artictoc [Planetary Practical Magazine]

volume0 specialfeature Mars and Time

Kenjiro Okazaki : The Inhabitants of Mars and the Artists on Earth

Kenjiro Okazaki
One of Japan's sharpest Artist-Thinkers, talking up contemporary culture with the keenest of eyes, a child-like creativity, and a super-loaded, tenacious and rapid-fire intelligence. His work as an artist, writer, lecturer, and theoretician push up against the potentials of art withover whelming speed and radiance.

So they have finally discovered water on Mars. Although there seem to be people who are not surprised, I was astonished to see that photo of the huge mass of Martian ice in the newspaper. It gave me hope.

Was your surprise based on an aesthetic response to the discovery?

Not aesthetic, but more in terms of Understanding. It has to do with the logical faculties inherent to people. Common sense. But it seems that people have hardly taken notice. It's not that I want everyone in a state of panic, but you'd think that if anyone's had any exposure to science fiction, they'd naturally feel a similar kind of shock as they would, had they discovered Martians or flying saucers. Why is that? I mean, they use to make a big fuss each time the slightest sign of erosion was found, claiming it was evidence of water. NASA was just about to launch a new project to excavate the Martian grounds to search for traces of water. If we consider the high probability of life forms emerging out of water, then the possibility of life forms, including intelligent ones, to exist (have existed/will exist) is almost one hundred percent. If, nevertheless, people are not surprised by this discovery of water on Mars, (perhaps they are disregarding it on purpose), rather, it could be a resistance of the imagination, wanting to deny this inevitable logic that water leads to life. I might be overstating things a bit, but I wonder if this is similar to that phenomenon where, when a true genius or a miracle occurs, people at first find themselves ignoring it.

Might there be some political control of the media?

I'm inclined to be suspicious. For example, consider the flooding in New Orleans as a similar water-related incident. It was evident to the US government that the levees would collapse once Hurricane Katrina hit directly, an inevitable equation: given "hurricane," then "collapse." However, President Bush skimped on the repairs that would have cost him 2 billion yen. Now the question is, which risk is greater and which possibility seems more real, when comparing the causal relation [inevitability→probability] with the probability that Saddam Hussein actually possessed weapons of mass destruction? A poverty of imagination, or rather a delusional imagination, must be repressing judgment that is based on Understanding, which would judge the natural causality as inevitable. Where should the troops really have been sent? Not only engineers, but all human beings possess the ability to judge when there is a real danger, and fear the collapse of a fragile floodwall. And that sensibility is the same faculty of Understanding that is at work when one is surprised by the discovery of water on Mars.

Would you say that the existence of extra-terrestrials is now certain?

Actually, the existence of highly intelligent life forms in other parts of the universe besides the Earth is already commonly acknowledged among scientists. However, when you do the math, the probability of such intelligent life forms meeting up at the same time and place as Earthlings turn out to be extremely low. Even here on Earth, the history of life forms, relative to the entire history of the planet, is only momentary, not to mention the history of mankind, which is more like just a quick blink of time. So there is almost no possibility for these life forms, each existing so fleetingly, to encounter each other. The frequency of probability drops at once. But in other words, the probability of all kinds of extra-terrestrials having existed/existing/will exist rises greatly once the condition of temporal synchronicity is removed. Therefore, the probability that there were/are/will be intelligent life forms on other planets is almost certain. The fact that there has been water on the surface of Mars for 5 billion years means that there have been countless opportunities and time for experimentation leading to the creation of a life form. Perhaps not humans, but surely at least something along the lines of dinosaurs would appear under these conditions (although they may have already gone extinct). And this is why the existence of Martians is as good as if it's already been logically proven (laughter).
That said, the possibility of other intelligent life forms is not only a condition for Understanding, but also for Reason – Kant said he would bet everything he had on the existence of the "inhabitants of the moon." What makes us human is this ability to see the possibility of moon-inhabitants as real. This is a condition for a human to be human, which goes further back than the ability to acknowledge that 1+1 equals 2.

Are there people who lack such conditions?

No, what I mean to say is that there are people who can disregard the state of "having formerly existed" or "is going to exist one day" as an unreal matter. Nevertheless, why would such a person feel that the possibility of "Saddam Hussein using nuclear weapons" is real? Needless to say, it is because the latter possibility serves the interest to which the present self belongs. The existence of Martians does not affect the interest that these people are committed to. That's why they can disregard it without care. Similarly, the possibility of the levees collapsing did not concern the present – now past – interests of Bush and his fellow politicians.
To have an "Interest" means to choose, from the endless duration of time, a single moment as a privileged present. And "authority" is the power that forces upon others a "present" that it has chosen according to its own interests, attempting to conform everything else to it. They profit from the delay that occurs from such enforcement. Power is the control of the flow (or order) of time. Anyway, those who always believed in the existence of extra-terrestrials now have absolute proof. But they don't need to run around shouting about it. It is comparable to the joy of getting the trump card in your hand. Once you use it (once it becomes common knowledge) it is over. So the wisest thing to do is to simply keep that card for the most decisive moment, and act according to this premise – to hereafter act upon the premise that the trump card will one day be used – that Martians and earthlings will meet, to be more specific. So all my actions now are based on the conviction that Martians exist (laughter).

Is a trump card something akin to a work of art?

It does indeed resemble the particularity of aesthetic judgment. To universalize the experience of encountering a work of art and being moved by it, is not necessarily equivalent to the generalization of actual experience, for example the acquisition of majority assent. Aesthetic judgment, like Kant said, is a subjective judgment that nonetheless demands the assent of others. The universality of aesthetic judgment is the state of having yet to gain assent, possessing the necessity of assent, and thus includes a temporal delay and duration. Assent acquired only in the present time, in a synchronization of multiple intentions, falters too easily to form the conditions for universality. Popularity and universality must be distinguished from each other. The condition for universality is in fact in the delay, the duration. There will no doubt come a time when everyone will understand it. Conversely, no matter how much one adores Cézanne, there is no one who is constantly moved by his paintings. There might even be moments of hating his work. However, everyone is sure to have some moment arrive, in which Cézanne will be moving. These respective moments will never all correspond. The time difference between them can be millions of years. The universality that aesthetic judgment holds, and the characteristics that works of art should retain, is just that – time extended to such lengths. The mere actuality of the present doesn't cut it. In other words, it is only through such duration and delay, that innumerable judgments, formed only in innumerably different times and places, can be brought into accordance (beyond time and place).

Do works of art possess eternal time…?

No, not at all. For example, once discovered, the water on Mars will become common knowledge – an axiom, and the entire time it lay undiscovered will be forgotten. It may be that from now on, there has always been ice on Mars. But that will also be forgotten someday. The axiom of the present is thought to persist eternally, once acquired, but its very discovery can deteriorate and destroy it, as in the case of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus. That stable platform called the present does not exist. To discover something is to locate it within the present, yet the present as a site for location deteriorates first. Therefore there is no eternal present. The discovery of water on Mars is rather comparable to the irreversible event of "making, or having made, a work". "Making" or "composing" is an irreversible event. Production is arranged towards the occurrence of such events. One cannot produce without implicating time.
Accordingly, possibility and proof of discovery, are different, as in the case of Mars. Proof of discovery is an irreversible event equal to production, but its irreversibility must be structured logically. A possible world is atemporal, but its corresponding proof must not be an incidental judgment belonging to a particular time. Proof must be established independent of individual subjectivity, the assent of the people, or popularity. The same goes for the production of works. The discovery of water on Mars is a major incident because it suffices as logical proof for the existence of life, beyond mere data. This could not have been established without that discovery and proof. In other words, even if the water on Mars becomes hereafter self-evident, and still later is completely forgotten, the logic structured by the event of its discovery will never be erased – even when everyone has forgotten about it. Even when water or ice is no longer found anywhere on Mars, the event that it was once discovered, remains as an inerasable logical fact.
For example, Tessai Tomioka, Hokusai and Da Vinci all lived a long life, but they shared these last words: "If I had ten years longer, I could have reached a higher point." The logical premise that some day they are sure to reach that point supports their production. They clearly understood the significance of the event of completing or finishing a work. This is similar to the idea that Martians must surely exist. Indeed it lies there as a problem to be proved, to be produced and overcome, as a problem already proven. It's like if one were to live for a million years, it can definitely be done. And that is equivalent to acquiring certainty about Martians, or water on Mars, within the duration of millions of years. Hence for these artists, their everyday production must have been irreversible proof sufficient to make this duration of time definite.
Wittgenstein planned and supervised the construction of his sister's house, originally planned by the Architect Paul Engelmann, all over again. Wittgenstein knew the figures on the plan could in no way match the actual building. The inevitability of errors and gaps was apparent. However, if one removes the temporal and spatial framework of the actual present, its perfection is possible as a logical necessity. This necessity of proof includes statements like "Some day we can meet, or have already met, Martians" or "Someday a perfect architecture will be completed, or has already been completed." Therefore, while such necessities are realistically out of reach, it is possible for our skills to keep approaching it. One can always go further. One may not rest, because it will only be retreat. One must go on providing evidence. Execution is necessary as an everyday event. Ability is not enough in itself, as soccer players would say, and one must continue to score. This is what acting on the premise that Martians exist means for me.

It shows an unnamed impact crater located on Vastitas Borealis, a broad plain that covers much of Mars's far northern latitudes, at approximately 70.5° North and 103° East.
©FU Berlin/MOLA