Introduction

Along with a few of the people in this Episode, Arika are part of an informal study group called the Institute of Physical Sociality.1 It’s not really an institute in any academic sense: it’s just an open way to institute our collective study. It most often takes the form of a Google drive of articles on particle physics and conceptual maths, but occasionally people meet up and geek out. Scientific theorems don’t prove anything outside their very precise contexts. But the group have been wondering if they can provide generative analogies for reading the complex desires and struggles of social life. Or if their most disturbing findings might be poetic indicators of the impossibility of continuing with dominant ways of understanding existence.
 
What if the indeterminacy of the personal pronoun, the resistance to the distinction between singular and plural were a problem for physics? What if physics is where you go to make newest, sexiest possible impersonal pronoun?
Fred Moten 
 
There have been revolutions in both maths and physics over the last 150 years. Maths now handles very complex relational systems and logics, where objects transform over time, identities are fleeting, truths are relative, and the one and the many can fold and unfold into each other. It can glue together multiple transitory, multidimensional perspectives of a situation, so as to create richer, more detailed, flexible understandings, moving us beyond the atomisation of the world.
 
In particle physics the void is no longer empty, but teeming with real and virtual activity. Phenomena can be indeterminate, entangled, nonlocal and undermine the logic of cause and effect. Every particle and every consciousness might bear the trace of the whole, and reality is the constant enfolding and unfolding between both the virtual and actual order of things.   
 
Do any of these ideas help us in thinking in more complex ways about social life? Do any of them have anything in common with aesthetics and lived experiences of queer, POC, trans communities, or anarcho-communist, decolonial, transfeminist or other collectivist worldviews?
 
What nonlocality exposes is a more complex reality in which everything has both actual (spacetime) and a virtual (nonlocal) existence…why not conceive of human existence in the same manner…as entangled with everything else in the universe?
Denise Ferreira da Silva - On Difference Without Separability 
 
For example, Mijke van der Drift and Nat Raha’s notion of radical transfeminism provides us with profound un-static (trans) tools for navigating contemporary society: where we all have to make sense of relative truths, shifting or dissolving selves and identities and multiple (contradictory) ways of thinking. Moving beyond binary oppositions, contemporary maths has developed intuitionistic logics which have the capacity to deal in dynamic universals rather than absolute truths — a trans maths running against the grain of supposedly ultimate foundations and unshakable stabilities. How might these two trans and multi-logics enrich each other?
 
we / so broken out of belonging together
Nat Raha - of sirens, body and faultlines
 
The measurement problem in particle physics states that on the smallest scales, the act of measuring (looking at) and the ways in which you measure (look), does something to the thing you’re trying to measure; it changes it. The idea of indeterminacy even goes so far as to say that the thing you’re measuring doesn’t have properties, until you try to measure it. Wu Tsang has been wondering about how this helps thinking about documentary filmmaking, in which the very act of looking at a situation changes it. What might the rich histories of thinking about these problems in both filmmaking and particle physics have to offer each other?
 
The world was ever after,      
       elsewhere, 
   no
    way where we were
was there.
Nathaniel Mackey - On Antiphon Island
—"mu" twenty-eighth part
 
Similarly, poetry uses many different linguistic tools to evoke complex meanings that multiply beyond the most obvious reading of a word or phrase. Inspired by the poet Joan Retallack’s great line: “poetics can take you only so far without an h”, Denise Ferreira da Silva has been combining multiple poetic and ethical tools that allow her to undertake hybrid poethical readings: gluing together many complex perspectives that go beyond the most prosaic interpretation of a situation. This sounds a lot like the gluing of multiple perspectives that sheaf theory provides — listening to the voice of things as it emerges in the back and forth between the ideal/real, analytic/synthetic, local/global or discrete/continuous. What do these practices share, and how do they help us read ever more complex situations?
 
To come: the incoherence of our bodies is what we bring up, the condition of what we have to bring. 
To come up: despite the insufficiencies of the conditions, we don’t know when to leave. 
To come up against: (the impression of) settling deeply. 
Nisha Ramayya - Secretions or Obstructions
 
Episodes are serial moments in ongoing study. They feature recurring characters so that we can deepen conversations slowly together, inviting new voices into those as they develop. They’re an excuse to get together to discuss the practice of getting together. 
 
The potential for violence is folded within narrow views and limited perspectives. To counteract this we need to cultivate multidimensional thinking. Inspired by the Institute of Physical Sociality2, this Episode is about diffracting art and maths, social life and physics though each other, as they resist limited and violent perspectives and generate complex ways of understanding our complex times. It explores an idea of sociality in which we’re all incomplete and entangled in a social mesh, where all parts bear the trace of the whole. It’s about how such sociality has more in common with contemporary maths and particle physics than any of us might have realised.
  • 1. With boychild, Karen Barad, Gabriel Catren, Valentina Desideri, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Laura Harris, Fred Moten, Marielle Pelissero, Emily Roff, Wu Tsang, Hypatia Vourloumis, Beckett Warzer, Fernando Zalamea and others…
  • 2. While inspired by this collective study, any imprecise, hazy or vague interpretations of science within this Episode are entirely our own ;)