‘Our positions are complementary, not in conflict!’ – Recognizing complementarity offers an attractive model for the coexistence of different knowledges, systems, and cultures. However, different positions rarely simply add up like pieces in a puzzle to provide a full, harmonizing picture. The pieces usually seem to be too large and it requires violence to make them fit – for instance, by constructing others as a complement that provides just what one misses – or to make them compatible where they overlap. Instead of being visualizable in terms of a jigsaw puzzle, the principle of complementarity such as it was introduced by Niels Bohr in order to address the apparent particle-wave duality in quantum physics remains puzzling. It allows for the possibility that different perspectives not only constitute objects differently, but also constitute different objects. While there may be no perspective from which the different objects can be seen together, considering them nonetheless as equally necessary for a fuller account stimulates a radical rethinking that unsettle traditional oppositions of identity and difference, subject and object, epistemology and ontology.
Conceived within the framework of the ICI Core Project Tension/ Spannung, the lecture series accompanies the ICI Focus Complementarity and explores the critical potential of complementarity in the Sciences, the Arts, and Politics.