Towards a Nature of Nature

Towards A Nature of Nature - Installationview from Aksel Høgenhaug on Vimeo.

Video still - Suspense

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Installation view

Installation view

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Videostill - Resitation

Om Towards a Nature of Nature

On the similarities between the systematic biology’s phylogenic trees and the linguistic syntax trees (1), the idea that structures in nature are repeated on different levels (2), the myth about the norse god Odin who was said to have hung by his legs in a tree for nine days and nights to learn the magic of the runes (3), and the possibility that languages are a finite set of rules and symbols, that can be combined in an infinite number of possible constellations in any form that some consciousness with a language-ability can interpret (4).

John R. Searle has hinted at the possibility that one can use anything at all to convey meaning by agreeing on a set of rules, and a set of objects (sounds, furniture, kittens and its like) for on which the rules shall apply (5). And there seems to exist some very interesting correlations between some models from the formal linguistics, and biology’s phylogenic trees. But is it the structure of the language that maps the evolution, or are the biological objects properties and evolution a language in its own right?

The science of phylogeny is a history of nature. By examining familiarities and calculate possible mutations, may draw a graphic representation of how the different species have branched off, evolved, and eventually become extinct. This graphic representation is usually called the Tree of Life.

The Tree Of Life is usually presented as a directed acyclic graph, which has its roots from graph-theory and was first described by Leonhard Euler (6). Either because, or in spite of the fact that Euler in his article proved that the problem of the seven bridges in Königsberg was unsolvable, graph theory has gained lots of attention. It has led to elegant solutions to complex problems, for instance the organization of the data in the tree of life. It is probably not possible to prove that evolution is acyclic, but is is definitively directed.

The linguists also use Directed Acyclic Graphs to to describe syntax formally (7), and other kinds of graphs are used to describe morphological and phonetic properties of both natural and constructed languages. All of these graphs are subsets of the class of graphs called trees. The linguist Noam Chomsky claimed that syntax was the basis of language, and that there exists a universal syntax that is hardcoded into our brains (8). Maybe in the shape of a tree.

By combining these theories, I have exposed general trees to syntactical analysis and phylogenical familiarities through formal phonetic rituals performed with Odin’s patience and in the spirit of Searle. I have analyzed, provoked, and manipulated nature to wrestle it’s structural secrets by recreating it’s components and putting these in play, both as Closed Ecological Circuits, and by recreating constellations and movements, which in the end are exposed to a massive dose of phonemes to provoke a reaction.

Aksel Høgenhaug, Oslo, September 2010

(1) Ann Copestake. The (new) LKB system. Stanford. 2000 s.70.

(2) (11/11/2009).

(3) Håvamål gjendiktet av L. Holm-Olsen. Aschehoug. 1993. s.58.

(4) J.R.Searle. Speech acts. University of Cambridge. 1985. s.78.

(5) J.R.Searle. Speech acts. University of Cambridge. 1985. s.78.

(6) Leonard Euler. Commentarii academiae scientiarum Petropolitanae 8. 1741. s. 128-140

(7) See for instance:Sag, I., Wasow, T., & Bender, E. M.: Syntactic Theory: A Formal Introduction, 2003. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

(8) Noam Chomsky. Language and Mind. MIT Press. 2006.