The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

July 31, 2011

Wounded Avatars ii
(whole text also at )

"oh! how we all slide off the end of the earth.
when my mother died, she was always in my thoughts.
now in dreams sometimes, tonight i met her in paris,
perhaps from sweden, she was slightly tipsy, she
was dressed in white, holding a glass, a white
object, perhaps from a virtual world, nose-cone of
sorts, perched near her, somehow attached, and i said,
i said, mom, i haven't seen you in a while, don't you
remember me
and she said, she said don't be silly, we saw
each other just a week ago, and then i remembered...

remembering, having woken up, more than a decade ago,
and all these complicities, sliding off and away,
vanishing, sooner, perhaps,
sooner, perhaps, among my siblings or her friends, then
nothing at all, already i am half gone with it, half gone
with despair"

So there are three paths for the woundatar, each a disturbance of virtual
1. The path of the grain of the voice;
2. The path of the photograph as texture;
3. The path of self-illumination and image-imaginary of the nightclub.

These tend towards a return of the somatic; the viewer is engaged, and the
projectivity/introjectivity matrix or 'jectivity' between the viewer's
body-subjectivity and the visuality of the virtual is deeply entangled.

They are entangled without the simplicity of mappings which drives so much
new media or virtual art: for example, the weather mapped through the
stock-exchange onto musical scales, resulting in an 'interpretation' of
the planet. Mappings are GIGO, garbage-in, garbage-out; they are the
result of a paring-away of the abject, of the clarity of thought; and they
participate in an Enlightenment project which does not admit, for example,
the abject of the tumor which remains ill-defined and corrosive.

But it is such an abject that wins at the very end, that appears at the
end: the wound which refuses to heal, spreading until the body is
consumed. And how this is brought home, is through the _phenomenology of
the mess,_ which is the true-real state of the world.

The mess is deep disorder, in both practical and ontological senses. The
mess absorbs and negates history. The mess is simultaneously everything
and nothing, rust and dust, corrosion and ill-locution.

(On a practical level, what I've overlooked here, of course, is access and
mixed-reality; I've been focusing on the two ends of the spectrum, an
assumed 'real' and an assumed 'virtual.' (Elsewhere, I've shown these
assumptions are false; the real and virtual are always entangled. So I'm
speaking of hypothetically-pure states here, nothing more.) Mixed-reality
brings up a host of interface issues. For the woundatar's problematic of
ontology, tacit knowledge is a necessity. In other words, having to work
through or over a complex interface which calls to you as an intermediary,
disrupts the flow. And flow disruptions is diegetic disruption, which is
why whole-body insertion into virtual worlds is the psycho-logical end-
point of development here. But even driving in or inhabiting a virtual
world for a period of time still runs into the same issues, which is why
voice, photographic texture, and/or nightclub scenarios are so important.
(Interestingly, just as voice has grain, so does smell; both are _of_ the
body in an uncomfortably direct way. But the latter has yet to be
harnessed anywhere, except as a gimmick.) (On the other hand, think of
movement directly recorded from injured, paralyzed, or dying people, in
combination with the three paths mentioned above. The point is, these
aren't the only possible paths; they're only the most obvious.))

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