Differential Ontology / Wönzimer Gallery

This exhibit investigates how the inner nature of phenomena is constituted by complex interrelationships. It asks certain ontological questions, such as “Is the inner nature of beings composed of homogeneous elements or heterogeneous ones?” “Is the difference simply an external fact between beings or is it constitutive of their very inner nature?”

“Differential Ontology” examines the inner nature of beings by developing a concept of difference as foundational, rather than thinking of difference as merely an observable contrast between self-identical beings.

The essentialist tradition attempts to determine the inner nature of beings by locating certain self-contained and self-identical properties. To think in this way, however, presumes that each being’s inner nature is constituted on its own and apart from any other beings. The difference is thought in substantive terms, as though it is simply a dissimilarity between two beings existing in and for themselves.

Conversely, “differential ontology” understands the inner nature of beings to not be constituted independently of and in isolation from others. Rather, this nature is wholly constituted by virtue of the nexus of relations in which a being is embedded. The difference, then, is constitutive of the very inner nature of beings and not merely an external contrast between them.

Therefore, difference, or the constitutive nature of the differential relation to alterity, is originary, while identity is delusory. If ontological investigation desires to adhere to its project of arriving at the most basic, fundamental understanding of the nature of existence, perhaps one of its objectives will need to be attaining concepts not on the basis of identity, but on the difference.

“Differential ontology” is a term that may be found particularly in the works of Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, process philosophy, and the ideas of “emptiness” and “dependent origination” in Buddhism.

Featuring artists: Alicia Piller, Brian Randolph, Carla Jay Harris, Eli Joteva, Ibuki Kuramochi, Isabel Beavers, Kayla Tange, Khang Nguyen, Kim Abeles, Linnea Spransy, Maru Garcia, Mei Hotta, Patrick Nickell, Richelle Gribble, Russell Crotty, Takeshi Kanemura.

Curated by Khang Nguyen

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