Transmission in Motion


“Function of Exploration” – Aishwarya Kumar

In his 2012 TedEd talk, marine biologist David Gallo illustrates the idea of exploration by stating that we, as humans have ‘explored’ only 5% of what is in the oceans. By exploration, he means to “go peek and see what’s there” and uncover, reveal, bring to the front, what was invisible or unknown[1] and that, there are many more discoveries to be made to even begin to gather a semblance of the oceanic worlds. Gallo goes on to suggest that researchers tend to revisit the sites, repeatedly, for years, just to be able to scaffold on a single phenomenon or object. Sometimes, they explore without knowing exactly what is this unknown they would reveal. Even so, explorers could return empty-handed, find other species, discover errors in their previous observations, reach a new site, have an incomplete trip etc. Each visit brings to light something startling, something ‘revolutionary’, something that can only be a result of differing causalities.

This is where I see a bridge between Gallo’s understanding of the function of exploration in scientific research and Tuckwell’s expansion of the function of Art. He posits that the function of art is operable through processes of ‘repetition’ and ‘creative transformation’, of a “dual workflow where processes of production or making must be distinguished from processes of creating” (Tuckwell, 129). This cannot be reduced to the general idea of poiesis, which does not consider the counterflow, through which the process of becoming, is affected by the participation of efficient causes (Tuckwell, 129). That is to say that poiesis, isn’t linear or affected by singular intentionality or causality, it is unpredictable, subject to intentional making and deviations, which exemplify the constant recursive flows that affect the physis it reveals. This could be borrowed to understand Gallo’s exploratory process, which I believe embodies a similar function that operates on ‘repetition’ (revisiting sites and species) and ‘creative transformation’ (affects of ‘efficient causes’ such as technology, the oceanic landscape, and human subjectivity to name a few). This affects the physis of the ocean it intends to bring into being.

In Tuckwell’s words, “art belongs to a rival process that works to systematically and intentionally deviate productive poiesis” (Tuckwell, 132) and I believe so does exploration. By constantly lending itself to both the productive poiesis and the deviations that effects what it reveals, it constitutes the same functions that Tuckwell attributes to the ‘Art’. It is through the very operable recursive flows[2] in the function of exploration that new findings are possible. To allow exploration then, an exploratory function cannot be an ontological one, but one that affords being affected by efficient causes.


[1] In his TedEd talk, Gallo refers to what it really means ‘to explore’ and how that, even though the process is always planned and what they find is more often than not left to chance, he also elaborates that with each visit they return with something the previous visits didn’t offer, that partly substantiates but partly offers something entirely new. (Watch:

[2] “In the early encounter with the function, its heterogeneous character was emphasized. It was argued that functions are composed of an irreducible and inseparable mixture of properties, repetition and creative transformation; both properties must be present in order for functions to operate. Repetition is necessary for the process of iteration; it drives the computation across an ordinal direction, both animating and ordering the functional dynamic. To this ‘mechanical’ property must be added the ‘dynamic’ property of creative transformation; all of our knowledge of the function appears into being through the series of transformative effects, through which one series becomes transformed into another. These properties are irreducible and inseparably mixed in the function. That is to say, it is impossible to deal with one of these properties of the function without potentially invoking the other.” (Tuckwell, 134)


  • Tuckwell, Jason. Creation and the Function of Art: Technē, Poiesis and the Problem of Aesthetics. London. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018.
  • Tuckwell, Jason. “Agency and techné in Creative Practice.” Lecture, Transmission in Motion Utrecht University, Utrecht, November 13, 2019.
  • Gallo, David. “Deep ocean mysteries and wonders“ Filmed March 2012 at TedEd, USA. Video, 8:27.