SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London


18 April - 17 June 2005

PARADOXES the exhibition explores through text various paradoxes some of which are brief, some quite long, and others relatively (but usually deceivingly) simple yet complex.

A paradox is an apparently true statement that appears to lead to a contradiction or to a situation that defies intuition. For example, take the well-known Epimenides' Paradox.

Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal statement: "All Cretans are liars."

If his statement is true, it would imply that a Cretan has truthfully asserted that no Cretan has ever spoken a word of truth. Then, however, this very truth would defy his statement and render it false. Epimenides, as a Cretan must be lying, as all Cretans are liars. Epimenides has thus arrived at a logical contradiction, or a paradox. Paradoxes often require a moment's consideration to detect underlying contradictions. They often surround concepts of self-reference, infinity, circular definitions, and confusing reasoning. The recognition of ambiguities, equivocations, and unstated assumptions underlying known paradoxes has led to significant advances in science, philosophy and mathematics. Paradoxes which are not based on a hidden error generally happen at the fringes of context or language, exposing the limitations of assumed language and reason.

Paradoxes are an illustration of the nature of reality evincing that whilst we live in a time when things appear increasingly explainable, logical, and rational - therein lay flaws and anomalies. Though these need not bring down our culturally constructed system, they do cast an uncertain light on our perceived reality.

It seems the more we understand, the less we can ever really know.

Curated by: Julian C. Fisher, MacKenzie Moon and Phelecia M. Barnett