Studio Theory 19th Aug 2013 a speculative piece.

3.2  Hallucinations  Atmospherics and Ghosts

My body sings in every nerve ending as it glides towards a singing body.This singing body lives up to Spinoza’s expectation that “we don’t even know what a body is capable of “nor can “we know what a body is”.Since it was at once uncategorizable, without a proper name and yet undeniably there; Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

This “Singing body” would call and I would levitate towards its sublime soundings by passing through bands of light and hovering motifs that resembled Japanese kites, – mind and body stretched on a rising polyphonic wave of motor-cross derived music. Enfolded in balloon vine and touching the earth, grounding out a circuit that hurled each and every atom towards a deep and mysterious tidal pool at great-speed.It was brackish. For some moments I became the Martian landscapes of Daniel Paul Schreber.The singing body – a plant being, animated geometry at the head and a non distinct mass at the base before me. Forming from a kind of image-light – a thin film of non- photons that appears not from daylight but from behind the eyes in the darkness of the skull. It was at once both a two dimensional and a three dimensional figure.

Light and colour manifest at the level of perception, the product of electrical energy. Receptors are stimulated & produce a change of state in the brain, in this case from a molecule that crosses the dermis via the lungs. What I was seeing was the light and colour of dreams during wakefulness. Perhaps a form of Anti- light and colour, like the place known as Antikythera (the opposite other) – a tiny island in the Ionian Sea, that sits next to the main island. Is this not then, the light and colour that sits to the side of sunlight,- a subteranean image field that manifests occasionally when awake, from the pockets and folds of the productive body and the chemical signals it produces. We are image factories. What is it about the molecule that allows one to produce everything internally – images and sounds ?

Generally, light and colour which hasn’t derived from the sun is considered to be artificial, an abberation. We know the common meaning of artificial “man made” but if we look back further we see it comes from the Latin “of or belonging to art,” from artificium. This is light derived inside the body at the level of perception. Some animals emit chemical light, producing bio-luminescance, but my feeling is that the images of perception that are lit up in dreams might be being formed at the sub-atomic level.

This notion of internalised light and colour, becomes an interesting, when we consider the role of the virtual camera in the production of images. This technology is central to many of the images we see today in cinema and photography – the camera doesn’t exist physically in the usual way. The camera is made up of binary code that acts as a data processor algorithmically working on sets of coordinates expressed as shaded values on a screen.

What is remarkable is that this is an image system that is beyond glass optics. A method of representation known as ray tracing, partially made possible and used by Descartes, in his analysis of rainbows.4. These images generated by computer are simulations that can seem so real as to easily convince the viewer that what they are seeing has been photographed conventionally. Raytracing uses a collection of formula of physical laws in a Cartesian coordinate space, to draw a picture. In short, ray-tracing is a system of virtual – photography. Technology occults, it de-conceals. Insistently, images are born out of the darkness of this mathematical universe. It’s like a miracle. The function of a wave.

Video art worksand works in photomedia can be  hallucinatory & luminous apparitions, cast as light on the wall of a gallery. A surface without substance – smooth space of the image, turned on and then off, in the same way a vision in the mind appears and disappears. This is dematerialised art as opposed to the fattiness of impasto, the heaviness of stone or the immobility of a stuffed cat, wrapped in sticky tape and melted plastic.

I discovered early on, that the actions of molecules produced events. In my current exploration of the molecular effects of the aromatic molecules of perfumery (and there role in the production of new types Post Object Art) we find ourselves swept up in another, (thankfully) far safer form of intoxication – one that is a powerful trigger of thoughts, sensations, memories and feelings.

Perfumes seem like intoxicants, far more benign than the aromatic – hydrocarbons that are central to say the act of sniffing glue. Aromatic molecules enter the body and go very quickly to the brain. The mechanism of smell is not yet entirely understood. Some of the chemicals behind common perfumes are the starting materials of psychedelic tryptamines that have been thoroughly explored in organic chemistry and consumed throughout the twentieth century and explored for millennia as part of traditional religious rituals.5. Many of these precursors, are also found in food and knowledge of the interaction of some of the more challenging odorant molecules has helped inform the radical and fascinating food movement known as Molecular Gastronomy. A field that amounts to in some ways as the “high art” branch of the experimental culinary arts. Other aromatic molecules are known attractors in the world of animals.

Take a molecule like Indole, it is found in lots of places, in nature – Indole is an important perfumery molecule and is also a close relative to Serotonin, it also forms the central ring of LSD. It is said, that serotonin doesn’t smell like Indole because apparently it is non – volatile. Serotonin doesn’t fly like Indole. Its use in perfumery is because it is found in Orange Blossom and Jasmine and I suspect because it has a strong boosting effect, in the same way that your shit has a density to its odorousness. It’s certainly has a faecal character.


The intoxicated dialogue I was having in my early teenage years no matter how far “out there,” always had the sense that there where levels and tasks to be undertaken in my contact with many hallucinatory beings. This fortunately provide a sense of order in this relatively dangerous situation.    This was in contrast to the “machines of delirium” that occurred as a child when affected by bouts of fever during illness. The “regime of power” that existed in that experience was a diabolical form of torture that conjured extreme terror and was anything but an encounter with an em pathogenic being, more like an encounter with “pure evil” and this tells me, we are a multiplicity of beings in a fleshy body. And Spinoza tells us that we are “An infinite number of attributes for any one substance”.



This “warm entity” lets call her, for she was a she communicated to me in a way that could only be described as completely compelling; an encounter with a powerful spiritual form. Through out my meetings with this unstable poly-morphology there was the constancy of a melodic refrain that functioned as a beacon, as a powerful lure through the blackness that reached out towards desire – desire to be in its aura. For he was the Substance less body come into being like a miracle – no skeletal structure required. You are high octane spirit – catalytic conversion from coal tar earth to “Hydrocarbon Angel”.

Representational signifiers had collapsed to be replaced by an almost total affective experience. This being, was wider at the base than at the top (figuration)- the perception of defined organs, body parts and structural elements that make up a sensible figure seemed almost redundant. The being was mostly a field of vibrational energy that had become like a living work of modern art albeit, one that exists in the virtual of the hallucination, rather than crossing over into the organic plane of the real.This Vixen, this  siren lived in the “smooth deeps” of a dark and unlimited mental chamber, always waiting just around the corner in a space beyond the terrestrial, inhabiting the celestial and infernal realms.

All the familiar features of flesh and blood had long departed into the outer reaches of time and space, to leave in its wake an afterimage, of what years later would become familiar when I saw the works of Duchamp & Brancusi. The realisation that they gave us the gift of images and objects of human forms, that had crossed the borders of the possible into new non-organic life forms. Always in motion, the idea of a body that surpasses meat and flesh, for one of light and space, a hyper criss-crossing of lines of pure pigment and shiny metal armour interlocking fragments that remained part of the whole. A construction of composites and fragmented crystalline hybrids that ultimately produce the authentic characters of art, in order to open up the possibility for the world of creatures to come; the creatures of anime, the horror film, photography and science fiction.

The whole enterprise of cinema art is like a hallucinatory art – the art of assemblage, of sound colour and light that is projected. The computer is a machine that allows one to bring all of these thing together, it’s a kind of factory where a multiplicity of technologies exist, side by side, to produce these remarkable assemblages. When a work is successful, a great variety of elements come together to form a harmony, no matter how far away from each other in type, the elements seem to be. This potential for “difference” and synthesis to co-exist in a work of Art,is at the heart of novelty and for me is one of the most exciting aspects of the process of making art. Its like a new form of gymnastics – to make the body hold itself up in space in some interesting contorted positions, thus far unseen. The same thing then for ideas or materials, to make everything drunken and askew, frozen in time and space – a painting, a leap, a suspended white horse in the sky, a naked women fucks a cloud. (see fig 3.) Artists are human synthesisers.


fig 3. Jupiter & Io, 1531



Atmospheric networks   are expressively writing the fabric of the world, as much as any network that sits on more stable ontological ground. A charged atmosphere has agency by virtue of vibrational gradients of attributes that within sensitive subjects, metaphorically speaking, form complicated interference patterns that upend ontological certainty,  which are in themselves  powerful tools in imbuing the world with ‘extra-territorial’ powers.

Aromas, auras, glows, echoes, hallucinations, recordings, colours, mirages, optical illusions and reflections – by no means an exhaustive list of signals that transmit through space. Others might view these manifestations as “epiphenomena” or “secondary qualities,” but what could be specifically secondary about uncanny entities that seemingly appear out of nowhere, as figurations from the flux that transfix our attention, and that we continually engage with?

Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of beingbecomingexistence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

The German philosopher of embodiment and aesthetics Gernot Bohme, in one of his later essays, points out that “Atmospheres are indeterminate above all, as regards their ontological status.” [1] He goes on to say that:

The introduction of “atmosphere” as a concept in aesthetics should link up with the everyday distinctions between atmospheres of different character. Atmosphere can only become a concept, however, if we succeed in accounting for the peculiar intermediary status of atmospheres between subject and object.[2]

The physician turned artist Wolfgang Laib puts down squares of yellow pollen that almost seem to hover in space as if they are defying gravity. His yellow dust of hazelnut, pine and dandelion are as intense as any yellow cut from the heavy metal of cadmium. After looking at one of his yellow squares hovering against a pristine white ground, purple flashes appear in the back of the eyes in contrast (purple being the complementary opposite of yellow). This is the other side of the circuit that impinges itself on seeing; you cannot have one without the other. The yellow pollen transmits back into the arrangement of fleshy matter that belongs to the eye and this is what is given between hazelnut pollen and the physiognomy of the eye – the purple ghost that is lingering between the two.

Memory, after Bartlett, who worked in the first half of the twentieth century, is thought about as being compositional – as belonging to reconstruction, rather than simple recall.[3] Cognition works up these ghostly actants bound together; you can’t have one without the other. As a circuit of stimuli and response, our responses to stimuli are also feeding back, informing our cognitions through “trillions and trillions of pulses in your brain.”[4]

Positivist views of scientific progress would like to tell us that the phantom is being     banished by its mastery, but how would that be possible, when there are so many conditions for ghostly actants to appear? And science itself is continually producing all kinds of phantoms in the form of countless numbers of hybrids and androids, as the work of Latour and Issabelle Stengers attest. What could be more confronting than Eduardo Cac’s artworks where he claims to have melded animal DNA with a flower—a new kind of entity—or his infamous pet rabbit with flesh that glows in the dark? [5]

The spectral flash of a distant lightning storm flickers onto a white wall, making it and the room momentarily brighter – the ghosts surpass technology and yet also belong to it.  The ghosts live equally well within black box systems as they do in the movement of leaves.

James Turrell is a prominent North American artist, renowned for his work with coloured fields of light. Turrell describes this relationship:

Light is a powerful substance… But, for something so powerful, situations for their presences are fragile. I form it as much as the material allows. I like to work with it so that you feel it physically, so you feel the presence of light inhabiting a space. I like the quality of feeling that is felt not only with the eyes.[6]

How do we reconcile ‘individuality’ when faced with a continual dynamic of becoming that exists in systems across both the macro and micro scale? This dynamic has been the source of a long debate within philosophical circles for centuries, all the way back to the Pre-Socratics. It was Heraclitus that said “you can never stand in the same river twice.” [7]

The philosopher Levi Bryant gives us a succinct summary of Aristotle’s position on substance:

To be, for Aristotle, is to be a substance or a thing. All other senses of being, Aristotle argues, ultimately refer back to substance for ultimately all these other forms of being reside in substances or are made possible by substances… Elsewhere, in the Categories, Aristotle gives us an important clue as to the nature of substance. There Aristotle writes that, “[a] substance—that which is called a substance most strictly, primarily, and most of all—is that which is neither said of a subject nor in a subject, e.g., the individual man or the individual horse.” In short, a substance is that which is not predicated of anything else, and which therefore enjoys independent or autonomous existence. Colour, for example, is always predicated of a substance. Put differently, colour must always reside in something else. The colour red is never a substance in its own right, but is always in a ball or a strawberry or lipstick. Qualities reside in substances; they are predicated of substances, whereas substances are not predicated of anything.

One thinks of molecules as innate and as relatively stable entities but they are not ideal forms. Instead, they are compositions of atoms, and they can decompose as well as assemble. Quantum physics tells us there are subatomic scale dynamics operating within each atom and molecule that produces variations of all manner of types continuously:

First is the gradual emergence in early Greek thought of a factor indispensable to the discussion of the changing world and the progressive elaboration of that factor (or, more exactly, cluster of factors) as philosophic reflection deepened and divided. Second is the radical shift that occurred in the seventeenth century as the concept of matter took on new meanings, gave its name to the emerging philosophy of materialism and yielded place to a derivative concept, mass, in the fast-developing new science of mechanics. Third is the further transformation of the concept in the twentieth century in the light of the dramatic changes brought about by the three radically new theories in physics: relativity, quantum mechanics, and expanding-universe cosmology, with which that century will always be associated. Matter began to be dematerialized, as it were, as matter and energy were brought into some sort of equivalence, and the imagination-friendly particles of the earlier mechanics yielded way to the ghostly realities of quantum theory that are neither here nor there.[8]

Quantum physics shows us that everything at a certain level is a composite energetic blur in a field:

The first blow came from Einstein’s theories of special relativity (1905) and general relativity (1915). By stating the principle of an equivalence of mass and energy, the field character of matter came into focus, and philosophers of science began to discuss to what extent relativity theory implied a ‘de-materialization’ of the concept of matter. However, as McMullan  points out, even though particles and their interactions began to be seen as only partial manifestations of underlying fields of mass-and-energy, relativity theory still gave room for some notion of spatio-temporal entities through the concept of ‘rest mass’. The second blow to classical materialism and mechanism came with quantum theory, which describes a fundamental level of reality, and therefore should be accorded primary status when discussing the current scientific and philosophical nature of matter.[9]

Rather than being given “primary status” let us acknowledge that reality is multilayered and stratified and look for the tracings that cross these dimensions. Conceptually the strange situations that are occurring on a quantum level should at the very least reinforce an idea that things operate differently through a strata of dimensions, that dimensionality is really only a conceptual character anyway that arises from the observers position or viewpoint.  When it comes to the qualities of powers that come to the senses the prominent American cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett ascribes this to qualia:

“Qualia” is an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us. As is so often the case with philosophical jargon, it is easier to give examples than to give a definition of the term. Look at a glass of milk at sunset; the way it looks to you – the particular, personal, subjective visual quality of the glass of milk is the quale of your visual experience at the moment. The way the milk tastes to you then is another, gustatory quale, and how it sounds to you as you swallow is an auditory quale; these various “properties of conscious experience” are prime examples of qualia. Nothing, it seems, could you know more intimately than your own qualia; let the entire universe be some vast illusion, some mere figment of Descartes’ evil demon, and yet what the figment is made of (for you) will be the qualia of your hallucinatory experiences. Descartes claimed to doubt everything that could be doubted, but he never doubted that his conscious experiences had qualia, the properties by which he knew or apprehended them.[10]

Surely it is the constitution of these things that allows them to emit particular qualities back to us, rather than being merely a product of our hallucinations? A white sheet hanging in a room will show a different side under different lighting conditions between noon and twilight. A red sheet will look purple under blue light, as opposed to under yellow light, where it will appear orange. A black sheet side by side with the red sheet under the same lighting conditions will also change accordingly, but in different ways. These objects have the power to absorb light in different ways; isn’t this then a proposition of a complex, involving a union between interpretation through the senses and the qualities or powers of objects themselves? And what about the question of diffuse light emissions or radiosity?[11] A red sheet in a white room will reflect some of its redness onto the wall as a pink glow.[12]

The Belgian philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers, in her book Thinking with Whitehead, highlights how Whitehead countered our tendency to see the world as a bunch of divisions, rather than as an entangled constituency:

Thus, nature sees itself credited with that which, in fact, should be reserved for ourselves: the rose for its smell, the nightingale for its song, and the sun for its brilliance. The Poets are entirely wrong. They should address their songs to themselves, and should turn them into odes of self-congratulation for the splendour of the human mind. Nature is a stupid business, bereft of sounds, odours and colours; it is only matter in a hurry without end and without meaning. [13]

Whitehead made it his life’s challenge to think up alternatives to this divide:

The theory of psychic additions would treat the greenness [of grass] as a psychic addition, furnished from the perceiving mind and would leave to nature, merely the molecules and the radiant energy which influences the mind towards the perception.

What I am essentially protesting against is the bifurcation of nature into two systems of reality, which, in so far as they are real, are real in different senses[…] Thus there would be two natures, one is the conjecture the other is a dream.

Wider nature is not so much bereft of sound, odours or colours as it is at times simply withdrawn from certain qualities (just as we humans are withdrawn from many things when we sleep or are unconscious). At the same time the world still churns.

How could anyone really know what it is like when another person encounters the smell of the plant vetiver? This is a smell that is usually described in the most general terms as being earthy and woody. How can we find the words to describe to someone what the smell of vetiver is for us? As Bruno Latour reminds us: “Nothing can be reduced to anything else.” Language comes after the experience with smell, words may put us in the zone, but words are perhaps the most distant translation of what it is.

Touch also belongs to these occulting states in confirming that there are beings ‘outside of me’ that produce shivers on the skin, or warmth and comfort, even ecstasy, or perhaps in a striking blow great pain and agony. The ghostly actants, because they are unbounded, live in the senses and in the outside world simultaneously. Generalised in thought, as categories such as “atmosphere” and “aura”, this haunting quality we are extending onto aesthetic practices of atmospherics and ambience, as a place of the coven where aromatic potions become spellbinding. This is why perfume is often presented as a gift, something we wear on the skin like a decoration and a declaration of seduction, as a potion.

“Freud devoted his life to listening and interpreting ghosts,” so says philosopher Jacques Derrida in the film Ghost Dance.[14] Everything emits in space, some things are more stable and others more volatile and some are withdrawn – waiting to pop up like a ‘jack-in-the-box.’

Shiny surfaces and caustics – the wiggly patterns reflected through water onto a surface –   more often associated with visual apparitions. Yet aroma may also be charged with the interweaving of the effects of dissonance and interference; certainly the accord in perfumery seems key to these kinds of summations of effects. We now add to these watery illusions the effects of the air like those found in Turner’s painting, and onwards towards a haunting meteorological olfactory that signals to us across the divide that there are indeed things beyond ourselves.

The flower attracts with chemical effluvia, with an “I am here” to a wasp that it will never know and is unlikely to be speaking with any time soon. But time, the circumstances of evolutionary time, is indirectly telling the flower of the necessity of the wasp and so the flower is composing towards it. Not all communication is as explicit or as vulgar as language. Communication is so pervasive across the divide that it happens in spite of conscious awareness of enunciation and reception. There is the time of the genes and the dark eons entombed within life. We are filled with black boxes as much as a rose is a black box. We are dark houses, and stored within us are a myriad of processes that we will never know directly, but none the less are bubbling away insistently.

What lies between subject and object are all of these manifestations that act as intermediaries, as micro transporters – translations that sit outside of any firm ontological category and yet, counter intuitively by way of their indeterminate ambiguous nature, are empowered by the receptivity that come from the fascination of these temporal indeterminacies. This expressive territory is the ways and means of transmission across epistemological gaps.  These powers are attention seeking, because we have always been geared towards looking for the potential in the world around us, seeking out some unnamed and perhaps subtle force that might be useful for our survival.

For Walter Benjamin the concept of aura was central. Benjamin was infected with a form of the ghostly – an incantation of the aura that he revealed for us that he claimed makes its presence felt in the art object. An aura that gives the work an intangible power, an aura that he felt was being snuffed out by reproduction. An aura, then, unable to gather enough alliances against the tide of images coming off the presses. An aura that is present in every museum or gallery even if it is being felt as an absence in its wake. Benjamin intuits the aura in the atmospheric clearing of the vista, the antithesis of the enclosed space of the gallery or the museum. He finds it in nature – nature is his web and his line into culture:

What is an aura actually? A strange tissue of space and time: unique appearance of distance, however near it may be. Resting on a summer evening and following a mountain chain on the horizon or a branch, which throws its shadow on the person at rest – that is to breathe the aura of these mountains or this branch. With this definition it is easy to comprehend the particular social determination of the present decay of aura…[15]

The ghosts are zigzagging down the channels, completing a circuit of potential; they attach themselves to anything that has enough energy in the system to allow their effects to come forth. What humans do with them is up to the humans, the gods watch on indifferently.

A field of electricity under power lines illuminates a fluorescent tube when held aloft by a hand that connects the field to the earth through the body. This is also Benjamin’s aura, the natural sublime is to be found now, within networks of electricity that belong to the cosmos as much as they do to power companies that mediate them.

This is the new line on the horizon – a power line that cuts a corridor through the bush. The 512k transmission lines to Blacktown that produces the strange sounds of the electrical field in corresponding lengths of wire (VLF antennae) when held aloft, they resonate internally and in sympathy. The lines occasionally flash green in the winter fog. Its aura or electromagnetic field is so radiant that a person can hold a fluorescent tube up in the air and make it glow without it being plugged into any other piece of equipment, no power sockets required – a light sabre courtesy of Integral Energy. These transmission lines run approximately parallel with the ridgeline that the people of the Durag and Gunddungara nation probably would have travelled to go back and forth from the tool workshops along the Nepean River. [16]  This glowing ‘Flavin Rod’ is a circuit between the earth, the air, and a living fleshy body.[17] A cable between two poles amplifies the radio emissions from the stars as a crackle that seemed utterly mysterious to the teams of linesman who first laid the cable.[18] Accordingly, the auras of plants are rediscovered in the making of a Kirlian camera, its authenticity unquestionable in the sense that what it shows is the fifth state of matter as nebula around the fringe of leaves, but entirely questionable in terms of the old idea of life force transmitting in the ether.[19]

This sequence of images was accompanied in its first iteration with fantasy fragrances made in the studio of olfactory interpretations of each of the plants under investigation.[20] For example the Kirlian image of Water Cress was accompanied by the fragrance, “A Thousand Leaves” which was a diffuse green bitter fragrance that had hemp like overtones. All of these fragrances utilized cis 3 Hexanyl and its acetate which are foundational green notes in perfumery. The Kirlian image of common grass was accompanied by a fragrance named “Grass Valley” that was described as being hay-like, diffusive and musk like. It accurately contained coumarin- a vanilla like chemical that one can easily detect when large bodies of grass have been mown, along with ozone like chemicals and classic cut grass green notes as already mentioned above. Stemone made an appearance for its stem like minty qualities.

Four rusty pipes of various lengths poke from a ruined façade in an abandoned oil shale refinery in Western NSW.[21] These pipes produce a pitch perfect melody – a sad refrain in the wind. This is Aeolian music that will last as long as the prevailing wind passes from that particular direction and at that speed, and for as long as the pipes can resist the process of oxidation into rust, another object subject to entropy. This perhaps speaks towards a powerful dimension in art – its deep recesses, this enormous crescendo of patterns seeping up from the noumenal, as eruptions of time. The work is already nearly complete, all it needs is to be gotten hold of by some entity and signed.

We live in a world that contains the appropriate substrates for ghostly forces: rock shelter, tree, telephone, computer, starlight, sun, the cinema, psychoanalysis; the list is endless – for these unnameable ghostly actants are firmly planted in the real that includes the   imagination: mediators of matter and the senses. These are the timings in which things come together. They are always with us, the planes and lines of force translating a lightning flash that makes a rectangular luminous shape appear on the lounge room wall masked by a window. They are the harbingers, because our minds are geared to receive them, and at the same time we belong to them and them to us, through the forces of feedback, a circular looping transporter.[22] Like upon like, creates interference patterns by phase. Energy out of phase with itself creates patterns. Energy in phase carves out space. Time out of phase is a rupture. Time out of phase reeks of the event and of the temporary arresting of entropy by preservation in a bottle. Objects slow down time for us by arresting nervous energy. Here Serres describes the relational object in action:

For an unstable band of baboons, social changes are flaring up every minute. One could characterize their history as unbound, insanely so. The object for us, makes our history slow…I spoke of the ball, ludic mimes in our own age of these relational objects. Around the ball, the team fluctuates as quick as a flame, around it through it, it keeps a nucleus of organization. The ball is the sun of the system and the force passing among its elements; it is a centre that is off-centred, off-side, outstripped. Every player carries on with the ball when the preceding one is shunted aside, laid out, trampled. [23]

Many entities miss much of the world and yet these objects are caught up in the paradox of a strange intimacy – a paradox of touching that couldn’t be further from making contact, described here by the master of objects, Martin Heidegger:

Taken strictly, ‘touching’ is never what we are talking about in such cases, not because accurate re-examination will always eventually establish that there is a space between the chair and the wall, but because in principle the chair can never touch the wall, even if the space between them should be equal to zero. If the chair could touch the wall, this would presuppose that the wall is the sort of thing ‘for’ which a chair would be encounterable. An entity present at hand within the world can be touched by another entity only if by its very nature the latter entity has Being –in as its own kind of Being –only if, with its Being-there [Da-sein], something like the world is already revealed to it, so that from out of the world another entity can manifest itself in touching, and thus become accessible in its Being-present-at-hand. When two entities are present-at-hand within the world, and furthermore are worldless in themselves, they can never ‘touch’ each other, nor can either of them be alongside each other.[24]

But isn’t this the case for all entities including humans – try as we might, our  potential  access  to ‘other’ entities shall always remain somehow strangely beyond us no matter how close we lay to each other in our beds? Of course, we have a sense of who we are with and the qualities they project that allows us to love or to loath; we do all agree ‘more or less’ that sunsets are red and often special, but we can never be absolutely certain that these things are what they are, or that we are getting our point or opinion through. And when we sense this existential and ontological void opening up, we are immersed in the uncanny that is surrounded by thresholds; suddenly the home is filled with murky shadows and black holes.

A hypothesis: only the lifeless things are truly free in their existence, because they do not have a world to access. Being in the phenomenological sense is never fulfilled, especially for us. This is because we belong to an open system that is gaining and losing information.  We are always haunted by spectres that give us a world that forces us to consciously acknowledge, in line with Heidegger, our inability to fully and completely enter it. Does this ontological uncertainty prove we are ghosts rather than flesh, operating as a field of vibration? Are we ghostly before we have even died? Are we always hovering between subject and object? Are we just ghostly actants? Are we merely shells in which everything else inhabits us, including the past, through the inevitable reshaping that comes with the nexus of our subjectivity? Perhaps this withdrawal is the very thing that affords power to aesthetics and excludes us the right to total knowledge, an ontological void that makes us somehow human, as empathetic fragile creatures rather than incandescent with power and monstrously holy. As Colin Black writes in his essay “Hauntology, spectres and phantoms”:

For Derrida, the ghost’s secret is not a puzzle to be solved; it is the structural openness or address directed towards the living by the voices of the past or the not yet formulated possibilities of the future. The secret is not unspeakable because it is taboo, but because it cannot not (yet) be articulated in the languages available to us. The ghost pushes at the boundaries of language and thought. The interest here, then, is not in secrets, understood as puzzles to be resolved, but in secrecy, now elevated to what Castricano calls ‘the structural enigma which inaugurates the scene of writing. [25]

Our interpretation and experience of aroma may struggle with language and yet, at the same time, this is also one of its powers once it enters the realm of phenomena and composition. The proposition here is that ghostly actants are the entities that resist representation (as much as they play a role in producing them) as spectre, apparition, mirage and memory, as entities that appear seemingly out of nowhere that become powerful collaborators with us as territorial animals. The ghosts are the entities that we always meet with a certain incredulity against our need to believe we are “the shepherds of being.” An aroma – a certain ‘whiff’ – will resist or complicate any description. It is semiotically unstable, and yet aroma signals as information seemingly immaterially, confounding stable conceptual categories while at the same time simultaneously producing them. It is in this excess and openness of this exchange, and its lack of perfection, that there will be found all kinds of ‘ghostly’ supplements supplanting and cajoling with other actants, by a similar to route to how we have come to harness chaos into order. Aroma is one of the most intimate things we can know; as substances it enters our bodies and we have been thoroughly equipped through our organs to submit to this occasion.

The ghostly are agents of transduction, they can be found on the output side of black boxes manifesting as haloes, glows, and auras, or inside the resonating wires of antenna or in the glowing ion channels beyond the receptor. The ghosts are found in the harmonic ring of a molecule’s stretch frequency and from the arrangement of its shape. One will smell of freshly cut grass and another of candle wax.

Perhaps by attempting to interrogate these so called indeterminate qualities under the guise of ghostly entities forming bridges and pathways, we might begin to develop a future taxonomy of fantastical new modes of thought in respect to what was once banished by the church and held in check by other gatekeepers. The affirmation here is aimed towards the occult tendencies of perfumery for a rising up of wondrous vaporous entities from the earth, rather than for the drowning of witches at the weighing station.

Fig 5: Kirlian Image of Mint from the Garden. The Phantom Leaves. 2010.





[1] Gernot Bohme, Atmosphere as a fundamental concept of a new Aesthetics (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1993), 114.

[2] Ibid

[3] “For Example, in some of Bartlett’s most influential studies, subjects were asked to read a story to themselves (the most famous story being “The War of the Ghosts”); they then tried to recall the story later. Bartlett found that individuals recalled each story in their own idiosyncratic way. Jonathan K Foster, Memory A Very Short Introduction. (Oxford University Press 2009.) 12.

[4] Neuroscientist David Eagleman a specialist at Baylor College of Medicine at Houston Texas tells us “Your brain is built of cells called neurons and glia –hundreds of billions of them. Each one of these cells is as complicated as a city. And each one contains the entire human genome and traffics billions of molecules in intricate economies. Each cell sends electrical pulses to other cells, up to hundreds of times per second. If you represented each of these trillions and trillions of pulses in your brain by a single photon of light, the combined output would be blinding”

[5] See the artists website on this work the “natural history of the enigma”

[6] Victoria Lynne. Space Odysseys sensation and Immersion. (Sydney: Art gallery of NSW, 1999),   52.

[7] The quote from Heraclitus appears in Plato’s Cratylus twice; in 401located online retrieved,3/2/2012   

[8]  Paul Davies and Niels Henrik Gregersen, (2011-03-01). “Introduction: does information matter?” Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press), 13.

[9]Paul Davies and  Niels Gregersen and Niels Henrik. “Introduction: does information matter?”  Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press 2011), 2

[10] Daniel Dennett “Quining Qualia” 1985-11-21. Retrieved 18/05/2012.

[11] In 3d computer graphics radiosity is an algorithm used to visualise and take into account diffuse inter-reflections of surfaces bouncing off each other. The equation comes from thermal radiation but surfaces also radiate scattered light that has an effect on the illumination of objects in their surroundings.

[12] Levi Bryant, in his book The Democracy of Objects uses the example of a cup in a similar way.

[13] Isabelle Stengers, quoting Whitehead in Thinking with WhiteheadScience and the Modern World (New York: Free Press 1967), 54.

[14] A line of dialogue by Jacques Derrida in the film Ghost Dance, 1983. Director Ken McMullen.

[15]As quoted by Gernot Bohme in Atmosphere as the Fundamental Concept of a New Aesthetics Gernot Bohme  Thesis Eleven 1993; W. Benjamin, “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit”, 1st version, Gesammelte Schriften (Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1991)

[16]  A good background for this can be found in the book Blue Mountains Dreaming. The Aboriginal Heritage. By Eugene Stockton.

[17] “Flavin Rod” is a play on the work of American Artist Dan Flavin famous for his sculptures of fluorescent tubes and the ‘light sabre’ or staff as ceremonial rod.

[18] This description refers to two collaborative works with Joyce Hinterding – The Halo Field – published as a DVD that came with Art Monthly Australia 2010 and Hinterding’s field recordings, in particular Transmission Lines Series 512k to Blacktown 2009.

[19] David Haines. The Phantom Leaves – (premiered at Breenspace, Sydney 2010)

[20] First exhibited in the group exhibition curated by Lucy Bleach and Jonathon Holmes at the Plimsoll Gallery Hobart in the exhibition titled, Green. Then in a second iteration as part of the exhibition Cosmic Vapour at Breenspace in 2010 (not discussed in the text).

[21] This sound appeared in the collaborative art work “Black Canyon Earth Field” that appeared in the exhibition, Modern Ruins at Gallery of Modern Art Queensland Haines/Hinterding 2008

[22] Gregory Bateson was one of the first people to think about feedback. Noel Charlton in Understanding Gregory Bateson: Mind, Beauty, and the Sacred Earth (S U N Y Series in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics 2012), 15, explains it thus: “He was already seeing social and inter-societal interaction in terms of process and, during this work with the Latmul people, he first recognized (while puzzling over the fact that conflict and reciprocally aggressive behavior between groups of natives did not normally escalate into all-out war) the processes that would, in postwar cybernetics, become “positive feedback” and “negative feedback”-though at the time he referred to “symmetrical schismogenesis” and “complementary schismogenesis.”

[23] Michel Serres. Genesis. (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. 1995), 13.

[24] Martin Heidegger. Being and Time. (New York: Harper and Row. 1962), 81-82

[25] Colin Black. Hauntology, spectres and phantoms (Oxford Journals Humanities French Studies Volume 59, Issue) 3Pp. 373-379.