The Promise of the False

The origin of this project lies in my reading of Martin Heidegger’s analysis of Plato’s Theaetetus, a dialogue which seeks to answer the question; “what is knowledge?” Knowledge is understood as the “possession of truth,” yet, somewhat paradoxically, the figure of truth’s opposite, the false, takes centre stage, in Heidegger’s account.

According to Gilles Deleuze the aim of many of Plato’s dialogues is “to hunt down the false…,” in order to keep it “chained in the depths.” For Heidegger the significance of the Theaetetus is that for the first (and last) time the false is released from its chains, allowing it to demonstrate its capacity to “disturb and amaze.” It is a capacity that will lay dormant, until Deleuze, in the twentieth century, re-imagines the false as a force of philosophical and artistic creation.

The Aviary – a Clue for Seeing
This project builds on these foundations in order to explore the promise that the false holds for artistic practice. This will be done through an exhibition; The Aviary, which will take as its starting point two sensory images of the false that appear in the Theaetetus. These are the similes of the wax mass (slab) and of the aviary. As sensory images, rather than describing the false, they instead give us clues for understanding it.

This embodiment of the false in sensory images, will be extended into the fabric of the exhibition. Like the wax mass and the aviary, the gallery will be understood as a container. Like the aviary it will hold birds, specifically pigeons, but in three ways. They will be 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 will be there as paintings I have made, based upon these images. They will also be there as music, Messiaen’s prelude for piano: La Colombe (The Dove).

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
My commentary on Gilles Deleuze’s essay “Plato and the Simulacrum”

Theaetetus Posts
Deleuze Posts