing a materialisation. In order to deconstruct this mediation an analytical framework will be created through the exploration of two antithetical order systems and their interaction with subjective and objective human dimensions. The use of this framework reveals how the mediation operates on different levels of the construction and understanding of hand-drawn scientific illustrations; as scientific drawing is an embodied action guided by conventions for its construction and analysis. Consequently, it becomes a case study for understanding the human felt experience on the construction of scientific theories that deal with order and systematization. Observed through this perspective, hand-drawn scientific illustration propels an analogous function to geometry in mathematical conceptualizations, as these are both apparently disruptive forms of mediation. This correlation prize open issues concerning space, particularly regarding its role as the conceptual foundation of geometries. The mathematical correlation will unfold from an isotropic/anisotropic discussion inside Newtonian mechanics. The outcome of this reading will reveal the interactions between the human connection with the physical world and conceptualizations of space, as despite the inherent immateriality of this relationship, concrete and tangible signifiers, such as verbal and mathematical languages, have long characterized our understanding of space. Consequently it is expected that observing geometries as a mathematical materialized mediator of the human/space interaction, this relationship begins to be unveiled.