Rita Cachao has been developing a transdisciplinar approach to research within the Arts and Humanities. With a background in Fine Arts, specifically in Sculpture, her main research interests, and expertise, lie in the exploration of methodological frameworks that potentiate creative and speculative perspectives to the survey of concepts and ideas through material traces. Her research interests also include curation as an empirical research practice and a tool for transdisciplinarity.
Her doctoral research which title is: An Ontology of Space: Methodological Recurssiveness and the Diagram was funded by FCT (Fundacao para a Ciencia e Tecnologia) and completed in 2014 at Transtechnology Research Group, Plymouth University. In her thesis she developed a transdisciplinar methodology to explore the ontology of space, resorting to imagetic techniques and technologies, particularly the notion of the diagram, to sustain space as an ambiguous and unrepresentable entity.
Current debates on space reveal a dichotomy between two apparently conflicting understandings of space: on the one hand, space is understood as a physical, tangible entity that has an impact on how we perceive, feel and emotionally inhabit the world, and on the other hand, space is conceived as an abstract entity, suggesting that space has no active role (a productivity) within everyday life, being solely a conceptual product of intellectual reasoning. As a result, the commonly used word: ‘space’, will be discussed as an ontologically paradoxical, ambiguous and elusive concept; a concept that cannot be captured within a single definition. This thesis consequently researches the ontology of space by informing a framework that embraces the complexity of space as an ambiguous and unrepresentable entity. It aims to reconcile the multiple understandings of space, liberating it from the binary thinking that opposes the abstract to the physical, disclosing its potential productivity.
This thesis thus proposes a methodology departing from a transdisciplinary approach that addresses the variability, multiplicity, paradoxicality and ambiguity of space through a ‘bastard’ epistemology that defies binary logic by considering what falls out of order and norm. To research an ontology through a bastard epistemology is to work outside of (but in combination with) the intelligible and sensible realms, through a framework that is nonrepresentational, but instead enactive and performative, driven by experience, affect and aesthetics; thus allowing access to an entity that is both ambiguous and also unrepresentable.
In doing so, this thesis argues that space is diversely implicated in the constitution of research methodologies through its interactions with order and structures, as well as agential in the constitution of understandings of human interactions with the world; and therefore, it will be argued, space has methodological purchase. The consequence of this methodological purchase is that space can reveal itself if a research strategy is implemented that works through the multiple dimensions of space. Within this context the diagram will be introduced as a productive path because enables a bastard epistemology to work through the multiplicity of space, since the diagram, is a performed, materialised outcome of multiple experiences of the making of order through the interaction between physical and conceptual dimensions. In synthesis, the diagram is used to recursively research an ontology of space, showing the main contribution of this thesis: of how without negating its complexity and multiplicity, space can be useful, constructive and productive within contemporary contexts of research methodologies.
Facts, Concerns and Topics: Transdisciplinarity and the provisional ‘Real’
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 22nd April 2015
(co-presented with Martyn Woodward)
Making through thinking; thinking through making; thinking and making through trust and catharsis or “…as though she knew how to do something she didn’t understand” (Serres,  2011, p. 124). Exploring the notion of ‘instructions’ this seminar intends to raise a discussion on the relationship between instructions and systems of knowledge. What role can instructions play within knowledge systems and learning processes? And what can their relationship be with Transdisciplinarity? Placing the discussion within an Arts framework, these relationships and interactions will be interrogated through the specific context of drawing instructions.
Instructions have no site of existence, they are potential, ideations presented either through drawings, diagrams, spoken or written words, however, when performed they may either carry the weight of an imposition and restriction, or that of serendipity and imagination. Instructions thus seem to trigger opposing emotions and actions. This double bind is also present within drawing instructions, which are looked upon as simplifying what cannot be simplified -the process of knowing something- while at the same time they are used as a medium to be explored within art and thus conveying a knowledge. As such, how can instructions be seen at the same time as open ended, emergent and systemic, but also as the opposite, as something oppressive, even dictatorial, the closing down of possibilities, freedom or agency?
‘Real Space’ revisited – Diagram as Space
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 18th June 2014
This seminar will revisit the presentation by Rita Cachão within the 2010 seminar entitled Real Space. In that seminar space was paralleled with hand-drawn scientific illustration as pertaining multiple levels of mediation, which display, instead of hiding, tension and paradoxes between the mediated sides. From the interaction between hand-drawn scientific illustration and space, it was suggested that space could be seen as: an entity that cannot be account for physically but to which have been attributed physical properties so to make it attainable and convey idealizations, intellectualizations and understandings of multi-dimensional connections with the physical world that concern its structuralisation and order.
Fundamental to the development of such insight on space was the notion of the diagram that supported the correlation between space and hand-drawn scientific illustration. As such, this seminar will re-examine such insight by particularly addressing the notion of the diagram and its intrusion within the idea of the affective as an un-mappable domain.
Space in Processes of Historiographical Categorization
Dialogues at the Interlude: Between Body, Artefact, and Discourse – Plymouth University
– 13th June 2013
Since the linguistic turn in historiography and philosophy of history the role of narrative has been discussed in depth. Within it a categorization discussion has been happening through the creation of parallels between the construction of historical narratives and the construction of fictitious stories. A categorization process that necessarily could not be detached from a debate on the role of imagination in the making of historical narratives and, consequently, could not also be detached from a reflection about thinking systems through the irreconcilable categories of logic and myth. Such debates have given a new spin on concepts like origin, causality, evidence, proof; concepts that support historical thinking and making, however still heavily grounded on a temporal framework.
How then has the linguistic turn challenged the thinking of history as a time problematic? And how can the thinking and making of history be challenged by bringing in space as a concept that has an intervention on categorization processes themselves, in a reflection on thinking systems as myth and logic beyond a linguistic framework? If an ontological discussion on space is to be brought in as a detour for historiography and philosophy of history, can one push these disciplines to an epistemological limit, and loose their bearings regarding any search of past truth, making myth and logic closer, while at the same time becoming more material, by detaching itself from the idea of written document, of language?
Mediating the Infinite Object
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 13th February 2013
(co-presented with Amanda Egbe)
The seminar will unfold from the assumption that there are research ‘objects’ that cannot be altogether understood, that they are unknowable, infinite, but that at the same time these ‘objects’ can be more fully accessed by means other then causal/linear explanation, even utterance. Mediating the Infinite Object thus becomes the centre of the seminar.
We will proceed from a Foucauldian version of archaeology, as he presented in the works that culminate with the Archaeology of knowledge and The Order of Things. This seminar will particularly refer to the text ‘Las Meninas’ (The Order of Things). In the text ‘Las Meninas’, Foucault can be seen to show rather than explain (tell) his methodology. Following this effort to mediate the infinite object the seminar will unravel the possibilities for practical applications.
Rita Cachão, will reflect on her approach on using ‘monsters’ as a case study as a corollary to discuss different notions and understandings of space.
Amanda Egbe, will present a case study on notions of preservation in relation to her research on the moving image archive through resurrection, reincarnation, reanimation in religious contexts.
On Deep History and the Sublime: a Brief Introduction
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 20th June 2012
(co-presented with Martyn Woodward)
This seminar will introduce the concept of deep history as the driving concept for the next seminar series. As a consequence the seminar will take the form of an open dialogue in which the concept, instigated by Martyn and Rita, will open the floor for reflection by the research group in terms of their own thinking and projects.
The emergence of deep history is shaping a contemporary concern with the human, and artefacts, beyond a reliance upon the documentary evidence of the written word, which has formed a somewhat materialist history as constituted and driven by persons and things. Conventionally, within history, there is a reliance upon documentary written evidence, which is a syndrome of an epistemological framework in which the human controls, works upon and constructs nature. A deep history attempts to re-instate a history that accounts for a ‘pre-history’ of the written word through the traces of human consciousness left within human made artefacts, which themselves become containers for meanings and social relations (Shryock and Smail, 2011, p. 220). Shryock and Smail insist that artefacts such as fossils, tools, pictures, household items, ecological change and genetic variation, just as the written word, contain traces of human kinship relations and exchanges.
A deep history thus attempts to recognize that the human is a part of, and does not act upon, nature. However, the making of history through a deep history perspective can be extended to comprise a symbiotic treatment of the material and immaterial -(im)material- dimensions of human experience, which would necessarily implicate a discussion of the sublime both as a descriptive category for the limits of knowledge and its potentialities as a working concept in the making.
Space, the Sublime and Pre-cognition
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 22nd February 2012
This seminar intends to develop a collective discussion around the possible connections between the Sublime and pre-cognition in order to open up the possibilities of relationship between the concepts of the Sublime and Space as the last part of the discussion in my thesis. Initially we will bracket the concept of pre-cognition and discuss multiple theories of the sublime. We will then approach the Sublime and pre-cognition through the supplement of the concept of counter-intuition.
Heavenly Discourses: Myth, Astronomy and Culture – University of Bristol – 15th November 2011
In questioning space, the every-day life word that shelters multiple conceptualizations of our own understandings and interactions with the world, this paper sets the context to reflect upon the concept of ‘outer space’. This reflection will concern not the nature of outer space as an astronomical entity, but to focus on the adjective ‘outer’. How did these two words come together to form the concept, what does it mean to bring them together, where does the concept have its origins and what is this concept a symptom of? As cosmologies are the study of not only the cosmos, but more broadly a study of the world, as the product of human construction through our interactions and representations of it, we can begin to frame an oppositional concept of ‘outer space’. The reflection will depart from the specific case of Plato’s cosmology, Timaeus, as a work that has embedded the elements of discord. The paper will explore not the physical position of being on or outside the Earth, nor the dichotomy outer/inner, but the notion that cosmologies are principally based upon night skies observations. Consequently, the paper investigates how differently one could conceive of day sky, day earth and night earth cosmologies. What other conceptualizations of ‘outer space’ and therefore of space, would emerge if our cosmologies were based on the observation of such phenomena as clouds and the horizon, or briefly on unfixed and changing ‘naked eye’ references.
Metaphysics of Non-Capitalized Space
Lost-in-Space Workshop – University College London – 2nd December 2010
Let us assume space as a fundamental concept to different disciplines across the sciences, humanities and arts with the particularity of neither being fully understood nor controlled by the disciplines themselves. A concept, which peculiarities and historical convolutions regarding its understanding, have torn apart and in due course disclosed the incongruity of thinking separately space as an abstract and physical entity. Let us also assume that a certain metaphysical question is valid within a PhD framework: What is the essence of space? If a research agenda would fall under the metaphysical realm, or the category of unanswerable questions, how could such a research proceed? And which methodology would allow recovering the subject within a meta-level of discussion? The present PhD research departs from a framework that combines these two interrogations; and the awareness that in order to go beyond standard practices and knowledge, it is sometimes necessary to re-question and revisit fundamental assumptions. Consequently, throughout this research it will be sustained that space as an unsolvable matter can be approached through a speculative and exploratory methodology that mirrors the process of artistic creation and practice in a transdisciplinary approach. It is expected that this approach prizes open room to re-read the concept and through it understand the role of such a disturbing, yet most necessary, concept to our own understanding and consequent interaction with the world. Therefore, the present project is, above all, about the non-capitalized Space, the commonly used word in our everyday life that yet stands for a puzzling and elusive concept.
Mnemosyne Atlas and Cosmologies: Connecting the Dots or Drawing the Clouds
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 17th November 2010
Cosmology is a theme that permeates Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas, particularly from the point of view of its place within a network that binds it to the ontology of the human being and Art. Focussing upon panel 1 it is possible to trace this cosmological connection through the images of models of sheep livers and Kudurros. These two types of artefacts portray the discussion not as direct representations of the cosmos but through their role in practices that embody cosmological representations. The influence of the cosmos in determining human destinies through the divinatory practice of hepatoscopy and, again, its influence mirrored by humans in the making of political order and geographical delimitation. Practices that when followed throughout time, geography and cultures reveal shifts that may echo different representational and thought systems, specifically the dialectic between mythological and logical thinking.
The idea that the cosmos could influence human beings and consequently their behaviour is deeply connected with the assumption of everlasting reference points in the night sky that when connected into lines can be used as an interpretative structure. A reading mode that has pervaded the conceptualisation and usage of concepts, as the one of space, and became structural in the way Western civilization has informed its thought system, whether mythological or logical. The realization that cosmologies have been mainly based on night sky readings opens a discussion about what would happen if the colourful curtain of a day sky, through which one cannot see, or the ephemeral clouds, would be at the basis of Western cosmologies and thought systems? Opening up a route for speculation, cloud painting will be discussed as a possible place where thinking about other systems could have their seeds, given the problems that painting clouds present us with.
Unveiling Space Through the Lenses of Hand-drawn Scientific Illustration
Space: the Real and the Abstract – The Centre for Art, Design, Research and Experimentation (CADRE), University of Wolverhampton – 6th July 2010
In this paper hand-drawn scientific illustration will be presented as a mediator between ideals and the necessity to make them attainable which thereby enforces a materialisation. In order to deconstruct this mediation an analytical grid will be created through the exploration of two antithetical order systems and their interaction with subjective and objective dimensions of viewing. The use of this grid reveals how the mediation operates on different levels of the viewing interaction in the process of making and understanding hand-drawn scientific illustration. Consequently, it becomes a case study for understanding the human felt experience on the construction of scientific theories that deal with order and systematization. Observed through this perspective, hand-drawn scientific illustration propels an analogous function to space in mathematical conceptualizations, revealing the links between subjective and objective dimensions in the human-space relationship. Despite the inherent immateriality of this relationship, concrete and tangible signifiers have long characterized our understanding of space. However, given its peculiarities and historical evolution the concept was torn apart which in due course disclosed the incongruence of thinking separately space as an abstract and physical entity. In order to reach a confrontation with the essence of space, the paper will outline my PhD project, which proceeds from space as Khora, a transcendent entity demanding the union of mathematics and metaphysics as to reach a univocal accord. Unveiling the impact of this alternative insight on contemporary discourses, the thesis will discuss two hypothetical confrontations with the khoratic conception of space: kinaesthesia and the sublime.
Transtechnology Research Seminar – 24th March 2010
(co-presented with Amanda Egbe and Joanna Griffin)
Informed by the research from three different perspectives, this seminar will develop a dialogue concerned with the gaps and frictions surrounding a variety of discourses of Space. Through illustration, demonstration and discussion the seminar will present how the subtleties of space emerge, through technologies, man (beings) and ultimately the world at a meta-level.
Amanda Egbe will examine the relationship between space and place, in cinema and architecture. Exploring amongst others the tactics of expanded and experimental cinema, and the attempts to demystify the relationship between viewer and film, the screen emerges as a lever to realise notions of presentness, immersion and reality. Going beyond being just a metaphor of being in space, or a relation of subject to object, the screen can offer a powerful way in which space can be explored, experienced and expressed, as well as the architectures of the cinema in which that exploration takes place.
Joanna Griffin will be discussing the interior spaces of Mission Operations/Control rooms, the control centres from which rockets are launched, commands are sent to satellites and data from satellites is downloaded. She will use ideas from experimental film that refer to the space between the viewer and the screen to look at the spatial relation that mission operations personnel have with the cosmos, from this room. This place of connection with the cosmos happens through a technology that dynamically crosses the threshold from the terrestrial environment we can experience with our bodies, to a conjectured environment in which our bodies would vapourise! Can the experience be described in any way as cinematic? While space technologies create a connection to deeper realms of outer space, the mission control room can be seen as breaking the continuous space and direct experience of the cosmos that we have when we look at the night sky. How does the viewer experience this extension through technology into space and does cosmos become more intellectual and less meaningful as a result?
Rita Cachão will discuss hand-drawn scientific illustrations as a mediation that opens up a debate about viewing and its role on our understandings of space. In the first instance it could be said that these type of scientific illustrations act as a mediator between the scientist and the object of study, however at a deeper level what it reveals are paradigms and theories that are dependent on the knowledge validated by the sciences. Yet the process that brings about the image is led by a subjective being and their response to daily experience. As a consequence, scientific illustration can often reveal a disturbance between the subjectivity inherent to the making of a drawing and the scientific standards of objectivity. The apparent paradox is nevertheless crucial in the understanding and transfer of scientific ideas which are always rigourously edited versions of daily (felt) experience.
The Mise-en-abyme of Space as the Work of the Diagram
MADr Poster Presentation – Centre for Media, Art & Design Research (MADr), Plymouth University – 10 July 2014
This poster is driven by the idea that the structure of a thesis –its organization into chapters, the exposition of concepts, ideas, frameworks, the unfolding of the argument- can be challenged by resorting to visual means. A drawing can be suggestive of structures, which in turn can be transposed to other realms, as that of a thesis. This potential work of a drawing is allowed by a productivity of space that a drawing can be seen to embody and enact when observed as a diagram.
Take a shape and explore it, add another one and seek out interplays. Continue to add more shapes, colours, transparencies and images. Make a trial of the relationships, tensions, convergences, disruptions, empathies and harmonies between all the elements. Then another one and yet another. Now, for each of the drawings created replace a shape merging with another, a colour fading away, three images giving way to a previous inexistent one, by a chapter of a thesis, an idea, a concept and experiment with the flow of the argument, how dimensions are opened, concepts become superimposed and ideas gain rhythms. Not only can this process keep unfolding, at each time creating a new drawing, a new framework for action, but also each drawing itself constitutes an infinite process, constantly unfolding in new directions and dimensions. This is because while retaining the individuality of each element, a heterogeneity, the drawing lives through the tensions of its elements’ incongruence and displacement; as the multiple distinct elements are made to coexist within a dialogue that however can be understood in a disjointed, disarticulated fashion. This particular work of a drawing is a diagram.
Within a diagram there are present not only multiple elements, but also their potential correlations and synergies with other, either present or omitted, realms that at each moment constitute and transform the diagram, producing, while witnessing, the emergence of order. As such, the diagram can thus be understood as an enacted, non-representational, material outcome of the process of experiencing, perceiving and making order through interactions between multiple realms. A diagram at work questions the boundaries and limits of materiality, physicality, visibility, reality, abstraction and imagination; a work which however inherently lies within a productive mise-en-abyme of space — as expression of it — through the interactions, folds, coalescences and evanescence of the multiple existences and conceptualisations of space itself.
The Hollow Body and the Mouth of the Monster
Lure of the New – Cognition Institute launch and conference, University of Plymouth – 21st March 2012
My Research develops around an ontological discussion of space. Within it one of the problems that is discussed is the framework within which space is related with the construction of dichotomies, structures and categorization; particularly when constructing the idea of distinct and irreconcilable logical systems as the ‘logical’ and the ‘mythological’. A clear-cut separation between mythos and logos is often observed as hindering research on ‘objects’ that cannot be altogether understood, that are widely unknowable and inaccessible, even escaping utterance, as space, but also monsters. My research then builds a case study around monsters and their multiple existence status. An ‘object’ that is convergent with space in the questions that poses to transformation, delimitation, instability, morphing dimensions, change, categorization and consequently to logical systems, but regarding which there is no general consensus on their mythological/logical, physical/imagined existence. Monsters as a research ‘object’ becomes an alternative epistemological tool that enables an enquiry unto the unknowable and inaccessible outside a linguistic framework, and that reveals space as a discussion about processes, the construction of epistemological structures and research methodologies.
This poster presents a visual discussion regarding ‘monsters’ as a clash between the known, which informs the body of the monster, and the unknown, what the monster points towards. It is shown a thought experiment on some interactions between the body of monsters and the human body and on how historical medical practices mediate such accounts. This poster will try to challenge the idea of the monster as an imaginary being thought as something that does not have a physical existence, belonging to other dimensions that are only accessible through representational methods, as written descriptions and images. Taking monsters as something that exists elsewhere, or maybe nowhere, how do they become present and material in the world, or which other ways do we have to access monsters beyond representational ideas?
Earth-Sky Cosmologies: a reflection on cosmology through human practices (Part 1)
Transtechnology Reader 2010/2011
Presently cosmology is regarded as a discipline that is mainly concerned with the understanding of the cosmos in the heavens as an external readable structure that can reveal the origin of the Universe. In this context Man is positioned as an external observer detached from the studied phenomena. Such understanding of cosmology has a history that traces back to the origin of the word cosmos within the ancient Greek civilisation, as informed by a Man-world dichotomy and the symbolic placing of the unknown world in the sky. However, cosmology, as the word cosmos implies, is about the conceptualisation of the world, moreover, about the reflection and expression of the interrelation between world and Man and not about a detached cosmogenetic understanding of the universe through the heavens. Overcoming the restricting contemporary accounts of cosmology, the philosopher Rémi Brague presented an argument in the work The Wisdom of the World that rethinks cosmology within a framework where the human is fundamentally and inevitably implicated. Departing from Brague’s work, in this paper it will be argued that re-thinking cosmology requires a shift in focus to conceive of practices, such as drawing, as human worldly experiences bringing to the surface the role of the human as more than an observer of the world. This shift will be supported by a close examination of two hitherto separate discussions: cosmology as an emerging discipline during the Enlightenment and the role of drawing within the epistemological model of 18th century natural history.
Disclosing Space: Order and Mediation from Hand-drawn Scientific Illustration to Geometry
Transtechnology Reader 2009/2010
In this paper hand-drawn scientific illustration will be presented as a mediator between humans and ideals of the physical world, which are needed to be made attainable thereby enforcing a materialisation. In order to deconstruct this mediation an analytical framework will be created through the exploration of two antithetical order systems and their interaction with subjective and objective human dimensions. The use of this framework reveals how the mediation operates on different levels of the construction and understanding of hand-drawn scientific illustrations; as scientific drawing is an embodied action guided by conventions for its construction and analysis. Consequently, it becomes a case study for understanding the human felt experience on the construction of scientific theories that deal with order and systematization. Observed through this perspective, hand-drawn scientific illustration propels an analogous function to geometry in mathematical conceptualizations, as these are both apparently disruptive forms of mediation. This correlation prize open issues concerning space, particularly regarding its role as the conceptual foundation of geometries. The mathematical correlation will unfold from an isotropic/anisotropic discussion inside Newtonian mechanics. The outcome of this reading will reveal the interactions between the human connection with the physical world and conceptualizations of space, as despite the inherent immateriality of this relationship, concrete and tangible signifiers, such as verbal and mathematical languages, have long characterized our understanding of space. Consequently it is expected that observing geometries as a mathematical materialized mediator of the human/space interaction, this relationship begins to be unveiled.