The Hospitality of the Abyssal Ground: or Perceptual Architectures of Indeterminacy

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There never has been such a thing as solid ground. As profoundly transient beings, all we can hope for is the hospitality of the abyssal ground. Perhaps that is why our everyday aesthetic appreciation of our natural environment is inseparable from indeterminacy, as change and ambiguity but also potentiality; think of the immensely pleasurable journeys through the rapidly changing shapes in fire- or cloud-gazing. But can the same be said of our machinic environment? In this article, I discuss indeterminacy as a generative principle in four realms: elemental, evental, linguistic, and machinic. Anchoring the transubstantiating potential of the four elements to butoh; multi-perspectival event-hood to John Cage’s work; linguistic “chaotics” to Xu Bing’s work; and neural-network contagions to Mario Klingemann’s work, I suggest that these perceptual architectures help us understand first, David Bohm’s implicate order (1980), and second, the seeming paradox of a hospitable abyss.

Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Aesthetics
Issue number2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • butoh
  • John Cage
  • chaotics
  • the four elements
  • indeterminacy
  • Mario Klingemann
  • neural networks
  • unimpeded interpenetration
  • Xu Bing


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