The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

What is Codework?

Codework is a practice, not a product.

It is praxis, part and parcel of the critique of everyday life.

It is not canonic, although it is taken as such.

It is not a genre, although it is taken as such.

The term is relatively new and should always be renewed.

We are suffused with code and its intermingling with surface phenomena.

Wave-trains of very low frequency radio pulses for example.

Phenomenology of chickadee calls.

Codework is not a metaphor, not metaphorical.

It exists precisely in the obdurate interstice between the real and the
symbolic. It exists in the arrow.

It is not a set of procedures or perceptions. It is the noise in the
system. It is not the encapsulation or object of the noise or the system.

It is continuous; it is parasitic; it is thetic.

When it becomes metaphor, masterpiece, artwork, it is still-born; it is
of no interest except as cultural residue: it is of great interest to
critics, gallerists, editors.

When it is not collectible, not a thing, virtual or otherwise, it is not
of interest to critics, gallerists, editors.

Things have already taken up its name, as if pictures in an exhibition.

This is nothing more than the continuous reification, territorialization,
conquest, of the real - as if the real were always already cleansed,
available for the taking - as if the real were already transformed into

Capital is the encapsulation, objectification, of code. Capital drives the
code-conference, the code-book, the code-movement, the code-artist, the
code-masterpiece; capital drives the technology.

In short: Capital drives code into metaphor.

In short: Metaphor drives code into capital.

In short, but of greater difficulty: Capital drives metaphor into code.

In production, simpler: Metaphor drives capital into code.

The driving of metaphor, code, or capital is not codework.

Codework is the labor of code, subject to thermodynamics.

Codework is demonstrative, demonstrative fragment, experiment, partial-
inscription, partial-object, the _thing_ prior to its presentation, the
linguistic kernel of the pre-linguistic. Code is the thetic, the gestural,
of the demonstrative.

It the gesture that never quite takes. It is the noise inherent in the

However: Codework will become a _subject_ or a _sub-genre_ or a _venue_ or
an _artwork_ or an _artist_ or a _dealer_ or a _collector._ However: This
is not codework, or: What I describe above is not codework; after all,
names are subsumed beneath the sign (Emblematic) of capital - as if
something is being accomplished. (Hackers who are not hackers are

To code is not to produce codework; it is to produce code on the level of
the code or interface. Bridged code, embedded code, is not codework; the
irreversible spew of cellular automata is codework, all the better if the
rules are noisy. The cultural production of codework abjures intensifica-
tions, strange attractors, descriptions such as this (which is the oldest
game in the _book_). The hunt and reception of short-wave number codes is
codework. Writers on the edge are circumscribed by codework, malfunctioned
psychoanalytics, scatologies. Jews, Gypsies, Gays, Blacks, are endlessly
coded and decoded; the codes are dissolute, partial, always already incom-
plete: the differend is codework.

To speak against the differend is codework; tumors are codework, metas-
tases. The useless sequences of DNA, RNA.

Be wary of the violence of the legible text. Beware the metaphor which
institutionalizes, the text which defines, the text of positivities, not
negations, the circumscribing text, inscribing text; beware of the
producers and institutions of these texts, whose stake is in hardening of
definitions, control, capital, slaughter: Texts slaughter.

And texts slaughter texts.

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