Day 3, Stream 5


Converging and diverging realities


Paul Thomas


Mike Phillips: iDAT, UK

Paul Thomas: College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Australia

Pia Ednie-Brown: School of Architecture and Design, RMIT University, Australia



 Mike Phillips: “Filled with wonder and ease…”

“It’s from the future. A place so close to us now, filled with wonder and ease…”

This presentation explores the liminal and reciprocal space that lies between the inside and outside of our heads. This permeable membrane has for centuries been a territory occupied by diagrams, plans and models, a space of abstract potential – somewhere between desire and becoming, reminiscent of a future, filled with wonder and ease.

In recent years this liminal territory has been infiltrated by technologies that challenge an osmotic  balance between the inside and outside. Symptoms of this tension include: imaging technologies that visualise neural processes of the viewer; immersive environments that reveal things outside of our normal frame of reference; the delegation of a responsibility to perceive the world to remote sensors. Real-time modelling of ‘big data’, predictive and anticipatory analytics engines are removing the ‘resistance or friction’ from the diagram.

Consequently, knowing the world through the diagram has suddenly become more traumatic. Predictive models of climate change, mappings of declining bee populations and faster than thought algo trading leave us stunned and bewildered and seemingly incapable of action. The space of the diagram is a place even closer to us now, but filled with neurosis and uncertainty.

(Mad Men: Season 1, Episode 2, Ladies Room (26 Jul. 2007), AMC.)


Pia Ednie-Brown: A Diagrammatic Life

Arthur Koestler’s 1964 book, The Act of Creation, puts forward a transversal, diagrammatic notion of creative activity. He referred to this diagram as a ‘bisociation’: an event in which “two self-consistent but habitually incompatible frames of reference” coincide.  Such an event, as he described it, “is made to vibrate simultaneously on two different wavelengths, as it were.” The outcome of this coincidence of independent matrices is either a collision, producing laughter, fusion, producing synthesis, or confrontation, producing aesthetic experience.

This presentation traces the many ways that Koestler’s diagram can be found embodied within a series of critical events inside the developmental process and aspirations of the Transmute Collective’s award winning multi-user interactive work, Intimate Transactions. Specifically, I will discuss this through my own collaborative involvement in this project developing the haptic feedback system. It will be argued that the multiple instantiations of this diagram resonate to produce a diagrammatic ‘life’ –  signaling a way of thinking about the individuation of Intimate Transactions as a creature.

More generally, Koestler’s diagram and this collaboration are discussed as a way to propose an idea of a transversal, distributed form of life that this has particular value in relation to ethical dimensions within creative practice research.


Paul Thomas: The probability of the diagram

This paper will explore links between art and science by focusing on Richard Feynman’s 1979 diagrammatically enhanced lectures to explore various theoretical understandings of the quantum world revealing new possibilities that insert different realities into the physical world. These different realities will be compared with Gilles Deleuze’s writing on diagrams revealed in the work of artist Francis Bacon. Feynman and Bacon were both drawn towards the diagram as a means to visualise and explore the probability of something occurring, ‘It is like the emergence of another world’. (Deleuze 2005).

The creation of a diagram to form an underlying probability for an event to exist in multiple states will be explored and I will show its influence in my own practice led research. The ‘probability amplitude’ referencing the spin of the photon in Feynman’s diagram is revealed in the collaborative artwork Multiverse, suggesting the existence of a parallel universe.



Mike Phillips is Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts, Plymouth University, School of Arts & Media, Faculty of Arts. He is the Director of Research at i-DAT, an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, and a Principal Supervisor for the Planetary Collegium. His R&D orbits digital architectures and transmedia publishing, and is manifest in a series of ‘Operating Systems’ that dynamically manifest ‘data’ as experience to enhance perspectives on a complex world. He manages the FulDome Immersive Vision Theatre (IVT), a transdisciplinary instrument for the manifestation of material, immaterial and imaginary worlds and is co-editor of Ubiquity, The Journal of Pervasive Media:

Pia Ednie-Brown is a designer, theorist and educator with creative research practice Onomatopoeia. She is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Postgraduate Research in the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT University. Her research explores the implications of new technologies for design, relations between composition, diagramming and affect, ethics and aesthetics. From 2009 to 2011 she led an ARC project (with Prof. Mark Burry, Oron Catts, and Dr Andrew Burrow) seeking to re-theorise innovation for contemporary design practices in terms of coupled ethical and aesthetic concerns therein. A chief outcome of this project was the issue of Architectural Design (AD): The Innovation Imperative: Architectures of Vitality (2013).

Paul Thomas is Head of Painting at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. Paul is currently looking at photons and parallel universes in the work Multiverse. Paul is the co-chair of the Transdisciplinary Imaging Conference 2010, 2012 and 2014. Paul has been working in the area of electronic arts since 1981, and in 2000 instigated and was the founding Director of the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth (2002, 2004). His nano artwork Nanoessence explored the space between life and death at a nano level, and Midas researched what is transferred at a nano level when skin touches gold. Paul’s recent book Nanoart; The immateriality of art has just been published.