A certain Philosopher used to hang about wherever children were at play. And whenever he saw a boy with a top, he would lie in wait. As soon as the top began to spin the philosopher went in pursuit and tried to catch it. He was not perturbed when the children noisily protested and tried to keep him away from their toy; so long as he could catch the top while it was still spinning, he was happy, but only for a moment; then he threw it to the ground and walked away. For he believed that the understanding of any detail, that of a spinning top, for instance, was sufficient for the understanding of all things. For this reason he did not busy himself with great problems, it seemed to him uneconomical. Once the smallest detail was understood, then everything was understood, which was why he busied himself only with the spinning top. And whenever preparations were being made for the spinning of the top, he hoped that this time it would succeed: as soon as the top began to spin and he was running breathlessly after it, the hope would turn to certainty, but when he held the silly piece of wood in his hand, he felt nauseated. The screaming of the children, which hitherto he had not heard and which now suddenly pierced his ears, chased him away, and he tottered like a top under a clumsy whip.
- A short story by Franz Kafka, Translated by Tania and James Stern.
Human existence which, through its anthropocentric lens, had assumed an authoritative central status in the world that spins, as it attempted to extend itself outwards with the help of the machine that allowed command by effect of convenience & efficiency, now finds itself decentred & thrown away to the margins. The Machine, Conjuring constant accelerating angular velocity, by penetrating & inhabiting the innermost crevices of human fragmented & alienated existence, seems to have taken charge, snatching the position of the center of gravity. The notion of the human lies in a perplexed position, with a centripetal force exerted by the inextricable link that ties its existence to the machine, slowly and gradually reducing its moment of inertia, the resistance, and pulling it inwards to a singularity, and a centrifugal force that pushes outwards splintering aspects of being human into pieces, as the consciousness is uncoupled from intelligence. Tops is a project contemplating upon the induced flux of uncertain times in an allegorical / analogous manner, using the framework of kinetics from physics, particularly the case of rotational motion.
Using the conceptual framework from Reza Negarestani’s “Toy philosophy” and Nelson Goodman’s “World-making”, the project shall work with the idea / artifact of the ‘Spinning top’, a simple toy, that holds potential to exemplify the narrative stated above. As Anne Carson, referring to Franz Kafka’s short story ‘The Top’ where a philosopher tries to understand the world by trying to grasp a top, states: Beauty spins and mind moves, the attempt here shall be to construct a playground for all these dynamic relations with their kinetic forces to play out.
A glimpse as a preview:
Who knows where they came from, some totemic spinning creatures are encountered maneuvering around exploring the horizons. Supposedly autonomous and sentient, these beings / machines happen to be identified as some kind of ‘Tops’, like one of the spinning top toys. One fine day, at the golden hour they stop spinning, and their mystery is finally revealed.