rr03 posted 12 February 2004

I was immediately struck by your linking of interference to artistic mediation and by the illustrative example of the artistic palette now composed of pixels rather than pigments, an example that resonates with my own interest in digital practice and performance, and the extent to which a difference in degree (a greater manipulability) might be said to constitute a difference in kind. I was also struck by your discussion of transparency and opacity with regard to artistic practices that combine different linguistic media. Your embedded critique of the codework practice of mez – that it unites natural language and programming language within a singular transcendental signifying system and thereby erases the symbolic distinctions between the language sets – suggests an interesting correlation between your work and the current discourse on translation and translingualism. This is to echo one of my earlier posts, but in both we can find a rigorous critique of the fallacy of a universal and transparent language. In both, too, we can find an insistence on opacity and a certain incommensurability, which would mean that we must necessarily invoke the paradigm of translation in order to think about the relations between natural language and digital code. I agree as well with the notion that overcoming the resistance of one’s medium (bringing the technological apparatus into some kind of order and shifting away from a modernist emphasis on accident) does not need to produce a narrative of artistic mastery. Indeed, not wanting to turn one’s perl poem into a ‘fork bomb’ does not have to be understood as a re-assertion of the mythology of authorial agency and dominant and authoritative genius.

rr03.2 posted 15 February 2004

“we are only beginning to understand a performance of writing that undertakes, once more, the cultivation of human time”

I would like, though, to shift away from the rhetoric of interference and address the key theme of jc01, which is time. Specifically I would like to bring into relation the two different modalities of time that you discuss: technological history and the temporality of writing practices. The first – the discussion of technological evolution, outmoding, and extinction – shifts our discussion of interference further into the realm of capital and production. On this note, we could recall the anguish of Mark Bernstein and others in light of Katherine Hayles’s discussion of obsolescence at the Electronic Literature Organization "State of the Arts" symposium in April 2002. But the more interesting idea here is that not only the system, but also its content, is locked into a certain technological state. The work of the critic and of the artist, then, with Beige Records’s reprogramming of Super Mario Brothers as an illustrative example, is the recovery of media from technological obsolescence and the recovery of the temporality embedded in a particular programmed product, the history encoded in the machine. Historicity, then, is asserted over and against the fantasy of universal data implementation. In your post, the second modality of time happens in the moment of composition. Not only do we need to understand the limits of the digital text to be durational rather than physical, but, you suggest, we must come to understand the temporal structures of digital writing itself.

If these two aspects of time can be mapped, albeit somewhat roughly, onto past and present, in what terms might we situate the future? I would like, then, to introduce a futurist element, not in the sense of science fiction, but with theories of complexity and emergence as the primary frame of reference. Might we then speak of yet another modality of time and speak of the unexpected: the opening of system, media, and work to a non-predictable future? Perhaps in this sense I am returning to the developing rhetoric of digital art, which should (and does) I think attend not only to programmability but also to non-programmability. The digital text depends on the program, of course, but there are ways in which the program should be open and not simply fixed. Rather than the ubiquitous Flash or QuickTime continual replay loop, I am thinking of loops that do not repeat themselves but change the system with each return, such that system and environment modify each other.