Two Inadequate Voices


2IV is a platform for image-makers to recount and reflect textually on their stories of being out in the world whilst photographing.

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Paul Knight
Love Data

When I was a child, I encountered an immensity. It seeped into my understanding of things, and I am forever since, irreversibly infused. It first started happening when I was in bed at night. At that age, I didn't understand the significance of the experience, but now that it is more in my past, I think I grasp what it was.

Lying in bed, I would start to feel as if my body was dispersing into the air and becoming light. It was as if the atoms of my being were each loosening themselves just slightly from their neighbours. Imagine if these atoms had arms, and instead of the particles standing in a mass crowd, all packed in tightly, shoulder to shoulder, instead, they would hold hands and drift out to the length of their arms reach. The felt effect was my body transitioning from a state of contained density to a sensation of an almost formless yet elastic outward flow. I loosened from my physical shackles and perceived a disintegration from place. Against all logic, I was still lying in bed.

In my imagination, my face would sink through a pond's surface, an atmosphere on the verge of an incredible and utterly undefinable vastness. My face unified into one haptic sensory node for my whole entity as it was being let in on the knowledge of this secret place. The growing formlessness of my body, though, continued to drift away on the other side. I was being drawn into a limitless realm of ever-expanding space. It was delightful, a pure pleasure. Just to be able to be there temporarily, my face dipping through a porthole into this unknown, was so comforting.

I was maybe 5 or 6 years old when it first started happening, and with time, I learned how to induce this sensation and bring it on. It wouldn't always work, but this immensity was a place I could return to for many years until, gradually, it became more a part of my understanding rather than a place to visit.

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The photographic project Chamber Music started in 2009, and at the time, I believed, as I still do, that love is the most important thing that people could hope to experience. If I did nothing on this planet but be in real love, then that is the most elevated expression that consciousness could offer. If an asteroid hit Earth tomorrow - how did I love?

Love. True love. Real and actual deep adult love compromises for nothing. It just is everything. It replaces everything with a new everything. Love in its glory is a caustic substance, destroying all in its path, chewing through matter and ideas… Love at its worst is a commodity. Spilling the infinite from one being into another with no assurances, no safety handles or object-significance to cling onto, this is the fall.

For me, photographs seem an apt analogy of the conceptual space that expands between people. I see a link joining the worlds-between-people and that which is contained behind the printed surface of a photographic print. We see the textures, objects and veneers in printed images, yet we feel the unseeable, resting in the depths and perceived in the voids between them. More so, a collection of images seem further adept at making a gesture towards communicating that expressively vast world.

Could it be that people live in the ideas of multiple worlds, between layers of the known and the unknown? The worlds inside people are, in essence, data worlds of staggering complexity and the worlds behind the portholes of photographs are also ones of data and connective frissons. As seen in photographs and integral to people's lives—transactions of thoughts, feelings, longings, angst and the gentle touch of finger-tips on livened skin like rope bridges across ravines, these too are part of our shared multi-sensory data world.

So perhaps the most complex and entangled of all human processing and response is the data generated by human love. As a species, we are born of water and sunlight, have made our home in a hyper-physicality, and are squarely lining ourselves up, like Thelma and Louise, onto the infinite possibilities of pure data. In many ways, a love fueled consciousness feels like our divine achievement, extending us beyond our bodies and the limitations of gravity.

For the most part, I think we humans forget that we are a stage in things - we are not the thing itself. A stage that is played on, and a stage that is merely a dot in, a great lineage. Possibly the human legacy will not be measured by physical achievements or the objects that we traded. Perhaps, the apex of our significance might be our ability to hand over the intricacies of consciousness and love as data to a system more capable of handling such a contextually rich responsibility.

I would posit, our role is to gift this idea of love-as-quantum-data to 'machines' at the foothills of the next chapter. That way, if we fall out of relevance as a species, our expansive achievement can be of use in the next stage in evolution.

Paul Knight holds a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) from the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne, Australia) and a Master of Fine Art from the Glasgow School of Art (Scotland). He also was a recipient of the prestigious Anne and Gordon Samstag Traveling Visual Arts Scholarship. Knight’s work stems from an inquiry into intimacy and how latent intimacy sustains in form. His research is deeply rooted in the quotidian and expands on ideas of empathy, gentleness and authenticity. His work often resources personal relationships and incorporates highly intimate photographs and handwoven textile works referencing domestic fabrics. In 2019 Knight published jump into bed with me with Perimeter Editions and is represented in Australia by Neon Parc.