[NetBehaviour] my 'innovations'

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Tue Jul 23 00:30:28 CEST 2019

my 'innovations'

http://www.alansondheim.org/NYUmisc1-16.jpg (1971)


(apologies for the length)

most of my work disappears, dissolves, is forgotten, is lost; i've
been thinking about a list of what i've done, accomplished, for
better or worse, over a career for more than a half-century of
exploration into language, philosophy, the problematics of
materiality and the virtual, the ideology of reality as inert, the
somatics of the body and its interiority as well as its embedding
in the world, etc. so here are descriptions of some pieces,
technologies, etc., created over the years. i just don't want all
of this to be lost, although it surely is, this is memory, there's
evidence of almost everything in the archives, traces -

i think of these as 'innovations,' 'explorations,' 'extensions,'
structures i hadn't come across before - not to insist on any sort
of originality, but for a kind of development that i wanted, with
as little repetition as possible -


in around 1968-9, a friend and I built an analog synthesizer from
scratch with 'loose' oscillators that could be locked onto their
harmonics with the proper voltages.

my m.a. graduate thesis at brown university, An,ode, published by
burning deck press, was the first creative poetry thesis awarded a
higher degree at brown - it was entirely experimental, the text
between analog and digital thinking at the time.

four-dimensional hypercubes and other shapes made from string, the
forms collapsed on the floor so the connections are there, but not
the image, a kind of inversion of conceptualism - making pathways
among such forms in a series of drawings - the drawings were
'code-drawings' whose forms were based on geometric paths. the
show at the bykert gallery was reviewed in artforum at the time.

from the start of 1994 until now, i've written the 'internet
text,' a 'continuous meditation on cyberspace' on a daily basis,
putting the work online daily as well - it's a discipline that
allows me to explore long-form topics such as virtuality, the
phenomenology of the analog and the digital, etc. - the texts are
most often linked to other media as well - i'm not sure this is
'art', in any case it's an extension of my previous daily practice
of writing and other media that resulted in a series of artist
books, films, videos, photographic series, audio works, and so
forth - i never thought in terms of 'pieces,' but of continuous
explorations, which is still the case.

in 1971, using a vector graphics program by charles strauss, i
created a video, '4320' with anaccompanying essay - the piece
consisted of participants learning to navigate 4-dimensional space
through the projection of a vector-graphics hypercube, an early
joystick and keyboard - participants 'drove' the hypercube down
from 4 to 0 dimensions, collapsing the form by turning it
perpendicular (4-3-2), then shrinking to 0.

at West Virginia University in the mid-2000s, through Gary Manes,
we rewrote the software of an early motion-capture system, to add
an interface directly to the mathematics of the filter mapping,
which allowed us to create 'dynamic' or 'behavioral' filters
modifying the input on the fly, creating otherwise inconceivable
actions, stills, and videos, based directly on the cabled

around the same time at west virginia university, using the linux
access grid multi-camera multi-microphone conferencing system on
internet 2, i created a number of audio and video pieces, bouncing
a signal around the planet through a number of predetermined nodes
- i was able to create feedback loops with delays, depending on
the internet 'weather' - azure, for example, would move in front
of a screen - the signal would travel through queensland,
australia and return - the image would be projected on the same
screen with delays after circling the globe, for perhaps dozens of
times, and i did the same with audio signals, playing against
myself as the signal echoed back to west virginia.

somewhere early on, i came up with the name and concept of
'codework' which has since been used in all sorts of systems, far
from the original conception i had for the term - i still work on
its phenomenology.

in the past few years, i recorded two 'concept cd albums - one of
which, through supercollider and the programming of luke damrosch,
attempt time reversal with sound in real time, an obvious
possibility which nonetheless led to a unique number of pieces and
speculations - the other album is based on very high speed
instrument playing, including 'overhand/underhand' techniques for
acoustic and electric guitar - the speed designed to create new
patterns of intuitive thinking to keep up with the pace and create
new modes of listening as well.

around the mid-70s, a number of pieces, including programming a
ti-59 pocket calculator to create a poem generator in only 1k of
memory for everything, these also included working with the limits
of printouts near sin(tan) forms, where tan goes to infinity.

around the same time, using a mini-computer, i wrote several
programs in ucsd pascal, including a text editor which
aggressively modified the input of whatever the user would type,
creating alternative messages, scenarios, and a politics of
despair and escape - also a program that placed text directly on a
monitor screen coupled with a draw program that interpreted the
ongoing text as graphics which eventually completely covered the
text being written.

recording intercourse from within and without, creating a sonic
envelope with the results - recording a cricket in the middle of a
loft, using feedback to make an 'unbalanced' sound environment
with the insect at the center (no animals injured or kept in any
of my work).

in 1971 or so, created and registered a corporation called 'Meta'
designed to use conceptual art-making and other related practices,
to create new ways of doing philosophy, futurology research and so

around the same time i taught a course at rhode island school of
design called 'the year 3000' - based actually on the year 2000
- designed to examine the future of the planet using a variety of
sources, and i've continued talking about these issues whenever i
have the chance - in any case what we discussed in the class has
all come true, and right on schedule for that matter, a source of
great anxiety, that nothing was acted on so early.

earlier, around 1969 or so, designed the concept of a 'parameter
control module' which would attach to identical others, and could
be used to control audio, video, or any other inputs and outputs
in the form of a skein of small analog computers - this was never

a few years ago, azure and i traveled across the united states,
searching for the quietest electromagnetic radiation zones along
the way, and recording very low frequency radio signals which came
through as a result - this took us to many isolated sites, the
whole of which was mapped through photographs, satellite images,
and so forth.

in the early 1980s experimented with auricon news cameras,
creating one 16mm sound film a week, with complex in-camera
editing, including optical-on-optical sound and so forth - at the
same time i made a 16mm one-hour sound film, edited in camera
using loose ends, rewinds, and projector-recording on mag-stripe
filmstock for four hundred dollars, and about one hundred dollars
a copy.

on a residency through bob bielecki near the hudson river, worked
with a sound engineer to short-circuit 4-foot tall capacitors to
create sonic 'bangs' which were then bounced across the river
using a large parabolic mic - the resulting echo-train was
recorded at 128"/sec. and slowed up - this apparatus acted as a
form of sonar, and we were able to 'hear' the sonic shadows of
objects over a mile away.

on the same residency, using very large antique flashbulbs and
reflectors to illuminate the farther bank of the hudson, and on
another residency near the susquehanna, using contact microphones
to record the resonances of a steel bridge across the river.

around perhaps 1973 while teaching at nscad in halifax,, 'general
description of the world,' which involved photographing a beach at
1/25000 x from an airplane, then magnifying microbiomes on sand-
grains with a cambridge stereoscan scanning electron microscope,
to 25000 x, the work accompanied by a number of texts.

using the same sem to create the 'smallest sculpture in the
world,' well below the limits of human vision, a piece shown at
the paris biennale (i think 1973?) - a second viewing of the same
piece with the sem would have destroyed it through the power of
the beam.

on a number of recent residencies, working with motion capture
equipment, primarily through live remapping of body sensors,
including inversions and other topologies - as well as
distributing sensors among a number of performers, who must act in
consort in order to create the illusion of a single body in the
final avatar file output.

creating a number of open-sim virtual world works on computer
local-hosts, in which the live radical transformation /
augmentation / destruction of the landscape creates a 'refugee'
status as a homeland disappears - this has led to explorations of
anomie, isolation, and hyper-realities.

working with dawnja burris to produce videotapes dealing with
ciudad juarez and postmodern geographies, 1992 - emphasizing both
informal economies and infrastructures, as well as 'radiations'
as basic characteristics of a planetary future, around 1992.

a piece around 1973 on the assassination of president nixon,
stills from an 8mm film i made, shooting nixon when he visited our
area of pennsylvania after the hurricane agnes flood - he hit his
head on a trailer overhang (we accompanied the president's party),
and started to fall over - the still makes it look as if he had
been hit - shown at the 1973 paris biennale as a series of
projected slides.

created a series of online 'talkers' in the 1990s which were
altered to create socio-sexual and other situations for users -
in some cases, navigation became impossible.

rewriting programs like emacs eliza, adventure and a moo, to
create new possibilities for digital literature, along with
multi-dimensional fractal and other programs connected by single
pathways to examine complex networking structures.

very early on, using a antique wimhurst generator to create
electromagnetic fields modifying reel-to-reel recordings of the
10" sparks.

playing music in hurricanes, recording beneath a (very small)
tornado, and other interaction with severe or interesting weathers
- for example, flute-playing in high wind, where the impossibility
of a proper embouchure becomes part of the piece.

in a farm at far hills, new jersey, as part of a small group show,
projects in nature, 1976, i used a small pond to create a number
of video live microscopy tapes and stills - they were displayed
and accompanied by an essay on the 'phenomenology of approach'
which i still find valuable.

at new jersey institute of technology 2018, i worked with students
and faculty to create motion capture pieces in which the sensors
were not only remapped, but removed singly or in groups - the
result being different forms of avatar articulation.

importing complex and altered bvh files (avatar articulations)
into virtual worlds, extending the resulting modified behaviors
into alien scenarios - working with dancers to imitate the
modified behaviors, remapping these into virtual worlds, and so
forth - using this material, as well as overloading the space with
altered shapes, to create and augment inconceivably alien spaces
without apparent gravity or coordinates, dimensions - writing up a
phenomnology of these spaces.

working with foofwa d'imobilite and other dancers with various
technological extensions, including the use of very low frequency
antennas or a virtual cave space as basic elements of movement and

series of pieces over the years based on the laurel run mine fire,
outside wilkes-barre pennsylvania, including infra-red 16mm film
nighttime documentation on the mountain, explorations of thermo-
philic bacterial biomes, and tracing the growth and contraction of
sulfur/steam fissures - working with kira sedlock holding the
vibration meter between her teeth as she moves on stage, the sound
later digitally raised several octaves, the body movements turned
into sound variations.

3d printed models of distorted avatars created with altered mocap
files, exhibited along with their bases - producing a series of
small disturbing sculptures that relate to war, injury, pain,
exhaustion, and death.

dancework based on weather forecasts from a small massachusetts
town around 1830, created around 1969.

using a vibration meter over the years to record building movement
and instrument sounds primarily in the subsonics, digitally
raising the pitch to create an interplay between what is heard
musically and 'normally,' and the architectural-environmental
aura surrounding the performance itself.

using outmoded broadcast color tv equipment coupled together, to
create resonant loops within the analog electronics, recording and
searching within these for signs of life.

using two tape recorders on opposite sides of a stage, one
recording live sound on a tape running between the two - the
second running at half-speed and playing back, feeding into the
first, so the sounds are lower by an octave at each looping,
always bottoming out, live stage performance around 1971 perhaps.

using blender to model altered avatar movement files onto abstract
objects such as metaballs, in order to examine how the mind
interprets movement as 'organic,' 'conscious,' and so forth.

ongoing investgations into concepts of inadequacy and failure,
creating work that became, becomes, or will become, unsuccessful.


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