[NetBehaviour] Resonances 1970-2020

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Fri Oct 30 17:50:28 CET 2020

One other thought Alan, have you ever corresponded with Hofstadter?  He is still working at the University of Indiana and would understand much more than I can about the series and set theory you discuss.  I contacted him about the many references by Calvino in Six Memos to his book GEB, and he replied that he had never heard of such references and knows of but has not read Six Memos.

I think it could lead to a great conversation if Hofstadter was to read Six Memos, and its contemplation of poetry and math, but I have no idea how to motivate him to do so!  I floated the idea of an article about Six Memos and GEB to a well-known author who had interest for a time but got too busy.  🙁

Must keep trying, I suppose, just like our redoubtable hero of the Odyssey!  🙂

From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of Max Herman via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2020 11:21 AM
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Cc: Max Herman <maxnmherman at hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] Resonances 1970-2020

Hi Alan,

Just read this now, it is extremely relevant I think!

First off, the spirals in the JPG Leonardo pretty much drew those constantly from what I can tell in the notebooks.

The "removal" you write of might correspond, I wonder, to the idea of "less" in the novel.  Because, in a way, when you do a recursion and return back to and resume from where you were the recursion "disappears"; but of course not really.  Or, in what what does it and in what way does it not?

I saw this article from Quanta yesterday after writing about all this chiastic structure stuff and Less to my three mathematician friends (who correct me constantly):
https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-black-hole-information-paradox-comes-to-an-end-20201029/  I'm not qualified to judge the validity of the physics being discussed, but the visuals are evocative and seem to echo the removal/trace idea you describe.

The concept of the 4-hour tape being made and erased reminds me a bit of Bjorn's concept of works that do not exist.  But in a way, they do?

I asked my mathematician friends what if anything in math might compare to chiasmus, and one replied that anti-isomorphism would.  This makes sense to me, because "antimetabole" (or reverse change) is a sub-type of chiasmus where the words are exact matches (all for one and one for all).

Here is a potential text chiasmus from Leonardo; the first sentence resembles ABCD-BADC:
Painting is poetry which is seen and not heard, and poetry is a painting which is heard but not seen. These two arts, you may call them both either poetry or painting, have here interchanged the senses by which they penetrate to the intellect.A Treatise on Painting (1651); "The Paragone"; compiled by Francesco Melzi prior to 1542, first published as Trattato della pittura by Raffaelo du Fresne (1651)

Actually now I'm kind of "tripping out" because the Leonardo sentence is a "linked" chiasmus pair exactly like the links in the neckline of the Mona Lisa.

Here is an image Leonardo made for his "academy" which was, I think, an imagination:

In reading the Resonances pamphlet, the reference to symmetry and encoding/decoding on page 7 makes sense.  With Leonardo, I'm trying to understand if there is kind of a text/image method going on that he wants us to first "figure out," then "listen to," (or in his term, "experience" or "esperienza").  One idea I have is that we are meant to look at the Mona Lisa as a mirror equal of ourselves i.e. a peer (not servant or master).  Then we are meant to notice the difference between the living awareness, which is present (the person), inanimate nature (the rock/water landscape), and the art/technology flows (which are the garment and the bridge).  The whole composition is then chiastic, in a way, kind of based on a symmetry, but "dislodged" if you will by the passage of time (which I see as represented by the shallow, inverted V of the horizon line, splitting "before" if you will on the left from "after" on the right, with the apex somewhere around the sitter's eye).  This dislodgement would yield for example a spiral or helix rather than a point rotating around a circle.  So, your reference to extrapolating to higher dimensions (mainly 2 to 3 I think for Leonardo) and rotating are very much part of the Mona Lisa, especially if on views (as I do) the notebooks as a fundamental part of the Mona Lisa, the latter being in a sense merely an anchor or fulcrum with which to leverage the preservation of the notebooks or more accurately what the notebooks represent.  Hence the knot, VICI, etc.  Maybe relates to the IPL ideas of stack etc. too, but I know virtually nothing about computers.

I had never heard of Greer before reading Less last week so my take on him is brand new; but since he lives in SF among SV people and half-time in Tuscany among Calvino readers I can see how he would go into these kinds of inquiries.

One article I found argues that Nabokov in Pale Fire was actually referring more to Hamlet, which he did not state openly, than to Timon of Athens, which he did.  The phrase "pale fire" is from Hamlet, but appears interrupted by other words.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

Explanation of the title
As Nabokov pointed out himself,[14] the title of John Shade's poem is from Shakespeare's Timon of Athens: "The moon's an arrant thief, / And her pale fire she snatches from the sun" (Act IV, scene 3), a line often taken as a metaphor about creativity and inspiration. Kinbote quotes the passage but does not recognize it, as he says he has access only to an inaccurate Zemblan translation of the play "in his Timonian cave", and in a separate note he even rails against the common practice of using quotations as titles.
Some critics have noted a secondary reference in the book's title to Hamlet, where the Ghost remarks how the glow-worm "'gins to pale his uneffectual fire" (Act I, scene 5).[15]
The title is first mentioned in the foreword: "I recall seeing him from my porch, on a brilliant morning, burning a whole stack of [index cards of drafts of the poem] in the pale fire of the incinerator...".

Now, one possibility we must consider is that Nabokov was lying or concealing when he said that the title was from Timon.  Why would he do that?  Well, I think for a range of reasons but one is simply to assert that art is not passive.  The artist does not deliver it to us like a package in the mail.  There is much assembly required!  🙂  Or as Hamlet said, why would the artist want to let the viewers play him like a flute?  Also, Greer mentions glow-worms several times, which to me blares "yes it's a reference to Hamlet everybody" but that is my bias.  (I see Hamlet and Oedipus in many works -- Oedipus is the chiastic hero detecting and punishing his own crime -- such as in Less when the protagonist steps on a sewing needle.)

If this is true, then Greer's reference to Lolita in Less might be more a reference to Pale Fire, and his reference to the Last Supper might be more a reference to the Mona Lisa, and his reference to aging backwards might also be a reference to Dorian Gray.  But they might not!  I could be projecting, but in a sense projection is also "on purpose," in the sense of all probabilities playing themselves out.

For example: it struck me while reading Less that he mentions everything in the fictional world tour being closed, or already passed, or not happening yet, so the protagonist misses almost everything.  This hit me rather sharply, because one of the main reason I got to thinking about the Mona Lisa in summer 2019 was because the Louvre was closed on the day I had planned to visit.  My companion and I just had to read the sheet of paper on the door of the glass pyramid "closed due to one-day staff strike to protest the excess number of visitors" and walk around the square.  It was still a very vivid memory however.

Or in another reference from the book, it mentions "the spiral nature of being" and Nietzsche's eternal return.  I had always thought of this as "modernity always having to return to antiquity, as in daily" or the present/future always having to digest the past, or not being able to jump over your own shadow.  But maybe it is not that -- maybe it is about the universe being born, expanding to total entropy, collapsing again in a big crunch, and starting over.  I don't know which it is, both, neither; uncertainty persists.

One note on Greer is that if Calvino's Six Memos was a reading list and syllabus for America in 1985, which Calvino died before being able to deliver to us in person (though he concretely imagined doing so), Greer has probably completed the course.  Less is a mixed book however, it seems to me, something too overdone about it, but that is very well just me projecting.  In fact, one image in the book is about the kaiseki meal -- overdone, done, underdone, so to speak, one cannot seek perfect homeostasis.  There's no such thing.  Or as Blake said, "Enough! or too much."

Your page 7 item 6 reminds me of one of the first videos I made, in about 1996.  I taped a newspaper of stock prices to the wall and sat in front of it kind of ranting about what a novel is, and I think ended up on "the novel is the novel," more or less totally incoherent and certainly terrible, a memory tinged with nausea.  Another interesting Quanta item from a couple of weeks ago has some good visuals of quantum mapping, with one 3-d movable diagram if you scroll way down at this link: https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-map-of-the-standard-model-of-particle-physics-20201022/

Page 9 in your book/let starts to get pretty complex so I will have to revisit.  But great reference, many thanks, and nicely done!

All best wishes and regards,


PS -- just skimming through the pages after 9: black hole/shell on p. 15 with mention of "lessening" echoes Less and the Quanta article about black holes as shells; p. 16 reminds of many Leonardo notations and his drawing of the uterus; story and expiration on p. 17 reminds me of an old joke to self of "reading the oldspaper" and Thoreau's critique of news; p.26 the "inconsistency" of the circle twisting into an infinity sign which I think of as chiastic perhaps, from the Greek "chiazein" "to shape into the form of an 'x,'"; p. 27 is interesting about the poetic, reminding me of the "contemplative aesthetic" implicit in "predictive regulation," which Peter Sterling terms "allostasis" and places as a more important ring of complexity around homeostasis as a building framework of all biological life -- allowing greater processing of energy into work -- and what is prediction but imagination, or recursive chiasmus selected in time?  I forgot to mention, the earlier drawings in the book/let remind of meiosis, which is I think is the main genetic application of the term chiasmata.

PPS -- I have a piece going into a museum on Sunday, based on the number 27, will post announcement to list.  🙂

PPPS -- one question, have you ever heard of Nietzsche's "transvaluation of all values"?  I view him as more or less the Enemy, but that idea is somewhat relevant I sometimes think or at least suspect, or I least I sometimes have wondered what he meant by it, quite likely something totally evil or almost so.

From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of Alan Sondheim <sondheim at panix.com>
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2020 4:14 PM
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Subject: [NetBehaviour] Resonances 1970-2020



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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