The Aviary

This art project has its roots in my reading of Martin Heidegger’s account of Plato’s Theaetetus, a dialectical discourse on the question “what is knowledge?,” where knowledge is understood as the “possession of truth.”

Somewhat paradoxically, the figure of truth’s opposite, pseudos (untruth, distortion) comes to take centre stage in Heidegger’s account of the discussion. This is something then that the Theaetetus has in common with a number of Plato’s other dialogues. According to Gilles Deleuze the aim of these is not to confirm what is true, but rather “to hunt down the false…,” in order to keep it “chained in the depths.”

Heidegger’s Theaetetus is somewhat different, rather than chaining the false, it is given free rein. In the process demonstrating the power that the phenomenon of untruth has to “disturb and amaze.” It does this by undermining what, for the Greeks, was a fundamental principle of knowledge; that we either know something or we do not know it, by showing that we can know and not know the same thing. Rather than demonstrated logically, this paradox is made visible through two related images: the wax mass (slab) and the aviary.

I aim to enact these similes as a gallery exhibition. Like the wax mass and the aviary, the gallery is a container, holding birds in three ways. They are there as illustrations in Fulton’s Book of Pigeons, a work from 1880 which attempts to document all the varieties of domestic pigeons then extant. They are there as paintings I have made, based upon these images. They are also there as music, Messiaen’s prelude for piano: La Colombe (The Dove).

There is a further source for this project, which is the work of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, whose project can be understood as the overturning of Platonism and its theory of the Ideas. This distinguishes the degree to which images replicate that which they claim to be images of, from the true likeness to the false copy, the simulacrum.

Derek Hampson

Further reading
Part One of my commentary on Heidegger’s interpretation of the Theaetetus
Part Two of my commentary on Heidegger’s interpretation of the Theaetetus