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

Pall Thayer pallthay at gmail.com
Mon Jul 6 02:03:42 CEST 2009

Well, actually the perl code:

$p = `Seedbed`;

would run without error. $p would contain the "not found" error. But I
don't feel that it does much in pointing out the significance of the
medium in this particular case. Perhaps if the work was about
something lost or nonexistent, it would work but not for the "Seedbed"
piece. The title of each of these Microcodes is as much a part of the
complete work as anything else. The direct reference by name has
already been made in the title and therefore I don't see any
meaningful reason to reference it again in this way. Someone might
say, "But you did it in 'Sleep'." However, I don't see that as the
same thing because 'sleep' is an actual Perl function.

If you want to attempt a phenomenological examination of the reference
itself, let me explain exactly what led to the creation of this
Microcode. I was doing some work the other day where I had to use the
"touch" command legitimately. This reminded me of James Morris'
"Microcrudities" where he used the command along with the variable
"myself". This reminded me of my code piece "exist.pl" from last year
where a perl code referenced itself in various human ways, i.e.
my_existence, my_experience, my_environment, etc. When I thought of a
Perl script referencing itself as the location of the actual file and
then 'touching' that file, it reminded me of "Seedbed". And so I
created the script that locates 'itself', that is, the file containing
the runnable code and then 'touches' the file. I decided to print the
long listing of the file each time to show the effects of 'touching'
the file (the creation date is updated each time) as a hint that this
sort of 'touching' is very different than Acconci's 'touching'. Of
course, more people are going to understand the referenced meaning
than the real meaning. But does that make it any less valid? Now that
I think about it, the work isn't about Acconci's "Seedbed" at all.
It's much more about the intended and almost inevitable

best r.

On Sun, Jul 5, 2009 at 11:08 PM, Alan Sondheim<sondheim at panix.com> wrote:
> I agree with you here, and as usual a couple of points.
> If k:> Seedbed
> doesn't run, can it be said to run as not-run? This isn't trivial; Max
> Black discussed it in terms of defining blackbirds as not-this, not-that;
> obviously the list is infinite. Certainly 'Seedbed' as a command tells us
> something - that the only thing it will run is the generic not-found - but
> that's something.
> I do understand the non-issue of reproduction of other work in micro-code,
> and as you say, Seedbed is referenced; what I was on about, was what sort
> of reference? There's a whole phenomenology here of course, which might or
> might not be of interest.
> - Alan, and thanks
> On Sun, 5 Jul 2009, Pall Thayer wrote:
>> 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
>> runnable.
>> 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.
>> Pall
>> 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
>> artist
>> http://www.this.is/pallit
>> *****************************
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Pall Thayer

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