Exploring the Boundaries, Seeing it Fail, Breaking Things Open


Public Symposium, Urbanomic Studio, 13 March 2010—edited transcript

ROBIN MACKAY: The Secrets of Creation residency project emerged out of work on Urbanomic’s ‘Journal of Philosophical Research and Development’ Collapse, the aim of which is to bring together artists, scientists, people working in various disciplines and practices, together with philosophers, the conviction being that philosophy has to be nourished from outside, and that philosophical thought occurs in all disciplines: that, whatever you’re doing, at certain points you encounter philosophical problems and need to employ or invent philosophical concepts.

Since its inception one of the features of Collapse has been extended interviews, and one of the first of these, in Volume I, published in 2006, was with Matthew Watkins, where he spoke about his work collecting, collating, and synthesizing research on what he himself called the ‘mysterious links’ between prime number theory and physics. It was a fascinating discussion, and I felt that Matthew was precisely the kind of broad-minded thinker appropriate to this notion of Collapse as a trans- or indisciplinary journal.

Then, much later on, in 2012 I worked with Conrad Shawcross on a piece for Collapse 5. What interested me about Conrad’s work, and what fed into this project, was the fact that he was working with scientific and philosophical concepts. He was, in effect, materialising these concepts in his works, which themselves are also pieces of precise engineering. And I was interested in the way that this made something otherwise abstract available to the senses, available as an experience, sometimes with unexpected results.

Because, obviously, one of the problems of looking at modern and contem-porary science, and mathematics in particular, is that it’s complex and requires a certain amount of time to be initiated into, so that most of us can’t really take on its concepts fully…