You know how you talk for years about doing something but never quite get round to it? Well this is getting round to it. This blog is the first actual steps towards an Institute for the Perception of Matter (or IPM
The IPM is one of an increasing number of relays moving us towards a different understanding of the perception of matter - one that challenges many current (often reactive in the worst way) modes of living and thinking. It deals with concepts, technics and politics in a positive way - allowing a new understanding of the perception of matter to provide new ways of thinking about concepts and technics, art and politics. It accepts that all these processes are much more tangled than we often think, but that this provides us with new opportunties for trying to shake free some pretty old (modern) habits concerning what we might consider the perception of matter, living and thinking to be. We want to build on what's worked for ages in these habits, but we need new habits as well, and perhaps a new understanding of habit as a whole.
I hope the IPM will soon sprawl across a range of forms and technologies of expression, not to mention disciplines, in what might best be called an inclusive conjunctive synthesis. In fact, one of the grander ambitions of the IPM might be the development of better technics - in the sense of techniques as well as technologies - in the light of our discussions about the perception of matter. I hope that the IPM will leak into other blogs (image posting, video posting and sharing), and vice versa. Or, simply that people will meet up through the IPM (and we will be meeting in Sydney soon). I also hope to link to, or publish on an IPM site, written works in progress, translations, images and video, material for remix, audio, open source developments, etc. In this sense the IPM is intended to be a technics itself - of gathering and of dispersal. And it has lots of cousins (we hope to find more). For a start there is the Senselab
run by Erin Manning (my recent attendance at the wondrous Dancing the Virtual
workshop finally inspired me to get going on the IPM), and there is the Institute for Disributed Creativity
, begun by Trebor Scholz. All in all, I hope that the, linking all these groups up transiently (not in any overbearing way - just by providing points of passage).
There's actually been a lot of research lately about the perception of matter, and it hasn't always backed up what we thought we already knew. Brian Massumi, Isabelle Stengers, Andy Clark, Francisco Varela, Alva Noe, VS Ramachandran, and others have all challenged the stubborn resistance to thinking differently about perception, thinking and living. They follow the likes of Henri Bergson, William James and Alfred Whitehead (I won't mention the thousands of artists) who thought in terms of relationality, process, assemblage, concresence, or, as Félix Guattari put it, "ecologies of the virtual". And if the IPM has an ecological setting, it is one in which we are called to pay close attention to the subtle ecologies of the virtual within and around our everyday concepts and technics, politics and "ethico-aesthetic" styles of living.
Key to the IPM will be thinking differently about our engagement with technics - again not only technology but techniques - techniques of thinking for example, or of simply moving differently through the world, or of a radical empiricism, of new approaches to thinking processes. We are neither for nor against technology - but we acknowledge the important of embracing it in the best possible modes - perhaps learning to dance with it, or via technics, learning to dance with the virtual
We might also be interested in the history
of the perception of matter - by which I mean the forces of expression that have led to particular ways of engaging with the world, and to different ways of thinking of it (so this is a cultural history of perception but one that moves away from thinking "culture" in absolute break from "nature"). Often we might end up folding interesting moments of the history of the perception of matter into our contemporary engagements with it.
And of course, all this implies a very different kind of materialism perhaps... one that slowly seems to be emerging in an interesting way (in the work of Isabelle Stengers, or Brian Massumi, Bruno Latour, José Gil and others).
We want to head towards an "institute" in the broadest sense, as described in the OAD as a 'society or organization having a particular object or common factor' or
(archaic) a 'commentary, treatise or summary of principles'. Of course, to "institute" is to set something in motion, or to establish 'a program, system or inquiry'.
It's not just a critical project - there are lots of people who are tired of critique, or of the pretence of critique's importance in itself. It seems a time for us to build new concepts, new technics, new modes of perception, new forms of community. At the same time, there is an implicit critical project buried here - for us, this is not so much about disciplinary contests (where these discussions often head) although they will occur at times (here the inclusive disjunctive synthesis might be useful). It is more about the political economy in a basic sense - that is, how certain forms of expression of the perception of matter come to block out others (political economies of perception, forms of living, etc). I'll post what I think these are soon but let's say these are forms that don't engage with process, change, relational complexity and ongoing assemblage (with living as lived, with experience as experienced, with perception as perceived, with thinking as thought). These are forms that are pre-emptive (let's not start with war, but, for example, with "learning outcomes", or more generally, the notion of a structure of cognitive faculties).
Topics are open. I'm probably going to write about education for a start.
I hope others might join us along the way. There are rules, however. One is "be good to others". And be tolerant of things intellectual you might have trouble with. I've invited poststructuralists and postpoststructuralists, cognitive philosophers, journalists and lots more, so we know there are things we are likely to disagree with from the beginning. The other is that it's not an open blog (not to everyone anyway). Too many projects have fallen apart because of that. If you see my profile you'll see I'm an old-fashioned Virgo in the end.