augmented & reconfigured
by John Cayley   published by Counterpath Press  Spring 2023  ISBN 9781933996806
afterword by Garrett Stewart [ Programmatology ]


Images is part of a long standing engagement with a piece by Samuel Beckett that was incorporated into his last longer prose work, How It Is.

‘one image tongue’ is a zero-count stitching of the entire text of ‘The Image.’ It is a hybrid performance-targeted version of the text assembled from two iterations of the generative code. In 2011 the piece was performed by Ian Hatcher and John Cayley and filmed by Peter Bussigel.

‘“The Image” in Common Tongues’ is a loose-linked micro-collage that also contains the same text – that is, all of its successive common phrases (not always the longest) – found, by manual internet search, within fragments of language that were not composed by Beckett. They were not, for that matter, composed by the author, although the author did do the hand stitching. There is more information on this process in articles for The Electronic Book Review and Amodern.

‘“l’Image” in How It Is augments this edition of Image Generation and it could also be read as a reconfiguration of the two manifestations of Beckett’s last novel and its published antecedents, in both French and English. If we think of the words and/or constituent ‘grams’ of Beckett’s work, in either French or English, as the ‘figures’ of certain levels (or pseudolevels) of linguistic structure, then this piece both configures and then reconfigures them.

‘“l’Image” in How It Is’ is part of what will be a larger project I am calling Comment’tis in so far as it is addressed to Beckett’s novel and its French original Comment c’est. In the printed version of the augmented Image Generation only one outcome from the project is presented. On this page under Dynamic • Ambient • Transactive • Time-based you will find a transactive version of the piece (opens is a separate tab or window) along with a number of other outcomes. The underlying paragrammic algorithms will also be applied to other supply texts, including a couple in the current book.

I surmised at some point during 2022 – when the possibility of a new edition of Image Generation was in the air – that I should be able to write an algorithm will would take all the words of Comment c’est – call it the ‘guest’ – and find them or their constituent letter sequences in How It Is – the ‘host’ – and vice versa. What you read in the printed version of ‘“l’Image” in How It Is’ is a somewhat more legible proof of this potential, augmented with my own non-algorithmic (but digitally-assisted) ‘writing into’ what is produced by the algorithm.

Rather than applying the algorithm to all of Comment c’est, I take a portion, twenty-two paragraphs, of the novel’s first part – separately published by Beckett as ‘l’Image’ – and use this as the ‘guest.’ I then find all of its constituent letter sequences within the entirety of How It Is.

Thus, when you turn to the beginning of the book’s printed outcome, you are reading words from How It Is that contain all of what I call ‘grams’ (or pseudograms) of the French in ‘l’Image’. The letters of the French are set in bold. You can pick out and then read the French, if you have necessary inclination and patience. They are paragrams with respect to their (phonogrammic) hosts and the hospitable text that contains them.

There are a lot of peripheral complications and no little complexity here, along with a set of parameters some of which become important for later, related work. For the moment, suffice it to say that in this rendition, what I call the ‘definition’ of a particular French word is stable throughout the generated, hospitable text. ‘la’ will always be hosted by the word ‘last’ for example. This is the first possible host that the algorithmic reader comes across that contains the ‘la’ sequence, starting from How It Is paragraph 150.

The algorithm seeks hosts for all of the guests, trying, in succession, to find host (English) words that: (a) match the French word exactly, (b) contain all of it, (c) contain syllables of the French word, or finally, if all else fails, (d) contain longest-possible sequences of letters from the French.