For a dark holism to matter

References and endnotes


O≡Cyan operates with three interconnected concepts: darkness, matter and holism. The notion of darkness complicates the dominant concepts of vision, enlightenment and modernity in Western culture, manifested in enlightened public spaces e.g. museum, library, academy and archive.

Darkness in my understanding is not about absence of light or vision, but to be researched and viewed as agency and discourse. I argue to recover the dark, traditionally saturated with irrational or non-/inhuman beliefs and behaviours, in all its configurations from being demonised or rejected.


The matter within O≡Cyan is diverse in relation to form and heterogeneous in relation to substance. The manifestations of cyan and cyanides don’t emerge from a single point of entry and their overall consistency can be debated. They are mainly called into existence and hold together by the term cyan, derived from κύανος (kyanos) for "dark blue” which appears as a greenish vibrant hue of blue.

Language and colour seem as much generative of its non-human agency as biochemical structure. Cyan often emerges in photochemical and photosynthetic processes imaging us: in the CMYK colour space, cyanide poison, cyanobacteria, and cyanotype, both organic and inorganic, toxic and vital, additive and subtractive. Cyanide capsules, cyanobacterial algal bloom and cyanide leaching in gold mining mark their outermost horizon.

My concern with the cyanic is that from a semio-material perspective it can shapeshift and surpass the material for the phenomenal. For the “thing” in question to conceptualize, a (or many) hybrid discourse(s) that involve semiotics, phenomenology, new materialism and object-oriented ontology are applied, specifically the notion of hyperobjects suggested by Timothy Morton.


Holism, from ὅλος holos for "all, whole”, and in reference to Holism and Evolution (J. Smuts, 1926), is based on ideas that systems should be viewed as wholes, not only as collections of parts. While the meaning of holism depends on context, both forms of an epistemological or societal “wholism", and spiritualistic or ecological holistic approaches, are embraced in this research proposal in an overarching dark para-holism, acknowledging synergies, agonism and interaction among its aspects.

My holistic approach puts to test a way of seeing through and beyond the object of research, and the field surrounding or embedding the objects, processes and histories. Analogous cross-disciplinary concepts e.g. Margulis’ holobiont and the photographic innovation of holograms are invited to enrich and deepen the inquiry and application of holism transdisciplinary. Holism designates a paradoxical desire to encompass infinite levels of complexity that could push the limits of knowledge, imagination and meaning productively.


O≡Cyan is deeply influenced by the environmental blue-green humanities as an interdisciplinary area of research. The theoretical outlines gravitate around phenomenology, new materialism and object-oriented ontology, and might be contrasted by post-structuralism and semiotics, e.g. Gilles Deleuze accounting for how objects come into existence, in contrast to objects being already there. Following Karen Barad’s agential realism, being at once an epistemology (theory of knowing), and an ontology (theory of being), the holism I envision is also a way of addressing a non-binary approach – as not opposed to vision, presence, or even knowledge.


Atkins, Anna. Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. London, 1843. 

Barad, Karen Michelle (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press

Bärtås, Magnus & Slávik, Andrej (red.) (2016). Microhistories. Stockholm: Konstfack

Margulis, Lynn & Fester, René (red.) (1991). Symbiosis as a source of evolutionary innovation: speciation and morphogenesis. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Massumi, Brian (2002). Parables for the virtual: movement, affect, sensation. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press

Meloni, Maurizio (2016). Political biology: science and social values in human heredity from eugenics to epigenetics. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan

Morton, Timothy (2016). Dark ecology: for a logic of future coexistence. New York: Columbia University Press

Morton, Timothy (2013). Hyperobjects: philosophy and ecology after the end of the world. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Schuppli, Susan (2020). Material witness: media, forensics, evidence. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press

Smuts, Jan Christiaan (2007[1926]). Holism and evolution. Whitefish: Kessinger

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt, Gan, Elaine & Bubandt, Nils (red.) (2017). Arts of living on a damaged planet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press