Monday, 17 March 2008

Indeterminacy and the roaming body; a non-present potential to vary.

How often have you been in conversation with someone in the street, when you are visited by the feeling that this person with whom you are dynamically engaged would rather be somewhere else, or indeed that while ostensibly they appear to be with you, they have actually already left the scene?

How often have you been in conversation with someone in the street when you are visited by the feeling that despite the dynamic shared with this person, (If not a stranger to you, is this scenario more or less likely to occur?) either;

you would rather be somewhere else
you have to be somewhere else
you have trouble being fully committed to the moment
your inner ear is listening more closely to your internal dialogue and the compulsion to leave
your body is restless
your intent is sliding away
your presence in this space is becoming virtual
actually, you are still partially here but your roaming body has already left
the above states do not necessarily have anything to do with the person with whom you are talking ...

Have you never had an intimation of any of these suspicions?

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Indeterminacy and the Parallax View, Qualia and the Unseen

This post appears as a continuation of the previous post, while exploring some specific perspectives on the issue of Henri Bergson`s 'becoming' as distinct from 'being'. I would like to suggest that there may be some alternative ways of seeing and understanding evidence of indeterminate subliminal movement as this hovers on the edge of visibility in the individual and how this manifestation affects meetings and engagements with other individuals. One could say that perhaps this is indeterminacy itself, made visible through subliminal movement as a condition which affects us all, impinging upon and mediating both, our behaviour and how we perceive our behaviour (perhaps best seen as reflected in others) in everyday life, particularly in urban surroundings. (I locate my observations in these surroundings because I believe that urban spaces are instrumental in stimulating, exacerbating and importantly for my work, mediating meetings with one another, in ways which are identifiably different and separate from non-urban environments).

In my last post I referenced two definitions of the term, 'indeterminacy'. The first, (the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) which is founded in quantum mechanics, asserts that both the position (static?) and momentum (movement) of a given particle (person?) cannot be determined simultaneously. In other words it could be said that one is unable to measure, empirically, activity (I read passivity as still active) by one body taking place in two situations at once.

Is this true? If one cannot measure something does this make the non-finding absolute? And if so, despite the physical non-finding does this mean that one`s 'attention' cannot be in two places at once? Or one`s desires, intent, perception? I suspect that this is not the case. Much of my posting on this blog supports this view. In fact, I am suggesting that, through a state of becoming, it is actually possible to transfer ones presence from 'here' to 'there' simultaneously and that there is physical, visible evidence for this in scenarios involving engagement between people in the street.

In the second definition, Brian Massumi, in Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Post-Contemporary Interventions) (2002), p.5, tells us that a body in motion is held within an ever-changing process of movement relative to its own already non-static position in space, ('... its own non-present potential to vary ...'). Massumi, (in a vein I believe, which is similar to Bergson) maintains that the only 'real' relation is that of a body to its own indeterminacy, (... its openness to an elsewhere and otherwise that it is, in any here and now.')

Does Massumi`s definition refute the first definition, despite the apparent inability to be able to measure two presences (or one divided presence) simultaneously? Massumi`s concept seems to me not to be averse to Bergson and his stance on the continual process of 'becoming'.

I am interested in these observations - one arrived at scientifically and empirically, the other arrived at (as far as I am aware) through critical observation. In a world which I contend is underpinned by so much indeterminacy, I tend to be cautious of regimen which apparently affirm only absolutes. However, empirically defined rules and their associated criteria have some things going for them: they can be evidenced and therefore, apparently (but not necessarily irrefutably) proven. My interests lie in observing and recording certain aspects of behaviour which lie at the very edge of our sensing, which makes the task of demonstrating the presence of these aspects somewhat sketchy - not a very scientific term, but one very familiar to the arts and indicative of describing a process of investigation which is not cursory, but intensely focussed and exploratory which can and should, through its inherent rigour, be demonstrably valid as evidence.

I would like to introduce two terms which, by presenting another perspective on how social interaction may be perceived, might contribute to the validity of the sketches/strategies with which I am involved. The first of these terms deals with the Parallax View:

The Parallax View

According to Slavoj Zizek, in The Parallax View, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London England (2006) p.17, the standard definition of 'parallax' is: '... the apparent displacement of an object (the shift of its position against a background), caused by a change in observational position that provides a new line of sight.'

According to Zizek then, the parallax view differs from the quantum mechanics definition above in the sense that the parallax view is an apparent visually-witnessed physical displacement caused by the viewer changing their point of perspective. Therefore what is 'real' is up for grabs. What is 'here' or 'there' or 'over there now' is simultaneously judged as 'real' by our perception. In the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle there is an inability to measure the presence of an entity/object/subject existing in two places at once in physical actuality. It is not an issue of perception. It is apparently an issue of objective physicality.

Zizek goes on to say that in his definition of the parallax view, there is a philosophical twist which can be added which sees the observed difference in viewpoints being not simply subjective, because the object being observed 'out there' is seen from two different locations or viewpoints - from the perspective of the viewer and also from that of the object being viewed.

Zizek refers to this objective ability as a kind of 'materialism'. Here, Zizek cites Lacan, maintaining that the subject`s gaze is always already inscribed into the perceived object itself - and that the object returns this gaze. Rather than ourselves being an all-seeing eye, observers who can grasp the entire 'picture' of a given reality, '... Materialism (the concept of object as being imbued with perception) means that the reality I see is never "whole" - not because a large part of it eludes me, but because it contains a stain, a blind spot, which indicates my inclusion in it.' (p.17). Does this imply a perception which accepts the existence of one observer being able to perceive an object from two viewpoints simultaneously because they themselves, are intrinsically contained in the view they are viewing? Hegel, Zizek points out, would say that through this, the subject and object are '... inherently mediated ...' (p.17) by their respective viewpoints - the subjective and objective.

Zizek goes on to introduce the idea of the 'parallax gap'. Zizek defines this as '... the unknown X, the noumenal core of the object beyond appearances, for what is, "in you more than yourself"'(p.18). This intimates essential but unseen territory and/or qualities therein, perhaps sometimes felt, yet elusive and - indeterminate. Zizek seeks to replace the binary opposites of Yin and Yang with perhaps a manifestation which is more relevant and as an entity with object status, more dynamic - the parallax gap, the gap which separates the One from itself. The gap is defined itself, as an object - an object verb - the unseen middle ground between two opposing fields.

The correlation I want to make here is inherent in the suggestion that indeterminacy or 'becoming' within the context of my work is itself, a state redolent with change; with both, actual movement and perceived movement (are these both 'real'?) and as such, a state embracing parallax properties. Due to our time-based lives, governed by continual states of 'becoming', I believe that simultaneous, multiple perceptions and perspectives exist within the parallax gap, between what could be termed at least initially, a binary field of engagement between two entities or people in the street. The parallax gap is the coefficient (def: a constant that is a measure of a property of a substance) beneath the scenario and rather than the 'glue' it may be more apt to describe it as the 'dissolver' of the moment, the constant indeterminacy in residence.

Which brings me to my next term:

Qualia - (plural, the singular is 'Quale')

A phenomenological term used to describe, very subjectively, how we feel about/recognize sensations which cannot be witnessed, but which are real to the individual. Philosophers often use the term to refer to the introspectively accessible, phenomenal aspects of our mental lives. In this broad descriptor of the term it can be difficult to deny the existence of qualia. The status of qualia is vigorously debated in philosophical circles because it is central to a proper understanding of the nature of consciousness. Qualia are at the heart of issues surrounding the subject of body-mind.

I am wondering if that subliminal feeling which sometimes assails us - that we are already 'leaving', departing from an engagement which might be only very recently begun, may qualify as a quale? Perhaps, only someone seeing the world with eyes similar to mine, noticing that oh, so vague and obscure behavioural trait of indeterminate behaviour - continually moving on and away from engagement between two people, might align themselves with such a suggestion. Perhaps, only that kind of 'someone' might perceive the almost imperceptible signs and interpret them in this way - unless of course I suggest that, as with qualia, the presentiment of leaving is within each of us, internally experienced even if usually occurring subliminally or possibly denied and discouraged within self as anti-social. I do not consider it so. I believe it to be simply part of a greater continually-occurring condition which governs us as sentient beings constantly tugging at us, drawing us away in the midst of our functioning within time and spaces.