[NetBehaviour] a new Microcode: Vito Acconci's 'Seedbed'

Pall Thayer pallthay at gmail.com
Sun Jul 5 23:36:49 CEST 2009

I think I have to bring things back down to the ground now. After
taking a bit of a break in the country in glorious weather, I see that
this discussion is really going far beyond the work that's being
discussed. Obviously, none of the microcodes that reference other work
(and keep in mind that there only 3 or 4 out 20-some codes that do
this) are meant to be accurate reproductions of those works. Actually,
as reproductions they are meant to fail and in doing so they become
new works of art. "Seedbed" attempts to reference the original
performance with the words "touch myself" and by using the same title.
But the way these words are applied within the code gives them a very
different meaning as code. They also produce a result and it's a
result that has absolutely nothing to do with the non-code meaning of
the works. So these arguments about whether or not the code version
references the original "Seedbed" accurately enough, are entirely
beside the point.

The reason some of the Microcodes reference older work is to highlight
the differences between the media. To show that while code as a medium
is incapable of reproducing other work created in different media, it
is also a distinct medium of its own that is capable of doing things
that other media can't.

Your suggestion of "an absolute minimum" wouldn't work as a Microcode
because, as I mentioned earlier, I set a rule for myself, that all of
the codes be runnable. Since, as Alan points out in his post,
"Seedbed" doesn't run as a Unix command, this code wouldn't really be

As mentioned above, the idea is simply to bring the original
performance to mind. No more. Because the medium being used is
incapable of doing more. It's entirely incapable of "bringing it to
life, enacting it, redoing it, reperforming it". At the very most, it
can "suggest it".

best r.

On Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 10:16 PM, <lotu5 at resist.ca> wrote:
> At the risk of stating the obvious, perhaps the problem here is that there
> is no one essence of this performance, or any performance for that matter.
> While you do say "a single 'essence'", and not "the", to me a major part
> of the very idea of performance is to create something which is in excess
> of language and representation, something which the techne of words or
> photo or video don't capture, much less a few lines of code. While I think
> the notion of translating a performance into code is interesting, perhaps
> what this discussion precisely raises is that there are a multiplicity of
> essences, dirtiness, fantasy, masturbation, soreness, mystery, discomfort,
> the body, the absence of the body... Your microcodes seem to be a sort of
> review or remix of another work, based on your personal interpretation. In
> fact, I think that the reduction of the body to a set of files in your
> home directory is in itself an abjection and a sadness, a departure from
> all the rich, sensual complexity of the body and a reduction to a few
> digital bytes. Perhaps the sadness of the digital is expressed very well
> here.
>>> Pall Thayer wrote:I guess by "the essence" of the work, I'm
>>> considering the absolute minimum that it takes to bring to mind
>>> "Seedbed" when looking at the code.
> Hmm, but here is sounds like you're talking about a simlpe representation,
> and I think being very reductive! Wouldn't the absolute minimum be
> something like
> #!/usr/bin/perl
> $p = `seedbed`;
> ? When in fact, the interesting part is to go beyond simply bringing the
> performance to mind, but as the furtherfield review writes, to bring it to
> life, to enact it, to redo it, to reperform it, in the form of an actual
> running program?
>>>>>>> On 2/7/2009, "Alan Sondheim" <sondheim at panix.com> wrote:
>>>>>>>> Hi Paul,
>>>>>>>> The essence it seemed to me wasn't self-referentiality or touch
>>>>>>>> (good
>>>>>>>> unix
>>>>>>>> command too), so much as it was about targeting the ab/use/er, as
>>>>>>>> well
>>>>>>>> as
>>>>>>>> dirtiness. And code's always clean; even dirty code's clean, so
>>>>>>>> there's
>>>>>>>> On Thu, 2 Jul 2009, Pall Thayer wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Hi Alan,
>>>>>>>>> One of the primary reasons that I've "redone" a number of known
>>>>>>>>> pieces
>>>>>>>>> by other artists in these Microcodes is more to point out the
>>>>>>>>> difference between code as a medium and other media. So the point
>>>>>>>>> isn't necessarily to emulate the work as closely as possible but
>>>>>>>>> rather to capture a single "essence" of it in very compact code. I
>>>>>>>>> think that trying to work the incline and fantasies into this
>>>>>>>>> "version" of the work would result in considerably more code which
>>>>>>>>> would in turn make the work overly complex.
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Pall Thayer

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