Arbitrary Hypotheses

Installative documentation of experiments

November 2013

Ovalhalle, MuseumsQuartier, Vienna
Group exhibition with Stefanie Koemeda, Sebastian Kienzl, and Joan Carles Balleste


The installation presents artifacts from the experiments conducted in an attempt to falsify three different hypotheses. The experiments on display do not adhere to a specific scientific discipline and were carried out in the spirit of amateurs. The authors of the experiments strive to present a thorough documentation of the different steps that were undertaken. The visitor has to decide whether he or she follows the experimenters’ judgement concerning the hypotheses and their validity. For this purpose, lengthy videos of mealworms being encouraged to find their way on a chessboard are shown, as well as recordings of the sound of pouring water at various temperatures.

The hypotheses are intentionally designed in an arbitrary fashion and by semi-random methods. By doing so, they should be less biased by a mindset driven by questions regarding “function”, “usefulness”, or “practical application”.

The ways in which the hypotheses currently appear here provide very specific insights into topics that are probably not considered as essential by traditional experimental culture or common intuition. Their design aims at showing what a reality is not like, rather than showing what it is like. They match the description of a “crucial experiment” in as much as their failure may help to overcome the respective underlying theory.

This approach is a nod to Karl Popper’s concern that it is logically unjustifiable to come to a certain conclusion by means of inductive reasoning. That is, to extrapolate from isolated events to a general pattern. Instead, Popper proposes an alternative course of action: formulate any hypothesis and then try to falsify it by finding a contradictory example. Accordingly, a hypothesis can be unequivocally falsified and assigned to the realm of the “non-real”. Every hypothesis that is not thoroughly disproved, however, is still part of the “potentially-real” where it remains until it is falsified. The “real” thus becomes a collection of possibilities and not a deceptive certainty that has proven to be fallacious many times over.