Is nature an artist? Is creation peculiar to stars, metals, fire? What does the stone imagine? What does the cloud want?
It is high time we took on these problems in all seriousness and on the level of their eccentricity. Magia Naturalis – not so much an exhibition, as an artistic environment, a reflexive space and a reflexive time – sets itself the goal of introducing these problems into an experimental dimension. At the very heart of it is the fantastic question of the possibility of (creative) subjectivity beyond the bounds of the human subject.
In this respect, at the heart of this reflexive space is not so much the question of how we reflect on nature, how we creatively relate to it, how we refashion or transform it, how we invent or create it.
Quite the contrary, the question posed is: how ‘nature’ reflects on ‘us’. How it reflects on ‘itself’ through ‘ourselves’.
In what way do forces correlate with themselves, so that where was once oneness there is now a multitude, and where was once a multitude there is now oneness?
Where is the beginning of ‘this’? Where is the beginning of ‘the other’?
Does the track traverse the force, so that it becomes knowledge of itself?
What is the scope of (con)scientia?
How does substance reflect (itself)?
Is art natural?
Is nature artificial?
What does the nature’s desire imagine?
What imagines us?
What do forces reflect on?
What reflects on us?
What creates? Does it create?
What does desire in itself desire? Does it desire?
It is not so long ago that philosophy proclaimed the end of anthropocentrism and anthropocentric metaphysics; philosophy of science and anthropology followed up, imposing the idea of different types of metaphysics, as well as different concepts of nature, concepts of different natures. Their criticism is necessitated, urgent: in a world deprived of its own foundations, reaching the boundary of the possibility for the production of meaning (a production, of which nature remains both a universal imaginary foundation and a universally proposed justification), nature demands a turnover. Nature bursts into luxuriance, cracking up the shell of its ossified concept. It demands to be conceived not as nature, but as something else, as something completely different: an unnamable span of forces and constellations whose temporary traversing constitutes the human perspective.
Hence, upon this foundation the interest towards the ‘things of the world’ has been affirmed anew. The common denominator of this new front: the rejection of anthropocentrism and the central category of humanist metaphysics – the subject. Regrettably, the legitimate radical criticism has led to an overdetermined privilege of ‘objects’, while the concept of object remains inseparable from the subject/object dichotomy, i.e. it has been negatively re-affirmed by this concept.
In opposition to this unreflected tendency, the dynamic ontology I have been struggling for the last two decades insists on the surcritical retention of the concept of subject, that is to say an agent. We cannot exclude the forces, the dynamics and the negativity from the world; we cannot reduce the poietic and transformative power of chaos or the cosmos. Our task is to confront things – or rather confront them in their midst – as agents of complex simultaneous or even hetero-simultaneous processes. In this respect, dynamic ontology, and the transformative materialism related to it, establishes the preconditions for understanding and experimenting with the poietic and auto-poietic potentiality of things.
There is no intransient thing. Things are agents – actions that effect transformations of complex multitudes and constellations of forces. This is why the central problem of transformative materialism is the problem of change, the problem of movement, μεταβολή, hence the problem of the dialectical connection between things and processes, between compositions and transformations. In the perspective of transformative materialism, things are conceived as dynamic forms and forces. Therefore, things can and must be conceived only as elements of dynamic ontologies.
Furthermore, the experimental hypothesis of this reflexive domain is based on the suggestion that the presently proposed method of transformative materialism is grounded in the very origin of the concept of nature.
Art does not just imitate nature: already Aristotle moved beyond his own revolutionary idea which has become a misconceived dogma. What we call art is a complex conceptual instrument, allowing first and foremost the manifestation of potentiality that has preconditioned the definition of nature as nature – its poietic, creative character. Thus, in his Physics – rightfully considered to be the key work for the invention of the concept of nature, at least within the ‘Western tradition’ – Aristotle states the following: ‘generally art in some cases completes what nature cannot bring to a finish, and in others imitates nature.’ (199а14). However, this posits nature and art in an initial relation of supplementarity that will be elaborated and radicalised for centuries onwards.
The idea of magia naturalis, natural magic, is grounded precisely on such dynamic foundations, developed and elaborated by philosophical and scientific conceptions, as well as by the practice of mystical knowledge, primarily by Neoplatonic Aristotelianism. This idea was to be further developed by Renaissance humanists where it expressed the heretic notion of creative acts produced by natural forces and of nature itself as a creator. The concept of creative nature, later on termed by Spinoza as natura naturans, which progressively attains self-autonomy detached from the idea of an all-encompassing Creator, or rather conceives itself as an absolute Creator, was at the very heart of alchemy and astrology, while giving impetus to the development of natural sciences. The magical power of nature: uncanny figures, unimaginable forces, inhuman desires.
Magia Naturalis expands the reflexive and experimental field of MAGIA NATURALIS, Phase 1, the eponymous exhibition conceived and organised by Boyan Manchev and Vesselina Sarieva with the participation of Bignia Wherli, Marta Djourina and L.
MAGIA NATURALIS, Phase I: EXHIBITION, REFLEXIVE ENVIRONEMENT
by Boyan Manchev and Vesselina Sarieva, with Bignia Wehrli, Marta Djourina, L
Magia Naturalis, a meeting ground of complicities, coincidences and clashes, explores nature as force by way of fantastic philosophical acts and unexpected transformations of artistic media. It operates not so much with objects, acts or relations, as with a scope of intensities where ephemeral constellations and stark powerful lines flash forth. In this respect, the exhibition raises the question of cooperation: the agents, the subjects, the forces. The forces that animate concepts and (art)works.
Magia Naturalis will therefore open up an experimental space of reflection where simulated possibilities of the unimaginable (forthcoming) nature and the unimaginable (forthcoming) art will be investigated. It is not a question about nature conceived as an ungraspable origin duly furnished as a museum herbarium – it is about nature as an ever forthcoming unimaginable force, as an art of what is yet to come.
Natural magic: an experimental possibility for creative intervention into the space-time coordinates of a singular system of relations, which sustains it on the level of a delicate, yet intensive meta-stability.
So, magic is to be here conceived as the unimaginable power of forthcoming nature which can be grasped either through some sort of fantastic science, or through the creative potentiality of matter itself – the artistic poiesis. At this point, the future of nature and the future of art will be conceived as one and the same thing.
Nature is a space of sprouting forces: it is forthcoming by necessity. The reflexive space where the problematics of Magia Naturalis will operate in the experimental-fantastic mode of this philosophical laboratory will also provide a scope for the activity of these unpredictable forces.
(To be continued)