The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

November 6, 2008

nice comment from Bruce Sterling -

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By Bruce Sterling November 05, 2008 | 3:28:19 AM (((I think every literateur
that works on ink-on-paper should confront the work of *Alan Sondheim* and
then *...*
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Images and Commentary

(This might be the clearest exposition I've been able make re: the Second
Life installation. The commentary is just that, a kind of epistemological
description. The world of the show, the true world or virtual or dream or
real world, comes through, I think. And from this perhaps to the show
itself, where everything moves, and contemplation is more difficult, close
to impossible at times, and hopefully rewarding.)

Julu write in the sky of Second Life; in the skysphere, the writing, the
digital itself, is endlessly duplicated. The simulacrum of distance leads
to the vanishing point of writing, literally unadulterated space. This
could be any future in which dimensionality leads to dimensional collapse.

A similar image; it's clear, through a consideration of the difference
between the two, that the opticality is the result of an intersection of a
disk with a sphere; unlike the sphere, the center of the disk is striated.

Julu as hermaphroditic writer hirself, endlessly duplicated; the wryting
(of the body) swings out as wrything.

The writing gathers thickly into tiled kanji; each stroke extends in width
as well as length. A second illusion: that of pipes among Julu and hir
processes. This first set of images is variants among a basic configura-

The sphere/disk contraption is populated by Julu, torso, cone, an image of
myself as fundamental structure (on one hand) but vulnerable to swarm (on
the other). Of course the cone falls through the bottom of the image,
lands nowhere, just something teetering as if it provided an axis (it does

Color differentiates sphere from disk, and sphere becomes oddly heraldic -
a shield or boiler interior, documentation of the metaphoric.

A second view; oddly in this one, it's possible to see the broken remnant
of another disk to the right of the first; it too circulates, almost
entirely outside of the sphere. By now this series is exhausting itself
and it is getting close to the time when one moves on to the promise or
premise of new directions.

One disk seen through another. The texture map between two images of
Yamantaka is based on skin around the vocal cords; one sees through speech
to hungry ghosts, murmurs almost gathered into words, the inchoate lost in
itself. I'd call this image beautiful, but that worries.

Exterior shot of sphere (foreground), major intersecting disk with parti-
cle emission from the center (the phonemic) and other ascendent disks,
implying that the series, like Brancusi's column, might continue forever.
In this case, in the absent of gravity, mountainous height is easily in
reach - without, however, any indication of the sublime. The sublime is no
longer that which disappears, but its ghost is at the end of teleportation
- everything portends an inconceivable clarity miles up in a sky which is
just as airless below sea level as it is anywhere else. The disks revolve
at varying speeds, and appear to revolve forever; the energy driving them
comes from the reading/writing of servers and local machines, one might
say by a circuitous route.

Looking down the same chain from above; the disks radiate two types of
particles, two physics only partially responding to the simulacrum of
weather. The disks are deliberately off-kilter; everything in the instal-
lation wobbles, as if about to break loose - in spite of being totally
determined by a relatively obdurate database.

Archaeology of older objects held in stationary positions in the sky.
These objects do not move; they exist as extensions of the land coordin-
ates, although close to a fictitious kilometer up. The shapes are
'troubled,' as if from half-dreams or hypnagogic images. Everything around
them moves, but they are a form of written history. The history extends
back no more than five months, but it is present in quick-time fast-for-
ward process. Think of it! Moving around, among, inscription, as if
inscription were part and parcel of the world and (avatar, human) body
itself (it is).

Another view of the previous using the light palette of the Hudson River
School or Illuminists. The object are situated against embers; wheels are
visible, as are landscape elements by other artists in the distance.

Collusion of spaces and times: Static objects, disks, mutoscopes, emis-
sions,, all under the watch of Julu Twine, who had a role in their
creation. The communality of objects is evident; everything is in groups,
regular or irregular, symmetrical or apparently scattered - Wolfram's
cellular automata, via Rudy Rucker, come to mind.

Beneath the gallery installation, a view within the water, looking towards
the sea-bed. The image is complex and moving at furious speed; many of
these objects have hurtled from the surface in relation to the presence of
an avatar (proximity switching) - others remains as denizens of the ocean.
Things appear as part-objects as they rise above the floor of the gallery
or sink into the ocean surface. This is possibly the most successful of
the scapes, carrying the weight of the true world, dream and real and
virtual, inscriptive and inert, within it.

We are back in the sky (perhaps there have been inadvertent teleports);
the archaeology is now visible from below.

And from the side. This mapping reveals tiling strategies; as in the sky-
sphere, I'm photographically present on a rectangular object (which is out
of place; it's one of the architectural building-blocks of the now decon-
structed museum), a problematic punctum mirroring the skysphere cone.

An odd image in the process of configuration/construction: the heart of
Nikuko (Alan Dojoji), a female figure without the attachments that will
dwarf her and appear less than a second later. She has just landed as the
database approximately reconstructs her previous position - hence her
awkward stance. Unlike Julu Twine, she is responsible and in charge of the
exhibition; she can place objects where she wants, alter the video and
sounds, and do other basic tasks (including banning avatars) which are
impossible for the other. She's necessary for building, but with the
attachments, it's almost impossible to see around her. So she drops
objects and begins them; they're finished by Julu Twine, who comes in lean
as caretaker, designer, and artist. This image almost never appears by the
way, so fast are the clothes (object attachments, in this case large
partially-visible objects and particle generators) placed on the armature;
it was a database error that allowed me to snap the image.

Mapped sky disks in irregular positions. These are the lower disks just
above the exhibition space. The pink texture is that of an avatar body;
without modification it might form the basis for Julu's hermaphroditic
morphing. Note the skin textures between the kalaidoscopic sky writing
images; these are from vocal cords and (male) groin.

Stacked and wobbled upper disks with mapped sky writing. This indicates
the general architectural strategy of disk alignment - almost, but not
quite, synchronous wheels or gears. Sometimes the disk fall or disappear,
as if part of a natural world (I have no accounting for this).

Another view of the same; in this one Julu Twine appears as inscriber and
the particle emissions from the disk centers are clear. These emissions
use the same configuration as the particle writers of both Julu Twine and
Nikuko; they stand in for smokers on the deeper beds of the ocean near
tectonic rifts. Out in the light of dusk, they do nothing but revolve,
inert, useless, magnificent, sublime perhaps but only from the periphery,
a kind of neural distance as fantastic as anything else here.

Yet another view, with the skysphere, still carrying its yellow tinting
below (this was later changed to neutral grey). The horizon itself has air
above featureless cloud.

Nighttime illumination of disks; in the distance, Nikuko (Alan Dojoji) can
be seen. She controls the disk images and permissions, as mentioned above.
Particles and her full regalia are visible.

Looking up from the installation space. Architectural flats are visible on
the periphery. Another video is visible in the center of a horizontal
disk. It's close to noon. The edges of fast-moving transparent objects are

In this image, there are four or five intersecting disks, all linked, all
slated to disappear (without a trace, i.e. they're not 'returned from off
world') shortly. The disks carry very complex video texturing; the result
is the kind of jumble that fascinates me, a tangled somewhat spherical
landscape (but not quite spherical, not quite landscape) that doesn't
resolve. Another texture of Yamantaka, one that doesn't map video, is
visible on part of one of the disks. The scene is dusk again.

A similar shot as the previous; in this one, the spherical shape is broken
and distorted, and an architectural flat can be seen moving at high speed
in the upper portion of the image.

A general dusk view with complex video texturing near the entrance to the
installation. This gets close to the appearance of jumble (fourth stage in
Wolfram's categories, the gnarly, through Rucker); this is an almost
impossible space to negotiate. Note that the disks themselves intersect
and distort one another. In this view, objects coalesce, disappear, frag-
ment, erupt, and so forth; it's impossible to unite them - it's also
impossible to separate them. Clarity disappears in favor of the amphi-

A general view of the teetering wheels in the installation; many of these
will disappear within twenty minutes or so. Most of the wheels have
corrupted surfaces; Julu avoids the purely symmetric and its effect. Real
crystals are rarely perfect and are paralleled here by occlusions and
distortions of all sorts.

This is an earlier view of the entrance before more complex elements were
added and/or transformed. Note the roughly spherical objects; these are
forced skyward by avatar presence. As mentioned in another text, they may
be forced indefinitely upward, but seem to eventually return to their
original position, almost resting on the ground (as if they were resting
on the ground).

The final image in the series, taken from beyond and slightly below the
sea wall bordering the Odyssey land tract and exhibition space. The cone
on the left, texture-mapped with an image of a penis, teleports to the
sky-sphere and moves, piston-like (and bad metaphorically) in and out of a
well. The black skein-object to the right aligns with the ring- and moss-
objects, all of which are partly invisible, membranes or skeins somewhat
demarcating territory. Think of everything here moving at very high speed,
Julu buffeted about by objects beneath her as well as those visible in the
image. It should be noted that a few objects shuttle slowly back and forth
and others slowly revolve, as if in court dances; these aren't grounds but
mutual interferences with the fast-forward ones. Cones and disks wobble,
Yamantaka carrying prayer-wheels carrying Yamantaka, hungry ghosts resid-
ing just beyond the screen. All screens are dream-screens and all dreams
are screens. Julu Twine looks on; the position of her arms indicates she
is trying to remain upright, focused, on nothing and everything at all.

(I hope this elucidation indicates that the images from the installation
aren't random, that the installation coheres within and without the
pseudo-random, that reason and reasoning are problematic in the face or
alterity of negotiation (which does not necessarily imply a strategy
within the symbolic), and that there is meaning in the madness, madness in
the meaning, and that the world is gnarly, distorted, always already
incomplete, and somewhat beautiful and deadly.)

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