Articulation (jointing) and critique (cutting) share a sense of opening up or laying bare: both can be done with surgical precision or butcher's blunt force. Pursued to a meta-level since Kant, the question of the historical contingency of our categories and articulations has become increasingly urgent. One of the few shared evaluations of atheist materialists (Nietzsche, Deleuze, Land, Fisher) and religious conservatives (MacIntyre, Scruton) is that the end of the pre-industrial theological value system leads to scepticism then to nihilism. Our highest values hitherto are falling apart, and techno=capitalism offers no credible replacements. Instead it lays bare a lack of meaning so acute that the impersonal functioning of market economies are butchering the ecology we depend upon for life. Articulating alternatives to nihilism is not an abstract philosophical problem.
Strategies intended to re-impose meaning and value 'from above' include attempts at moral leadership (not all of them cynical), Islam-ism, the resurgence of Nationalism, benevolent celebrities and billionaires promoting good causes, and so forth. For all their variety these top-down hylomorphic strategies are frictionless against the machinery of globalised capital and the attendant slump in meaning and value. Under such conditions it seems more fruitful to experiment with tiny, close to zero-cost, and above all transferable techniques for creating connections and making meanings at a micro-level. We have found a promising candidate for such a counter-nihilistic social technology: a process borrowed from the musical compositions of the Renaissance called 'ornamentation'.
Our research explores artistic/philosophical aspects of ornamenting as a method for the re-creation of vital connections. Starting modestly by investigating relations between two simple notes and a space-in-between, we extend the method far beyond its traditional musical setting. A key point of the ornamentation method is that we do not theorise in advance what will happen when the items interact. We often start with two musical notes, or two time-signatures overlapping, or two seemingly unrelated words and repeat them until
differences and patterns emerge. The point is to allow small and
seemingly insignificant aspects of world to 'speak for themselves'
while we pay attention to whatever connections grow in their
intersections, overlaps, and over-flows of the encounter. Given the
right starting conditions, plus repetition and patience, the minimal
'raw material' organises itself in novel and complex ways.
We will present a small selection of practice-led outputs from the
early stages of our research. Thus far the method has 'organically'
generated creative collaborations with academics, artists, authors,
musicians, philosophers, and theologians from as far afield as
Mozambique (Vincent Caudray), India (Viljar Vahemaa), Greece (Chrysanthi Avolnithi, Georgios Giokotos), Sweden (Em Jakobsson, Erika Karlsson, Kulturtemplet / Gothenburg, Jonas Nilsson), UK (Joshua Ben Joseph) and more...