I. Introduction

The increasing pace of mutual influence across the fields of art, consciousness studies and technology has prompted the introduction of Roy Ascott's neologism 'Technoetics'. The two images of the installation Seeing is Believing by Jessica Stockholder (1999) beautifully presents and sums up this triune aspect of technoetics. I will reserve my comments on this installation until the conclusion of my paper. Technoetics attempts to provide a new concept which embraces the interaction of art, consciousness and technology in the context of cyberspace and virtual reality. This paper will illustrate and examine the way installation art and its interactive versions can focus attention on perceptions of space, movement and hence on time, as key features which span across the three elements of technoetics. I will try to demonstrate that the space-time of technoetics has properties which keep in balance the art, consciousess and the technology; and not only in balance, but also in a relationship of true synthesis, in contrast to relationships of synergism or even of symbiosis.

My first thesis is that the technoetics of cyberspace needs to reflect the lessons offered by examples of non-interactive installation art in which the art-science dialogue is particularly manifest. My second is that these installations demonstrate a need for a new model of space-time perception which is equally required for a fully adequate concept of technoetics. I am supported in this thesis by the descriptions which a number of interactive-installation artists have given of the effects of their work on those who experience these art forms. Thus for example, Char Davies (1998) describes her approach as 'intended to re-affirm the role of the subjectively-experienced felt body in cyberspace, in direct contrast to its usual absence or objectification in virtual worlds.' Even in her early work Osmose, she was pointing to the potential of the medium `to dehabituate our sensibilities and allow for the resensitisation of the perception of being... for exploring consciousness as it is experienced subjectively, as it is felt'.

Monical Fluschman and Wolfgang Straus (1998) state: 'It is our goal to bring persons "into contact" with the world, with each other and themselves. We are therefore on the track of man's lost senses in a bid to restore these with the aid of technology.'
What aspects of our consciousness of space-time are therefore important in installations?

In the first part of the paper I try to answer this question in terms of three artists whose work strongly involves the science-art interaction. The second part outlines a novel philosophical view of space-time perception which can do justice to the insights given by these artists. And I then conclude with the claim that an adequate concept of technoetics should include this philosophical understanding of our perception of space-time in order to balance its three elements equally and remove the human tendency to create an ideology out of each of them.



III. A Philosophy of Perception and The Space-time of Technoetics

As Char Davies and others working in VR and the above installation artists all indicate, drawing on insights from Gaston Bechelard and Merleau-Ponty, the significance of spatiality lies in the human experience of what Rosmini, a century before them, called a 'fundamental feeling' (FF) of our own bodies. This feeling is largely at the subconscious level but can be raised into consciousness by suitable meditative techniques and by the experience of the installations themselves. So Char Davies describes the immersive virtual environments of Osmose and Ephémère as 'Landscape, Earth, Body, Being, Space and Time'.

Sensory inputs modify this FF to give individual sensations, but the FF integrates them, as sometimes enhanced in synesthesia. This internal, bodily FF is the source of the sense of individuality and self and is therefore subjective. The sensory inputs related to the external world should therefore be referred to as 'extra-subjective'. This distinction removes the ambiguities of body-mind duality which at present plague consciousness studies. The subjective FF contains a feeling of space which is in itself not shaped nor limited by the body surfaces, until the limits of the felt body are defined by touch sensations on its surface. Such a surface can only be located in the felt space of the FF because this space extends on both sides of the surface. Movement into spaces outside the body then generates a subjective sense of time, and the importance of movement in both dance and in and through installations (real and virtual) for the generation of subjective space-time is clear.

The 'extra-subjective' investigation of space and time gives rise to our scientific and technological expressions of these phenomena, which can then be seen as related to but distinct from their subjective counterparts. The 'real' world is therefore composed of 'feelings' and 'the felt'. This composition is again usually at the subconscious level but attention to sensory inputs reveals they are always distinguishable. The feelings are always subjective, whether they arise in combination with our own body as the felt, or with the felt bodies in the extra-subjective world. Interactive VR techniques draw attention to this feeling/felt union in experience and particularly to the spatiality of the FF and the extra-subjective inputs which lead to a consciousness and an exploration of this space, as we have seen particularly but not exclusively in the immersive techniques of Char Davies.

However, human perception and the creative imagination which depends on it. always work together with a noetic, intellectual space of ideas, in which reflection on bodily and sensory experience takes place. The objective, noetic space of knowledge contains the elements of possibility (openness) and necessity (order and principle). These match the elements of uncertainty and complexity, together with lawfulness, found in the 'real' spaces of the subjective and the extra-subjective or 'scientific/technological'.

IV. Conclusion

So we can agree with Susan Hiller (1996) when she says that Art views life through a cultural lens, but also that 'artists may offer "paraconceptual" notions of culture by revealing the extent to which shared conceptual models are inadequate. because they exclude or deny some part of reality'.

She, like Simon Robertshaw and Jan Fabre, sees art as capable of challenging the ideologies, metanarratives and stereotypes often erected in and by individual cultures. Unfortunately, it is all too clear that technology too can become one of these.

Those who entered Jessica Stockholder's installation, which I illustrated at the head of this paper, felt this tension profoundly. The magnificent space was felt tangibly and the colours enraptured the senses. But the dark lines of communication ended in the clutter and heat of overloaded information. The huge white screen asked us to bring to consciousness what was subliminally being presented to us there by unseen influences behind the closed door of the portakabin that had been moved into our space-time.

Rosmini would therefore say that the art forms described here can distinguish the necessary from the sufficient and the part from the whole. and therefore can bring themselves into balance with consciousness and a technology which attempts to embrace them. The universal aspects of Being in its forms of bodily-felt reality, the noetic and the ability to be evaluative in a constantly changing world , can therefore also be brought together in the concept of the Technoetic. I hope then to have justified my title, and that Being @ Installations can indeed demonstrate a unifying Space-time for Technoetics.


Davies, C. 1998. Changing Space - VR as an Arena of Being. In Beckman, J., (ed.) The Virtual Dimension. Boston: Princeton Architectural Press.

Fabre, J. 1995. The Lime Twig Man. Ostfildern: Lantz Verlag.

Fluschman, M and Straus. W 1998. Images of the Body in the House of Illusion. In Sommerer, C. and Mignonneau, L. Art @ Science. Vienna: Springer-Verlag. p. 134

Hiller, S. 1996. Thinking About Art - Conversations With Susan Hiller. Manchester. UK: Manchester University Press. pp. 3-4.

Robertshaw, S. 1993. The Observatory. Wrexham: Oriel 31, Powys and Clwyd County Council.

Stockholder. J. 1999. Seeing is Believing. Installation, Centre for Visual Arts, Cardiff. September-November, 1999.



Rosmini, A. 1797-1855. The recent English translations of his philosophical works are published by Rosmini House, Woodbine Road, Durham, DH1 5DR, UK. Particular attention is drawn to the treatment of the perception of space and time given in the volumes entitled The Origin of Thought and Anthropology as an Aid to Moral Science.


Royden Hunt is organising lecturer in philosophy-related courses at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, Cardiff University.

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