What About NOT
A Tertúlia Fenomenológica
This is a piece of experimental multi-perspectival writing in which four different personae adopt different methods and intellectual relationships to writing as a means of research, by using the topics of fiction, counterfactual history and not-being. The narrative line is provided by a novelist who retells Saramago’s The History of the Siege of Lisbon. In Saramago’s novel a wayward proof-reader mischievously adds the word “not” to the historical account, creating a fictional, counterfactual history. This “bringing into being” of a fiction – of what didn’t actually happen – sets in train a series of perspectives or thought experiments by the four personae of the present text on the nature of “not-being”. They deploy methods from fictional writing and phenomenological practice informed by Saramago and Sartre, and phenomenological theory informed by Husserl and Meinong, thereby investigating the topic from four different perspectives. As a result, it is proposed that the legitimacy gap suffered by fiction-as-research may be bridged by so-called Meinongian objects, and the problem of whether such inexistent objects are facts, is less important than deciding whether they are useful. The conclusion is that artistic research methods offer techniques and a space to discuss the agency of not-being, of what-if, and of omission, through the legitimate deployment of fiction and falsehoods; and the benefits of so doing outweigh the existential discomfort that such ideas usually induce in researchers.