Outline for a Talk on Blank that can't be Given


Alan Sondheim


Outline for a Talk on Blank that can't be Given (That is inconceivable that it could be given, that it is inconceivable that it might occur without contradiction, that it might say anything, that anything might be said):

*/Thanks to Bruce Barber, Foofwa d'Imobilite, Tom Zummer./*

My work tends to deal with edge phenomena, areas of entanglement or confusion, appearance of glitches, and so forth. Early on I characterized my project as the relationship between abstract structures and consciousness. I've always believed that philosophy can be effected through modes other than writing or the text, that not all encounters are grounded in language, and that language has its own cloudy and entangled limits. All this said, the following is an outline on a talk which uses work done with altered motion capture equipment, as well as work produced on a recent residency at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax.


1. Philosophical work pushed to the limits:

-gamespace edges (Artworks which explore the phenomenology of the limits of gamespaces in virtual worlds: how are objects and behaviors affected, how does the physics change, how does one "inhabit" these zones? Do the zones have strict boundaries themselves? Can one speak of a broken game, or a suite of behaviors and objects that open elsewhere?



-client or server overloading (Using massive particle sprays, fields of objects, etc., all near the client or server limits: what happens when the space or atmosphere becomes clogged? How does avatar control become entangled with the gamespace environment?)



-altered motion-capture/behavioral spaces (What happens when mocap alterations result in software overload, so that the simulation breaks down? Formally, the avatar image becomes immobile and "sits" in a lotus position. What is the experienced of enforced stasis in relation to disparate movement elsewhere?)

-software-dependent, see economic exhaustion below (Different software produces different results of course: what is the typology of glitches?)

[situations where structure collapses:

-where structure and the symbolic can't be recuperated (Where there's no return, where the vectors quickly end up entropic, where chaos dissolves into noise.)

-where the symbolic is limited by the _game of extension_ (So that, for example, the gamespace or mocap edge is characterized by particular behavioral regimes: the game then moves the edge elsewhere or creates a catastrophic anomaly. Once this is absorbed and con/figured, the game moves elsewhere. Sooner or later, the game of extension dissolves into the cold death of the universe.)



How are these experienced? Does experience always translate into text? What is the textuality of experience? What is the dissolution of textuality?]


2. Exhaustion of symbolic space, the blank: (The blank is a state where [ ] is emptied but always already virtual, where the blank is the site of introjection/projection.)



-blizzard whiteout example (The whiteout of the blizzard images and videos: nothing visible but a seething, the fogged details at the edge of the frame pointing towards nothing, the seething incapable of geometrical meshing or interpretation as "mandala.")




-recapitulation through contouring (Noise reduction operations on blizzard and similar images: when the contour lines reveal nothing, where the inchoate roams among and through protocol suites. A busy seething might blockade imaginary projections; nothing survives the seething.)



-maps of far north, Mandeville (Looking at maps of Mandeville's Travels 15th century or 19th maps of exploration in the far north: the landscape - what constitutes shorelines, land and water - dissolves into the inchoate. The blankness of maps is described early on by the presence of "Dragons" and later by a sense of the uncanny. Again, these are limit spaces, edge spaces, gamespaces defined by no games, unpopulated except in relation to the imaginary. Here and elsewhere, what does consciousness _do?_.)


3. Back to 1 - conceivable limits to scientific explanation:

-multiverse (Other universes, if they exist, may be totally out of communication with our own; there may always be limits to cosmological observation.)

-economic exhaustion in particle accelerators (Brillouin hints, I think, that there may be deep and inherent ties between economic surplus and fundamental particle research; for example, particle accelerators operate up to certain energetic limits, and it would take increased expenditure to go beyond them. The universe might then be imagined to have an economic structure. High-energy cosmic rays point otherwise, but there are always going to be energy limits.)

-Planck constants (What might or might not occur "beyond" the Planck length or Planck time. The universe may or may not appear obdurate. The gamespace/edgespace of the universe might then be described by the game of extension. The description, I think, even if completely predictive on a certain level, has, at the asymptote, a blank.)




4. Roger Williams' theology (Roger Williams, the "founder" of Rhode Island, has a complex theology based on the broken succession of baptism from the beginning. Because of the break, the religious gamespace is inherently broken; each believer must decide everything for himself or herself. One might choose to become a searcher, or one might bypass the spiritual altogether. It's up to the individual; there is no inerrancy involved, no inherent law. Law is necessary for communal structure; it's a question of the State, not of the State's foundation. Think of the Law as a game, criminality existing near the edges of the gamespace, then absorbed. Without theological legitimation, there is a blank at work; the interplay between consciousness and structuration is cultural work.




5. Erhu (two-string Chinese bowed instrument)

-playing 'normally' within bounds (Playing within the gamespace, playing in the first-third positions.)

-playing near the bridge: transformation to mimetic function (Fingering within 2-3 centimeters of the bow; the gamespace is transformed to mimesis: sonic imitation, or ikonic sound, without reference or intervalic structure.)



-mimetic function as inert (At the edge of the gamespace, the sound transforms into substance. Think of falling out of the game, beginning another game, one of chaotic "noise." The game becomes a game of extension; the game of extension transforms the phenomenology of the musical structure.)

-blank (The structure becomes blank, becomes hiss; the structure becomes the substance of sound. Eventually the edge of the field is reached: If not now, when? If not now, where? As the fingers approache the bridge, there is as much of an infinite choice as ever; infinities map 1-1 linearly. But the sound itself tends towards higher ultrasonics; whatever the measurement apparatus, listening device, that too can be surpassed.)



(I think as well here, of the work Azure Carter and I have done with Foofwa d'Imobilite, which tends towards similar edges and noise at times; I'm thinking especially of the Involuntaries which are available online.)





6. In all of the above, one might say, within any cultural game, there are limits, edges, blank spaces, games of extension, and extension beyond extension that becomes immeasurable, chaos or noise without the potential of a return trajectory. Think of the energy of the vacuum, virtual particles, annihilation limits in terms of receptors: any receptor may be surpassed, there is always surplus bandwidth, without recuperation, reconstitution. How does subjectivity deal with this, concern itself with this?




7. At the other end of these broken totalities there are filters which process incoming and structure outgoing. The filters operate within protocol suites, layers of organization that transform information. The suites themselves are always transforming; they loosely define the gamespace, and to this extent, they might be considered closed circulations within potential wells. But wells themselves have tunnels, nothing is secure, and artifacts within the world are at best temporary stases. All of this simultaneously fits together and falls apart; all of this coheres and is incoherent, and this in any case is the talk on blank that can't be given, that is inconceivable that it might occur, that it might say anything, that anything might be said.




Alan Sondheim is a Providence-based new media artist, musician, writer, and performer. He's concerned with issues of virtuality, and the stake that the real world has in the virtual. He has worked with his partner, Azure Carter, and the performer/choreographer Foofwa d'Imobilite. Sondheim is interesting in examining the grounds of the virtual, the way that the virtual inhabits the real body. He performs in virtual, real, and cross-over worlds; his virtual work is known for its highly complex and mobile architectures. He has used altered motion-capture technology extensively for examining and creating new lexicons of behavior. webpage: http://www.alansondheim.org (directory), music archive: http://www.espdisk.com/alansondheim/ (directory), email archive: http://sondheim.rupamsunyata.org/









where no other claim is indicated.