Nothingness Part 1 – The Cube

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I am interested in the notion of Nothing, and what nothing is? I imagine that when I look into darkness or pure black, the absence of light is the boundary of the universe, creating a memory of what it was like before Being.

In his book Science of Logic, the philosopher Hegel describes the notion of Being as the indeterminate immediate, free in relation to essence and equal only to itself. This reflectionless being is being as it is in fact nothing, and neither more nor less than nothing.

I'm exploring the feeling and embodiment of this within my art practice, asking the questions are nothing and being an inseparable whole?

I've started this enquiry by creating a project titled: Nothing is Immediate. I'm creating sculptures based on the five regular Platonic solids to explore Nothing and the illusion of infinite. The forms of the three dimensional Platonic solids are understood in science and attributed to the Greek Philosopher Plato, to be the physical and mathematical measurements that underlie observable reality in the whole Universe. In his treatise titled Timaeus, Plato actually chose to constitute each of these solids from right triangles, which played the role of the "sub-atomic particles" to which he expounded a complete "theory of everything".

The idea that all the constituents of nature consist of mixtures of a small number of "elements", and in particular the selection of the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire, is attributed to an earlier Greek philosopher Empedocles of Agrigentum (495-435 BC). Empedocles believed that although these elements (which he called "the roots of all things") could be mixed together in various proportions, the elements themselves were inviolable, and could never be changed.

"Let us assign the cube to earth, for it is the most immobile of the four bodies and most retentive of shape". Plato


This research and a further enquiry I undertook into the assocciated sounds of the Platonic solids, that I built the first sculpture The Cube. Constructed from simple reclaimed pallet wood, it created a space within to occupy and undertake further investigations into the embodiment and feeling of the form. The interior was painted with the blackest paint available Black 2.0, so that it would absorb the light and when inside would give the impression of Nothing. Black is associated with Earth, a calm underground space. My experience of sitting within the space, detached me from a bodily experience and I felt a deep and calm connection to my own internal bodily consciousness and thus experience nothing and being as a meditative Universal.

Noting that the experience was calming, I enhanced the experience with therapeutic sounds. I  exhibited the work as a commission at BEAF2019, creating a space for people to sit within and allow their brain, their pulse rate and heart beat to relax. I received very positive feedback from over 1000 people who experienced the work.

In addition to creating the work to explore a persons physical and emotional reaction and wellbeing, I wanted to explore the potential of a spiritual connection to the work. Therefore, on the evening of a full moon I transported it to Old Winchester Hill, a Bronze Age barrow site in Hampshire. I assembled it at a parking space and wheeled it to the top of the burial mound, where I locked myself inside and performed what I term as a metaphysical act. This consisted of drilling holes through the wooden sides with a 5/8 drill bit and brace to create the shapes of sacred geometrical patterns.

Each hole let in the pure moonlight, and I placed a glass marble in each hole to magnify the light. I felt the spiritual pull of the moonlight, however it was totally absorbed inside by the Black painted interior. The confined environment seemed outside of time and space, my connection for the duration of one hour was with The Cube and the Moon.

The Cube under full-moon on Old Winchester Hill

My interpretation of what Hegel describes is that Nothing is simply equality with itself, complete emptiness, absence of all determination and content. In so far as intuiting or thinking can be mentioned here, it counts as a distinction whether something or nothing is intuited or thought.

To intuit or think nothing has, therefore, a meaning; both are distinguished and thus nothing is (exists) in our intuiting or thinking; or rather it is empty intuition and thought itself, and the same empty intuition or thought as being.

Nothing is therefore, the same determination, or rather absence of determination, and thus altogether the same as, pure being.

Being and Nothing are distinct yet inseparable, passing over each other so that each immediately vanishes onto its opposite. Their truth is therefore becoming a difference which has equally immediately resolved itself.

This triadic development can be summarised as: Being + Nothing = Becoming

The title of my project Nothing is Immediate can be broken down into Nothing and Being are the same and equate to Becoming. Jean-Paul Sartre contends that nothingness relates to free consciousness and spontaneity. The ‘is’ relates to the limit and Immediate is now, the present now in space, time and geography.

Therefore, the translation is Free consciousness and spontaneity happens in the present moment, it is limited to now. As Artists our intuition and spontaneity are our strongest gifts.

Spearman Premier at Kartong Festival

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After a full week of preparation it was the day that we present Spearman at the Kartong International Festival 2017. The first challenge was to transport the screen to the festival site about 5 km away from the Eco-Lodge. I enquired about hiring a donkey. After about an hour, I cancelled this idea and hired a pick-up truck. After half an hour we received a call to say it had a flat tyre. So, in true Gambian fashion, my friend Simon one of the Managers at Sandele offered the use of his car, and Bansang set to work stripping fallen palm branches to use a a makeshift roof rack. In a crude way this worked well and we loaded the screen onto the roof, and all the equipment into the car.

When we arrived at the festival site we were informed that there was no electricity. We could only cross our fingers, put our faith in Bansang and the festival Manager Mood and hope that things would work out. Patiently we waited, set up the equipment, made other arrangements with the members of the performing group Kouma Kan and fielded questions from the curious children of the village. With just one hour to go the electricity returned, and a flood of festival spotlights lit up the arena as the evening became dark.

Our performance time was scheduled for 10pm. I had previously performed at the Festival three times, and stage managed the program for two years. So, it was good to catch up with local musicians and enjoy the community atmosphere. Ten o'clock came and we were on. The energy of Kouma Kan's performance was lifted by the euphoric reaction from the audience as they chanted Spearman in expectation of his arrival on the screen. Then Kye revealed his life-size image, and it was truly an homecoming for him. The response we received after was of amazement and wonder, as in the photos the camera flash depicts the grey of the projection screen, however on the actual night, with the festicval lights dimmed, in darkness you could only make out a life-size image of Spearman performing next to his troupe.

We were extremely relieved and proud to successfully deliver the project, after the challenges that we faced in the month building up to the performance. We are both extremely grateful for the opportunity to expand our international portfolio and now looking forward to planning for a presentation of Spearman in England.


Searching for Spearman

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We have just returned from künzelsau, Germany, where we recorded Spearman performing the traditional West African costume. It was an emotional journey and reunion with Spearman. Our flight took us to Stuttgart, where we hired a car to drive to künzelsau. We met Spearman late in the evening of arrival at an address on würzburger straße künzelsau. It was an accommodation of flats where refugees were housed, and there was a security kiosk outside with a very unfriendly and suspicious guard. We took spear for a coffee and he explained that the accommodation was full of many West African's, often sleeping about 17 to a room. We discussed the plans for filming and Spearman explained the location he recommended, so we agreed to met him the following day.

The next day we met at the Christengemeinde Arche (Church), which ran a drop in centre for refugees. It was a place that had helped Spearman and he was now reciprocating their charity by volunteering support for less fortunate refugees.

We were offered a private room and we commenced with the filming of Spearman. Myself and Spearman were so grateful to reconnect through the language of the Djembe (drum), he had missed the brotherhood to our group Kouma Kan and the music was a connection too his home village of Kartong.