I make art because I care about and am interested in investigating the evolution of consciousness, the nature of being, becoming and transforming, and the nature of language and technology.
My practice is philosophical, analytical and psychological and pivotal life events have shaped my work: performing in Australia as a real-time video artist soaked in sound and light for more than a decade; living and working in the very different cultures of Asia, Australia and Europe, as well as having countless experiences that I would like to describe as mystical and even, if permitted, magical. Finding myself now in the fortunate position to be able to make and think through art practice, I think of myself as 'a successful returnee from the underworld' - one that having visited, has returned with some abilities to try to navigate and explore the many mysteries of life.
I gained an interesting perspective on technology whilst being a video artist from 2000-2007 in Melbourne, Australia. I was creating real-time visual performances through technological mediation in synchronisation to sound, and I discovered while performing that at times the computer seemed to be able to reflect back my subconscious self. Whilst working in real-time with sound, certain image and word combinations would seemingly be generated autonomously through the computer, leading me to think of technology as having the capacity to be a mirror of human consciousness. I wondered if technology is possibly just a reflection of who we are - something we externalised, an opposing but synonymous entity/reality if you like. Now, almost 20 years later, I wonder if it is the presence of sound and not only the technological element that creates the magic of permitting the unknown to appear.
Later while formally studying Fine Art from 2011-2016 in Milan, Italy - the concept of the unity of opposites made itself known to me. I was not specifically researching this philosophical idea, I encountered it through my practice-based research in painting. I was finding painting a difficult medium due I think, to the fact that I had worked with light for so many years. To give light its part back in my work I decided to use a transparent support and began painting on plexiglass. This gave me an interesting aesthetic result, but more importantly I became aware that when turning the work around one sees its opposite, and in fact, one side of a painting is a mirrored version of the other side. Intrigued I researched further which led me to discover the concepts of the unity of opposites and the dialectic move within philosophical history. I gained an understanding of these ideas as philosophical mediums for change, and came to the conclusion that the possibilities for expansion beyond contradictions was what really interested me. I wrote the papers Becoming the Third Person Perspective and Revolution or Evolution that were published and presented at the Congress of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics in New York and subsequently in Vienna. For the completion of my Master in Visual Culture (2015) at the Accademia di Brera, Milan I wrote the thesis The Tautology of Virtual Reality in which, exploring the idea that comprehending the dialectic move allows for an evolution of consciousness, I argued that reality and ‘virtuality’ are two sides of the one thing; and furthermore that the evolution of consciousness of self is a creative act in the process of social evolution.
Applying the insight I had gained on technology through my practice working with computers and sound to my understanding of the dialectic move - I then wrote the thesis Anthropononcentric Art to complete my Master in Painting (2016) also at the Accademia di Brera in Milan. In this thesis I reasoned that as (in my opinion) both humankind and technology are human intelligences, possibly we require a beyond-human intelligence for an evolution in consciousness to occur. Anthropononcentric art then was the application of this theory to my practice - it is an enquiry into the potential of artistic collaboration between human intelligence (both mankind and our technological reflection) and natural intelligences, specifically highlighting the importance of not putting human thought above the unknown intelligence of nature. My practice since that time has reflected this theory and methodology - nature presenting itself via the human and technology. I think it is important to note here that I use this humble six letter word 'nature' to denote all the phenomena of the physical world and the non-physical world of matter and energy, and I also want to emphasise that as a human, I believe I have limited capacity to fully know what nature is.
This theory of an Anthropononcentric art was reiterated through the creation of many different objects, installations, videos and performance from 2013-2021. Nature was presented in these works via bringing in to play the intelligence of light, water, sound and also 'objects' such as coral, crystal, feather, fish, flower, insect, tree, rock and shell. The video installation The Fount created in 2021 and exhibited in Umbria, Italy was, in a way, the pinnacle of these works, becoming a critical moment in my practice. The videos produced for the installation were created by birdsong (I made their sound visible via mapping the sound frequencies to the RGB color model utilising a software modular synthesiser) which created a circling back to my previous experience of creating visuals in real-time while synchronised with sound. This enabled me to link sound back into my practice in a new way, incorporating it together with the idea of nature presenting itself via man and technology.
Anthropononcentric is a word I invented to point to something that is not anthropocentric, but also to point to my understanding of the philosophical medium for change - the unity of opposites. Anthropocentric is considering humans and their existence as the most important and central fact in the universe, and one could say that this way of thinking began with René Descartes proposition “I think therefore I am” proposed by the French philosopher in 1637. The philosophical principle behind this powerful dictum is simply that one's existence is demonstrated by the fact that one thinks. Via this thought Descartes was defining a reality that is not beyond or outside of oneself, but a reality that was within one’s own consciousness. This way of thinking meant that humans were able to make reality an object of their thought. The intellectual processes of the ego then allowed humans to take themselves to be more and more the determining centre of reality, and human self-consciousness now became the quintessential subject. Everything that had had the character of the subject before, now found its being in the unity of thinking and being that was established by Descartes. The human became and has increasingly become - the one and only subject, the self-conscious shaper of all.
The term currently used to describe the opposite of this is non-anthropocentric. However, due to it being heavily appropriated by the ecological/environmental movements, its meaning has moved somewhat from its pure definition only, and has become enmeshed and expanded within green theories and green philosophies. Which is not necessarily a bad thing and certainly valid. The term anthropononcentric however wants to point to something that is not solely green in its thinking, nor is it a value or viewpoint centred on something other than human. It does not exclude or make less important the debate around the destruction of nature (of course the oppression of nature by man cannot be justified nor should it be tolerated), but my thinking does not revolve around this as a central point. It focuses on the intelligence of nature - an evolutionary knowledge/intelligence that is possibly above our own and that we might learn from. This perspective could obviously provide solutions to the ‘eco’ argument but it is not green only - it could however possibly be described as deep blue - being a heady mixture of black sky thinking and blue sky thinking. A deep blue theory might have some alignments with deep ecology, however it is not solely an environmentalism theory, nor about biology alone. Rather it is ontological - it is about being, existence and becoming; and a move towards the redivision of thinking and being. It is about the possibility of a sublation towards the apex of nature via (what I have positioned as two opposing/mirroring concepts) human and technology.
The ‘non’ placed in the centre of the word anthropononcentric is a nod to the concept of the unity of opposites from Eastern thought and to the Hegelian dialectic (attributed to the German philosopher Hegel) from Western thought. In modern philosophy the unity of opposites is a central category of Dialectics, the principle of the unity of opposites stating that both sides are really different aspects of the one thing, one cannot exist without the other, and so in fact they are complementary rather than opposing forces. The Hegelian dialectic similarly is a mode of thought or a philosophic medium, through which contradiction becomes a starting point rather than a dead end for contemplation. It is a medium for expansion beyond contradictions. The supposition being that the ability to understand and utilise both perspectives, the reflection and the reflected, is what can give the evolutionary perspective. In the Hegelian Dialectic the ‘opposing’ forces must always pass through the phase of the negative (non) they must go through this process of mediation to continue the journey to completion, to synthesis. When a concept and its negative interact, the sublated object is negated or eliminated, but it is also preserved as a partial element in the synthesis. In sublation, a concept is both preserved and changed through its dialectical interplay with another term or concept.
As you can see it is a subtle idea of both preserving and changing the things that interact/interplay with each other, specifically avoiding ‘othering’ or creating dualisms between them. The western model of human/nature relations (associated especially with modern, post-enlightenment consciousness) has the properties of a dualism - nature being non-human and humans being not nature. However I am not wanting to say that humans are not nature, but rather that possibly there is an idea of nature that we don’t know/understand yet - that nature is an intelligence that we can learn from and evolve towards. This is not to say that we are not already this nature or are a part of this nature. Possibly we are not of the level of intelligence to understand it, or better, not conscious of it yet. I am not saying that nature is not inherent in us. The evolution of consciousness towards the intelligence of nature that is unknown to us, does not create a divide between us and nature, but rather simply puts nature in the position of the unknown. An unknown however that potentially could be known, and furthermore known in a way that may enable a further understanding of ourselves.
But how could we possibly evolve towards the intelligence of nature that is unknown to us? What if we (humankind) via the contemporary technologies we have created were able to enhance our relatedness to nature in the openness of immediate response? What if, rather than using technology as the instrument of our own supposed rise, going nowhere further than a continued cycle of ‘human being’; we utilised these technologies as ‘medium’ - as a means of translation - as sensory extension, so as to develop our sensibility towards this intelligence beyond us, and in doing so towards an evolutionary ‘human becoming’?
The artist and theorist Roy Ascott states that “technology is providing us with the tools and insights to see more deeply into nature’s richness and fecundity, and above all to recognise its sentience, and to understand how intelligence, indeed, consciousness, pervades its every living part, and that the key to understanding this new state of being is language”. He further states that “art is a language, and as such can be is a form of world building, of mind construction, of self-creation - not merely a device for communicating ideas about the world but rather a tool for bringing the world into existence. Art is the search for new language, new metaphors, new ways of constructing reality, and for the means of redefining ourselves”.
An art practice that is anthropononcentric is the human and technology collaborating so as the intelligence of nature can present itself. As I'd reasoned in my thesis Anthropononcentric Art, in my opinion both humankind and technology are/have human intelligence and therefore we require a beyond-human intelligence for an evolution in consciousness to occur. Via the use of technology my objective in practice is to let nature ‘presence as it is in itself’ arresting my intellectualised anthropocentric take on what nature is, translating nature as it is without human interference. In his book 'Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information' Erik Davis declares that “technology is a trickster, it scrambles established codes, overturns truths and constantly hoodwinks us with unintended consequences” and in doing so it can derail the anthropocentric interpretation of nature, opening new pathways for understanding in ways both computational, mathematical and beautifully precise, and also surprising, chaotic and unintelligible.
As a contemporary art practice I would place this work in the context of the philosophical and political crossing over areas in Posthumanism, New Materialism, Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science. I would advocate it is an important research area for the field - questioning humans’ right to consider themselves above a priori, and placing importance on the evolution of human consciousness beyond the anthropocentric is, I believe, essential if we are to respond to some of the biggest challenges of our time. Obviously so for the environment, but also so as to move beyond the ever-present anthropocentric infighting (gender, religious, race and political wars being examples of this) that absorb much of our consciousness and keep us trapped in a level of ‘human being’ rather than becoming. “The ‘us’ versus ‘them’ binaric vision of social life, the totality, of which, when taken together, exhausts the whole of the world”.1
1. Golding, Johnny, The Courage to Matter. Data Loam: Sometimes Hard, Usually Soft. The Future of Knowledge Systems, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2021.