Networked keynote thoughts from Phil Dadson



A response to Saturday nights networked discussion featuring Matthew Fuller in London, Eric Kluitenburg in Amsterdam, with Sue Ballard & Symposium delegats in Wellington, 27 / 6 / 09.

At the outset of his thoughts on digital and materiality, Matthew launched the topic with some thoughts on ‘immateriality’ as a way of approaching the material, – a proposition of opposites that got the discourse away, to my mind, on a somewhat confused metaphysical tack. Eric in Amsterdam responded, with various references and abstractions including a definition of materiality, from Latin/French roots, ie; mater = mother, riality = reality, materiality = the mother of reality; a meaning suggesting matter as something substantial and solid. A meaning on the surface that appears to make sense relative to its opposite, immateriality.

If we accept the premise then, firstly, that all matter is essentially vibration – a deduction of physical science and a long-held esoteric belief in relation to life in this solar system; and secondly, that the body, as Eric pointed out, reproduces itself regularly on a cellular level ­– replicating cells each time with such fractional difference as to account over time for the ageing process of all living things – then this knowledge surely joins us to the universal ephemeral principle, that every living thing inexorably proceeds as a process of change, towards it’s moment of death and decay.

If we accept this understanding, materiality and immateriality, along with a host of other polarities, fall under the planetary law of opposites, where one is inextricably entwined with the other ; life/death, creation/destruction, visible/invisible, dark/light, on/off, and so forth. This is the fabric of life in the third and fourth dimensions as we know it – ensnared between pairs of opposites, caught in the dualistic web so aptly described as ‘veils of illusion, MAYA’ by Buddhist and Vedic ancients – and so potently portrayed in Plato’s cave parable, as ephemeral, transient reality, a view far removed, and to my mind truer than the ‘mother-of-reality’ idea that matter is solid and real.

How then to bridge this with the ADA theme of digital and materiality – one abstract and ephemeral, the other grounded in physical material – so it develops constructively?

The binary digital world is composed of zeros and ones. Zero, an expression of nought = nothingness, and one, an expression of 1 = unity. Nought and one, continuing the above line of discussion, imply ephemeral and permanent, nothingness and being, but if we think of these as complimentaries brought into a synergistic relationship, then we are engaged with the triadic rather than the dualistic.

Marrying the seemingly disparate opposites of material and immaterial, physical and digital in a synergistic relationship – active, passive and reconciling, enables transmutation and evolution. This law of three, the same ancient principle re-interpreted by Hegel as the dialectic – (thesis – the active proposition, antithesis – the negative opposing view, and synthesis – the reconciling force to create a new result) – animates an exchange between opposites, and provides the condition for creative development. This is the same tessellating design principle that exploits the equilateral triangle so beautifully in Islamic design. A dynamic principle to energise and catalyse situations, concepts, technologies, collaborations etc, etc with. And with unique results.

This was elegantly demonstrated in Julian Priest’s conceptually evocative beachfire and digital output piece, where heat, generated by the fire on the beach triggered a wireless connection to the internet to switch the zero = absence of heat, to digit one = presence of heat; a poetic metaphor for bridging opposite states of immaterial / material, invisible / visible, nothingness and being, darkness and light.

Reading the zero as a circle, and the one as one, gives to both the power of unity, a marriage of opposites. Bravo !

Phil Dadson


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