Aram Bartholl : The Speed Box

June 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

DGV : Aram Bartholl : The Speed Box. Berlin : Gestalten, 2012.


The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet

March 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Margaret Wertheim, The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, New York: W. W. Norton & Company,1999

The aim of this book is to look at cyberspace within the context of a cultural history of space in general.

At the heart of this story , as we shall see, is the age-old tension in Western culture between body and mind – in all its myriad manifestitations, including that particular manifestitation that Christians call ‘the soul”. With respect to spacem this tension has been played out in our shifting conceptions of what we perceive as physical space and spiritual space – that is, in our perceptions of a space in which our bodies are embedded, and a space in which our “phyches” or “soul” are embeded.

a radical divide between matter and sprit

soma and pneuma

Greek pneuma -> Christian soul

During the thousand years of the Christian medieval era (…) Western intellectual culture was largely characterized by concerns pertaining to the soul.

But in the past half millennium – beginning in the Renaissance and more strongly since the “scientific revolution” of the seventeenth century – a profound shift has taken place, with Western attention increasingly turning away from the theological concept of soul and toward the physical concreteness of body. (…) In short, in the modern West we live in a profoundly materialist and physicalist culture. – pp30-31

(…) we have lost any conception of a spiritual space – a part of reality in which spirits or souls might reside. In the modern scientific world picture it is a matter of cosmological fact that the whole of reality is taken up by physical space, and there is literally no place within this scheme for anything like a sprit or soul to be. In the vision painted by modern science, the physical world is the totality of reality because within this vision physical space extends infinitely in all directions, taking up all available, and even conceivable, territory.

It was not always so. Where the modern scientific world picture recognizes only a physical realm, the  medieval Christian world picture encompassed both a physical and a spiritual realm – it incorporated a space for body and a space for soul. This was a genuinely dualistic cosmology consisting of both a physical order and a spiritual order. A crucial element of this cosmology was that the two orders mirrored one another, and in both cases humanity was at the center. -p33

Figure 1.3. In medieval Christian cosmology, the earth was at the center of the universe, surrounded by the concentric celestial spheres of the sun, moonm planetsm and stars. ‘Beyond” the stars – and “outside” physical space – was the heavenly Empyrean of God. – p34

Aristotelian cosmology, with astrological and zodiacal symbols. This Earth-centered (geocentric) worldview originated with the Ancient Greeks and dominated medieval Europe until the time of Copernicus (1543). The heavenly bodies circled the Earth attached to spheres. At centre are the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Then there are successive spheres for the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The outer three spheres are: the Firmament (including the stars), the Crystalline Heaven, and the Primum Mobile. Beyond this is the Empyreal Heaven, the Abode of the Blessed. Published in Cosmographia (1524) by the German astronomer Petrus Apianus

Within this scheme, man stood halfway between the ethereal beings of the heavens and the material things of the earth. According to medieval understanding, we were the only material creatures that also had an intellective soul, which latter property we shared with the angelic domains, we were the linchpin of the whole cosmic system: the halfway point and vital link between the earthly and heavenly domains. When medievals spoke of humanity being at the center of the universe, it was not so much our astronomical position they were referring to as our place at the center of this spiritual order. Cruciall, the medieval cosmos was finite – consisting of just ten celestial spheres centered on the earth. Beyond the final sphere of the stars was the very boundary of the physical universe, known as the Primum Mobile. Beyond this outermost sphere, and literally outside the universe, was the Empyrean Heaven of God. In truth the Empyrean was not only outside the universe, it was beyond space and time, both of which were said to end at the Primum Mobile. But metaphorically, medieval ages of the cosmos depicted  this heavenly domain beyond the stars, where there was, so to speak, plenty of  “room” left.(…) Just what it meant to have a place beyond physical space is a question that greatly challenged medieval minds, but all the great philosophers of the age insisted on the reality of this immaterial, nonphysical domain.

In the scientific world picture however, physical space came to occupy the whole of reality, leaving no room (even potentially) for any other kind of space to be. This vision, originally formulated in the seventh century, emerged out of a bold new mechanistic philosophy that envisaged the world not as a great spiritual hierarchy but as a vast machine. – pp 35-36

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