Ian Carr-Harris
Theoris: a paradox

29 November 2018 to 2 February 2019


A paradox is like a magic act. When the rabbit is triumphantly pulled from the hat, we applaud the spectacle precisely because there is a trick. And that trick has made us think or question how it was performed. The rabbit's appearance seems to be a simple act of being pulled from the hat. And the hat appears to be just a hat. But the conclusion that there was a rabbit lurking in the magician's hat seems preposterous. Unacceptably absurd. Funny, of course.

In contrast, paradigms serve as examples of a model or pattern that cohere to the idea of a thing that can be used to effect action. Paradigms are what we learn in school to be models for definition, articulation and even moral behavior. Paradigms are what we buy when we go to a toy store and pick up a plastic model of the Titanic, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, or some such iconic object. We usually call this type of paradigm a “kit”.

However, in themselves, paradigms lack an essential dimension. A model can describe or inform, but it cannot challenge that information or counter its description. It cannot represent itself to itself. This requires another dimension of thought that necessitates a conflictual relationship to exist between equally admissible paradigms – that relationship is we can call paradoxical. Paradoxes play key roles in the structure that provides the critical relationship we need to interrogate the models or arguments we use, and to build a more secure foundation for what we think we know. Like the rabbit in the hat trick, a paradox confuses the question of truth and even subjects it to parody and derision. It questions what appear to be the most obvious truths we unquestioningly assume on an everyday basis.

In Theoris: a paradox, the work is structured as a kit comprising the parts required to build a model of a ship that would answer to its evasion of a stable identity. The work offers a playful introduction to the complicated business of determining the dynamics of truth. Conceived as a kind of kit, something that can be trotted out and put up whenever convenient, Theoris: a paradox poses the questions: 'what is an object', 'who am I', and 'how did I get here?'

- various excerpts from: A User’s Guide 2018, Theoris: a paradox by Ian Carr-Harris