[NetBehaviour] Informal account of the Internet Text at 25-plus years or so -

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Fri Sep 20 23:14:47 CEST 2019

Informal account of the Internet Text at 25-plus years or so -


In early 1994, I gave myself the task or structure of writing a
post a day, for the foreseeable future; that was over twenty-five
years ago. (This was the continuation of an artistic practice I had
engaged in, offline for years.) There was one time when I missed
about three days, when Azure and I were out on Fire Island in New
York with a friend. But all that was made up; in the earlier years,
I often had 2-3 posts a day. These were related, for me, to Minima
Moralia or other short-form philosophical/literary works, but
almost immediately they extended into imagery, sound pieces and
videos, based on computer-generated or -modified structures. There
were texts dealing with sexuality and abjection. There were
accounts of experimental motion capture with software altered by
Gary Manes. There were accounts of dance performances that involved
mixtures of real and virtual, each inserted into the other. There
were performances of mixtures. I used programs in Q-basic or basic,
began modifying things in lpmuds, moos, and talkers, rewrote the
Eliza program in emacs, created small havoc with Visual Basic and
early html, and so forth. I began using linux almost immediately,
installing very early versions of RedHat on my machines. I can't
remember all the shortcuts I used. I worked with newsgroups and IRC
and at one point 'ran' a United Nations conference on IRC for Mike
Gurstein's work on community informatics. I also worked with him in
Sydney for two weeks on 'wiring Nova Scotia.' My interests have
always been in the interstices and edges among digital and analog
'closures,' real bodies and their mappings into and out of digital
machinery, the 'obdurate' natural environment we were given as our
birthwrite and -wrong, and what happens at the edge of collapse in
various domains. I've always emphasized philosophies based in part
on mathematics, in part on the phenomenology of the body, early on
in part on post Lacanian thinking and my consideration of the
distinction between inscription and fissure, and in part on a dense
poetics that owes to Jabes, Levinas, Irigaray, Kristeva, Celan, and
others. Because I've moved from institution to institution, and for
the past eighteen years have been largely out of them, I'm
constantly dependent on the kindness of friends and strangers to
have access to advanced equipment; as a result, I've developed the
ability to work quickly in these situations, producing around the
clock as much as possible. My writing has gone in two directions -
a more straight-forward philosophical- analytical one, describing
as best I can what my productions actually represent and how that
representation functions; and a more poeticized one, full of holes
and windows, letting the blank space of the page or extended
metaphoricity of the texting carry on beyond my means. In terms of
the latter, I've worked extensively with small text-generating or
-augmenting programs, as well as codework in various forms - so
that the backbone of the text becomes part of the content, as if
the microbiome itself and its partial governing participate in the
generation of meaning for the reader or viewer. I've never tried,
with the latter, to force meaning, but to engage the viewer in this
generation. And increasingly, as neoliberalism becomes the order of
the day, as governments become increasingly harsh, as strongmen
seize power, I've moved into rethinking the somatic, the tissue and
interiority of the body, of any body, of any organism, and its
relationship to wounding, to dying, to catastrophe, to genocide, to
species extinction. But always attempting to stay within the body,
as if the texts, images, and sounds were embedded in the tissue
itself, within and without the nervous system, with and without
damage. I've also become more and more engaged with soundwork, both
on a number of instruments, and within the limited use of digital
programs; this has also been done with others, as I'm not basically
a programmer. Here I've worked in three directions - as partner in
a series of songs written, often from my texts, by Azure Carter,
and sung in and against my improvisations; as working on the idea
of time-reversal, in particular, having notes 'appear' before they
are played, and appear in reverse (a physical impossibility that
can only be approached through bufferings of various sorts), as if
one could reverse death and destruction by means of this; and,
finally, working on techniques to play acoustic instruments as fast
as possible, so that the usual ongoing mental structures for
organizing improvisational music in real time no longer hold, and
the mind has to work with new and different forms of constructing
sound. All of this, then, has been occurring for well over a
quarter of a century; I find myself often failing myself, becoming
inadequate to the task, and this has also led me to thinking about
the related ideas of failure and inadequacy, and what might be done
with them and through them. When these sorts of things occur, I
write more or less formal essays - so there's one on inadequacy,
one on avatar behavior in untoward spaces, one on emanants (a term
I use for experimental avatars in experimental abstract or virtual
spaces), several dealing with 'gamespace,' 'edgespace' and 'blank-
space,' mapping unknown and unexpected anomalies in various digital
and non-digital environments, etc. Early on, I also considered the
phenomenology of the analog and digital, and how they intersect at
various limits. And finally, I wonder, always, for how long can I
keep going in this fashion? For me, every piece has to appear as if
it's added something to the whole, some additional approach or
thought or something to what I'm doing. It also has to - almost all
the time - and almost all the time it does - make me uncomfortable,
as if I've gone too far, pushed my comfort zone and boundaries past
the point of no return; in fact, with all of this I'm somewhat
fearful... But at least I have the space and time and hopefully the
ability to keep on going - for no other reason, perhaps, than my
work and thinking have no closure

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