[NetBehaviour] Precedents: I want credit! (Or at least would like some!)

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sun Jul 4 07:47:36 CEST 2021

Precedents: I want credit! (Or at least would like some!)


I'm tired of not getting credit where credit is due; the
following are concepts, works, institutions, I created that were
innovative for their time - some still are, some are current
- and bear on current theory and art. I'm tired of reading
histories that ignore these bodies of work, which were
publicized in their time. With apologies for this display of
egoism/egotism, these are some of the things I've worked on /
created / performed / written back at least to 1968, when my MA
these at Brown, An,ode, published by Burning Deck Press,
included works of conceptual poetry and conceptual poetics.

Formation of META, 1971-72, an art-philosophy corporation -
Meta Corporation for Art Research:  We intersected with
futurologists and other groups and published a small series of
research. The concept was to use conceptual underpinnings for
social and psychological research. META was incorporated in
Rhode Island

Semantic and Syntactic Programming, 1978
Grounds for a Procedural Semiotics, 4/1978
Two publications concerned with TI59 programming (assembly
language), examining the technical and philosophical foundations
of programs and commands in relation to output; this work was
ground-breaking in its combination of technical programming in
relation to phenomenology based on both relevance theory and
concrete and limited examples. Mathematics as both definable and
process-oriented, i.e. 1+2=3, 1+2->3 were described. This was
constructed on earlier writings on immersive and definable
phenomenological-structural levels of reality.

Interactive and antagonist editing programs, 1978
Texts, U.C. Irvine Department of Art, 1978
Programs written in UCLA Pascal; a user would write into them
and the programs would react one of two ways:
a. a set of programs would contradict or alter the into
according to semantic/syntactic rules;
b. a set of programs with video output would print the input
text on the screen, but the text would also generate geometric
images that would eventually obliterate it.

Script generation in 1 k memory T! 59 calculator, 1978
Using only 1k of memory, a series of 'fictions' and 'scripts'
created through heavy and complex indirect addressing; each run
produced different scripts. in Syntactic and Semantic

Physical codework at Bykert show, Symmetries
NY, 1971. 4-dimensional polytopes created from string or rope,
left on the floor (i.e. tangled); the topology remained intact;
code modeled on minimal symmetries translated into sculptures of
connected plastic pipe segments hung from the ceiling. The
codework "forked" in terms of decoding possibilities. In both
cases, abstract code was translated into physically distorted
pieces. The show was accompanied by a booklet explaining the
coding operations.

Moving through 4-dimensional space, video
Video, 4320, 1971; participants sat at an early console with a
joystick, and moved a projection of a 4-dimensional hypercube so
that it "appeared" to transform into a cube, then a square, then
a point. The participant learned to "drive" through 4-d space.
Program by Charles Strauss, Brown University

Computer analysis of determinism in Man (sic)
1969; using a minicomputer programmed by Gregert Johnson, typing
8000 "random" characters (with eyes closed, thinking as little
as possible); taking the middle 4000 to eliminate edge effects,
looking for patterns through time series analyses. Other than a
"rhythm" effect of xyxyxy etc., the result came out flat and
deeply random.

Phenomenology of Approach
Article and artwork for Projects in Nature, Far Hills, NJ, 1975.
The phenomenology approach relates to Schutz's relevance theory,
and examines (I still work with this) on how any subject for
methodological analysis may be approached in terms of a
presuppositionless field of thought. Catalog and other
publications, continuing to work on this. Part of the work
involved micro-videography of pond life, returning the organisms
to their normal environment as well.

General Description of the World at 20000/1, 1, 1/20000
1972, images of a beach in Nova Scotia from a walk on site; from
a scanning electron microscope; from an airplane, with
accompanying text describing the phenomenology and strategies of
the piece.

Smallest Sculpture in the World
Scanning electron microscope of a crystal with ramps and planes
cut into it simultaneously with the SEM making the resulting
images. Shown at the Paris Biennale, 1973. The sculpture was
invisible to the naked eye of course (the mount seemed empty);
at the time this was probably the smallest sculpture in the

Threshold Logics and their rough formalism
The Structure of Reality, NSCAD, 1977 worked through a baroque
symbolization of threshold logic activating gates and tokens; it
originated in an attempt to find a structure which would
describe any event whatsoever. The concept of "threshold" was
critical; it might or might not be fuzzy. It also related to
catastrophe theory, particularly the phenomenology of the second
simplest, the fold catastrophe. I think a lot of the work here
is more than problematic.

Textbook of Thinking, 1991, ocalocka press
This, influenced (unfortunately now I think) by Lacan and others
uses obscenity as a way of breaking through thought, in other
words, engaging language with physiology. Extreme language
translates into a form of philosophical destruction and
rebuilding. The book was obscene and leveraged that into
thinking through thought itself.

Inscriptive and Immersive Hierarchies
See above on procedural semiotics. The immersive begins from
above, the inscriptive as formalism from below. Here, the two
are intermeshed; even the abacus' results are seen as dynamic.

The Year 3000 course on the future of the planet
Rhode Island School of Design, around 1971 We spent the semester
studying futurology as well as texts such as the Club of Rome
Report and Jimmy Carter's The Global 2000 Report to the
President. The course was basically predictive; unfortunately
almost all the descriptions turned out correct.

Sexual-psychological videos with Kathy Acker and the concept of
auto-pornography - two videos from 1974; one was shown at the
Whitney Museum among other places, including the London ICA two
years ago. The videos have been described and/or published in
full in a number of books. For me, a mixture of sexuality,
wryting (with a "y"), philosophy, and textuality; I can't speak
for Kathy of course.

I invented the word and published about it in an issue of
American Book Review I edited. The essay was overly simplified;
it was, and shouldn't have been, taken as a full description of
my position. But the concept of active code interferences in text
permeates everything now from mixed or otherwise AI literatures
to virtual world performances. For me, the code had to be not so
much an embellishment appearing within a text, but part of the
activated bones of the production of the text itself; otherwise
it would be a kind of science fiction or those code droplets in
The Matrix. The issue was 22/6, Special Issue On Codework

Splatter Semiotics and its role in proto-fascism - article
published in 2600, The Hacker Quarterly Autumn 2017, re: the
trump administration - Considering news media processing time
and the constant high-speed flow of tweets as a source of power,
bypassing the time necessary for critique.

Game-space, edge-space, blank-space
Series of talks and videos on types of spaces in and around
virtual worlds. Game-space: within the game; edge-space: hacking
the game; blank-space - projections in and through the imaginary
undefined (example: "here be dragons" written on an unknown
territory of the globe centuries ago; I recognize this is a
fiction, but, for example Mandeville postulated people in
Ethiopia using one of their legs - with an enormous foot - as an
umbrella to keep the sun off their bodies as they lay on their

Semantic ghosting analysis
Recently 2019-2021, postulating the always present unaccompanied
bodies as always present, always a ghost, miasma, but flesh and
blood, microbiomes, in relation to any technology - the body as
well of the refugee, the sick, the dying, consciousness and
unconsciousness, and so forth. Where a great deal of my current
work lies.

Hacking motion capture apparatus
Since at least 2004, modifying mocap software, sensors, cables,
and so forth to produce new and untoward models of organisms and
their movements. The resulting files can be used to motivate
avatars in virtual worlds. I consider this a fundamental portion
of my work; it's been carried out at the Virtual Environments
Lab at West Virginia University, Morgantown; NYU, NY; Columbia
College, Chicago; and the New Jersey Institute of Technology,
Newark, post-production at my own studio.

Mathematical filters for motion capture and
Mathematical filters for text production
These take either motion or text as input; mathematical
equations manipulate the files (much as filters are manipulated
in a graphics program) to produce new and untoward movements and
texts. Since at least 2005.

Real time reverse reverberation in music production
Using SuperCollider, Luke Damrosch wrote a number of programs to
my specifications, in an attempt to create "revrev" - real-time
reverse reverberation, which is a physical impossibility. We
approached it through flexible small buffers and produced an
absolutely new music (in my experience), resulting in an album,
LIMIT, and an earlier album, Threnody (which had several revrev
pieces). LIMIT is one of my favorite albums; it appeared around
2017. Both albums were released by Public Eyesore.

Super Collider programs for revrev
Luke Damrosch, maybe 2014-2017, several programs; I manipulated
parameters, etc., and all of this resulted in around 40 programs
using revrev for both recording and live concert. These programs
can be used by anyone; there's no copyright etc.

Phenomenology of high-speed playing acoustic music
Future Speed Future, released in 2019, is an album based on
high-speed playing. I play as fast as I can, largely on guitar,
but also other instruments. And I play very fast. I'm fascinated
by playing at speed - on acoustic instruments, without effects -
it sends my mind into another realm entirely, tracking key,
fingers, breath, "tune," envelope, and so forth, simultaneously,
without break, the music body music, everything imminent and
what I play, what you hear, is internal. The instruments are
made of wood and bamboo; they need tending. Playing is a form of
tending. It is the instrument that plays me, another world,
breathless. As with the SuperCollider work, I write theory -
phenomenology, history, media - in relation to this direction.

Improvised 1 reel/week live improvised film series
As a visiting artist at UCLA 198-1981 I made a series of 16mm
sound films, one a week for, I think, 50 weeks. This was based
on early silent film production, which was also a reel a week. I
used news-cameras and other media. The films, which are still in
storage, ranged in length from a little less than three minutes
to around an hour. The last was a sync-sound film called
Hollywood, shot in black and white, cost $400 only; I found ways
to work inexpensively at the time. The films were political,
often using short-wave from North Korea or anomalous signals.

Audio analog synthesizer with overdriven VCO
Around 1967, Gregert Johnson and I built, from scratch, an
analog music synthesizer, with VCO, VCA, and so forth. The
frequencies of the VCO ranged from 6 or 7 Hz into the ultra-
sonics. Because of the simplicities of the VCO, they could be
overdriven into harmonic series of all sorts. I used the
synthesizer on and off through 1992.

Design of parameter control modules for universal synthesizers I
wrote about PCM - electronic parameter control models - that
could be networked in any number of ways. Interfaces would allow
them to be used for audio or video or any other electrical or
electronic device. They were never built, but I diagrammed how
they might operate; they were universal in the deepest sense. I
think of these now in relation to semantic and syntactic
programming (see above).

Installation of Codework piece at Johnstown Flood dam site
In 2016 Azure and I traveled across country and I created a
large-scale codework in Johnstown, PA, referencing the terrible
flood that happened there. The debris, including humans, horses,
and even parts of trains, swept into a railroad bridge, where it
all caught on fire; over 2000 people died in 1885. The bridge
still stands, and had programmable lights on the side that were
set up to blink on the Fourth of July and other occasions. With
a lot of help, I had them programmed to blink SOS, QRRR, and
MAYDAY in various sequences. The bridge is in use, and we made
video shooting the work at night with trains going across. The
light patterns were difficult to read; the flood was impossible
to control.

VLF mapping across the United States, 2005
Driving across the United States, stopping off to record VLF
(very low frequency) signals at various sites. The sites had to
be in desolate regions where there were no electrical towers or
lines of any sorts for dozens and dozens of miles. The result
was a series of recordings with amazing atmosphere, insect, and
other sounds, from isolated locations.

VLF production by dance, by bicycle tires, by insects
VLF used for dancework by Foofwa d'Imobilite; recordings of
changing ground impedances with dancework by Azure; recordings
of insect wings and bicycle tires - done in the Alps near the
Aletsch Glacier; in California near Santa Ana, and in West
Virginia, Morgantown. From 2005 on through the present.

Ultra-Low Frequency mapping of building structures with live music
Using a vibration meter that goes down to .1 hz or less, I've
recorded the movement of buildings and other structures while
playing music, organizing dance, and so forth. The resulting
sound would often be digital raised several octaves, into the
hearing range; at times this would be combined with normal sound
recording. The result would be the intermixing of the sound of
the environment and the music together.

Dancework based on weather
Around 1968-9 I created a dance for a student dance group - they
danced the daily weather from a small Massachusetts town for one
month in the 19th-century. Some students played clouds, some
rain, one the sun, and so forth.

Multiple-layered Bot interaction in virtual worlds
Recently I have been working solo or in tandem in the virtual
world of Second Life, combined with OpenSim run as a localhost.
Using Radegast, I can manipulate two or three avatars
simultaneously, with text-to-speech. The avatars move as
"emanants" (I've been working on emanant theory for years) and
communicate through speech or movement based on the altered
motion-capture files described above (they're bvh files). The
interactions allow me to study and describe the phenomenologies
of communication, distortion, and control in relation to virtual
and physical bodies. The result is an ongoing complex series of
videos and live performances that continue to this day. This
work began almost 10-15 years ago in various formats.

Phenomenology of virtual worlds and their deconstruction
I've done a great deal of writing about avatars, including Kyoko
Date (article in Etnofoor, 2000, "Virtual Idols, Our Future
Love") and a short book on emanents as well. I've also designed
projects in Second Life in which avatars exist and interact in
increasingly cluttered spaces. On my OpenSim localhost (running
on my computer) I've worked with avatar movement in an
environment which is increasingly changing - sudden growth of
mountains and valleys, debris everywhere, sinking or rising
land, and so forth. This allows for a different kind of dance/
movement performance, in which the environment itself is active
and in or against collusion with an avatar. Again, all of this
is accompanied by texts.

Generation and study of virtual world anomalies 2005-present
This is complex and relates to the game-space, edge-space, and
blank-space concepts described above. To push parameters in
Second Life and OpenSim can result in anomalies - for example by
overloading SL with particle emissions or creating huge numbers
of objects with a "magic pencil" or dropping buildings with
short life-spans into an environment, etc. In some cases, true
anomalies appear - objects that seem "shadows" of other objects
on my platform - objects with strange attachments and omissions
etc. I've studied these, including anomalies which seem to have
a life of their own, out of my control.

Multiple dancer community controlling single avatar body 2018
and earlier. Mocap mapping can assign a single avatar sensor
constellation to a distribution among a number of live
performers. If the performers act in sync, they become a
"community" coherently controlling a single avatar body; if they
act out of sync (according to prescribed mappings, etc.), the
bodies breaks apart in untoward and fascinating ways. This leads
to "topological twisting and the breaking of mocap mapping" -
something that appears inconceivable, at the edge of the
possible or impossible; the result videos and bvh files are
amazing to work with and lead to new possibilities in real-world
dance (a performer, Kira Sedlock, called this "avadance," for
avatar-real world dance, and the name has stuck. Again
boundaries are pushed.

Study of reification and the "economic parabola" (around the
time of Structure of Reality) - In relation to Tran duc Thao,
thinking about the phenomenology and economics of hand-axe
exchange in the paleolithic - the imminent use of an axe which
becomes objectified (of course) when exchanged; the economic
parabola originates. I worked with this in terms of reification;
it also came out of my course at Hebrew University (in Hebrew)
studying flint and other stone tools in a classroom and on site.

Work on radio/tv transmission radiations and pomo in Ciudad
Juarez and El Paso, with Dawnja Burris, two main videos,
Postmodern Sureno, 1993 and Postmodern Pobre, 1992. Dealing with
issues "in the field" such as informal economies, radio and
television transmissions, and so forth. The pieces explored the
emergence of a type of city born out of poverty and what today
would be called neoliberalism. My writing at this time dealt
with the concepts of amorphous dusts and radiations of all
sorts, and their effect on people everywhere. I saw this also in
terms of refugees and inconceivable poverty, local wars,
desertification, and so forth. I've been informed by this in my
current work as well.

Amorphousness - from my beginning work until now. I've worked at
pushing boundaries of control and specificity until they break
or dissolve, dealing with entities, geographies, and geometries
which are deeply indescribable. The idea of "somatic ghosting"
(above) involves not only the body, but the body as multitude,
as innumerable biomes (see current discussion about fungal and
lichen communities and disseminations for something related).

There are more things that could well be considered, for example
fractal series of two elements {f,g} that seem remarkable to me,
but might be ordinary, and their related fractal paths. I see
all of my work from the very beginning (or at least from, say,
1967, when I began pursuing music seriously as well) as a single
if not singular or dispersed body. There's a sense of skittering
as well on the surface, but the deeper structures are almost
repetitious and boring in their similarities. There's a concept
in catastrophe theory, "the fragility of the good" in relation
to so many other paths; I tend to fall off the plateau, and
delve into the wetlands below, where I perhaps understand
nothing at all.

In any case, hope this might be of interest; it won't get me
written into any more formal accounts but at least for me it's a
kind of summing up that's still in formation.

- Alan Sondheim, 7/4/2021

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