The world is independent of my will (exercises on tractarian ontology) - Guilherme Ghisoni


I conceived the central idea of this in the late nineties, through the study of the work of the American composer John Cage. In many of his compositions, Cage (inspired by Marcel Duchamp) used random sequences to determine the notes, the silences, the durations, and the intensity of the notes. When I migrated from music to photography, I adapted this method of composition to the photographic equipment. From a single point of light, random sequences of numbers determined how many exposures would be made on the same negative, what would be the position of the camera relative to the point, the color of the point, whether the exposure would be in focus or out of focus, the amount the blur, whether there would be movement, which axis of the tripod would move and the amount of movement.

Over the years, I explored several versions of this idea (initially in 35mm, black and white, then in medium format, in color) - some of these photos are on the website in the essay entitled "Kinesis". In these photos, the central idea was the interaction with randomness. The randomness of points and risks represented the randomness of the world, and amid this randomness I would put my points and risks. The pictures thus expressed how we constantly interact with randomness in life - (life as a game of chess with randomness).

It was through Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus that I understood why John Cage's ideas interested me so much. In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein conceives reality as situated within a logical space, which fixes the totality of possibilities. The facts that make up the world are contingent occurrences of some of these possibilities. These facts are logically independent of each other and occur to the exact extent that they might not occur. The metaphysical subject is the one who contemplates the facts of the world as a limited totality. The subject is not a fact in the world, but a limit of the world. And the contingency of facts would be completely independent of the will of this subject.

With the study of the Tractatus, John Cage's "Music of Changes" seemed to me the exact expression of the tractarian ontology (though Wittgenstein certainly would hate Cage's works-as he detested almost everything after Brahms). The random notes expressed the contingency of the facts of the world and the silence in which these notes occurred represented the logical space of sound possibilities.

It is for this wittgensteinian perspective that I conceive this new photographic essay. The photographic space occupies the position of Wittgenstein's logical space and the risks and points are completely random, representing the contingent facts that make up the world in the logical space.


These images were made using the following process:

The first step is to apply a numerical grid to the camera's display with two axes from 0 to 99. The next step is to obtain a series with tens of hundreds of random numbers from 0 to 99 – using a random number generator. The photos are made in total darkness, having only a small point of light as element to be photographed. This point of light can have five colors: blue, yellow, white, green and red. Using the random numbers, I would get the following determinations. The first number of the series determines how many multiple exposures will be performed in the same image (with a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 40 exposures). The next step is to determine how each of the exposures will be made. If the second number of the series is even, the image will be a dot, and if it is odd, it will be a line (lines are made moving the camera on a tripod using long exposures). The next two numbers will determine the position of the point in respect to the vertical axis (0 to 99) and horizontal axis (0 to 99), using the numerical grid placed over the camera display. If the image is a line, two more numbers are needed to determine the position on the vertical axis (0 through 99) and the horizontal axis (0 through 99), that mark the end of the line. The next number in the series determines whether the photographed spot will be in focus or out of focus - even for focus and odd for out of focus. If it is out of focus, the next number determines the degree of blur (from 0 to 99). The following number will determine the color of the light to be used: white (0 to 19), blue (20 to 39), red (40 to 59), green (60 to 79), yellow (80 to 99). The process will be repeated until the number of multiple exposures determined by the first number of the series is achieved.

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