The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

February 23, 2011


thinking about revolving
& the timing of the revolving
the timing of the revolution and hearts and murmurs
the illiterations of the timing
and the liminal spacings of the limning
soft-or the shamanic spinnings and boson superfluids
then the arrhythmia and the errors of breathing
and dictations

pakistani 14" framedrum

beautiful code

beautiful code: (mocap mod)

(from avatar.txt)

And so one's body is an immanent form of exchange; for both avatar and
modeler - or procurer - it is a rite of passage. Were it not for the
inertia of sexuality, the weight of the caress of light, hir body would
become invisible, totalized: nothing and everything simultaneously. Its
visibility for you would be its invisibility for hirself, of course, of
course... [   ]

When I model hir, I desire hir, desire the avatar and hir inconceivable
performance, desire this which targets my body, re-possesses it; if s/he
is clothed, hir body fulfills the function of clothing; if s/he is naked,
everything is gone, devoured, _spent._  [   ]

Thus engineering and avatar mediate between the real (evidence in the
"scientific" sense) and the imaginary (the eccentric space of the erotic):
an entity embedded into substance, or an entity promising substance and
embedding - an entity existing only in the virtual, as hard as any other

What I am is what I have; what I have is what s/he is; what s/he is, is
what I am; what I am belongs to hir (plateau of skin, flesh of screen of
flesh). What is ceased (embedded) remains in shadow; what is evident
in the light is evidence and light is everywhere. Light embeds and re-
produces; light presences, rewrytes hir again and again. [   ]

I am restrained. In this fashion I hardly know hir, 1 on 1 side of the
screen, 2 on the other. The light becomes a familiar caress (it is not
daylight; it is litigation, the negotiation of the Law in this software,
in this viewer, this hardware wetware); I confess everything. What you
want is what you get. What I engineer is the inverted double, and I
perform for hir. Like a service, I perform for hir, perform for myself,
perform hir. I cannot (to be frank) look in a mirror; I avoid hir eyes. I
perform for dead files which bring hir flesh to life; s/he brings me to
life, the restoration which is the presence of flesh. The memory of flesh.
The memory of non-existent flesh. Flesh is its disembodiment. S/he is the
story which surrounds me. S/he are the beginning of narrative.

What s/he pulls out of me is an object. An avatar. That avatar is an
image, is substance. That avatar cures; s/he is shamanic, mediating the
real against itself. There is nothing spiritual here, in this shamanism;
there is only the presence of desire, arousal, speech, narrative, pathos,
vehemence, intention, the circulating of the real, the collapse of
fantasm, theory, language, against the reality of the flesh and its
excitation. Which becomes a totality, transforms avatar, hir body into
liquidity, the return of the caress. [   ]

Carnival, plateau, perforations of the body. Everywhere illuminations. I
desire hir, desire the endless peregrinations of hir engineering, hir
engine, I desire hir presence within me.

(from a question by Lawrence Upton on wryting-l)

I think of inscription itself as virtual; the body is interpenetrated by
(and penetrates) systems of signs and symbols not always coherent. A sign
is virtual to the extent that it represents, even if it's ikonic, repre-
senting itself. It (the sign) participates in abstraction, taking the body
with it, just as the body physicalizes the sign. I think of tattoos for
example as such representations - they're deliberately added. But there
are things like scars, pockmarks, shaving patterns (or not), bruises,
makeup, etc., all of which entertain the body within readings, within
virtual worlds - for example scars referencing a history which is partly
readable, partly deducible, partly absent. On the other hand, the body is
fundamentally flesh and tissue, _there,_ and the body in pain or severe
sickness or near death is 'beyond' representation; I think Elaine Scarry
touched on these points - just as hysterical laughter or crying becomes a
'beyond' of the events that may have produced it. Virtuality isn't on a
rocker switch; it's present like a Noh ghost or haunting, and it's part of
the uncanny of the body. Watching the motion capture figures is a watching
of inhabitations which are also lost or gone, or evanescent - there is the
implication of multitudes in each of the bodies / avatars, yet only one
connected form is actually visible. The body isn't a product, but it's not
just a background either. I think one designs the body to a great degree -
costuming, makeup, general appearance, but this is outward; a scar on the
other hand most often is a mute testimony of something, perhaps serious
and painful, that has gone (on) before. I think on the other hand, the
general tendency is to make a separate between 'real' and 'virtual' bodies
or avatars, and to talk about the designing of the latter. But the latter
- even the Second Life virtual world avatars - also participate in the
abject, in 'leakages,' that reference the arousals, histories, love, and
hatreds of the 'real' fleshly body; avatars appear self-contained, but but
they're hardly that (I think this kind of tethering between a body and
'hir' avatar in fact is uncanny, irreducible, a form of impulse or
intentionality - something a while ago I called 'jectivity' to cover both
introjection and projection.)

So I think these mocap avatars or figures are 'about' all of this, all
this intermixing of ontologies, bodies, representations, etc. - they're
also carrying a kind of 'social' into the body. It was interesting working
with the dancers and watching them operate together or independently, but
within the aegis of the group, almost like a musical quartet; to produce a
_particular_ movement in the avatar image, the dancers had to move, for
example, in particular ways. On the other hand, when the dancers
improvised independently or without regard of the (singular image), new
and innovative movements appeared in the avatar as it responded, in dialog
with the hardware and software, to often contradictory requests in the
placement of limbs and movements. It reminds me of the old "Three Faces
of Eve" concept of schizophrenia - or the multiple intelligences theory of
the mind - and what ultimately appears in spite of Minsky, Lacan, and a
number of more recent thinkers, is still a form of unity - one avatar
twisting, one being, ultimately the fiction of one sign, the collectivity
of what we still think of as the individual or "I".


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