[NetBehaviour] Resonances 1970-2020

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Thu Oct 29 22:14:39 CET 2020



In 1971 I showed at the Bykert Gallery in Manhattan; it was
accompanied by a 32 page book/let describing the theory behind
the work. I was interested in mathematical symmetries, both in
terms of reflections and ground states. I forgot about the show
and book/let for a long time, thinking that the math in it was
faulty and next to useless; I also had difficulties following my
own terse approach. Recently I went back and carefully reread
what I had written, and it suddenly made sense, and for me had
implications in relation to digital constructs and phenomenology.
(The book/let was RESONANCES, Alan Sondheim, ppress, 1971, in an
edition of 200. The work is almost entirely from 1970. Klaus
Kertess ran the gallery; Mary Boone was the gallery assistant at
the time.)

I was working with the idea of blank ground states in relation to
otherwise content. So a ground state might be designated [] or in
other words, not designated. Place a non-symmetrical symbol on [].
There are possible operations of rotation and translation within
[]. I considered a 2-dimensional sheet of assertion. I wasn't
concerned with raster; I assumed none. Rotation and translation
might be made in relation to a second symbol. I assumed that if T
was such an operation, T' might be its reversal. In identity of
course, TT = T'T' since nothing changes. What was of much greater
interest was the actual _placing_ of a symbol or symbols on a blank
ground state. Consider the placing an operation T. Then T' might be
the removal of the symbol or symbols. The ground state might be
anything, that sheet of assertion, a rock, a soccer game, a
gesture. On a macroscopic level, removal is never pure, never
perfect; traces are left. On a theoretical level, removal is
possible and that's where I was. So the world seethes with the
potential for the symbolic, for marking, for demarcation; the world
is (and yes, this is a fiction, non-sense) ground; entropy ensures
that nothing reverses on a macroscopic level. Yes, but I was and
find myself still interested in the ground as potentially seething.
So for example I can consider a book or a national constitution as
the result of a heavily fuzzily indefinite set S of operations or
{T}, and then a reversal S' as {T'} and even the elements of T and
T', however defined, need not be equivalent. It's as if there's a
process of _lifting_. The example I used was a radio news broadcast
(thinking WCBS or WINS, NYC) and there is this accompanying

a four hour tape of [WCBS] was produced and erased

So there are several things at work here: sheets or basins or
worlds of assertion; possible operations within or upon the sheets
(or basins); "inverse" operations that reverse those possible
operations; other operations that (re: Weyl) manipulate symbols
within the sheets or basins, by affine or other translations; other
operations that require "leaving" the sheet or basin and returning
- for example b and d transform only by a move from 2 dim to 3 or
high dim, etc.; and finally, operations that _undo,_ annihilate,
and/or eliminate those operations which created the symbols in the
first place. In this sense, and only in this sense of course (this
is fiction), mathematics and logic are _doing_ mathematics and
logic, and symbols may be both or either epistemological (i.e.
tan(x)) or ontological within a given framework (i.e. x, or better
perhaps [x] , []).

This does nothing in reality; it might even be considered and
rightfully so, a mathematically naive mess. I believe mathematics
represents ideal forms, (as did Godel btw), that it's ontologically
coherent and existent, but _applied_ mathematics, if it takes into
account the idea of a sheet of assertion, (Mathematica notebook for
example), it might also take into account those operations that
send the symbols on the sheet, as we as the sheet itself, into -
not only a null state, but a non-existent one.

I'm not sure any of this is clear; my knowledge of mathematics is
close to non-existent. And the math itself is just _wrong._ But you
know, you might think of the process of _lifting_ from a ground
(however defined) as a form of cultural annihilation, just as radio
news (and by implication, perhaps, any other news form or medium)
disappears, is always already in the formation of disappearance, as
it is absorbed - not only by the passage of time rendering news
useless qua news, but also by the continuous decay of physical
artifacts that ostensibly carried, embodied, reproduced, the
signals themselves as records/recordings. The digital acts as a
retardant of course; its ideality is the perfection of reproduction
and perhaps even the lack of any original - but this also depends
on a whole matrix/network of physical storage. The past not only
recedes from us; it disappears as signal or object, as ontology or
imminence. And that's what the operation of _lifting,_ of [x] -> []
is about.

Later: I'm putting up almost the entire publication with the texts
and diagrams. Thinking about the sheet of assertion - this of
course can be anything at all, a cloud, speaking (into the air),
and so forth. The substrate is anonymous, anomalous; it needn't
have any sort of symmetrical substructure which a pixel raster does
of course. A raster can also be removed; there might be layers
spiraling downward. Covid dissipates in the air, remains longer in
the 4-dimensional interiority of a room (x,y,z,t), especially if a
fan is absent. Virus particles sign in, are signed in, passive and
active tenses are moot. No DNA, fossil or otherwise, remains
forever. [x] -> [] might be a process of debris; accompanied by the
broken character armors of anxiety and depression. When things fall
apart, there might be no things. What are things are what we call
things, what we call them to us.

There's more, part of what the short book/let pamphlet is about,
something written poorly (bad math again) about recursive functions
and a play off Ackermann's function which I never truly understood.
I think of coagulations: repeated additions of a unit results in
multiplication, for example 2+2+2 = 2x3; 2x2x2 = 2^3 and so forth.
I became interested in the reverse, and use the symbol 'o' for the
operation, a kind of gateway and noticing. For example, 3o3o3 = 6.
The repetition just increments; 2o2 = 4 (as usual), and 1o1o1 = 4
as well. The operator itself carries the increment. Just as
addition might metaphorically refer to a gathering of objects, 'o'
might refer to a set of notices. Okay, this is pushing things too
far and I'm not a mathematician. But it seems interesting to mess
around with recursion in this way. And naturally one can also
produce the natural number series; start with 0, then 0o0 = 2. What
happened to 1? Think of 'o' as fundamental; then 0o = 1. My god
what have we here? Demarcation of course; before a unit length is
agreed upon, we have to think about the act of noticing. The act of
noticing also establishes a domain or sheet or region of assertion.

So far off track, there might be a kernel here or a kernel of
something of interest. In any case the relevant sections are up
online. The show was a success.


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