Cosmoscope Talk, Hertfordshire Festival of Ideas
University of Hertfordshire
Radical Empiricism and the Extended Self
University of Hertfordshire


A presentation to the School of Creative Art on my ‘research based teaching based research’ addressing the question: What do we offer to our students to maximise their creativity and resilience ?

A series of exercises in creative cognition bringing aspects of phenomenology, pragmatism, process philosophy and existentialism into the classroom as tools for understanding creative process and relationship with world.

What is a Thing?…
Observer Observed…
Voronoi Aesthetics…
Where does London end?…
Where do I End?…
Extended Self

Process and Materiality
University of Hertfordshire

Public Lecture

Process and Materiality 

A public talk on sculpture and philosophy with Simeon Nelson, Professor of Sculpture,  from the School of Creative Arts, University of Hertfordshire. 


Professor Nelson will discuss how his sculpture embodies a processual vision of the world – recombining manifold relationships between things – seeing a ‘thing’ as constituted by its process of becoming and relationship to other things. 

He will highlight the influence of the process/organismic philosophy of A. N. Whitehead and his notions of pan-experientialism and critique of simple location, the Radical Empiricism of William James in which relations between things are as real and prominent as the things themselves including the observer, and other significant sources and inspirations including phenomenology, cybernetics and complex systems. These perspectives embrace the world, its relations, its process of becoming and crucially one’s own being in that same world simultaneously. All elements, however one divides them up for convenience and conceptual clarity, subject and object, mind and matter are parts of a greater whole and are of the same stuff. Object needs subject in order to be so, and subject needs object in order to be so, both are abstractions distilled from the flux of experience. He will also touch on variations on this worldview found in Neo-Platonism, Taoism and animism. 

Process Philosophy must be seen in relation to other schemas so as not to commit the naturalistic fallacy. Prof Nelson is inspired by its explanatory power but is also attracted to atomism as a granular aesthetic and what he speaks of as an interface between allopoiesis and autopoiesis – the self-regulating governor of a steam engine. 


He will conclude with a discussion of creative limitation and freedom – the notion that limitation and partiality are necessary for meaning while freedom – a featureless hierarchy of infinite possibility imprisons the imagination. A bifurcated or otherwise striated topology gives much better grit: it is the very limitations of symbol, process or material that bestows power.





Cosmological Questions
The Psychologist


Cosmological Questions is an article by Monia Brizzi, consulting psychologist on the project in the April issue of the Psychologist, the organ of the British Psychological Society on the psychological implications of Cosmoscope



See Inside the Universe…
New Scientist Magazine


See inside the universe in this stunning light sculpture

The collaborative team behind cosmoscope gathered in my East London studio on Friday 12th January for an interview and discussion with Simon Ings, culture editor of New Scientist. A special thanks to Monia Brizzi, the consulting psychologist on the project.

Here is the video

All Is Flux
Thinking in Practice Magazine


All Is Flux, an interview on my work in Thinking in Practice,the online publication of Balmond Studio, an international research-led practice of architects, designers, artists and theoreticians run by leading thinker on form and structure, Cecil Balmond.

Unlearning and Emergence
Emerge Art Agency
Torres Vedres, Portugal


I was judge on the Portuguese Emerging Art Prize and wrote a short essay titled ‘Unlearning and Emergence’  published in the  PEAC Catalogue, Torres Vedres, Portugal 2017, ISBN 978-989-20-7558-7


Pattern and Meaning
Interalia Magazine
Frome, UK


“Pattern can be discerned at all scales that exist between the infinitesimal and the infinite. We humans oddly seem to occupy nearly the mid point in this scale, which has been commented on as a new type of anthropocentrism. Humans (and to varying extents other living creatures) have an inborn and intense predisposition to perceive, represent and create pattern to make sense of a perilous and confusing world around us. We have primordial awareness of pattern to make sense of our place in the scheme of things and to make meaning and purpose out of our finite and limited existence. Pattern is both a function of our perception and an attribute of the world. The entire cosmos could be said to be an eternally unfolding sequence of patterns.”


Interalia article

Visual Article



Dialectical Collaboration
London Laser Talks


London Laser Talks on the intersection of art, science and technology

Nov 15, University of Westminster

Simeon Nelson and Simon Walker-Samuel

Anarchy in the Organism Art Science Collaboration case study.


Just so, I maintain, does a given experience, taken in one context of associates, play the part of a knower, of a state of mind, of 'consciousness'; while in a different context the same undivided bit of experience plays the part of a thing known, of an objective 'content.' In a word, in one group it figures as a thought, in another group as a thing. And, since it can figure in but both groups simultaneously we have every right to speak of it as subjective and objective, both at once.

William James, Radical Empiricism

How does an art-science collaboration change the participants?

What type of new knowledge is created?

How is the research of the scientist partner affected?


This talk on Anarchy in the Organism, a Wellcome funded project with UCH that looked at cancer as a complex system, addresses the above questions. Simon will talk about how his research was affected by the collaboration and Simeon will talk on the first two questions referring to radical empiricism, William James’s method of enquiry that encompasses the arts and sciences and circumvents oppositional notions of objectivity and subjectivity. When artist or scientist practice radical empiricism, differences are more bridgeable and connections between things as well as ourselves are taken into account. This allows for a greater transference of meaning between audience, artwork and artist, between collaborators and systems of knowledge.




London Laser Talk 15 November 2015

View the talk on Youtube





Separateness and Separability
University of Hertfordshire




Preparatory cognitive exercise in thinking

Art and Cancer
ONCA Centre for Art and Ecology
Brighton, UK

Public Lecture

An evening of art and conversation about the role of creativity in holistic support for people affected by, and living with, cancer.

Internationally acclaimed artist Simeon Nelson will open the evening with a discussion of his recent work Anarchy in the Organism. Simeon questions contemporary attitudes to cancer and mortality: is cancer an aberration, or is it an embedded aspect of being a complex organism?

Thursday July 7th, 6pm – 8pm, ONCA , Brighton

Space Wars
CHEAD Conference , Bath Spa
Bath, UK

Public Lecture


CHEAD Annual Conference Wednesday 16 – Friday 18 March 2016 Bath Spa University




Thing and Nothing
University of Hertfordshire
Hatfield, UK


Thing and Nothing – Towards an Aesthetics of Limits

Betwixt and between: exploring the liminal through the social sciences, arts and humanities

Social Sciences Arts and Humanities Research Institute / Creative Economy Research Centre (CERC) Conference & Professorial Lectures November 26th 2014

Lights, Sound, Sculpture
Art Design Cafe
Rotterdam, Holland
All Our Ancestors
First Floor Gallery
Harare, Zimbabwe

artist talk and open studio workshop

Order and Disorder in Sculpture
Inorganic Chemistry Lab, Oxford
Oxford, UK
Creativity’s Challenge to the Subject
Aalborg University
Aalborg, Denmark


 The 32nd International Human Science Research Conference


Aalborg University, Denmark,  16 August 2013


Monia Brizzi and Simeon Nelson


Paper One: Human Science Research and Creativity’s Challenge to the Priority of the Subject in the Substatiation of Experience 

The bias toward subjectivity in the subject-object dichotomy in the practices of contemporary psychology and psychotherapy generates a fragmented and gaseous world of self-concentrated heroic subjects doing things to inert passive objects.

The constrictions of subjectivism turn away from and deface the world’s physiognomic character, and the assumption of the bare valuelessness of mere matter sustains a dead-worldview where all qualities only refer to changes in the subject.

This narrow and anaesthetised conception of experience’s substantiation and of the empirical is problematic because, lacking creativity and art, it is unequipped to shift from abstract to carnal knowing and further splits and annihilates the actual lived experience of fully embodied being in the world.

The redemption of the world and the resurrection of the concrete human being beg for a return of significance from the controlling instrumentality of the subject to the nourishing relational activity of public objects that, by offering the material conditions for our factical bodily reality, substantiates and gives worldly materiality to our existence in the first place.

We propose that the dehumanising inflation of subjectivity and the substance conception of lived experience that limits it to the experience of the experiencing subject are disorders of creativity and aesthetics.

Monia Brizzi


Paper 2: Art Makes Visible the Living Intentionality and Deep Ecology of Things: Body, Space and Their Relations

The redemption of the world and the resurrection of the concrete human being beg for a return of significance from the controlling instrumentality of the subject to the nourishing relational activity of public objects that, by offering the material conditions for our factical bodily reality, substantiates and gives worldly materiality to our existence in the first place.

We propose that the dehumanising inflation of subjectivity and the substance conception of lived experience that limits it to the experience of the experiencing subject are disorders of creativity and aesthetics.

Simeon Nelson’s artworks will enrich our discursively mediated representation of the substantiation of felt experience with the sensorial and immediate presentation of their pathic qualities. These address and offer themselves to us as active invitations to respond and reciprocally address them in return through particular types of subjectivity.

Simeon Nelson


Cancer and Complexity in an Unfolding World
Black Dog Publishing
London, UK

book chapter

Cancer and Complexity in an Unfolding World

chapter in book, Anarchy in the Organism 

Black Dog Publishing ISBN-10: 1908966289,

full colour, 96pp with essays written by the symposium participants and others. 96 pages (released September 2013)

ANIMA MUNDI – The World Ensouled
Simeon Nelson Studio
London, UK

Studio Tour



On 22 June 2013 from 3PM to 8PM psychologist Monia Brizzi and myself hosted a discussion and showing of some of my work in my London studio as part of the second annual London Creativity and Wellbeing Week.


This participatory tour of Simeon Nelson’s Studio articulated in conversation with Monia Brizzi will offer an experiential opportunity of reconnecting to the heart of matter and be restored to the world of sense by the mystery and nourishment of things.

‘only in artworks do rock, metal, and color first become what they are rather than being absorbed and suppressed by some ulterior function. Both masons and sculptors use stone. The difference is that the mason uses up the stone by fully assigning it to some practical purpose, while the sculptor lets the stone shine forth as what it is. In sculpture the earth comes forth, yet it remains a shelter. By showing the earth as a shelter rather than as material useful for our purposes, it is what first lets the earth be earth…Beauty is the shining of earth as earth, made visible in the world.’ Harman 2007.

The world needs the self to be seen and acquire direction, and so the self needs to encounter worldly objects to have meaning and be really present and concrete rather than merely abstract or gaseous. Things offer the material conditions for the substantiality and purposefulness of our existence, and yet in our everyday life we tend to overlook and take objects for granted, see them as brute presence or inert mass, use them in instrumental and calculative ways that divest them of their full reality and significance and trivialise them into caricatures or dead matter. The restriction of the empirical to the subjective cuts-off, inflates and ultimately annihilates both ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’.

Art rehabilitates our anaesthetised and detached relation to the world and shifts our orientation from the ordinary default dead-worldview of objects usability to the intimate appreciation of their inherent value, intentionality and receptivity as animate and active parts of the world with intrinsic worth, vitality and importance.

photo credit: Helen Breznik

The Razors Edge: Sculpture as Matter and Pattern
University of Hertfordshire
Hatfield, UK


“It is speed that distinguishes matter from spirit…spirit an incredibly fast matter and matter a slow spirit” Eduardo Chillida

The window of my childhood bedroom looked out onto a tree filled nature reserve. The patterns of actual nature out there were answered by the intense floral wallpaper adorning my walls and ceiling. My practice since has been a dialogue between nature and culture, the visual and the linguistic, the encounter between matter (mother) and pattern (father).

I will discuss ways in which I reformulate ideas in science and theology and how I work in collaboration with composers, scientists, psychologists and others on recent projects in galleries, hospitals, churches and other sites in the UK, Europe and Australia.

I produce optically ambiguous objects, installations, modular sculptural systems and videos whose underlying topologies are often obscured by intense ornament. They range from a roadside sculpture weighing 70 tonnes to ‘epiphytic’ wall-works, to projected architectural video. I play with the idea of the cosmic and the cosmetic (from the Greek, kosmos, order) on psychological and physical levels.

My work exists in and between the second, third and fourth dimensions. It conceals and un-conceals its own order; it is simultaneously secure and insecure. What you get is not necessarily what you see. My videos are iterative; they unpack themselves according to their algorithms. They encode a world of transience, of emergent fleeting pattern operating at the edge of order and disorder.


Anarchy in the Organism Symposium
Wellcome Collection
London, UK


Anarchy in the Organism Symposium at the Wellcome Trust 

Date: Friday 15th June 2012, 2pm – 6pm

Location: Franks / Steel Room, Wellcome Collection Conference Centre, London

This symposium was a discussion of ideas, collaborations and interactions with patients, carers, researchers, clinicians that contributed to Simeon Nelson’s new installation in the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre.

Complexity theory underpins the thinking behind AITO. It is an integrative way of looking at disparate phenomena and seems to have a good deal of explanatory potential when confronting the possible meanings of cancer from a scientific, an ethical and existential perspective for patients, their loved-ones, carers, researchers and anyone interested in the wider implications of cancer. 


13.30 – 14.00   Arrival-coffee

14.00 – 14.20 – Live performance of AITO by composer Rob Godman and clarinettist Kate Romano

14.20 – 15.00 – Simeon Nelson – Introduction to the Speakers -Toward a Theodicy of Complexity

15.00 – 1520    Coffee break

15.20 – 15.50   Monia Brizzi  -Transience and Complexity in Anarchy in the Organism, Implications for Counselling Psychology

15.50 – 16.20   Gilly Angell  -Patient Perspectives on Cancer

16.20 – 16.50   Simon Walker-Samuel, – The Architecture of Tumour Blood Vessel Networks

16.50 – 17.20   Jorge Castillo-Sepúlveda – Complexity, Heterogeneity and Medicine

17.20 – 17.40   Coffee break

17.40 – 18.00   Plenary

18.00 – 18.30   Viewing of AITO installation at UCLH Cancer Centre, (5 min walk)

Chair: Damian Hebron, CEO of the London Arts and Health Forum



Simeon Nelson is a London based artist and professor of Sculpture at the University of Hertfordshire.

Monia Brizzi is a London based chartered counselling psychologist

Gilly Angell is a patient at the UCLH Cancer Centre

Simon Walker-Samuel, is Senior Research Associate, at UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging

Jorge Castillo-Sepúlveda is social researcher at the Group of Social Studies of Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona



Sculpture and Spirituality
St Benedicts Monastery
Arcadia, Australia


Ways of Knowing
University of Hertfordshire

Peer reviewed paper

Preface: Ways of Knowing: Art and Science’s Shared Imagination – Perspectives from the Sciences, Humanities and Creative Arts


Volume 5 of Writing Visual Culture, Ways of Knowing: Art and Science's Shared Imagination


The Selfless Artist
York, UK

Published paper

The Selfless Artist, A Personal Reflection on Expanded Engagement with the Other

The CHEAD Annual Conference 2012

York St John University


Full Paper


The Best of All Possible Worlds
Generation Next Festival
Frome, UK
Anarchy in the Organism, Critical Dialogue
University of Hertfordshire
Hatfield, UK


Simeon Nelson will discuss his Wellcome Trust funded residency and commission for the new Macmillan Cancer Centre in London. The funding is to enhance understandings of cancer among patients, doctors and the public. He is interested in the analogies between landscape, geography and anatomy. From a systems point of view, the body system can be conflated with a geographical system. Complexity theory is an inherently integrative way of looking at apparently disparate phenomena, from the stock market to social change, from cancer to population dynamics and epidemiology.

By generating the artwork through the visual patterns of complexity theory, cancer’s analogical aspects may be linked to social and cultural systems. Nelson is questioning isomorphisms between the growth patterns and interactions of cities, vegetation cover, animal populations etc and cancer. It is a primary aim of his artwork to draw out and test comparisons between these patterns.

Professor Simeon Nelson is a sculptor, new media and interdisciplinary artist interested in convergences between science, religion and art, complexity theory, visual languages, spatial aesthetics and relationships between art, architecture and the natural world.


Science, Art and Belief
St Oswald's


Friday 18th November, 2.30pm
St Oswald’s Church, Durham

LUMIERE presents a symposium exploring the way art and science can influence, or be reflected by, one’s beliefs.  Focusing on this year’s Lux Scientia strand, the discussion will be led by curator Mario Caeiro and the creators of the three Lux artists Simeon Nelson (UK), Dominik Lejman (Poland) and Leonardo Meigas (Estonia).  Other members of he panel include astrophysicist and Methodist minister Revd Professor David Wilkinson of Durham University and Monia Brizzi a Chartered counselling psychologist.

Toplogical Aesthetics
Swiss Embassy
London, UK


lecture: Toplogical Aesthetics

‘Spaces of Encounters’ Switzerland–UK

Cultural Policies Towards Economic and Social Urban Sustainability

Conference, 7 July 2011 Edited by Judith Ryser (Conference Chair) and Salome Meyer (Embassy of Switzerland)

Glaziers Hall Southwark London SE1 9DD


The Cartography of Cancer as a Complex System
Royal Geographical Society
London, UK


Invited paper: The Cartography of Cancer as a Complex System, Chairs Plenary, The Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference, London

The Cartographic Imagination -
panel discussion: Tom Harper (British Library), Rita Gardner (RGSIBG), Simeon Nelson (Artist) and Simon Read (University of Middlesex).





The Observer and The Observed
Durham University
Durham, UK


lecture, The Observer and The Observed, Lionel Blue Seminar Series, Durham University

Seminars in honour of Rabbi Dr Lionel Blue

Holgate Lecture Room, Grey College, Durham.

Keywords: relatedness, identification, monism, substrate, isomorphism, bifurcation, reconciliation

There is an experience of the visible thing as pre-existing my vision, but this experience is not a fusion, a coincidence: because my eyes which see, my hands which touch, can also be seen and touched, because, therefore in this sense they see and touch the visible, the tangible, from within (dans), because our flesh lines and even envelops all the visible and tangible things with which nevertheless it is surrounded, the world and I are within one another, and there is no anteriority of the percipere to the percipi, there is simultaneity or even retardation. (ibid., 123)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty

“Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study”
A N Whitehead The Function of Reason, Princeton 1929


Science, Art and Belief
Lumiere Festival (St Oswalds Church)
Durham, UK


A symposium exploring the way art and science can influence, or be reflected by, one’s beliefs. Focusing on this year’s Lux Scientia strand, the discussion will be led by curator Mario Caeiro and the creators of the three Lux artists Simeon Nelson (UK), Dominik Lejman (Poland) and Leonardo Meigas (Estonia). Other members of he panel include astrophysicist and Methodist minister Revd Professor David Wilkinson of Durham University and Monia Brizzi a Chartered counselling psychologist.


Toward a Cybernetic Ontology of Thingyness
Trondheim Institute of Electronic Art
Trondheim, Norway


paper: Toward a Cybernetic Ontology of Thinginess, Making Reality Really Real, Consciousness Reframed Conference 11, The
Planetary Collegium, Plymouth University, UK and the Trondheim Institute of Electronic Art, Norway

book chapter: Consciousness Reframed (11): Making Reality Really Real, TEKS Publishing, Aug 2010, ISBN 978-82-998211-2-4

Full Paper

Conference Website


Ways of Knowing Symposium
University of Hertfordshire
Hatfield, UK


Ways of Knowing: Science and Art’s Shared Imagination Perspectives from the Sciences, Humanities and Creative Arts

An interdisciplinary symposium at the University of Hertfordshire hosted by the Fine Art Practices Research Group, School of Creative Arts.

Convened and Initiated by Professor Simeon Nelson

Invited papers from external experts in the field of science and art

Friday 1 October 2010, 12.00 – 19.30 Weston Auditorium, de Havilland Campus University of Hertfordshire

University staff papers and art-science workshops

Saturday 2 October 2010, 09.30 – 17.40 Lindop Building, College Lane Campus University of Hertfordshire

• Presentations from art/science experts and practitioners • Art Science ‘speed dating sessions’ • A commission to be awarded to an art/science collaboration • Presentations by UH academics from Creative Arts, Humanities, Computer Science, Astronomy, Psychology and Philosophy

Imagination will carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere. Carl Sagan

I throw a spear into the dark — that is intuition. Then I have to send an expedition into the jungle to find the way of the spear — that is logic. Ingmar Bergman

Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. Arthur Eddington


Dedicated to Robert Priddey, 1975 – 2010





Published papers





Levitas-Gravitas: Where is Happiness?
University of Hertfordshire
Hatfield, UK


Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities Research Institute Happiness Symposium 
Desiring Machines, Computational, Ornamental and…
London, UK


paper: Desiring Machines, The Computational, the Ornamental and the Divine, Ex Machina, Exploring Digital Manufacture in Fine
Art, Craft and Design, Artquest at The Royal Insititute of British Architects, London

Conference website


Divining the Sky: Skyway Science and Art Symposium
Skyway Light Festival
Torun, Poland


IN TORUŃ, UNDER A SHARED SKY! SKYWAY ʻ09 INTERNATIONAL LIGHT FESTIVAL Report on Festival and Talks By Mário Caeiro and Simeon Nelson

Oh God is playing marbles / With his planets and his stars Creating havoc in my life / With his influence on Mars But now Iʼm stumbling down the highway / with my boots of steel I should be rolling down the skyway with my cosmic wheels DONOVAN


SKYWAY ʻ09 is a new International Light Festival, held in the Polish city of Toruń. The first edition took place last August, taking advantage of a natural phenomenon, the Perseid meteor shower, with art framing and being framed by this astronomical event. More than 30 000 enthousiastic visitors filled the streets, experiencing the town center in a way that shall be remembered for years to come. As Gazeta Wyborcza, the main reference newspaper put it, ʻfor that week, Toruń was like Florence or Seville, full of life!ʼ.

SKYWAY ʻ09 delivered to Toruń a set of illuminating, engaged and engaging art installations and interventions by artists from nine different countries. Between the 11th and the 16th August, Toruńʼs extraordinarily well preserved Gothic cityscape was the ideal backdrop for the experience of art works which managed to shed new light onto monuments and spaces. Sculptural presences, ephemeral architectural lighting, interactive devices, multidisciplinary collaborations and socially engaged artistic intersections, all the programme related to Light in different ways, leading people to understand how light is a fundamental tool in urban scenery, a crucial concept in science and a vital necessity for life.

In the framework of SKYWAY ʻ09, light was thus both an artistic language and a cultural value, adequately working as an operative metaphor to cherish not only the Sky above us, but also all that is, the whole Universe. Differently from what happens in many other European cities hosting light and urban art events, in Toruń, birthplace of Copernicus, the Skyʼs not just a scenery, but a really meaningful and challenging presence up there, magical and powerful. That explains the reaction of one visitor in the internet, commenting that finally we have an event that talks about the ʻspacenessʻ of Toruń.



Desiring Machines: Toward a Syncretic Metaphysics…
Escola Superior de Artes e Design
Caldas da Rainha, Portugal


“The reason why our sentient, percipient, and thinking ego is met nowhere within our scientific world picture can easily be indicated in seven words: because it is itself that world picture.”

Erwin Schrödinger


“Just as we cannot see our faces with our own eyes, is it not inconceivable to expect that we cannot mirror our complete mental structures in the symbols which carry them out?”

Douglas Hofstadter

I contextualise my approach within the interplay between nature and technology and the relationship between essential forms and structures of nature and how these are encoded in ethnographic and historical ornament. I reference the automation of the production of ornament and pattern in the industrial revolution and the automation of the creation of ornament and pattern in the current digital/informatics revolution.


My work elides computational and ornamental representations of organic form. It references scientific visualisations from complexity theory and artificial life. For example, the structural , topological qualities of a tree-form generated on a computer by an L-system algorithm are compared to the tree-forms found in nature and in different ornamental aesthetics from around the world. Do forms exist independently of their instantiations?


I work inter-dimensionally; the fourth dimension of time, of change, growth and decay is represented in the third dimension, the sculptural dimension of space. This dimension of space is in turn represented in the second dimension, the graphical dimension of area which in turn, in some of my work, imprints the first dimension of line. These nested hierarchies of higher and lower dimensions connect to the scalar nature of complexity theory, non-linear mathematics, ideas such as ‘order for free’ and Godel’s incompleteness theorem that states that a system cannot define itself without recourse to a higher level proof.


I use (very) simple algorithms and mathematics to generate ‘cybernetic sculptural systems’. When one runs an algorithm, even the simplest one, an iterative process occurs, the end result is non-linear, not determinable from the initial conditions. This is a low level cognitive process, analogous perhaps to the relationship between crystalline growth and organic growth. These sculptural systems are modular and can be configured in multiple ways to different spaces. For example, Cryptosphere consists of 23 sixty centimetre cubic modules that within a fixed Cartesian coordinate system can be combined in 3174 different ways. It becomes a sort of crystalline, space filling foam, occupying the negative space of the architecture.

In combining stylistic, ornamental, mathematical/geometric and scientific visual elements this work encodes a complex approach to time, to the present. What does it mean to be contemporary? As Agamben states it is necessary to be engaged with the past to be contemporary. To be immersed in the present, to be fashionable, is not contemporary because to be so is to be unable to perceive it. How does the past occupy the present? The relationship between secular time, the illusion of time passing in an orderly and linear sequence which allows us to structure our quotidian lives and the more complex kairotic time, mythic, special time, outside of linear time, connected to our past and to history, containing patterns that reverberate in the present moment from the distant past. These two time types are entangled within each other and in us in our eternal present (Schrodinger).


In another strand of practice, two types of computational representation, bitmap and vector-line, are used explicitly. Images of organic pattern and ornament, for example winter tree branches or a vegetal motif are reduced to very low resolution, pixellated into a crude bitmap so that most of their information has been lost. Other parts of the pattern are rendered in intricate detail via infinitely scaleable vector lines. This dichotomy opens questions of phenomenology,


Within the dichotomy between reductionism and holism, reductionism holds that complex phenomena including consciousness are nothing more than the sum of their parts; that in the words of physicist Stephen Weinberg “the explanatory arrows always point downward” – for example – love = neurological activity = electrochemical processes = chemistry = physics. All consciousness is reducible to particle physics. This mechanistic account is a useful explanatory tool but it does not account for the subjective experience of love.  Holism sees wholes – entities, agents and phenomena as auto-poetic, purposive and self-organising, not explicable from the sum of their parts. Science seems now to be in the midst of a shift from a reductionist to a post-reductionist paradigm.


The quote from Schrödinger states that knowledge is an artifact of human consciousness and is therefore ill-placed to account for that which created it. Some esoteric systems see our relationship to the divine or the godhead similarly.  I will discuss recent work that combines scientific and theological ideas concerning reductionism, holism and such questions as: how do we account for our existence and our awareness of our existence? Do properties of mind project beyond the individual; where is mind/consciousness located?

Art and Science in Flatland
Royal Geographical Society
London, UK

book chapter

Chapter in Cryptosphere by Dr Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge


Art and Science in Flatland


Material World
Sherman Galleries
Sydney, AU

Catalogue Essay

Catalogue essay accompnying the exhibition of these works entitled “Material World” at Sherman Galleries, Sydney, Australia 2001

Material World
If we fashion a thing, it is produced by nature and if nature produces a thing, it is fashioned by us.
Aristotle, Physics 2.8

Welcome to my Nightmare, This is Religion, Back in Black, Heart of Glass, Ummagumma ripping through the back of D’s van as we hurtle towards a favourite hangout spot in a local bushland valley. My prostrate form slides over the floor, eyes staring up at the vivid heat-hazed orchard with swirling Van Gogh sky.

Derelict Victorian gas works with cast-iron Corinthian columns, multicoloured power and communication cables ordered into perforated metal trays that follow the contours of the black brick sides of the railway cuttings, Morris floral motifs cast into the iron superstructures of Kings Cross and St Pancras, bramble and ivy-choked wastelands between railway marshalling yards.

The house we moved into had a bedroom that had been occupied by one of the previous family’s daughters. I remember the faintly perfumed ivory cupboards with vinyl Rococo-flowery drawer lining inside. The house was wallpapered with a powdery green leaf-pattern.

I have been gathering source material in the form of cuttings, leaves and bits of plants from gardens, vacant blocks and roadsides, vegetables from my weekly organic food delivery, circuit boards, fragments of wallpaper and linoleum, as well as other cast-off domestic items. I scan them into the computer at high resolution and tessellate them into repetitive patterns.
Big Charlie Bubblegum stickers encrusted the inside of my Globite fibreglass suitcase – bloodshot slavering and pustulated mutants crammed into hotrods with chrome extractors bulging from fat-wheeled bonnets. P, my school-buddy, went about fantasising he was blonde and tall so he could kick young Jews like himself with impunity and be liked.

Some of the imagery comes from the internet, lifted off web pages, grainy and distorted from too much compression. In Panspermia, this terrible signal to noise ratio gives a claustrophobic artifice to the final image, reinforcing the fact that it is only a collection of pixels. This ‘outer space’ is rendered flatter than the pinpricked vault of the ancient Egyptian cosmos.
‘The dinosaurs died out in late nineteenth-century America’ proclaims a creationist website based in Kansas. A link to a Flat Earth Society URL amplifies the sense of a universe glued together by pure belief. ‘If you did not see them [the dinosaurs] how do you know they were there?’ Infinite variations of these contemporary cosmologies are spread via the spiritual, i.e. virtual, non-physical medium of the internet. Some revert to a pre-modern almost Dantean moral geography; the entrance to the underworld is to be found near Jerusalem; the bones of the Saurians were laid down in the great flood.

Anatomical appropriations, vascular systems, brain tissue, prosciutto-thin cross-sections of the human body lifted from historical anatomical atlases, Vesalius, Gray and others, cut up and altered so as to be ambiguous as to their exact source. Skin flaps pulled open by forceps to reveal organs and tubing shifted out of the way, probing innermost cavities.

A tilted slab of old concrete rests at the base of a council flat beneath the constant drip of high-up heating tubes. From the slab grows a profusion of worts, mosses and tatty grass – a contained world sufficient for its own purposes. One of these days I might hire a truck and take it back to the studio.

Simeon Nelson, London 2002


Material World exhibition




‘Neuronature’, International Symposium on Electronic Art, catalogue, Art 2000, Paris, p. 80

A presentation on the ideas of the inseparability of nature and mind in my work .



The Prison of Vision
Lalit Kala Akademi
Delhi, India

Artist statement

Artist Statement for Land-Scope:The Machine in the Garden

“Then God said let us make Man in our image and then let them rule over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air,…over allthe earth, and over all the creatures that creepeth over the ground. God blessed them and said to them,be fruitful and increase in number;fill the earth and subdue it.”

Genesis 1,26,28


A rusted church/prison rises from a body of blue-green algae and weed infested water.

The Judeo-christian ethic with its explicit god given mandate to dominate the wild, to bend nature to mans’ culture is at a critical point. The world is no longer a vast wilderness sprinkled with fragile human settlement. The wild has been pushed into smaller and smaller pockets. The wild is now a garden that needs careful nurturing.

According to the Manichean tradition man was created in Gods image; a transcendant being removed from the vulgar mechanics of nature. Man was an angel fallen from the sky, not a humble beast risen from the earth. Sex was sinful, it became trapped in a rigid moral framework. Human nature is founded in this essential dialectic of culture/nature, the Appollonian and the Dionysian.

Nature has rebelled. The machine has poisoned the garden. Artificial nutrients upset the balance giving rise to monstrous monocultures. Populations of organisms explode, invading others niches.

The music of Lucifer in the Christian creation myth is echoed in the discord of mutated organisms severed from their subtle programming. Mans hubris has created an edifice that strives for the sky yet is imprisoned by the poisoned wastelands that spread at its feet.

Simeon Nelson 1993


Artist Statement for World Between

Out of a circular shallow pool, deep green in colour and clogged with gum leaves and jewel like specks of plastic rises  a vertical square module ,2.5,2.5 m supported on a spindly steel A frame. like an advertising billboard or the scoreboard from a deserted suburban sports ground. Within this module compartments of decreasing size and increasing number radiate from a central blank square, a branching tree is vivisected, then forced into this artificial period doubling structure, parallels nature and culture along side each other, period doubling of nature, ie a branching tree is vivisected, then forced into artificial period doubling structure, the vertical mandala in the pool, like cross section of plant stem under microscope, self similarity at different scales, unit of structure or organisation, Koestler, Holon, Holarchy. I am fascinated by the differing topologies at the nano and the macro scale, the transient vibratory dance of atoms on thier lattices and the complex space-time warps around black holes or the interactions between galactic clusters. The fuzzy edge of witer trees against the sky or the 60000 kms of blood vessels in body or the 5 hectares of surface area of the alveoli in the lungs. The most fundamental units of nature are not substances but events.

These images of the behaviour of matter are for me metaphors for the social and political dimensions of human behaviour. They echo the current state of global politics and society which has been described in terms of decentralised, fragmented, distributed power structures. The notion of truth, one that was perhaps simpler and more universal in more centralised societies has splintered into a kaliedescope of versions. TheEucalypt Mandala branches into finer and finer  forks, each fork and box being half the size of the preceding fork  and box so that at the outer edges there is a very fuzzy boundary between the space around it and the thing itself , refutation of a polarity between absolute space and solid matter,My body, which I perceive as substance, is in fact an organisation of infinitely complex, overlapping , imbricated structures, radiant light their manifestation, the ‘body’ a tall column of light and blood-heat, a temporary agreement among atoms, a nas lecturer complained that I had 2 bob each way with this piece, he was absolutely right but what he saw as a problem I see as the essential characteristic of my work, an ambiguity, an endless internal dialogue about my own relationship to nature and culture.

I do not make claims for the authenticity or realness of my experience of nature, it is too mingled with my cultural attitudes. Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. it is in our brain that she quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing….At present people see fogs, not because there are fogs, but because poets and painters have taught them  the mysterious loveliness of such effects. There may have been fogs for centuries in London, I dare say there were. But no one saw them. They did not exist until art had invented them…Yesterday evening Mrs Arundel insisted on me going to the window and looking at the glorious sky, as she called it. And so I had to look at it… And what was it? It was simply a second rate Turner, a Turner of a bad period, with all the painters worst faults exaggerated and over-emphasised.  I do make claims for the possibility to see patterns emerging from observations of the world that have a huge aesthetic power and emotional effect. These branchings, symmetries and numerical constants resonate throughout nature and are codified and categorised by  scientists and used by artists in an ongoing attempt to make sense of the world.

Simeon Nelson, 1997