The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

October 11, 2001

(sent to webartery - Alan)

I've not been participating recently so much, for which apologies - I'm
worn out and at the edge of a literal breakdown here in Miami, trying to
hold on. And in my work I've been doing things in Mathematica, a program
for Mac/PC/Unix/Linux - I have it on 3 PCs and a Mac G3 now - because it
creates an ambience I'm interested in - the ability to work closely with
structure in relation to transcendent or content - the content on one
level is nothing more than a residue, and on the other, it's the membrane
which evidences submerged operations. You can import various graphic
formats into Mathematica, then process them in a number of ways - matrices
for example (which are, in a simple way, present in Photoshop as well),
and functions - the last fascinates me. So a.jpg becomes f(a.jpg), and as
a function, it can be modified - its parameters can be modified - in a
number of way; the result on one hand is often a transformation that I
haven't seen before, but on the other, is a representation of an intricate
relationship between mathesis and what perceptually passes for the real.
Take hole.jpg, make hole = f(hole.jpg) and do a transformation on normal-
ized values and you might have (1 - hole) as the negative, (hole^2) as
high contract, (hole^.5) as flattening, etc.; but you can go farther with
the x, y, etc. coordinates - as if a calculated blast has transformed one
world into another - with information often lost, sometimes gained (over-
lay something with tangents and you've got additional peaks everywhere).
Beyond that, 3d mappings are possible, so that hole.jpg becomes a remapped
3d object or anti-object; the world is a charred world, a world turned
inside-out. In addition, you an export audio from Mathematica, and if you
work with tangent values again, as well as > 40,000 hz, you can use beat
frequencies, harmonics, subharmonics, all related to the program, your
hearing, and the machine, interstitial objects which often need no further
processing; everything is equivalent. Now I would want to take a slice of
a 3d anti-object, then a sheaf of slices, and construct audio from their
sequencing - or one might begin with an entire sequencing, producing audio
as well as an implicit three-dimensional object traversed by one or
another parameter.

All of this is a safe and perfect world; there are no errors, or errors
may be easily corrected; if something proves a blind alley, I can turn
elsewhere, create a different direction, withdraw from unknown functions
and objects, back into familiar territory. An enormous amount of memory
seems necessary for all of this, so rendering takes longer than even
Blender, but there is a comforting specificity in the results, a knowledge
that noise, randomness, death itself, can be beautiful and self-contained.
There is a relationship between all of this and my own demise or potential
breakdown, which I relate to the crystalline wonder of a curve or surface
- the sequencing of the Visible Human Project comes immediately to mind.

So I am making disks of images and sequences and sounds on mini-disk and
releasing them, thinking them through; some of them may find their way
into online directories. Meanwhile I am writing through these, as well as
writing through other surface-to-air, air-to-surface phenomena, trying to
make sense of a world, that, for me, is not utterly changed, but utterly
the same, with a semiotic war above all, in both senses of "above," going
on at the moment. I recognize my own broken existence, how impossible.

Then I can turn in the middle of the night back again through the sexual
video and images, into perfect mathesis, transform one sexuality into
many, one pornography into many, avoiding the pornography of violence,
taking a different path. I'm platonist to the extent that I believe, long
after we're gone, the machinery of mathematics will continue its intimate
relationship with the mechanism of physical or material reality; working
in the realm of number offers a glimpse touching on the asymptotic horizon
of subjectivity and the final bursting-point of perspective.

And I wonder - what is the phenomenology of (1 - hole), when there is no
content for the filling or the asking, when proper names and constants
have disappeared, when the "-" is a lever or a surface, rather than
subtraction or dash or identity assignment? What is keeping 1 and hole
apart - what is the normalization that involves the entirety of the world,
dis/played or di/splayed against the corrosion of blank space, virtual
particles, decathection degree zero? The equations converge and veer;
there always seems to be chaos as the computational limits of the machine
are approached, and one or another equation takes forever to calculate,
until memory, real and virtual, is exhausted. Then the program stops, and
the kernel of Mathematica (which is constructed like an operating system)
shuts down;  nothing waits for anything in this condition -

Alan, hanging on in Florida

Ah, I can't read all of this and I used to love Baudrillard; now it seems
almost antiquated, a spin of sorts...


Internet text at
Partial at
Trace Projects at
CDROM of collected work 1994-2000/1 available: write

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.