01 December 2014


Now open at LEA18 and continuing through the end of December is Qualia by Frankx Lefavre. The title and the aesthetic underpinnings of the build are provided through the work of Frank Jackson, an Australian philosopher who has become known for the "knowledge argument" against physicalism, a doctrine that posits that the world is entirely physical. In a 1982 essay entitled "Epiphenomenal Qualia," Jackson set out the case of a hypothetical scientist named Mary, who learns about the world through her singular black-and-white room (a space you'll see as you first arrive). She leaves the room and encounters a red tomato, suggesting that the physical truth is not the whole truth:

"Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specializes in the neurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes, or the sky, and use terms like 'red', 'blue', and so on. She discovers, for example, just which wavelength combinations from the sky stimulate the retina, and exactly how this produces via the central nervous system the contraction of the vocal cords and expulsion of air from the lungs that results in the uttering of the sentence 'The sky is blue'. [...] What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a color television monitor? Will she learn anything or not?"

All that said, it's not really necessary to embrace or even understand Jackson's philosophical perspectives to enjoy Frankx's work. From the black-and-white room, four pathways radiate, leading to some destinations that can't really be captured adequately by these photographs — the pathways are filled with movement, and the journey through the spaces permits our experience of them to unfold over time. The outer pathways are also connected, and you can travel between them, although the route is difficult to discern (I fell several times) — you might want to turn on transparencies long enough to see where the solid ground is. But it's all well worth the journey — this is a complex installation with lots to see. Although there isn't a prescribed order to the pathways, I would recommend setting out first via the Buddha, then continuing clockwise with the clock, the mosaic and the lightning — and be sure to increase your draw distance. A descriptive notecard is available at the landing point.

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