Statement of Intent (The ‘note of intensity’ and the manifesto of Gaia Scienza) To whom it may concern: Punch for punch. Often invoked nowadays is the idea of an all-inclusive thought. This thought is at the core of the Gaia Scienza project; and it is the aim of this manifesto to exude its essence. Because of its boundless scope and specific methods of extraction, knowledge implies the need for a radical critical reflection on its conditions and modes of production. Knowledge is like clay: man models and kneads it according to his idea of the world. This is especially relevant to the social order. The age-old question of what it is possible for us to know has no beginning or ending. It merges with time and space. It is perhaps through myth that the desire and the need for a meta-knowledge are best expressed. An expression and a manifestation of thought itself, myth is a proper scientia (the Latin for ‘knowledge’, derived from the verb scire, ‘to know’) for those who create and sustain it. In separating itself from art, modern rational think-
ing lost its aesthetic and popular characteristics, which were essential in the search for meaning inherent to the production of knowledge. In other words, ‘scienza’ encapsulates all the variations in the understanding and the representation of the existential and social dimensions. Postmodernity condemns us to think critically, so we might as well decide to think joyfully. The forms and modes of knowledge enjoin us to dream of a future social symphony. Knowledge thus constitutes the primary resource and matter of Gaia Scienza. In order to address, construct, deconstruct and expose such knowledge, it is essential that art and science – those two old sisters – should be allowed to overlap systematically. The elaboration of this ‘manifesto’ does not aim at conceiving a theory that would bring together our activities, thoughts and meanderings. In that sense, we remain faithful to the surrealist postulate which advocates methods still largely overlooked nowadays such as cross-fertilisation, some forms of free association, the supremacy of dream and disinterested thought play. This manifesto is more of an assertive act that frames – not so much by enclosing but by defining – an activity that lies beyond the conventions and habits which have come to define the public sphere and re-
main unchallenged. However, our lack of humility and conformity should not be misunderstood as the naïve brutality of an artist aiming to carve a grain of rice with a hammer. Instead, it could be compared to the burlesque mind of a worker trying to extract his matter from a ‘euphoric dough’ with a pickaxe. What is at stake, ultimately, is the idea that serious and important things should not be allowed to become contrived with heavy formulations and jargons specific to a school, a discipline, a profession or a clan. Yet, it seems inevitable that a constant effort to understand and interpret the world makes language more dense and complex – apophatic, hypotypotic, teleolological and obstetric – this is gratuitous. Thus, new concepts and new languages come into existence with the emergence of specialisations. The concept of globalisation is bound up with the stunning development of media and information techniques. The multi-layered quality of globalisation originates in the superimposition of an excessive number of discrete elements and discourses. However, the problem lies in that this worldwide enterprise contains the seeds of pillage and destruction. Gone are the times when man’s knowledge of art and science could be perceived as all-inclusive and comprehensive. Acknowledging the world as multiple and diverse, and so the impossibility to ‘think the
world’, is an absolute necessity. It is only then that we can take action and make sense of the processes and phenomena that relate to the globalisation of economy, in the middle of which the ‘citizen of the world’, astray and idle, longs to find their way. From the beginning, these elusive ecological and geo-strategic considerations convey the sensation of a mistake. Although we renounce to question this sensation and its origins, we sense that it bears the mark of an absurdity whereby quantity overrules quality. Clearly, the forces and mechanisms that maintain this (epistemological and political) mistake are geographically, culturally and historically ingrained. The compulsion to divide up and compartmentalise the domains of knowledge obeys a sort of creed, a faith in a peculiar conception of progress – materialist, rational and quantitative at the same time – that leads us to expect our daily share of bread and glory. It seems useless, however, to linger on this aspect of (post)modern civilisation, especially when we know that it is governed by contradiction and paradox. In many ways, contestation fits well into this framework and we are aware that, in one way or the other, we participate in that mistake. To sum it all up, what we stand for is a kind of modern obstetrics that would allow for hypotyposes constituted by symbols and concepts that originate in the refusal of an apophatic philosophy on
the one hand, and a consciously active teleology on the other hand. This is not completely gratuitous this time. Let us take the exhilarating liberty to ruminate on this unfortunate mistake, which actually constitutes not so much the expression of hopeless pessimism but a starting point. The construction, beyond the realms of myth and literature, of apocalyptic visions of the future of civilisation is dangerous from a social point of view. It is also the expression of an intellectual confusion, which the society of the spectacle exploits shamelessly. The exploitation of paranoia by the media or a handful of sombre politicians guarantees the dream-makers substantial gains and clears the way free from opposition for power holders. The cynicism of the media and some of its representatives can be chilling. We believe that their ominous portents are only illusions due to a compartmentalisation of the means of expression and an isolation of thinking through the ghettoisation of academia. Perhaps it would be good to swear allegiance to another form of cynicism: warmer and more responsible towards the people and the land. In reality, the disenchantment of the world and its artificial re-enchantment through mass culture is only a point of view, a way of expressing different facets of lack – lack of symbols, lack of enthusiasm, lack of courage, lack of meaning. These phenomena relate to a cer-
tain mode of production and a certain idea of culture. In order to fight off this pernicious homogenisation and its idealisation of quantity, the public space must be reinvested with values and artistic forms based on the unconditional defence of diversity, and especially cultural diversity (as advocated by our all-inclusive thought). For the wisdoms of the world do not necessarily entail the knowledge of nuclear fission or the mastery of intensive farming. The history of sciences teaches us that all great theories and principles supposed to explain the world can only become valid by resisting previously accepted theories, but also by conforming to them. As a result, science should be denied its hegemonic and objective status. The truth according to which ‘2+2=4’ is only valid within a formal system used by the mind to comprehend its environment. Applied to other domains, this system does not necessarily function in the same way; and sometimes, it can even happen that 2+2 stop making 4. Actually, it all depends on the nature of what we are adding up. While two musical boxes and two musical boxes make four musical boxes, two notes and two other notes make more than four notes: they make a chord. Thus, there are dimensions in what we call ‘reality’ that are irreducible to a scientific mode of writing, which always consists in creating a theoretical and
formal frame in order to explain more subtle realities. We are here only stating the obvious. But this allows us nonetheless to reassert that there are no absolutely and immutable principles in nature. The only principles that can be emphasised and discussed are those of dynamism and relativism. Theological interlude: What can be said about a unique god, principle and reason of all things? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. A void. Consequently, the gods (and especially dancing ones) are welcome to the banquet of those-who-don’t-know-but-have-ideas. The fundamental instability of things – which, incidentally, quantum physics admits to —requires that we ask questions and undertake analyses in a wholly different way. If we consider the essence of the world and of life primarily as a principle of association (oscillating between chance and necessity), then the resolution of social, technical or environmental problems becomes contingent on relativism and free association. Reality refers to nothing that thought can comprehend directly. It is rather a concept whose function is to designate a paradigm defined by a set of biases and intellectual categories the means and ends of which are by essence political. In other words, reality is only a way of designating a state of things at a time and space chosen according to criteria and methods that are fundamentally and inevitably arbitrary.
In this sense, religion is the metaphysics of the mob and the science Royale, stubborn and scholarly, is the metaphysics of experts. As for us, we tend to consider man as part of the bigger paradigm that is life – towards a philosophy of forests? By overthrowing the deep-rooted certainty that existence is a unique and undividable reality, we uproot an authoritarian principle from the heart of the social organisation.* Because research and its outcomes concern the whole of the polis, decisions should, ideally, be taken collectively. What we mean is that the way scientific research is undertaken entails a great responsibility. There’s nothing new here. The need to bring together the different forms of knowledge has been addressed before us – and doubtless in a more skilful way. Relatively speaking, Gaia Scienza could be compared to an ‘Abbey of Thélème’, whose ‘vanishing lines’ are to be found in its multiple languages, subjects, subjectivities and * What we mean by ‘unique and undividable reality’ is belief in the objectivity of sciences on one side and that of monotheism on the other side. The Buddhist concept of ‘vacuity’ illustrates to perfection the nature of the belief in Oneness. Because this Oneness is non-dialectical, it can only be attained by suppressing thought – it’s the meditative state. Although meditation doesn’t pollute and is very good for both health and mind (vive le yoga), it doesn’t concern us directly here.
objectivities. On the horizon, peace, social progress and all the utopias that Reason could not annihilate can be made out. Gaia Scienza is not only a critical principle; it’s also an assertive and positive principle, which fundamentally requires collective and interdisciplinary work. Gaia Scienza is an open space forming what we could call a ‘nomadic philosophical community’ with its own zones of density, its abstract and concrete structures and its rhizomatic mode of connection. While recognising the existence of frontiers and walls and their socio-political implications, Gaia Scienza adheres to the post-nationalistic idea that it would be preferable to get rid of certain categories like, for instance, the nation state. By responding and adapting to the new world order and its virtuality, the public space that is Gaia Scienza seeks to participate in the creation of symbols of freedom and democracy. At the same time, these symbols should not remain unchallenged. Any observer endowed with critical skills and open to doubt can see that ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ are, in many aspects, modern beliefs. The general tendency to leave these terms unquestioned is often the reason why debates and discussions end up in the realms of logic and linguistics – in limbo. Therefore, all this scheming and swindling should be handled carefully.
Besides, although the ‘nomadic science’ (as opposed to the science Royale) that we advocate remains inspired by scholarly practices, its influences come from other places and subjectivities. Last but not least, friendship as well as certain affinities provide a cohesive link which should ensure that creativity and imagination never wither away. i (English translation by Étienne Poulard)