The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

February 10, 2004

Note on "Codework"

I think I came up with the name (which surely had been used before) in a
conversation with Ken Wark - we were talking about code - the term at that
point, as far as I remember, was code-poetry - and I borrowed the notion
of 'work' - i.e. labor, production - I think - from Heiner Muller -
running the two words together - as in Hamletmachine - so there was a
political component as well - not wanting the limitation of poetry,
however defined, or poetics for that matter - opening the framework, not
closing it - I'd also felt that code-poetry - however spelled - was too
close to concrete poetry - which didn't interest me at all - at least not
any longer - not even dom sylvester huedard - maybe huedard actually - but
not the usual suspects - anyway - I thought that codepoetry would minimize
the design aspect - emphasize the symbolic or asymbolic or presymbolic -
for that matter the (Kristevan) choratic of language - so the political
and psychoanalytical met on the grounds of mathesis and semiosis - all
this into the naming of the word - pretty commonplace now - at least this
is what was going through my mind at that point - still is - anyway -


Codework impossibility of self-reference and decipherment.

a. "There are seven words in this sentence." Which word is the number?
b. "This is a sentence." But how would one know?
c. "This is written in English." But how would one know?

- Self-referentiality possesses a residue; only in mathematics or logic is
it 'pure' - the whole relating to the whole.

The residue is in relation to an attribute. But then

d. "This refers in its entirety to itself." Are we at the juncture of

Using Peirce's distinctions, I'd argue that every painting is first and
foremost ikonic and perceived as such - the paint is never transparent. To
the extent that codework requires interpretation, examination, it is
ikonic as well - one might say that, even in the space of virtuality, it
possesses a materialist foundation. The more 'impenetrable' the greater
the degree of ikonicity, the greater the appearance of _material._ This
appearance is just that, however, appearance, as a change - for example
from monospace to justifiable type - will demonstrate.

One must consider, of course, the semantic residue of the ikonic - and the
interstitial / liminal between the meaning-sememe and the ikonic provides
the _content_ of the work; in fact, the meaning-sememe and ikonic-sememe
are interwoven, inseparable, and contributory, a somewhat similar
situation to the calligraphic.

_Meaning_ itself is both attribute (i.e. 'meaning of _cheval_ in French')
and calligraphic; totality is reserved for the Absolute which is always
problematic ('meaning of Life,' 'meaning of Everything') and ideologically
suspect. To the extent that meaning embraces an Absolute, meaning depends
on decoding (Bible, Koran, Kwak!); here is the locus of political Power in
the Foucauldian sense.

Codework simultaneously embraces and problematizes meaning; one might
argue that codework is _fallen work,_ fallen by the wayside, as well as
the disturbance of the Gnostic Mary Magdalen.

Every more or less traditional text is codework with invisible residue;
every computer harbors the machinic, the ideology of capital in the
construction of its components, the oppression of underdevelopment in its
reliance on cheap labor.

Every text is Derridian/Foucauldian differance; codework is exemplary of
the process of deferral and _rewrite._ Codework, like _wryting,_ is an
embodiment within virtual ontologies; wryting disturbs _towards_ the body,
desire, language - that language of codework, ruptured by codework.

Inner speech as well is self-referential, a decoding of every text spoken
within it, before the reader, or among the readers. And nothing fulfills
_utterly,_ every Absolute itself is codework, a deferral - hence the
psychoanalytical nature of _defuge_ - that decay which comes about through
the overuse of pornography or the attempt to begin again and again, a
novel left off in the middle. Therefore consumption, the ravenous, is at
the heart of _things_ to the extent there is any _meaning_ at all.


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