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Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso

is still suffused with brilliance from inside,

like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise

the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could

a smile run through the placid hips and thighs

to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.

burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You


Poem on cover Archaic Torso of Apollo by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926) Translation Stephen Mitchell, 1995

This booklet has been published as an addendum to

1995 This booklet has been published as an addendum to YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR LIFE and


and features a curatorial introduction by Hicham Khalidi, a lecture transcript and a book review from 1986 by neuroscien- tist Israel Rosenfield, an interview with philosopher Catherine Malabou, and an essay by the thinker Daniel Blanga-Gubbay, plus documentation pictures of the exhibition


























“And in its broadest sense, neural Darwinism implies that we are destined, whether we wish it or not, to a life of particular- ity and self-development, to make our own individual paths through life.”

Oliver Sacks, On The Move, A Life, 2015


to make our own individual paths through life.” Oliver Sacks, On The Move, A Life ,


According to Catherine Malabou, a philosopher in the field of (neuro) plasticity, plasticity means the capacity to receive form and to give form. 1 What is plastic is formable. Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk plays upon the relationship between the plasticity of human being, and the plastic art of sculpting, when he borrows the final line of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem Apollo’s Archaic Torso (1908) as the title of his book You Must Change Your Life (Boom Publishers, 2011). In this poem, the Bohemian-Austrian poet looks at an ancient sculpted torso and tries to find the right words for what the body in front of him conveys. However, the poem lingers in metaphorical descriptions. In the last two lines something radical happens, a reversal that is unparalleled in poetry, the body speaks to Rilke and commands him with the words: (…) for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life. (Translation Stephen Mitchell, 1995). 2 Sloterdijk uses this poem as a metaphor for man, who can and must change. 3 In Rilke’s poem it is visual art that initiates this change, but at the same time, the sonnet was written in a period in which Rilke was looking for a change in his life;

he wanted to become a better poet, and to achieve this he must make a change in his life. 4

Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell and published by Modern Library. 3 – One could say that plastic art explores the deformability of life through the plastic properties of the material used: as in clay or plaster.

2 – From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer

1 – Catherine Malabou, What Should We Do With Our Brain, p.5

The exhibition for Artefact Festival 2015 took Sloterdijk’s dictum You


4 – This reversal of subject and object is key against a historical background in which late romanticism made place for Modernism; the Industrial Revolution ushered in an era of new technology and science. In poetry it was no longer sufficient to describe nature with metaphorical comparisons. The emerging medium of photography had the monopoly in mimicking nature. Artists searched for other ways to represent the reality around them.

Must Change Your Life as its title, and sought to question the idea of self-transcendence from the perspective of the plasticity of the human be- ing and the variability of its environment. The exhibition also posed the question: how can man change himself in a continuously changing envi- ronment? Is it not the external environment that determines how people change, just as the torso appeals to Rilke to change? This publication has been created as an addendum to the exhibition, and features a curatorial introduction by myself, an essay by the thinker Daniel Blanga-Gubbay, an interview with philosopher Catherine Malabou and a transcript of a lecture and a book review from 1986 by neuroscientist Israel Rosenfield. This selection of texts intends to provide an overview of the complex in- teraction between the idea of self-change as defined by philosopher Peter Sloterdijk in his book You Must Change Your Life, from within the field of neuroscience, and the philosophy of plasticity and resistance.


According to neuroscientist Israel Rosenfield, all moving animals de- veloped brains because they are faced with an ever-changing and unpre-

dictable environment. The space in which we move is an invention of our brains, thus also our memory. Both are formed through the mechanism of natural selection 5 , and have enabled us to survive. In other words, man moves in a

space that he invented himself and to do that he needs a brain. The brain


5 – Natural selection is an idea of Charles Darwin and is based on the premise that life evolves by mutation, migration and genetic drift. If you have variation, differential reproduction, and heredity, evolution by natural selection is the outcome.

and movement in space are evolutionarily intertwined in a complex re- lationship. In one of his lectures What does the brain do? Rosenfield in- dicates that, “If living things did not move brains probably would have never evolved. Plants do not have brains; only animals do.” 6 A plant has a nervous system, but requires no brain due to its stasis. 7

In a piece for the New York Times Book Review 8 , reissued especially for this publication, Rosenfield reflects on the work of Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman, explaining that memory is formed through a process of selection that works like our immune system: the body produces a large variety of antibodies which may be linked through a process of trial-and-error (selection) to bacteria and viruses. Our brain, in the same way, makes a wide variety of context related connections that, depending upon the situ- ation in which the person finds him/herself, may be turned on or off. Some contemporary researchers dispute Edelman’s Neural Darwinism theory, refuting it as a true form of Darwinism 9 . Edelman’s response to this kind of criticism is that the idea of variation holds due to the sheer amount of connections in the brain (it can make more connections than there are stars in the known universe). As each brain is unique its processes must lead to variation, and thus to selection. 10

To what extent can we effect change when considering life as a process of selection? Where does self-transcendence, as Sloterdijk defines it, begin or end?

6 – Israel Rosenfield, What does the brain do? Questioning perception, consciousness and free will, The Institute for Public Knowledge, 2011

7 – The brain anticipates on opportunities and threats coming from the external environment. As a result, the brain is continuously in the future.

8 Neural Darwinism: A New Approach to Memory and Perception,


9 – Chrisantha Fernando, Queen Mary University of London, Computational Theories of Evolution, A New Research Program: Evolutionary Neurodynamics. 10 – Gerald Edelman, Why I don't think the brain is a computer, The theory of neural Darwinism




For Sloterdijk, self-transcendence is rooted in sensing the external en- vironment, and becoming better at this process: “For every organism, its environment is its transcendence, and the more abstract and unknown the danger from that environment, the more transcendent it appears.11 Man developed religion, arts and sport to transcend a dangerous and un- predictable environment. These are exercises with which man can reach higher planes by striving for a more elevated or vertical position. Man is an anthropotechnic, a practician of the human condition who increases his resistance by practicing on a biological, psychological and social level; cells in humans defend against external threats, the human conscience re- pels us from pride and insecurity, and living together in societies repels us from other societies or animals. 12

There is no beginning and end to self-change. Man must continuously cre- ate new outlooks and anticipate new or unexpected situations; this is what saves humans from determination. Through the mechanism of natural se- lection (natural law), nature takes what it considers necessary. For exam- ple, if I keep creating many different new ideas it is more likely that one of them is successful. The more ideas, and the crazier the idea, the more

likely it will be that I will find someone who can do something with it. Karl Popper points this out in his lecture, Natural Selection and The Emergence of Mind, when he compares the process of making art with the mechanism of natural selection: “On every level,

making comes before matching; that is, before selecting. The creation of


11 – You must change your life by Peter Sloterdijk (Polity Press, 2014) 12 Keith Ansell-Pearson on You Must Change your Life and The Art of Philosophy: Wisdom as a Practice, Philosophy of the Acrobat: On Peter Sloterdijk, July 8th, 2013

an expectation, of an anticipation, of a perception (which is a hypothesis) precedes its being put to the test.” 13

Transforming your own life is second nature, as Catherine Malabou states in the interview featured in this publication, “something that Foucault calls the care of the self; the ability to form oneself and not see oneself as just factically thrown into existence and its variability.” We are not just thrown into the world, by being aware of our plastic ability we exercise our strength, “Practice then is definitely a practice of resistance.” But is this a voluntary act? According to Malabou, consciousness is something other than free will, “even if the brain is and will remain forever out of the reach of consciousness (no one can feel their own brain), we may neverthe- less produce a kind of knowledge of the epigenetic power of our cerebral capacities. Brain development takes place all life long, and is certainly not limited to genetic dispositions. Education, habit, and experience, leave traces in the brain and form it, which means that we are partly genetically predestined, and partly epigenetically indeterminate.

In his essay A Trapeze Artist, written especially for this publication, phi- losopher Daniel Blanga-Gubbay asserts that by making yourself vulnera- ble you create an ability, which in turn creates a possibility to excel and transcend. He states that: “Every ability originates from a vulnerability; every exceeding reveals a limitation; every transcendence implies a famil- iar; every attempt to escape elsewhere presupposes a here.” Blanga-Gub- bay takes the human body and its limited character as a starting point, a body that moves from one situation to the other and by doing that grows

every training session makes the body more elastic; each

workout makes the body more athletic and makes wider its possibilities:

“Precisely by being vulnerable man

in strength: (



13 – Karl Popper, Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind, Delivered at Darwin College, Cambridge, November 8, 1977



The spiritual moment that Rilke experienced in front of the torso of Apol- lo can be read as an expression of the internal mechanism inside the hu- man being that necessarily strives for something higher, something better. Through this metaphor the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk states that man can and must change, and in this way transcend his/her environment. Con- temporary neuroscience provides a possible answer to the question of how man can change when his environment is also constantly changing. This view of self-change contends that we are born with a genetic makeup that we cannot change; we cannot change the course of natural selection, be- cause it works through the mechanism of random mutation and variation at the population level, beyond our individual lives. But within the frame- work of man’s individual life, in his own time, we are plastic, even into old age. What we become in our lives we determine ourselves to some extent. What we will become as a human race now and in the future cannot be determined; natural selection has the patent on this through the system of random mutation. Thus one could say that we are partly determined by a non-determined system.

When we view life as a process of selection similar to the mechanism of natural selection, the only way man can exert influence is to be open to change, to anticipate what will be, to take a vulnerable position, as Blan- ga-Gubbay has stated. When we move from A to B we make ourselves vul- nerable, and by doing this, we exert resistance. With resistance we grow.






What does the brain do is a transcript of a lecture by Israel Rosenfield at The Institute for Public Knowledge co-presented with Harper's Magazine

If living things didn’t move brains probably would have never evolved. Plants don’t have brains; only animals do. Brains evolved because moving creatures are confronted by an ever-changing, unpredictable environment. Plants don’t have brains because they don’t need them; they don’t move from place to place. For animals, motion creates a world of visual, tactile, and auditory sensations that are unorganized and unstable; in short, the world is constantly changing. What the brain must do—it’s probably the principal reason brains evolved—is create a stable, coherent sensory en- vironment for the individual organism to understand and use. The brain does this by “inventing” a range of perceptions: a series of constructs that we “see,” “hear,” and “feel” when we look, listen, and touch. For example, there are no colors in the world. In the 1950s Edwin Land used two black and white photos to demonstrate how the brain creates, or constructs colors from a dirty-grey world. We will repeat the experiment. And we will explain how colors simplify and stabilize the visual world that is ‘naturally’ a dirty grey. Artists have always known, intuitively, that the brain makes possible the creation of our visual worlds, since representational art uses materials on a flat surface to create the illusion of faces, objects, and scenes. Neurological damage limits the brain’s ability to construct, or create images, words and thoughts. We might say the brain is baking a cake. The


ingredients that go into the cake are transformed when they are put into the oven. So too, stimuli are transformed by the brain into the sounds (music and words), images and thoughts we are aware of. A damaged brain has all the ingredients of a cake, but not the means to bake it: it has the flour, the eggs and the milk, but it can’t bake the cake. One of the most famous cases in the history of neurology was Ju- les Dejerine’s 1892 description of a man who could write, but not read what he had written. He had other problems as well. He was an amateur musician, but he could no longer read music; he could not make sense of multi-digit numbers; and he could not see colors in part of his visual field. These symptoms are not unrelated, as will be discussed in the talk. Dejerine’s patient cannot read multi-digit numbers because the in- dividual digits change their meaning (nine, ninety, thirty-nine, nine thou- sand, etc.) depending on their place in the multi-digit number. The same is true of musical notes; the notes can be seen, but not the melodies and the harmonies. In other words, the difficulties Dejerine’s patient (and patients with similar brain damage) have is an inability to interconnect, to relate stimuli – to bake the cake. They are, at best, aware of relatively simple stimuli; but their brains cannot integrate them into a larger and meaning- ful whole. Oliver Sacks describes a patient who is present with us this evening – Howard Engel - whose neurological problems are strikingly similar to those described by Dejerine. Engel is a professional writer who cannot

read what he has written. Engel, like Dejerine’s patient, is partially able to overcome his reading disability using movement. In Oliver Sacks’s words:

Howard started to move his hands as he read, tracing the outlines of words and sentences still intelligible to his eyes. And most remarkably, his tongue, too, began to move as he read, tracing the shapes of letters on his

teeth or the roof of his mouth

of writing. He was, in effect, reading with his tongue.


Howard was replacing reading by a sort

In some ways the loss of the ability to read what one has written is not

an individual’s relationship to memory and past experience. John M. Hull,

unrelated to a loss of the ability to recognize faces. The artist Chuck Close

who became blind in his mid-thirties, describes in his book Touching the


famous for pixilated, close-up portrait paintings and photography. This

Rock how he gradually lost any visual sense of those he continued to have


his way of remembering faces: “I don’t know who anyone is and have

contact with, and how he started losing visual memory as well:

essentially no memory at all for people in real spaces, but when I flatten them out in a photograph, I can commit that image to memory in a way. I have almost a kind of photographic memory for flat stuff.” What makes Close’s greatly enlarged faces memorable for him is their very flatness— the diminishment of dimensionality. By flattening them, he magnifies their

details and the discrete parts of their physiognomy, just as Dejerine’s pa- tient could read single-digit, but not multi-digit, numbers. Facial recognition can be destroyed in other ways as well. In 1923, French neurologists Joseph Capgras and Jean Reboul-Lachaux described

a patient who, though she could recognize her husband and children,

believed they were impostors. Capgras and his co-author attributed this delusion to a neurological breakdown that prevents the individual from having an emotional response to people she knows intimately. I am just as interested in the patient’s own explanation of her complaint: “You can see it in the details,” she said. His mustache was longer than it had been the day before, his hair was combed differently, his skin had become pale, and he was wearing a different suit. She could not relate her husband’s appearance from moment to moment. In her case, lack of visual synthesis prevented her from forming a gestalt of the members of her family. Her husband and children looked different throughout the course of the day. Their hairstyles, clothing, locations, and facial expressions kept changing, and this shifting data made her believe they were different people altogeth- er. There is a connectivity, a continuity, a flow to our perceptual worlds (James’ ‘flow of consciousness’) that is destroyed by brain damage. Yet brain damage is not the only cause of an individual’s inability to perceive larger wholes. Blindness too, can do this by profoundly altering


An adult recently blinded [has] a strange feeling that one has stopped accumulating experiences. Previously, one seemed always to be standing upon the edge of a line of experience which had been steadily expanding. It was like laying down a mosaic pavement. It was always possible to

pause on the edge and look back at the pattern. As I look back now, I feel that the laying down of the mosaic ended in the summer of 1980. Another construction of the brain is space and a sense of depth. Hammerhead sharks and cuttlefish are able to move their eyes from the sides of their heads to a frontal position, changing a panoramic view of their environment (without a sense of depth) to a binocular view (with depth) that allows them to rapidly seize prey. Human beings are unable to make such rapid shifts from panoramic views to depth views, but Sue Barry, who is present this evening, was born cross-eyed and had to de- velop an unconscious strategy to overcome the failure of her two eyes to work together. She viewed the world one eye at a time. In December of 2004 Barry wrote to Oliver Sacks: “You asked me if I could imagine what the world would look like when viewed with two eyes. I told you that I

thought I

“Struggling to find an analogy for her experience,” Oliver Sacks writes, “Sue had suggested, in her original letter to me, that her experience might be akin to that of someone born totally colorblind, able to see only in shades of gray, who is suddenly given the ability to see in full color. Such a person, she wrote, ‘would probably be overwhelmed by the beauty of the world. Could they stop looking?’”

But I was wrong.”


In conclusion the colors we see, the words we read, the music we play and listen to – in short, our entire sensory experience is part of the brain’s attempt to create a stable environment that we can understand. Our in- dividuality, our subjectivity is a direct consequence of this sensory world the brain creates.








Hicham Khalidi: The theme of this year’s Artefact Festival is You Must Change Your Life. It is drawn from Prof. Peter Sloterdijk’s Formulations concerning exercise and practice as ethics, resistance, and immunity. You Must Change Your Life could be read in two ways; either that over the course of a lifetime a person necessarily changes, or as an imperative com- manding a person to change her/his life. Following the latter, Sloterdijk stresses that man must leave his comfort zone and actively change her/his life.

We ‘must’ could be seen either as a necessity, or as a desire. How is neces- sity connected to desire for you in the context of changing one’s life? What can we change and what is an illusion? What is practice in this context?

Catherine Malabou: For me the problem resides in the meaning of ‘change’. ‘Change’ is more difficult to grasp than ‘life’ in the formula “you must change your life”. If by ‘change’, one has to understand a simple mutation, due to the flux of life, the flexibility of becoming (a bad interpretation of Heraclitus’ panta pei, everything flows), then “you must change your life” is devoid of meaning: if life is constantly ‘changing’, why should we inter- vene in this change? But if, by ‘change’, we understand a new coming into presence, a carefully fashioned new self, less a change proper than a meta-


morphosis, that is a renewed (and not only new) essence, then the formula makes sense. It refers to the capacity that a subject has to transform their own life into a second nature, something that Foucault calls the care of the self; the ability to form oneself and not see oneself as just factically thrown into existence and its variability. Practice then is definitely a practice of resistance. Paradoxically, we have to resist change (constant mutability, capitalistic continuous display of ‘options’ in all domains) in order to be able to change, that is to become what and who one is. To become what one ‘is’ is necessarily a construction.

HK: In your book What Should We Do with Our Brain? (2008) you say that humans make their own brain, but that they do not know it. Basi- cally, it is a matter of whether you are conscious of your ability to change your brain, or not. Does this mean that we voluntarily change things only if we are conscious, otherwise change happens necessarily?

CM: This is a major challenge of our times; to understand that becoming aware of something does not necessarily entail that this thing becomes an object for the Will, or even paradoxically, for consciousness itself. When I speak about the current urge to produce a consciousness of our own brain, I mean that even if the brain is and will remain forever out of the reach of consciousness (no one can feel their own brain), we may nevertheless pro- duce a kind of knowledge of the epigenetic power of our cerebral capaci- ties. Brain development takes place all life long, and is certainly not limited to genetic dispositions. Education, habit, and experience, leave traces in the brain and form it, which means that we are partly genetically pre- destined, and partly epigenetically indeterminate. This situation brings to light a new crossing between nature and history. When Marx urged people to become conscious of their historical dimension, this also didn’t mean any action of the Will or of consciousness proper. Such is the challenge of


historical materialism: to produce a form of consciousness without con- sciousness, a process without a subject. I would say that it is the same with the idea of a critical consciousness of the brain.

HK: A question Daniel Blanga-Gubbay wanted to raise with you in this context is “Does plasticity put the idea of resistance beyond the categories of voluntarily / involuntarily?”

CM: Exactly. But we should also examine whether it has been the case throughout the whole history of philosophy. The greatest thinkers of the will: Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, or Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, have always defined it as something different from the ‘volun- tary’. No one does anything voluntarily for Kant. If I do so, my action is not morally pure. It is the same in Nietzsche: the will is not a ‘volunteer’. It is something else, something difficult to grasp, which has more to do with the couple commanding/obeying rather with the duality voluntarily/ involuntarily. To go back to plasticity, it certainly has a strong relationship with the instinct of commanding and obeying, which are life instincts in the first place.

HK: In your book you beautifully state “Today it is no longer chance ver- sus necessity, but chance, necessity, and plasticity”. Your brain can change out of necessity, it can change because it needs to change, it is plastic. Do you mean that these terms do not mean oppositions, but that they corre- spond?

CM: Yes, epigenetics is a science that deals with the non-genetic modifica- tion of phenotypes. These modifications do not alter the DNA sequence, but are significant nonetheless, as they are able to fashion individual iden- tity. There is an intimate link between plasticity and epigenetics, to the


extent that epigenetics plays with the malleability of the phenotype, with what depends on gene transcription and interpretation in it; this ‘play’ situates itself precisely in-between chance and necessity. The question of contingency is currently at the heart of many discussions, see Quentin Meillassoux’ After Finitude (2010) for instance. I recently engaged a dis- cussion with his definition of radical contingency in my last book After Tomorrow, Epigenesis and Rationality, which came out in French in 2014 and will soon be published in English by Polity Books.

HK: Can we predict change in this context; when it is undetermined such as natural selection is partly a random process? There seems to be a ten- sion between chance, necessity and desire, such as we would like to change things, but things are already changing around us without determination. If they are random, what are we really changing?

CM. No, I don’t see why and how we might predict change. Biology is not determinism, contrarily to the usual assertion. See what Sigmund Freud already said about desire and the drive: they are forces, obscurely deter- mined, and yet they remain highly unpredictable.

HK: What is the relationship between ‘thrive’ and natural selection?

CM: I think it is helpful to recall Darwin’s distinction between necessity and purposiveness, or teleology. Natural selection is a law, in that sense, it is necessary, mechanistic even, but since it pursues no goal, it remains un- foreseeable. Who can tell what the identity of an offspring will be? In that sense, the difference between natural selection and ‘thrive’ is not so big as we might think. Today, some neurobiologists define their work as a form of neural Darwinism. They explain the synaptic development according to the laws of selection and stabilization of synapses. Some neural config-


urations disappear, others get stabilized. It is a form of natural selection. This said, there are no norms that would be able to objectively and defin- itively account for this selection. Current neurobiology provides us with new possible readings of Darwin, Freud, and even Henri Bergson. The fluidification of frontiers between authors and disciplines is a fascinating phenomenon, which definitely changes our lives, even if we don’t know it!





With his feet on the edge of the platform, the trapeze artist claps his hands creating a dense cloud of magnesium. He walks through this floating mass of powder before making his entrance, as if it were a special effect metic- ulously prepared to announce to the void in front of him his imminent appearance. He is about to leave the stability of the platform; he is about to venture into a continuous sequence of instabilities.

What drives him to leave the platform? We usually think about the flying of a trapeze artist from an aesthetic viewpoint, as if his aerobatics are only for the aesthetic pleasure of the onlookers; or as if – even when alone during the day – his exercise is just aimed at fulfilling the onlookers’ desire at the evening performance. But what if we try to reverse for an instant this causal relation? What if the trapeze artist is not training himself just in order to perform at night? What if the evening spectacle is not the reason for his training, but simply an exhibition for others of what he does in any case? While thinking this way, his training ceases to be simply a means to an aesthetic end; he is not


simply training for the show. Rather his exercise is an end in itself, or a means with no end. Suddenly, alone in the room and with his feet on the edge of the platform, the trapeze artist questions us with his readiness to jump: what drives him to leave the platform?

In You Must Change Your Life Peter Sloterdijk explores man’s ability to transcend himself. The book’s title comes from the final line of the poem, ‘Archaic Torso of Apollo’, by Rainer Maria Rilke, and far from both a normative agenda and a revolutionary imperative, these five words of the title are intended to be more ontological, defining the man as the one who is busy with a constant vertical tension, with a continuous attempt at self-overcoming. Man is the animal that transforms itself, that exceeds its limits, the one who – in the words of Rilke – ‘from all the borders of itself burst like a star. For here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life’. i

From all the borders of himself, man goes beyond the body, training him- self as the being who is potentially superior to himself. Sloterdijk acknowl- edges here the legacy of the anthropologist Helmuth Plessner, appropriat- ing his description of an excentric positionality, as that which defines the human condition. Men are not animals that just change their position; they exceed their own position. Men are the ones who live outside their

body, that refuse to be confined to the materiality of their body, that – with an effort similar to that of Michelangelo’s Prigioni – tenaciously exceed their limits. Men are not simply transported by their life; they step out of their bodies, they – in the words of Sloterdijk – ‘step out of the river of life and take residence on the shore. All increases of a mental or bodily kind begin with a secession from the

ordinary’. ii

i – Rilke, R.M., Archaïscher Torso Apollos, The Archaic Torso of Apollo, 1908. ii – Sloterdijk, You Must Change Your Life (Cambridge: Polity Press), 2013, p.217.


Hence, with his feet on the edge of the platform – or, we could say now, with his feet on the shore – the trapeze artist seems first and foremost to be setting up a dialogue with his body. His eyes are already staring into the empty space in front, in which he imagines his vaulting body: in his

mind he sees the future instants, already translated into coordinated nerve impulses that he feels running through himself. He is ready to jump into the empty space, which is a jump into his own vulnerability, and while staring into the void, he seems to defiantly say: I’m more than a body. If you think all bodies are hopelessly imprisoned by the laws of gravity, I’m more than this. I have the opportunity to challenge my body in its inexo- rable fall towards earth. With his aerobatics the trapeze artist leaves the stability of his body

to prove himself to be more than it. This is his secession from the ordinary,

from being simply a body. Maybe only while looking at him in his first moments of exceeding his body, we can clearly understand the obsessive fascination with images of trapeze artists and athletes of Francis Bacon, for whom the figures de-

picted in his paintings leave the stability of the bones to venture into the vulnerability of the flesh; they are bodies escaping the body. However, while our trapeze artist throws himself beyond his body, he does not leave his body. This last does not disappear. On the contrary, it be- comes suddenly a unique unit of measurement of his thinking. The extent and abilities of the body become the only unit of measurement for all vaulting in space. What the trapeze artist suddenly reveals is that every activity of ex- ceeding the body inevitably allows the appearance of the body. That is why, while writing about Bacon’s paintings and describing the bones ‘like

a trapeze apparatus (the carcass) upon which the flesh is the acrobat’,

Gilles Deleuze declares that the body emerges precisely because of the aerobatics: ‘the body is revealed only when it ceases to be supported by the


bones, making it seem much more vulnerable and lithe, acrobatic’. iii The body is revealed in its abilities only when exposed in a vulnerable position. The trapeze artist does not just transcend his body with his abilities, but while doing so he reminds us that he has a body, a vulnerable one. While flying into the air the body is no longer protected by the thickness of a safe position, but is covered by a veil of abilities that – like any thin veil – cover and reveal at the same time the vulnerable flesh. The trapeze artist reminds us that each ability presupposes a vulnerability, and that each vulnerability implements an ability. Vulnerability and ability appear for a moment as two sides of the same coin, indistinguishable as they spin through the air. Every ability originates from a vulnerability; every exceeding reveals a limitation; every transcendence implies a familiar; every attempt to es- cape elsewhere presupposes a here. In this way, the words of Maurice Merleau-Ponty in Phenomenology of Perception resonate with us, when he says (or almost allows these words to emanate from the lips of our trapeze artist): ‘The word here applied to my body does not refer to a determinate position, but the laying down of the first co-ordinates, the anchoring of the active body in an object, the situation of the body in face of its tasks. Bodily space can be distinguished from external space and envelop its parts instead of spreading them out, because it is the darkness needed in the theatre to show up the performance, the background of som- nolence or reserve of vague power against which the gesture and its aim stand out’. iv The body is the weight necessary for any challenge to gravity, the limit necessary for any improvement, the limited unit of measurement necessary for any exploration of the space outside.

At a closer look, however, what the trapeze artist is showing us is that this unit of measurement is not fixed


iii –Deleuze, G., Francis Bacon: the Logic of Sensation (New York: Continuum), 2003, p.22. iv – Merleau-Ponty, M., Phenomenology of Perception (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul), 2005, p.115.

at all. In fact, every training session makes the body more elastic; each workout makes the body more athletic and makes wider its possibilities. The space in front of us – which is measured by the possibilities of our body – will measure up differently. This is at last what the trapeze artist does, training session after session, and this is why Sloterdijk speaks about man’s ability to immunise his vulnerability. If man is the animal that ex- plores, he is also the animal that can change the unit of measurement of his explorations, of his own challenges; that can change the here in relation to which each elsewhere is conceived. Maybe this is the deeper meaning with- in the sentence You must change your life, which may not allude simply to the ability to change your life, but rather the ability to change the unit of measurement through which life is experienced.

Still,while looking at the trapeze artist, it would be difficult to reduce his training only to a productive means or to a real necessity of immunising the vulnerable body. The idea of productivity or functionality is continu- ously questioned by his aerobatics: first of all his aerobatics do not appear to be a means of achieving something concrete; he does not simply jump from the platform to reach the opposite one, or to reach a different place. As soon as he feels it is safe to land, he jumps backwards to be reabsorbed by the uncertainty of his own vulnerability. He looks for a vulnerable sit- uation. There is apparently no functionality in what he is doing, and jump after jump he insistently raises again the question in our mind: what drives me to leave the platform? If we observe him, the trapeze artist wants to reach the opposite platform, but at the same time he avoids reaching it easily. He puts in some resistance so that he does not land on the it without effort. May- be not so many works as the one of American artist Matthew Barney can help to visualise this double tension. Between 1987 and 1989, while studying at Yale University, Barney created a series of performance events


entitled Drawing Restraint 1–6. His primary intention was to address the implementation of some pencil drawings, in a way that made it difficult to produce them. Barney proceeded by hanging a white sheet of paper on the wall in such a position that it is nearly impossible to reach, so that he is able to leave some marks on it but only with a great deal of bodi- ly effort. His artistic approach seems to focus more on the process than on the object, an approach pioneered by Yves Klein with his well-known Anthropometries, which he referred to as ashes of his art. In the Drawing Restraint series, however, the pencil marks that have appeared on the sheet by the end of the performance are not to be regarded as just ashes of an effort: more than a relation with the past, they are traces of a not yet. The Drawing Restraint series fixes a movement that refuses to be exhausted in the result, in which the artistic tension must be kept as such, since it is only by giving up the achievement of the creation to which he is attracted that the artist can keep himself in a creative tension towards the very object. Maybe it is not a coincidence that Barney was an athlete before becoming an artist. And through him we can understand Sloterdijk’s idea when he speaks about a Homo Artista defining this conquest of improbabilities, the performer of the excellence of human training: the Artist is an Athlete, and the Athlete is an Artist, the creature in ceaseless training, who does not want to end the training session. For this reason when writing about Drawing Restraint, v the English art critic Neville Wakefield described Barney’s body as a ‘Desiring machine’. Barney presents himself as the one – or the machine – who is able to main- tain this physical distance, in which the desire is a never satisfied desire. In order to prevent himself from what seems to be unavoidable absorp- tion, Barney manages to preserve this unfolded distance and to materialise a physical strength that allows him

not to yield to the attraction. Hence, in one of the Drawing Restraint, he


v – Wakefield, N. and Scott, K., Matthew Barney: Drawing Restraint: vol. V, 1987–2007 (London: Serpentine Gallery, and Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König), 2007.

placed the sheet on the front of a boat and tied himself to the opposite side with some elastic ropes that prevent him from reaching the paper easily with his pencil. Both the ropes – which slowly become the most significant tool of these performances – and the setting of this part of Drawing Re- straint remind us of the episode of the sirens and Odysseus, in which he ties himself to a ship’s mast to stop himself from falling towards something that is calling out to him loudly. Hence, Barney’s gesture – like that of the trapeze artist – is anything but idle: he is already outside his body and headed for the object, but he freezes halfway between an opening toward the creation and a wavering from it, in an interstitial space where the crea- tive forces are not exhausted; where the desire is not reabsorbed in satiety. To recall the words of Plessner, we might sat that ‘enclosed but exposed, man is the being lacking of something, the one that waits, desires, strongly tries, wants, asks’. vi Man is the being that desires to desire. This is the desire of the trapeze artist: the desire of exceeding is more important than the outcome; he turns around the Darwinistic-capitalistic approach towards exercise that focuses on the result of exceeding, to al- low the still unsatisfied desire of exceeding to emerge. And here we can understand Franz Kafka’s main character within one of the first short sto- ries he wrote, about a trapeze artist who does not want to get off the tra- peze: ‘A trapeze artist – this art, practiced high in the vaulted domes of the great variety theaters, is admittedly one of the most difficult humanity can achieve – had so arranged his life that, as long as he kept working in the same building, he never came down from his trapeze by night or day’. vii He

lives in his being outside the stability of his body, and his exercise of insta- bility is not a means, it is not a function of the show, rather it is the end in itself. Kafka’s trapeze artist is the ultimate example of exceeding the body that is not directed towards a

result, but which is rather a pure ex- pression of vulnerability and desire;


vi – Plessner, H., The Stages of Organic and the Man, p.108. vii – Kafka, F., Erstes Leid, 1921. First Sorrow, translated by Willa & Edwin Muir.

he reminds us that man does not just step forward to arrive somewhere, but – while exceeding the body – remains joyfully suspended in mid-air in a challenging fragment of uncertain contingency.

With his feet at the edge of the platform, and while thinking about the imperative ‘you must change your life’, a last problem still emerges for the trapeze artist. The voice that Rilke heard speaking to him at the Louvre contains the echo of a last doubt: how can you change something which is changing anyway? Sloterdijk suggests that man has the exceptional ability to change life, but life is far from being an immutable material in front of which we can decide – or not – to produce changes: is not life changing always and in any case? In the aforementioned quote Sloterdijk defined human beings as the

ones who ‘step out of the river of life and take residence on the shore’, viii and this stepping out corresponds to a change. Nevertheless, was not life within the river already constantly changing? Is not the river itself con- stantly changing? No metaphor is here simultaneously more appropriate and problematic: the river does in fact constantly change, and the water, flowing evenly forward, is always already different from itself. But maybe Sloterdijk seems to suggest something else: indeed, while step- ping out from the river we cause the flow to deviate. The river is constantly changing, but while moving within it we change the way it changes, we change its changes. We have then to think differently about the experience of the trapeze artist. He is alone on the platform, in a cloud of magnesium and with a desire to exceed his body, before he jumps into the void. Yet, on closer inspection, there is never a void in front of him, but always a space. Some- times he is alone, but still the air in front will be moved by his jump. At other times he jumps forward and, at

that very moment, a second trapeze

viii –Stotedijk, P., You Must Change Your Life, op. cit., p.217.


artist leaves his activities or starts to calculate the effort necessary to catch him while he flies, or a safety net is laid out below. Life is constantly changing before him, but with his changes the trapeze artist changes the way things change; he changes the changes. We never face the void, rather the space in front of us is a spider’s web, or a cosmic tissue: each step we take on the web does not only affect our position, but it also redefines the space itself, which, far from being just an impassible background to our actions, is an interlocutor of our every step. This is how, when we tread on the edge of a platform, we bargain with our position in the world; we are constantly tourists outside our own bodies, uncertainly exploring a space that we share with others. And that

is why Sloterdijk suggests that shared interests in life require for their suc-

cess a horizon of universal co-operative exercise. We can now understand

Sloterdijk’s idea of social justice or ecology as training activities, mac- rostructures of global immunisation, which he defines – while retaining

a high degree of scepticism towards Communism – as ‘co-immunism’, a shared exercise?

The direction of Rilke’s imperative suddenly deviates. At the beginning it seemed to see ethics as a verticality: a continuous tension of overcoming one’s self, a persisting towards an impossible challenge, like a piece of furniture that tries to stay balanced on one leg and upright. Yet there is

a second direction: the trapeze artist, motionless on the edge of the plat-

form, tilts forward; and once the body’s centre of gravity is crossed, this

first inclination becomes an inevitable step that shuffles the space in front, forcing him to be confronted with the other. If from stretching upright – in

a vertical direction – we could fall back to the same position, this incli- nation would drag us elsewhere, beyond the body and inevitably towards the other. The trapeze artist redefines

the spatial direction of ethics; and as


ix – Adriana Cavarero, Inclinations, (English translation of Inclinazioni, Milano: Raffaello Cortina, 2013), Stanford University Press (forthcoming)

Adriana Cavarero suggests with the idea of an ontology of inclination ix , ethics is no longer a form of rectitude, rather it is a form of inclination. We asked: what if the trapeze artist is not training himself just to perform at night? What if the evening spectacle is not the reason for his training, but simply a sharing of what he does anyway? We started by denying the aesthetic reasons for his training and suddenly an ethical reason emerges. His training shares an ethical dimension with the onlooker; nestled in his exercise – as in other unsuspected places – an ethical dimension slowly appears. With his feet on the edge of the platform, he jumps through the cloud of magnesium into the void. He swims in the air and outside the regular river of life. He is hovering and his ability and vulnerability burst like a star from all the borders of his body, impressing us. And finally the air that he inevitably moves arrives with us, and affects us, at last reaching our ears with the echo of the voice of Apollo, eventually whispering to us the words: You must change your life.

eventually whispering to us the words: You must change your life . Palestinian Parkour , Jerusalem,

Palestinian Parkour, Jerusalem, © Sebastien Leban










New York Times Book Review October 9, 1986 issue

“Through a Computer Darkly: Group Selection and Higher Brain Function” 36, No. 1 (October 1982) by Gerald M. Edelman. in Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 20-48 pp. “Neural Darwinism: Population Thinking and Higher Brain Function” by Gerald M. Edelman, by in How We Know, ed. Michael Shafto Harper and Row, 1-30 pp. “Group Selection and Phasic Reentrant Signaling: A Theory of Higher Brain Function” by Gerald M. Edelman, by in The Mindful Brain ed. G.M. Edelman, by V.B. Mountcastle MIT Press, 51-100 pp. “Group Selection as the Basis for Higher Brain Function” ed. by Gerald M. Edelman, by in The Organization of the Cerebral Cortex F.O. Schmitt et al. MIT Press, 535-563 pp. “Neuronal Group Selection in the Cerebral Cortex” by Gerald M. Edelman, by Leif H. Finkel, by in Dynamic Aspects of Neocortical Function ed. G.M. Edelman, by W.E. Gall, by W.M. Cowan Wiley, 653-695 pp. “Cell Adhesion Molecules” by Gerald M. Edelman. in Science, Vol. 219, (February 4, 1983), 450-457 pp.“Expression of Cell Adhesion Molecules During Embryogenesis and Regeneration” by Gerald M. Edelman. in Experimental Cell Research 161 (1984), 1-16 pp.“Interaction of Synaptic Modification Rules Within Populations of Neurons” (Febru- ary 1985) by Leif H. Finkel, by Gerald M. Edelman. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Vol. 82, 1291-1295 pp. “Selective Networks and Recognition Automata” by George N. Reeke Jr., by Gerald M. Edelman. in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (1985), 181-201 pp.


In 1895, Sigmund Freud made his last attempt to explain the neurophys- iological basis of the way the brain functions. His essay on the subject, “Project for a Scientific Psychology,” was never published during his life- time. We have learned much about the brain since 1895, yet no equally ambitious attempt has since been made to examine the broad implications of neuroscientific research for the functioning of the brain and for psychol- ogy. Recently, Gerald M. Edelman, director of The Neurosciences Institute at The Rockefeller University, has proposed a new theory, one that gives us powerful reasons to revise our ideas about how we think, act, and remember. Although this theory is not directly based on Freud’s work, it confronts several of the problems with which Freud wrestled throughout his creative life.

Central to Freud’s work was the connection between memory and the psychology of everyday life. He considered memory to be a permanent record of past events, a record that was anatomically separate from the brain mechanisms that are responsible for our ability to make sense of the world around us. As he wrote in the final chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams,

[T]here are obvious difficulties involved in supposing that one and the same system can accurately retain modifications of its elements and yet remain perpetually open to the reception of fresh occasions for modifications…. [Therefore] we shall distribute these two func- tions on to different systems.

On December 6, 1896, Freud wrote to his close friend Wilhelm Fliess,

As you know, I am working on the assumption that our psychical mechanism has come into being by a process of stratification: the


material present in the form of memory-traces being subjected from time to time to a re-arrangement in accordance with fresh circum- stances—to a re-transcription. Thus what is essentially new about my theory is the thesis that memory is present not once but several times over, that it is laid down in various species of indications.

In the same letter he writes, “If I could give a complete account of the psy- chological characteristics of perception and of the [registrations of memo- ry], I should have described a new psychology.”

F reud was acutely aware that recollections are often imperfect and frag- mentary, and that they can and do alter perceptions. His theory attempt- ed to explain how what he took to be perfect stores of memory were so transformed, arguing that memories cannot be released in their perma- nent form because the satisfactions and pleasures once associated with youthful impressions can no longer be experienced directly. Hence they reappear in dreams, but disguised and reworked. Ideas, Freud argued, be- come separated from associated emotions (affects) and disappear from consciousness. The emotions become attached to apparently unrelated ideas, disguising their real meaning. And we often appear to forget the memories themselves. Repression, screen memories, latent dream content, the return of the repressed—all were mechanisms elaborated in Freud’s theory to account for the ways in which fixed memories, however distort- ed and incomplete, can manifest themselves and affect our present view of the world. Freudian theory attempts to account for an apparent paradox:

if we believe that memories are, by their very nature, permanently stored in the brain, why are they rarely recalled in their original form? It is the inaccuracy of recollection that Freudian psychology evokes so well. The reasons for this apparent inaccuracy may, however, be quite different from those that Freud suggested. In fact, the assumption that memories are in


any sense part of a fixed record may be wrong.

If memory is a fixed record, neurophysiologists still cannot say precisely

where and how memories are stored. The hypothesis of a fixed record may have been formulated prematurely, without sufficient attention to the means by which we recognize objects and events. We are probably much

better at recognition than we are at recollection. We recognize people de- spite changes wrought by aging, and we recognize photographs of places we have visited and personal items we have misplaced. We can recognize paintings by Picasso and adept imitations of Picasso. When we recognize

a painting that we have never seen as by Picasso or as an imitation, we

are doing something more than recalling earlier impressions. We are cate- gorizing: Picassos and fakes. Our recognition of paintings or of people is the recognition of a category, not a specific item. People are never exactly what they were moments before and objects are never seen in exactly the same way.

One possible explanation for this is that our capacity to remember is not for specific recall of an image stored somewhere in our brain. Rather it is an ability to organize the world around us into categories, some general, some specific. When we speak of a stored mental image of a friend, which image or images are we referring to? The friend doing what, when, and where? One reason why the search for memory molecules and specific information storage zones in the brain has so far been fruitless may be that they are just not there. Unless we can understand how we categorize people and things and how we generalize, we may never understand how we remember. Yet we do remember names, telephone numbers, words and their definitions. Are these not examples of items that must be stored in some kind of memory? Notice, however, that we generally recall names and telephone numbers in a particular context; each of our recollections


is different, just as we use the same word in different sentences. These are categorical, not just specific recollections.

C linical neurologists have long been aware that brain disease may lead to severe alterations in memory, but they have yet to analyze deeply the nature of categorization. In a rare abnormality resulting from brain dam- age and known as prosopagnosia, patients lose the ability to identify the faces of friends and well-known public personalities. But they can recog- nize faces as faces. And while they cannot identify their own car or their own coat, they do recognize cars and clothing as such. They apparently can recall general categories but cannot identify specific items. Something similar may occur in some forms of amnesia as well. Antonio Damasio and his colleagues at the University of Iowa Medical School described a patient with amnesia sitting in a room with the curtains drawn and unable to recall the season. When the patient looked out the window, he noted the color of the trees and the dress of a passerby, and exclaimed, “By golly, it must be July or August.” He could not recall the month of the year, but he could deduce it given appropriate evidence.

These studies appear to suggest that our ability to recognize general cate- gories as opposed to the recognition of specific items such as Mary’s face or Alison’s hat depends on two different brain functions. But the ability to recognize Alison’s hat is, in part at least, based on temporal associa- tions. We may have seen Alison wearing that hat last Sunday. The loss of the ability to categorize events in time can cause a nearly total loss of specific references. It is not the specific items that are no longer recalled, but their temporal order or their arrangement in succession that has not been formed or has been lost. When Damasio and his colleagues examined the man with amnesia about the calendar year, they found he had brain damage which made him unable to establish “temporal and spatial rela-


tionships between separate sensory information items.” 1 Individual needs and desires, then, determine how we classify the people, places, and events that fill our daily lives. Moreover, the categories we use seem to depend on cross-correlations, or context. Yet many influential the- ories of mental function posit fixed entities that have an independent exist- ence of their own. Freud, for example, described many ordinary objects as fitting into categories based on their resemblance to male or female sexual organs (phallic symbols, for example) and tended to view such categories as representing deeper drives that are universal within the human species. Many clinical neurologists and psychologists disagree with Freud’s notion of universal sexual drives; they nevertheless hold that information is or- ganized into permanent categories in one or more memory systems within the brain, and that it can systematically be brought to consciousness in ways analogous to memory searches used in computers. The processes that are responsible for our recognition of categories, however, do not seem to depend on such fixed mechanisms.

T here are good biological reasons to question the idea of fixed univer- sal categories. In a broad sense, they run counter to the principles of the Darwinian theory of evolution. Darwin stressed that populations are col- lections of unique individuals. In the biological world there is no typical animal and no typical plant. When we say a salt molecule has a specific size we are giving a measurement which, allowing for error, is true for all salt molecules. But there is no set of measurements that will universally describe more than the one example of a plant or animal we are meas- uring. Qualities we associate with human beings and other animals are

abstractions invented by us that miss the nature of the biological variation.

The central conception in Darwinian thought is that variations in popu- lations occur from which selection

1 – A.R. Damasio, P.J. Eslinger, H. Damasio, G.W. Van Hoesen, and S. Cornell, “Multi-Modal Amnesic Syndrome Following Bilateral Temporal and Basal Forebrain Damage,” Archives of Neurology, Vol. 42 (March 1985), pp. 252–259. Damasio et al.’s interpretation is quite different from the one I have suggested.


may take place. It is the variation that is real, not the mean. It was Dar- win’s recognition of this profound difference between the biological and physical worlds that led to the rise of modern biology. The mechanisms of inheritance through genes create diversity within populations; selection from these populations allows certain organisms to survive in unpredict- able environments.

Darwinian ideas have had a variable influence on psychological thinking, which has sometimes strayed away from biological explanation. Modern ethology, which studies the relation of animal and human behavior, has recaptured much of the Darwinian flavor that unfortunately left psychol- ogy when early learning theorists such as Pavlov seemed to be successful in explaining behavior without paying heed to the differences between animal species. But as important as their insights are, ethologists have not applied Darwinian thinking to the workings of the brain in each individ- ual of a species.

Does evolutionary thought have anything to do with the explanation of the psychology of individual human beings? The theory of the brain Ger- ald Edelman proposed in 1978 sought to explain neurophysiological func- tion as a Darwinian system involving variation and selection. Although his theory is confined to neurobiology, implicit in this work is a bold attempt to unify the biological and psychological sciences, one that strongly de- pends on the ideas of evolution and the facts of developmental biology.

Edelman had earlier studied the immune system. For years, scientists had wondered how the body produced antibodies against viruses or bacteria it had never encountered. Linus Pauling had suggested in 1940 that there was one basic kind of antibody molecule in the body. When the body was invaded by a bacterium, he had argued, the antibody molecule would


mold itself around the intruder, thus acquiring a definite shape. Copies of the mold were made and released into the bloodstream where they would bind to the invading bacteria. The system learned, or was instructed by, the shape of a bacterium only after being exposed to it.

Pauling’s theory that there is just one kind of antibody protein proved to be wrong. In 1969 Edelman and his colleagues worked out the complete chemical structure of the antibody molecule, providing the important clue to what structures within the molecule are varied to produce millions of different kinds of antibodies needed to protect the body against foreign organisms. For this work he won the Nobel Prize in 1972 along with the late Rodney Porter of England. Their studies confirmed a theory suggested in the 1950s by MacFarlane Burnet and Niels Jerne that all animals are born with a complete repertoire of antibodies and that intruding bacteria select those antibodies that can effectively combat their presence.

Contrary to Pauling’s theory, the presence of the bacteria does not deter- mine the nature of the antibody that is made, but only the amount. A lim- ited number of genes, a few hundred or a few thousand at most, provide, through recombinatory mechanisms, the codes for the many millions of different antibodies. Specialized cells in the blood each produce one of the many kinds of possible antibodies that then become attached to the cell surface. An antibody molecule that happens to fit more or less closely a virus or bacterium floating in the bloodstream will bind itself to the virus or bacterium. This sets off a chain of events that causes the cell to divide and make thousands of copies (clones) of itself and more of the same kind of antibody. Other cells may carry antibody molecules that fit the virus or bacterium in different ways, and these cells, too, will bind to the virus or bacterium and produce clones. The body can only rid itself of a virus or bacterium if there is at least one good enough fit in its antibody repertoire.


Usually there are several fits and some of them may overlap.

S o the immunological system is not taught what antibodies it has to make to rid the body of a particular virus. The invading virus selects the appro- priate antibodies and these will be different in each individual. An unfor- tunate organism may not have any antibodies in its repertoire that can bind the virus, and this could be fatal. Scientists were generally pleased with this solution to the immunological question because it was consist- ent with Darwinian principles of selection that have formed the basis of modern biology. Theories of immunology based on a process of learning or instruction were not.

Comparison of those findings on immunology to the theory of evolution suggested to Edelman that the brain too may function as a selective system and that what we call learning is really a form of selection. The theory he worked out is based on three fundamental claims: 1) during the develop- ment of the brain in the embryo a highly variable and individual pattern of connections between the brain cells (neurons) is formed; 2) after birth, a pattern of neural connections is fixed in each individual, but certain com- binations of connections are selected over others as a result of the stimuli the brain receives through the senses; 3) such selection would occur par- ticularly in groups of brain cells that are connected in sheets, or “maps,” and these maps “speak” to one another back and forth to create categories of things and events.

But is it the case that there is a mechanism that creates such diversity in each brain? In 1963, the Nobel Prize-winning neurologist Roger Sperry proposed that the billions of complicated connections in the brain were each determined by specific chemical markers on each neuron. On this view, particular genes presumably provide a code for each of the mark-


ers. Twins with identical genes therefore should have identical, or nearly identical, brains. Learning may not have been preprogrammed in Sperry’s model, but this model seems to imply that what any person could learn was limited by predetermined connections in his or her brain. If Sperry were right, many brain functions would be genetically determined, and to this extent organisms could be limited in their ability to adapt to new environments. Adaptive behavior and flexibility would have to arise by instruction; i.e., by external stimuli creating patterns in the brain, much as programs give instructions to computers. Yet we know that animals can adapt individually to different environments. The human brain has permitted survival in remarkably varied circumstances throughout histo- ry. Genetic determinism strains credibility because it makes it difficult to account for the enormous variability of thought and action.

For Edelman, the important question was not, as Sperry had argued, how specific structures in the brain are made according to markers on each neuron, but how, given a particular set of genes, enough variability would be created within the constant overall structure of the brain to account for the adaptability of humans and higher animals in an unpredictable environment. The deeper issue that had to be explored to understand this was the relationship between genes, on the one hand, and, on the other, the form and structure—or “morphology”—of animals. Notwithstanding all the work on the genetic code, biologists still cannot predict the shape of an organism from the information in its genes. If dinosaur genes rather than dinosaur bones had been found we would never have known they were dinosaurs and could not have said what they looked like. Why don’t genes tell us about morphology?

T he answer to this question, according to Edelman’s findings, lies in early embryonic development. As an embryo develops, cells divide, move from


place to place, and ultimately become specialized. A cell’s fate, whether it becomes a liver cell or a nerve cell, depends on where it happens to be at the moment that specialization begins, as well as where it has been. Cell shapes and movements will inevitably vary in each individual, making it impossible to predict exactly where a particular cell will be at a given time. Therefore the genetic mechanisms that determine what a cell will become must somehow be sensitive to its location at a particular time. If each cell’s specialization were completely predetermined by genes, even one misplaced cell could create havoc and the organism’s subsequent de- velopment would follow an abnormal course. A supporting beam placed between two walls that arrived just moments too late would be of no use once the walls had collapsed.

How does a pattern emerge in the embryo from early activity of the cells? Biological systems are not built from preformed parts. Instead cells are cemented together in the embryo and the individual cells or groups of cells are then shaped into structures that serve more complex functions. In determining the shape, it is the signals across the boundaries of such structures that count. How this works may be suggested by an analogy.

Imagine an architect given the task of shaping a brick wall into the façade of a building, with windows, ornaments, and a main door. One way our imaginary architect may proceed is to indicate where the holes for the windows would be drilled by drawing the borders on the brick wall. The holes drilled and the window frames added, he might then add indications for the shutter hinges on the window frames. In general, shaping a rela- tively uniform collection of interconnected material units, such as bricks, into a well-differentiated structure requires determining the boundaries of the structures that have to be carved into the units or added to them. And those boundaries can only be determined once all the bricks (or other material subunits) are delivered or are in place. One brick might be substi-


tuted for another without changing the pattern. Above all, the boundaries will determine the function of the bricks, such as supporting a window or a door.

As tissue grows in the embryo, borders are formed demarcating the differ- ent functional parts of the organism; but obviously there is no architect. The borders are established between different groups of cells by different intercellular cements or glues, known as cell adhesion molecules or CAMs. Three kinds of CAMs were discovered by Edelman and his colleagues in the late 1970s; and more have since been found. Two of the CAMs appear on the surfaces of cells very early in embryonic development. One is called L-CAM because it was first discovered in the liver, and the other N-CAM since it was originally found in association with nerves. L-CAMs on the cell surface will only stick to other L-CAMs on the cell surface and the same is true of N-CAMs; L-CAMs and N-CAMs will not stick to each other. For these primary CAMs, cells can adhere to each other only when they have the same kind of CAMs on their surfaces.

The structure of the cell adhesion molecules themselves is determined by particular genes. And in early development of the embryo other genes regulate when the CAMs are produced. However, the exact amount and “stickiness” of the CAMs (which vary continuously as the embryo devel- ops) depend on where the cells carrying them are and where they have moved, and the individual cell’s position is not under direct genetic con- trol. Therefore the arrangement of groups of cells that are linked together by one kind of CAM will vary even in genetically identical individuals. These groups of cells send signals that turn CAM genes on and off, as well as turning on and off the action of genes that specify cell speciali- zation. The entire sequence by which differentiation occurs is therefore determined not directly by genes but indirectly by the combined action


of genes and signals from cell groups that activate genes, and is therefore called epigenetic.

Cells linked together in collectives by L-CAMs form borders with other cells linked together in other collectives by N-CAMs. The borders result because the two kinds of molecules do not stick to each other. Edelman and his colleagues have shown that cells on one side of the border will subsequently change into more specialized cells of one kind, and those on the other side of the border will become specialized cells of another kind. Throughout embryonic development, borders are formed between cells that are linked together with different CAMs, and following border formation the cells specialize. As the cells differentiate further, new CAM borders are formed before new changes are introduced by signals from the cell groups to the genes that activate both CAMs and the genes that specify cell specialization. Depending on the past history of the two cell groups, signals exchanged at the border between collections of N-CAM and L-CAM cells will determine the subsequent formation of very differ- ent kinds of cells on each side of the border. (Recently a chemical signal that activates CAM production has been identified.)

The function of the border between cell groups with different CAMs thus depends on the context—the surrounding cells, and the past history of the cells. In general, moreover, the rules governing CAM response are similar both for the neurons of the brain and for other body structures. Because the borders of cell collectives depend on dynamics of movement, there will be individual variations that are not determined just by genes and whose diversity will ensure that different brains would have different structures. Yet the general patterns formed and the broadly similar sequences of em- bryonic development would account for the fact that the individual brains of members of a species resemble one another.


T he importance of the borders formed by the CAM-linked collectives was shown in a spectacular series of experiments in Edelman’s labora- tory on the emergence of a single feather in the chicken. At each stage in the feather’s morphogenesis, borders were found between groups of cells linked together with different kinds of CAM. Following the formation of the borders each group of cells changed, those on one side into one kind of cell, and those on the other into another kind of cell. For example, the final feather, with its regular pattern of branching (a pattern that varies from feather to feather), is carved out of a cylinder of tissue. The distinc- tive feather pattern arises after alternating groups of cells (i.e., L-CAM- linked cell groups alternating with N-CAM-linked cell groups) make their appearance. Groups of cells with N-CAM linkages then die, while the al- ternating groups with L-CAM linkages become hardened, or keratinized. The result, a feather. The edges of the barbs on the feather were the bor- ders between the L- and N-CAM cell groups. Even more dramatically, when changes were induced experimentally in the linkages made by one kind of CAM, cell groups that were linked by a completely different kind of CAM were altered.

From the workings of such epigenetic mechanisms we can see why know- ing the entire genetic repertoire of an animal would not alone permit us to predict its final detailed morphology. Identical twins are never absolutely identical. And just as every feather has a different pattern of branching, every brain would be expected to have a different pattern of connections.

The demonstration that there are molecular reasons why no two brains could be identical is central to Edelman’s view that the brain functions as a system based on selection—the CAM mechanism creates diversity in the anatomical connections of an individual’s brain. The context and history of cellular development thus largely determine the structure of the brain;


and therefore context and history are also important in brain function. Because development, structure, and function are related, it would not be surprising if the functional activities of a connected group of cells in the brain depended both on the activities of neighboring cell groups and on the past history of the particular group itself.

T o show that brain function, like structure, also depends on context and history and not on localized functions and fixed memories is the burden of Edelman’s theory of neuronal group selection. What emerges is a new approach to the biological basis of psychology.

A major claim of this approach is that the unit of selection in the brain is

a neuronal group, a set of interconnected neurons that function together.

The patterns of connections that are established among neurons vary from group to group because of the changes in dynamics of the CAMs during development. The brain thus contains large numbers of different neuronal groups.

Neuronal groups are connected to one another as well as to the sensory receptors for light, touch, and sound in the eyes, skin, and ears. In general, neighboring groups of neurons in the brain receive input from neighbor- ing sensory receptors (for example, on the second and third fingers of the hand); two neighboring groups in the brain can in fact receive input from the same sensory receptor. Although the inputs can overlap, the respons- es of each group to the stimuli will be different. Because each group of neurons has its own pattern of internal connections, which differs from those of other groups, each group will respond differently, even to identi- cal stimuli.

The activities of a group of interconnected neurons would acquire signif-


icance not just because of the anatomical connections and physiological mechanisms on which the functioning of that group depends, but because of its context and the history of its received signals as well. If this is true, then a given “memory” cannot be stored in a specific place in the brain, since neighboring activities would of necessity change, and therefore the “context” of any neuronal cell group is never constant. If one were to as- sume that a memory was in fact stored as it is in a computer, altering this process would irreparably destroy it.

T he embryonic processes I have described involving CAMs are central in creating a large repertoire of different neuronal groups. But after birth the principle of selection changes. Instead of alternations of CAMs, changes in the strength but not the pattern of connections occur; such changes deter- mine the paths over which neural signals will flow. 2 Environmental stimuli may cause one group to respond with greater activity than other groups receiving the same input. And when this happens, laboratory experiments show that the connections between the neurons in that group (the synaptic junctions) can be strengthened.

Edelman and his colleagues have worked out a set of possible rules that might govern these synaptic alternations. Molecular changes take place within neurons and at the synaptic junctions so that the neurons tend to be activated by similar stimuli on subsequent occasions. Particular variants within the brain’s population of neuronal groups are selected by the stim- ulus. Indeed, a group that responds to a stimulus might do more than this.

As its connections are strengthened it might alter the strength of its links to other groups and, by competing with

other groups, integrate neurons from them into its own response activity. The strengthening of the synaptic

2 – This is analogous to the process by which antibodies that have been selected are then produced in large numbers, or cloned. The two processes resemble each other in effect, but the mechanisms are different: in the brain the strengths of synaptic connections are increased; in the immune system the number of cells is increased through cloning.


connections creates what Edelman calls a secondary repertoire: this is made up of neuronal groups that respond better to specific stimuli because they have been selected and their connections strengthened. In their responses to stimuli, neuronal groups could be likened to a set of radio receivers, each tuned to a small band of frequencies. One radio might receive frequencies in the 1600 to 1700 kilocycle range, and another might receive frequencies in the 1550 to 1650 kilocycle range. Depending on the broadcast frequencies in the area, some of the receivers will respond to one broadcast, others to several broadcasts, and others to none at all. Analogously to an animal moving its head or body, moving from New York to Peking, for example, would change the response patterns of the individual receivers. The receiver’s purpose depends on where it is: in Pe- king it receives Radio Peking, in New York WCBS, and in Moscow Radio Free Europe, Radio Moscow, and a lot of jamming simultaneously.

Like the radio receivers, a given neuronal group can respond to more than one stimulus—what is called a degenerate response. In our analogy, a giv- en radio receiver might pick up Radio Peking better than Radio Moscow, but it can pick up either station. (Of course, stimuli are not organized into coherent pieces of information like radio broadcasts. At higher levels in the brain, the stimuli must be organized in ways that will be meaningful and useful for the organism.)

The brain performs this organizing operation by using maps made up of neuronal groups. A map is a collection of neuronal groups in the brain which are arranged in a way that preserves the pattern of relationships either between a sheet of sensory receptors (such as those in the skin of the hand) and a sheet of neural tissue in the brain to which the sensory stimuli have been transmitted, or between two sheets of neural tissue. Groups are arranged in maps that “speak” back and forth to one another so as to


create categories of things and events. Different kinds of maps are found in different parts of the brain, and an analysis of how such maps interact is an essential and final part of Edelman’s theory.

B ecause the brain has to be prepared for unpredictable events it must map stimuli in a variety of ways. Brain maps sort incoming stimuli by sim- ilarity (same frequency of sound, same intensity of sound, etc.) as well as by a mixture of properties. The main evolutionary principle at work here is that stimuli are organized into patterns that will help the organism cope with its environment.

In 1870 two young Germans, Gustav Theodor Fritsch and Eduard Hitzig, first discovered that the brain maps motor stimuli. They reported that touching discrete areas on a dog’s brain activated specific parts of the body. By the end of the century motor and sensory maps were a well-es- tablished feature of neuroanatomical teaching. These maps were assumed to be permanent and more or less identical in all members of a species.

It was therefore surprising when in 1983 Michael Merzenich and his col- laborators at the University of California at San Francisco discovered that the sensory maps showed considerable variation in the brains of normal monkeys. The brain maps in a particular monkey’s brain varied over time. And there was considerable variation in corresponding maps in different monkeys as well. Subsequent experiments demonstrated that the maps be- came rearranged, even within short periods of time, following injury to a nerve supplying sensory input from one of the monkey’s fingers.

Merzenich’s work gives powerful support to Edelman’s claim that particu- lar combinations of neuronal groups are selected competitively from the general population of neuronal groups by sensory input. Since the nerves


from the different areas of the skin of the hand are connected eventually by overlapping branches to the same receiving areas in the brain, the part of the skin surface represented in a particular brain by a group of neu- rons depends on selective competition. Neuronal groups in one area of the brain may, for example, receive overlapping input from both the back and the palm of the hand, and the stimuli from the palm may more effectively select particular neuronal groups, establishing a dominant representation of the front of the hand in the map in that part of the brain.

Should the incoming nerves be damaged, reducing or eliminating the in- put from the palm (as in Merzenich’s experiments), the groups that could respond to the stimuli from the back of the hand will then be able to be expressed in the absence of competition from the neuronal groups in the palm. Thus, based on the inherent variation among neuronal groups, a new representation emerges in that area of the brain. The continuity of the new map’s general activity nonetheless can still represent, in some ab- stracted form, the activity at the sensory receptors.

I nformation in the brain is distributed among many maps, and accord- ing to Edelman’s theory, there must be incessant reference back and forth among them for categorization to occur. Sounds, for example, can be cat- egorized as speech, noise, and music; or they can be used to locate things in space. Recent research shows that such localization requires a number of interacting maps. Owls, like human beings, use sounds to locate moving animals, for instance a mouse they might attack. The important sensory clues are the different arrival times of a sound at each ear, and its intensity. Since the owl’s brain cannot directly map the different times of arrival of a sound at each ear, two initial sensory maps represent the frequencies heard by the owl: one maps those heard in the right ear and the other maps those heard in the left ear. These representations are then combined in another


map where the arrival times (called sound disparities) of a given frequency

in one ear are compared to those in the other ear.

The sounds made by a mouse in a field can by this means be categorized

according to the disparities in sound. These disparities can be used to help determine the sources of the sounds. Specific neuronal groups within a map may be activated by a difference in arrival time between the two ears of, for example, one thousandth of a second. In itself the activity of the neuronal groups will not tell the owl’s brain the source of the sound. But the entire pattern of activity of the map, the ways in which other neuronal groups are activated as well, will represent in the owl’s brain the location

of the source of the sound. This pattern will have to be extracted in a

further mapping, which could for example characterize certain patterns

of activity indicating that sources of sound were, say, at 30 degrees to the

left, others at 60 degrees to the right, etc. Finally the mapping that has de- rived the place of a source of sound is connected to a visual map of space, created from the owl’s visual receptors. The visual map is thus related to a map that recategorized auditory sensory input to place sounds in space. By relating the two sensory modalities, the owl’s brain has created a general map (auditory and visual) of space and the owl can respond to a variety

of sensory inputs.

A particular pattern of activity will lead to a motor response in which

the owl dives for its prey. If the owl is successful, it will associate that mapping and that pattern of activity with the particular motor act of at- tacking. If it fails, however, it will try other responses until it finally suc- ceeds in capturing its prey. This was shown in the series of experiments by E.I. and P.F. Knudsen in which young owls were raised with one ear plugged, thus shifting the perceived location of sound relative to its actual location. Within four to six weeks these owls learned to localize sound


accurately. The owls adjusted to the altered mapping of sound apparently by rearranging their internal mappings. Recognition therefore depends on mapped and remapped patterns of activity. 3

N o single map contains all the information necessary for the owl’s movements, and as I have said there must be a constant reference back and forth from neuronal groups in one map to neuronal groups in the other by means of so-called reentrant connections, i.e., nerves traveling in both directions to link the maps. According to Edelman’s theory, this is how the brain creates its categories and generalizations. Of course, the owl brain may also use the initial mapping of sound frequencies for higher maps that do not represent spatial disparities, but rather the actual sequence of sounds (to identify the kind of animal making the noise, perhaps). This will eventually create other kinds of categories for sound information.

The brain has many different kinds of maps and ways of mapping other maps that categorize “inputs” in many ways. The purpose of the maps is to create perceptual categorizations that permit the animal to act in appropriate ways. 4 The environments in which an animal might find itself will of course change and so the perceptual categories must also change. But this is exactly what the multiple mappings are best suited for: the maps interact with one another and constantly recategorize information. And by referring the more abstract mappings back to the primary sensory maps that have a continuous relationship with external stimuli, the brain can effectively keep track of its various regroupings of the sensory inputs.

That mappings can be related to one another without any preestablished instructions has been demonstrated by Edelman and his colleague George

3 – E.I. Knudsen and P.F. Knudsen, “Vision Guides the Adjustment of Auditory Localization in Young Barn Owls”, Science 230 (November 1, 1985), pp. 545–548. 4 – The origin of perceptual categories by neuronal group selection is in some ways analogous to the origin of species by natural selection in evolutionary time. Much as unpredictable events over a long period of time may result in the selection of certain characteristics in organisms, unpredictable environmental events in an animal’s lifetime may result in the selection of certain neuronal groups leading to the formation of perceptual categories.


Reeke, Jr., who built a new kind of automaton, based on the principles of selection, to simulate the mapping activity of the brain. The automaton abstracted from the mappings of visual inputs a variety of categorizations, such as for letters of the alphabet, without having been given specific in- structions to do so. This provided further evidence that the interacting maps are essential for categorizing perceptions in a selective system.

A spy sitting in a music hall might want to locate the person he just heard say, “Nine o’clock tomorrow,” and he may also want to enjoy the singer’s “Casta Diva.” One set of brain maps will locate the person who said “nine o’clock,” while another set of maps will permit him to hear the “Casta Diva” for his own pleasure. Sounds have been categorized in different ways by his brain in accordance with his adaptive needs: business and pleasure.

Later that evening the spy may have forgotten the time he overheard men- tioned by the person he was shadowing during the concert. Annoyed, he hums the melody of “Casta Diva” and suddenly recalls the nine o’clock assignation. Or he might recall it when he sees the announcement for a nine o’clock movie. This suggests that memory is not an exact repetition of an image of events in one’s brain, but a recategorization. Recategoriza- tions occur when the connections between the neuronal groups in different maps are temporarily strengthened. Recategorization of objects or events depends upon motion as well as upon sensation, and it is a skill acquired in the course of experience. We recollect information in different contexts; this requires the activation of different maps interacting in different ways from those of our initial encounter with the information and it leads to its recategorization. We do not simply store images or bits but become more richly endowed with the capacity to categorize in connected ways.


M emory as recategorization is one of the deep consequences of Edel- man’s theory of neuronal group selection. In a remarkable book published in 1932, the English psychologist Frederic C. Bartlett sketched out the view to which Edelman’s work has given a precision and a physiological justification. In Remembering Bartlett wrote:

Remembering is not the re-excitation of innumerable fixed, lifeless and fragmentary traces. It is an imaginative reconstruction, or con- struction, built out of the relation of our attitude towards a whole active mass of organised past reactions or experience, and to a little outstanding detail which commonly appears in image or in language form. It is thus hardly ever really exact, even in the most rudimen- tary cases of rote recapitulation, and it is not at all important that it should be so.

It is this quality of memory that Freud, too, sought to capture. Believing that memories must leave permanent traces, and unable to see how a per- ceptual structure could remain open to new perceptions if it were altered by previous stimuli, he constructed a theory quite different from the view of brain function presented here.

Unable to accept that fragmentary memories may well be fragmentary, Freud assumed memories were fixed in the same way that Newton had assumed time was absolute. Einstein eliminated absolute time and thereby presented a larger view of space and time. In dispensing with fixed memo- ries and replacing them with memory as categorization, Edelman’s theory represents a radical departure from previous thought and may well open the possibility of a broader and deeper view of human psychology.

Each person according to his theory is unique: his or her perceptions are to


some degree creations and his or her memories are part of an ongoing pro- cess of imagination. A mental life cannot be reduced to molecules. Human intelligence is not just knowing more, but reworking, recategorizing, and thus generalizing information in new and surprising ways. It could be that inappropriate categorizations from damaged maps may cause psychoses, just as the inability to correlate the succession of objects or events in time may be largely responsible for the loss of specific memories in the case of amnesia already mentioned.

Of course, language is acquired in society, but our ability to use it, to con- stantly reconceive the world around us, is at least in part a reflection of the multiple mappings and remappings that appear to be central to brain function. Such a view reinforces the idea that no two brains can be, or ever will be, alike. Edelman’s theory of neuronal group selection challenges those who claim that science views individual human beings and other animals as reproducible machines and that science is little concerned with the unique attributes of individuals and the sources of that uniqueness. Humanism never had a better defense. 5

5 – I would like to thank Leif Finkel for his invaluable assistance in the preparation of this article.


previous pages – Choreography for the Running Male (2015) Eglé Budvytyté. Performance photo Pierre Antoine
previous pages – Choreography for the Running Male (2015) Eglé Budvytyté. Performance photo Pierre Antoine

previous pages – Choreography for the Running Male (2015) Eglé Budvytyté. Performance photo Pierre Antoine

left – Balance from Within (2010) Jacob Tonski. Installation photo Pierre Antoine

above – Blindness and memory: being reborn into a different world (2012) John M. Hull. Video lecture photo Pierre Antoine

above and right – Stranger Visions (2012-2013) Heather Dewey-Hagborg. Installation photo Pierre Antoine
above and right – Stranger Visions (2012-2013) Heather Dewey-Hagborg. Installation photo Pierre Antoine

above and right – Stranger Visions (2012-2013) Heather Dewey-Hagborg. Installation photo Pierre Antoine

above and right – Stranger Visions (2012-2013) Heather Dewey-Hagborg. Installation photo Pierre Antoine
above – When you fall into a trance (2014) Emily Wardill,.Film photo Pierre Antoine above

above – When you fall into a trance (2014) Emily Wardill,.Film photo Pierre Antoine

a trance (2014) Emily Wardill,.Film photo Pierre Antoine above – The Hand, the Eye and It
a trance (2014) Emily Wardill,.Film photo Pierre Antoine above – The Hand, the Eye and It

above – The Hand, the Eye and It (2013) – The Hand, the Eye, It and the foot (2014) Hedwig Houben. Video lecture, Installation photo Pierre Antoine

above – Cosmic Tissue (2014) Emily Whitebread. Video photo Pierre Antoine above – DNA, A

above – Cosmic Tissue (2014) Emily Whitebread. Video photo Pierre Antoine

Tissue (2014) Emily Whitebread. Video photo Pierre Antoine above – DNA, A Graphic Guide to the

above – DNA, A Graphic Guide to the Molecule that shook the world (2011) Israel Rosenfield, Edward Ziff. Book photo Pierre Antoine

next pages – Shalom Aleikoum (2013) Younes Baba-Ali. Object photo Pierre Antoine

previous pages – Echo Moiré (2012) iii - Matteo Marangoni. Performance, Installation photo Pierre Antoine

right – CineChine (2012) | CineChine performance (2014) iii – Mariska de Groot & Dieter Vandoren. Performance, Installation photo Pierre Antoine

performance (2014) iii – Mariska de Groot & Dieter Vandoren. Performance, Installation photo Pierre Antoine
above – PlaneScape (2011-2014) Wolfgang Bittner, Lyndsey Housden, Yoko Seyama, Jeroen Uyttendaele Installation photo

above – PlaneScape (2011-2014) Wolfgang Bittner, Lyndsey Housden, Yoko Seyama, Jeroen Uyttendaele Installation photo Pierre Antoine

right – Captives #B04 (2014) Quayola. Installation photo Pierre Antoine

Uyttendaele Installation photo Pierre Antoine right – Captives #B04 (2014) Quayola. Installation photo Pierre Antoine
above – Afterword (2014-2015) Oscar Santillan. Video performance, Installation photo Pierre Antoine above –

above – Afterword (2014-2015) Oscar Santillan. Video performance, Installation photo Pierre Antoine

Video performance, Installation photo Pierre Antoine above – Operation - For Something Black and Hot (2012)

above – Operation - For Something Black and Hot (2012) Okin Collective. Video performance, Installation photo Pierre Antoine

above – Être et ne pas avoir (2014) Younes Baba-Ali. Video performance photo Pierre Antoine

above – Être et ne pas avoir (2014) Younes Baba-Ali. Video performance photo Pierre Antoine

avoir (2014) Younes Baba-Ali. Video performance photo Pierre Antoine above – Mediterraneo (2014) Anna Raimondo. Video

above – Mediterraneo (2014) Anna Raimondo. Video

above – An Eye for an Eye (1998) Artur Žmijewski. Video photo Pierre Antoine above

above – An Eye for an Eye (1998) Artur Žmijewski. Video photo Pierre Antoine

an Eye (1998) Artur Žmijewski. Video photo Pierre Antoine above – Room C (extended) (2015) Roel

above – Room C (extended) (2015) Roel Heremans. Performance photo Pierre Antoine

next pages – Body Revolution (2015) Mokhallad Rasem. Performance, Installation photo Pierre Antoine

Hicham Khalidi is a Dutch-Moroccan curator of contemporary art. As of May 2015, Khalidi has been appointed Associate Curator at the Fondation Galeries Lafayette in Paris after heading the exhibitions program of Stuk Art Center in Leuven, Belgium for two years. His latest exhibitions as a curator include:

You Must Change Your Life (Artefact Festival 2015); Where are we now? (Marrakech Biennale 2014); On Geometry and Speculation (Marrakech Biennale 2012); Transnatural Festival (Nemo Science Center 2012) and Alles, was Sie über Chemie wissen müssen (CTM/Künstlerhaus Bethanien 2011).

Israël Rosenfield received an M.D. from the New York University School of Medicine and a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He is a professor at the City University of New York and his books, which have been translated into a number of languages, include The Invention of Memory: A New View of the Brain; The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness (revised and expanded French edition, 2005); and the satirical novel Freud's “Megalomania”, a New York Times notable book of the year. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a longtime contributor to The New York Review of Books. A frequent speaker at international art/science events, he has written essays and satirical pieces for a number of exhibition catalogues of contemporary artists.

Daniel Blanga-Gubbay is a researcher in political philosophy and performance based in Brussels. After graduating in philosophy from the Venice University of Architecture with Giorgio Agamben, and while working with him, he got a European Ph.D. in Cultural Studies, jointly run by the University of Palermo, Valencia and Freie Unversität Berlin. He currently teaches Political Philosophy for the Arts at the Académie des Beaux Arts in Brussels, and he has a research project at the Heinrich Heine Universität in Düsseldorf, within a project on the use of the concept of possible in art and politics. Results of this research have been presented recently in Beirut (Orient Institute, AUB), Copenhagen (What Images Do), Moscow (Political Mimesis), Oslo (The Nordic Society for Aesthetic), Tel Aviv (TAU) and Brussels. He develops theoretical projects for performing art institutions and festivals, such as the Kunstenfestivalde- sarts, Santarcangelo Festival, Chantier d'Europe / Théâtre de la Ville de Paris, and Centrale Fies, and is the founder of the Brussels-based project Aleppo (

of the Brussels-based project Aleppo ( Catherine Malabou (born 1959) is a French philosopher. She

Catherine Malabou (born 1959) is a French philosopher. She is professor in the Philosophy Department at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston University. Malabou graduated from the École Normale Supérieure Lettres et Sciences Humaines (Fontenay-Saint-Cloud). Her agrégation and doctorate were obtained, under the supervision of Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Marion, from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales. Her dissertation became the book, L'Avenir de Hegel: Plasticité, Temporalité, Dialectique (1996). Central to Malabou's philosophy is the concept of “plasticity,” which she derives in part from the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and from medical science, for example, from work on stem cells and from the concept of neuroplasticity. In 1999, Malabou published Voyager avec Jacques Derrida – La Contre-allée, co-authored with Derrida. Her book, Les nou- veaux blessés (2007), concerns the intersection between neuroscience, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, thought through the phenomenon of trauma. Coinciding with her exploration of neuroscience has been an increasing commitment to political philosophy. This is first evident in her book What Should We Do With Our Brain? and continues in Les nouveaux blessés, as well as in her book on feminism (Changer de différence, le féminin et la question philosophique, Galilée, 2009), and in her forthcoming book about the homeless and social emergency (La grande exclusion, Bayard). Malabou is co-writing a book with Adrian Johnston on affects in Descartes, Spinoza and neuroscience, and is preparing a new book on the political meaning of life in the light of the most recent biological discoveries (mainly epigenetics). The latter work will discuss Giorgio Agamben's concept of «bare life» and Michel Foucault's notion of biopower, underscoring the lack of scientific biological definitions of these terms, and the political meaning of such a lack.

underscoring the lack of scientific biological definitions of these terms, and the political meaning of such


Editor – Hicham Khalidi Text translations – Natasha Hoare Graphic design – Rowan McCuskey

ARTEFACT Artefact is an initiative of the province Flemish Brabant in collaboration with the City of Leuven. Artefact is partly supported by KU Leuven as part of “science meets art” Artefact and STUK are supported by De Vlaamse Overheid, Provincie Vlaams- Brabant, Stad Leuven, KU Leuven Cultuur, Ku Leuven Groep Wetenschap & Technologie, ThromboGenics, KLARA, De Streekkrant, De Lijn, Cobra en De Standaard. (mediasponsors)

THANKS TO The participating artists The volunteers Province Flemish Brabant (Luc Robijns, Tie Roefs, Wannes Verhoogen, Pia Brys, Nele De Cuyper, Dirk Bollen) The City of Leuven (mayor Louis Tobback, alderman for culture Denise Vandevoort, Piet Forger, Steven Dusoleil) KU Leuven (Katlijn Malfliet, Georges Gielen, Stéphane Symons, Hilde Van Gelder, Geert Bouckaert, Ludo Froyen) KU Leuven Dienst Cultuur (Kristien Jacobs, Greet Verbeek, Veronique Verbert, Heidi Froyen) ThromboGenics (Alexandra Schiettekatte) LRD (Paul Van Dun) Artforum (Hai-Chay Jiang, Marijke Van Geel) Bibliotheek Tweebronnen (Ilse Depré & An Steppe) Toneelhuis Antwerpen Moussem (Mouhamed Ikoubaan) Het Depot ZebraStraat (Isolde Debuck) Campus Gelbergen (Suzan Langenberg & Fleur Beyers) John Hull Serpentine Gallery Israel Rosenfield Borin van Loon Edward Ziff Daniel Blanga-Gubbay Catherine Malabou Museum Astrup Fearnley (Renate Thorbjørnsen) Odico formwork robotics (Denmark) Jelle Feringa TED Global (Kari Mulholland) Shapeways Peter Adriaenssens Iseult Beets Bert van de Ven Raymond Langenberg Luc Desmet

Iseult Beets Bert van de Ven Raymond Langenberg Luc Desmet Annie Cooreman Nicolas Wierinck Delfina Foundation

Annie Cooreman Nicolas Wierinck Delfina Foundation Kolleg Friedrich Nietzsche Goethe und Schilller Archiv Jan van Eyck Academie (And the generosity of Maria Ines Plaza, Jerome Daly, Ardi Poels, Dr. Rüdiger Schmidt-Grepaly, Peter Mair, Evelyn Liepsch, Amy Bell, and Joep Vossbeld) La Maac Hotel Park Inn Ibis Hotel Leuven Jos Maes Loko cultuur (Hannah De Neve & Jasmien Schutz) Pierre Antoine (fotograaf exposities) Sitonit (Koen Deloose) Peter Kilchmann Gallery Jorn Carels Marres (Ardi Pols) Summer Sessions (Anneleen van Kuyck, Dagmar Dirkx, Joeri Verbesselt, Luce Moelans, Olivier Adins, Jeroen Verbeeck)

STUK STAFF Steven Vandervelden - general & artistic director Klaus Ludwig - financial director Wieter Bloemen - daily operations Hicham Khalidi – visual arts and Artefact promoter Charlotte Vandevyver - dance promoter Gilke Vanuytsel - music promoter Ilse Van Essche - production Artefact Fleur van Muiswinkel - production Artefact Laura Delaere - production performing arts Frank Geypens - communication Joeri Thiry - communication Hans Empereur - communication Leen Persoons - communication and layout Danielle Gielen & Jan Delvaux - communication Artefact Leen Van Hoeck - accounting

Leen Bleys - volunteers coordination Richard Kerkhofs - technical supervision Babs Boey - technique Anne Heyman - technique Jesse Jansens - technique Roel Penninckx - technique Erik Penninckx - technique Johannes Vochten - technique Joachim Beckers - facility manager Ingrid Van Eycken - coordination reception & ticketing Annemie Lambrechts - reception & ticketing Hilde Van Wijnsberghe - reception & ticketing Lisanne Valgaerts - reception & ticketing Peter Hannosset - catering Raphael Klaps - coordination STUKcafé Zoë Pauwels - coordination STUKcafé Cecilia Nyarko - maintenance Adon Boateng - maintenance Mohamed El Ghanoui - maintenance Coordinator guided tours Artefact (Christina Seyfried) Children's guided tours (Marlies Verreydt, Mieke Lamiroy, Jonas Slegers) Guided tour interns (Hannah De Neve, Stefanie Verbeeck, Ellen Rottiers, Sofie Vandeweyer, Ana Schultze, Stijn 'T Kindt) Luce Moelans - intern Artefact Eline Verstegen - intern Artefact

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Jo Stulens (chairman) Stefaan Saeys (vice-president) Peter Anthonissen Lies Daenen Katlijn Malfliet Saïd El Khadraoui Izzy Van Aelst Nele de Cuyper Hannah De Neve Heleen Devlieger Luc Haegemans

Daenen Katlijn Malfliet Saïd El Khadraoui Izzy Van Aelst Nele de Cuyper Hannah De Neve Heleen