[NetBehaviour] Code Is Not Literature

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Tue Jan 28 06:02:39 CET 2014

First, thanks for the exchange!

On Mon, 27 Jan 2014, Rob Myers wrote:

> On 26/01/14 06:05 PM, Alan Sondheim wrote:
>> On Sun, 26 Jan 2014, Rob Myers wrote:
>> Not that different; again I think it's an issue of "families of usages"
>> re: Wittgenstein, reception theory, and so forth. For a while, Ukiyo-e
>> was used as wrapping paper in Japan; manuscripts are found in the spines
>> of 19th-century and earlier books. Audiences - for Mez, my work, leet,
>> Joyce, etc. etc. are complex and variable; Pound needs decoding
>> (deliberately so), as does Chaucer (vagaries of changing language).
>> Skaldic kennings are perhaps the densest linguistic form, and so forth.
> Certainly even objects manufactured as art may not be recognised as art
> in different contexts and may be later recovered. Ukiyo-e's import and
> impact as wrapping paper is interesting IMO because it was recovered.
> This recoverability interests me. I like Art & Language's comment about
> the "impertinence" of objects that *look* like art.
I have the feeling that A&L _believed_ in _art_ as a category and I think 
that the term/domain is increasingly problematic. Aesthetic feeling 
doesn't necessarily imply 'art' and art, I think, has moved from a 
discursive formation, in many ways, to a system of competitive corporate 
structures. Even so, there's no longer an 'art world' - if there ever was 
- but 'art worlds' - the family of usages again. So to reify art as a 
category seems either a bit senseless, or bound to particular notions of 
art history.

> I'd love to create a computer simulation of a world in which it was
> possible to move a Urinal from the non-art to art contexts and back
> again to see how its inhabitants react, but that's both science fiction
> and probably slightly cruel. :-)

See above - art/non-art aren't in opposition - only if you insist on a 
formal (wester) (urban) (etc.) art-history of a particular sort. One of 
the great things happening now is that, other than the blue-chip gallery 
enclave, everything is much more open, and we might actually get to the 
point where aesthetic feeling doesn't need to be quite so institutional- 

> An aesthetic sense or instinct or imperative, then?
It fascinates me that the idea of aesthetic sense has been applied - or 
discovered - across organisms, at least fauna; it's been noted that some 
insects respond strongly to symmetric mates, and you find aesthetics 
playing a large role among birds and mammals for example. We humans just 
have a hard time looking -

>>> I've just read "Color, Facture, Art And Design" (highly recommended)
>>> which is largely a history of grounds and pigments and how they relate
>>> to the social content of painting. This kind of technical-conceptual
>>> integration, is what I am arguing for in this discussion.
>> Again, it depends on audience; the integration may or may not be
>> necessary; certainly, for example, among Chinese classical painters,
>> there were wide variations in their and others' writings in relation to
>> the work - there's no one way at all.
> There is inertia and overlap though.
Yes -

> If we step back to a realm where there is no art and only audience
> capabilities applied to various objects, then those capabilities become
> the proper subjects of the study of art history or theory.
I'd argue for a different way of thinking; art history, including A at L etc. 
always seemed over-determined. One thing comes to mind - Bourieu's book 
Distinction, which deals well with plurality in this regard. -

> Despite having read a lot of history of art recently that all but
> dissolves the concept in its sociohistorical determinants like a tooth
> in cola I'm still interested in A&L's "impertinent" objects.

> I do like the idea of code given on request. I've only ever written
> occasional code once, and I erased it after using its output.
- This is maybe an important point; I'm not a programmer but a poor 
kludger. On the other hand I've found coders incredibly generous and love 
the idea of collaboration, which at least among institutions I know such 
as Eyebeam or here in Providence, AS220, is becoming more and more 

> I enjoy rewriting systems in different languages. It's a kind of
> platonism, I guess. :-)
At my poor level, I've enjoyed varieties of the "Hello World" type in 
different languages - but then I'm also interested in natural languages 
the same way.

> I'm currently tracking down old interactive multimedia CD-ROMs to run in
> my Mac emulator, and I have Anderson's "Puppet Motel" on the list...
>> k1% date
>> Sun Jan 26 21:04:19 EST 2014
>> - look at that! Just typing "date" connects us to the universe in a way
>> absolutely inconceivable before digital media and code came along. (I
>> know the roots are far messier than this; this is just my own sense of
>> wonder.)
> I do love that. And a sense of wonder is a big part of what it's all
> about, for me.
> Our networked computer systems synch their time over the network to
> timeservers that synch to atomic clocks, and the concept of time then
> gets a bit strange.
But as 'much universal as possible' - and think how amazing that is!

> I keep trying to find the source for an old John Carmack quote in which
> he describes having the epiphany that "time is just another event" in a
> computer game.
Of course it took time to say that - Writing, the thief of time...

- Alan

> - Rob.

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