the door to the invisible [bodies] must be visible - René Daumal, Mount Analogue
Lossy Ecology, and the book launch at FTHo, represent the final leg of a project by Louisa Martin, supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, exploring atypical experinces of embodiment, with a focus on autism, which enabled residencies at the Lab of Action and Body, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, and at CRAE (Centre for Research into Autism and Education), UCL, London as well as time to speak to a range of people who identify as autistic or neurodiverse about their experiences.
The book shares Louisa’s attempt to work up a new framework for conceiving the body/self that is not static, restrictive, or dependent on fixed identity, or abilities to perform identity, set of social or economic values, particular notions of desirability, appearance, neurological type…
A central question was: how to create a representation of ‘body’ that doesn’t limit what it might mean to be a body, asking: is it possible to speak to something without representing it in a fixed way, and therefore limiting it’s potential. That the dominant frameworks for understanding ‘reality’ ‘world’ ‘self’ ‘body’ that are regarded as sovereign leave omit certain ways of being, experiencing and understanding, and are therefore are limiting for EVERYONE
Lossy Ecology includes Louisa's glossary of re-purposed terms
lossy ecology, 'pataphysical body, floating world, refusee, manykind...
...words for spinning, for spelling, for outlining (in a spiral motion) a new body concept that is time-oriented, borrowing John Latham’s notion of Flat Time as well as Alfred Jarry’s ‘pataphysics (long-time obsession) to do this.
In Lossy Ecology however, it’s not just about time, but also about movement.
Lossy Ecology calls for a conception of self that is always escaping representation, that is always on the move, that cannot be captured as a distinct and static entity...
An audio version of the book is planned.
As well as the glossary of re-purposed terms, and some image works of photocopied hair in different energy formations ('Leaves', 2011/2017, as in ups and leaves), Lossy Ecology features interviews and commissioned texts by some brilliant artists, curators, neuroscientists, researchers, including;
’pataphysicswas named by French symbolist playwright Alfred Jarry (1972-1907), best known for his play Ubu Roi (1896). ‘pataphysics is commonly known as ‘the science of imaginary solutions’; a pseudo-science for the potent side effects of all things pretend, metaphorical, imagined and representational once they are treated as real; ’pataphysics refers to the laws pertaining to all that which falls outside of the laws of physics. According to Jarry, ’pataphysics always appears with an apostrophe before p to avoid a pun in French.
‘Pataphysics in the context of Lossy Ecology refers to the ways in which a known void calls the imaginary into action producing visions and possibilities that draw on what is already known but produce something new. A ’pataphysical body might therefore be the means by which imaginary or absent things might be embodied or experienced and have real consequences. Void or absence bodies, including any body which lacks political visibility, therefore might be said to have ’pataphysical qualities, extending it outside the limitations of the laws of physics.
The spiral symbol painted onto the belly of Jarry’s Ubu Roi - symbolising the vanishing point of his insatiable greed - is reversed in Lossy Ecology, in reference to the fractal spiral of growth, the forward spiral motion of Earth as it rotates around the sun and progresses it’s position in the galaxy, the imagined motion of a body which is not tethered to any fixed notion of identity and self, and the autistic predilection to movement as a means of processing experience, and returning to self.
Flat Time Theory or Time-Base Theory is John Latham’s theory for ordering and unifying all events in the universe, including human actions, which also allows for an understanding of the special status of the artist in society.
Time-Base Theory assumes that time and event are primary, with objects existing as traces of events. Latham believed that our understanding of everything could be unified through this theory, from the existence of the universe to the behaviour of human beings. "There is no phenomenon in existence which doesn't have time in it. But there's an awful lot which doesn't have space in it."
Latham believed that if a shift were to take place and his new cosmology were taken on board, in place of the existing world-view, then the divisions that existed within religion, science, the arts and all fields of knowledge would be unified and the Universe better understood.
Autism is typically described as a clinically defined neurological condition that effects cognitive, behavioural and social functioning, and is determined from a diagnostic and externally verifiable clinical perspective. Drawing on the experiences of autistic people (many of which are readily available to anyone with internet access and examples are therefore purposefully omitted from this book), Lossy Ecology hopes to speak instead to how an autistic or any ‘outlier’, or in fact any other-ed being, might find their own means of self-definition that springs directly from what are typically denied legitimacy, or else regarded as ‘enigmas’ or nonsensical.
‘If we were to look at animals or artificial intelligence, there might be completely different kinds of models of self, and of the world?
They would have a different model of their body, and that would potentially influence their model of the world. Even in robotics and cybernetics, there are ideas about how important the model you have of your own body is for the model of the world that you construct. The way in which you interact with the world has to do with the kind of affordances that you have, which are dependent on your body.
There are different models in different people... could you extend that to say that there are different realities?
Yes in the sense that, according to predictive coding, we don’t perceive a reality as such, we just perceive whatever is not predicted by our model – which is the prediction error. ‘
- Prediction Errors: An Interview with Manos Tsakiris, p55-57
Lossy Ecology aims to modify or extend the social model of disability to include the ways in which any notion of ‘reality’ itself is a product of perceptual and representational forms, thereby undermining the sovereignty of any fixed notion of self and body, or particular forms of technology and cognitive extension.