The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

February 19, 2012

the night is shattered by the sound of jogia sarangi... jogia sarangi viola ahead of itself viola falling behind

for mp3s also:

Introductory Preface and Postface, or Open Bracketing of the W/Hole

[This is my introductory postface or preface to my forthcoming WVU book;
it's a fairly good explanation of my essay-work I think. Offered with

The process used to produce this book has been one of continuous
negotiation over pieces, which are broken remnants of a text that might
go on indefinitely, if I did. I would say this about the individual
sections -

1 that each begins, for me, from ground zero, both in the sense of
catastrophe, and without regard to presuppositions; in other words, each
sketches out a terrain which, phenomenologically, is close to the
scratching-out of inscription against the flesh and abjection of the body.

2 that each tends towards summarizations, as if reaching beyond the goal-
playing of a football (soccer) game, recapitulating the game in every
move, as there are only a limited number of moves, of space and time,
given us.

3 that a text from the year 2000 is as currently relevant to me as my
latest text; the problems remain the same and the dating of particular
texts doesn't drive them out of date, but simply situates them within a
particular stratum of writing.

4 that for me there are no outdated philosophical theories or references;
this isn't science, but a continuous description of the world. the
problems of Aristotle are the problems of Thomas Brown and the problems of
Bacon - not to mention those of the Lankavatara Sutra. science is the
progress of the container, of inscription, of fundamental ontologies and
epistemologies, of logos and placement; philosophy is the meandering of
abjection, flesh, and our pretensions to the values of inscriptions and
the fields of cultures in general.

5 that I'm most interesting in the grounds and grounding of writing, in
its relation to the virtual and the negotiation of the virtual, and I do
believe that we are always already virtual, invaded by such, and only in
moments of insufferable pain and the diffusion of the portal of death,
does inscription drop away into the thud and inconceivable flesh and
violence of the body.

6 that there are no dead philosophers, or rather no dead philosophical
writing, and that writing, always virtual and inscription, always saying,
may be within any form, from sound through any variety of artworks,
including scientific texts (which are always only one form of their
theoretical content); in other words, standard writing is just that, one
canon and genre and mode of exposition among others.

7 that beneath every inscription and inscriptive process and act, lies
abjection; that catastrophe theory provides us with a model of the
'fragility of good things,' i.e. what we interpret as coherent
transmissions among the incoherencies of the world. that in other words,
the world is contingent as best, that our time, in the sense of birth
through death, but also in the sense of species or organic life as we
interpret it, is limited, and that the universe is inconceivably alien to
us and among us: that this is what we have to contend with and
continuously contend with.

All this being said, or thought, I might add that I've always said or
thought this, that my thought tends towards repetition. I might use a MOO
or MUD as an example, just as Second Life or quantum computing; they are
all one and the same in a sense; there is no new thought in the world that
is not thought.

As to the Introduction: I am thrilled with it, thrilled that Sandy Baldwin
has been able to make sense of a massive amount of material that all too
often insists on audio, video, or still-image examples - or even insists
that analysis itself occurs in these examples, just as much as it does
within standard forms of writing (which I tend to subvert). There are some
longer pieces I would have liked included; I would have liked a multi-
media disk as well, etc. etc. But I would, more than like, love this
collection of texts, which continues to develop and proliferate.

Again I want to reiterate; if I talk, for example, about a prompt such

k4% date
Wed Feb 15 04:48:14 EST 2012

appears as an antiquated non-GUI (graphic user interface), but a command
at a prompt accompanied by its response - I'm not talking or writing
historically, but about the very act of the performative, the performative
surface which is literally virtual in regard to the underlying program
structures, down to the level of the machinic, where potential wells and
materiality lie. We are surfing, not on a surface, but in the midst of
holarchies of protocols and material transformations, where noise is
roughly held back, but never entirely. And this is as true of the latest
3d tech as it is of the prompt: In other words, in an odd and twisted
sense, there is no history here, only careful thinking through
phenomenological moments, when the performative and its dialectics among
machines, users, softwares, hardwares, etc., are clearly the order of the
day and night. And this is the case surely going back at least to Hero of
Alexandria, if not farther; we move through the stillborn of cultural
presuppositions which like everything else are continuous and in varied

Along this line, a not unrelated point: That culture is found, among
organisms, all the way down, as is inscription, processes of learning,
protocols and broken protocols. We have no dominion over this, only a
certain blindness. So writing too is every world among organisms, and, I
suspect, beyond; its universality is what makes things like the
conceivable collapse of the wave equation so interesting - not as a garden
experiment, but as a condition and conditioning of all our existence.

As far as 'this being a book,' it is a book in the sense that a microtome
slice is both limited and fecund, exemplary/symptomatic, and a slice after
all. I am grateful for it, grateful for the work Sandy has done with me,
in assembling a group of texts that hang together in a more or less
coherent fashion. I'm well aware of the difficulty of texts that change
style constantly, that use conceptual or programming tools in their
construction as much as densely laid-out thought - and Sandy has done an
amazing work in this regard. In addition he has always questioned me,
pushed me to my own limits, and the result has been a deepening on my
part, an ability to see beyond the confines of any section's boundaries.


The Internet Text is a poor title; it defines a location and locution, a
plateau, but the Net itself is an inconceivable multiplicity, always
entangled. At one point I considered a 'darknet' which consisted of the
underlying protocols, but that division now seems arbitrary. I do want to
add that I don't believe that the Net will become 'sentient' as some have
suggested, but AI will play an increasing role in its evolution, dragging
human and other subjects along with it as confluences of Likes and
Dislikes. Within this horizon, I think of online writing as 'wryting,
simultaneous suture and rupture, reiterating once again that the body is
and has been always inscribed, that as long as it functions qua body,
beyond or outside the aegis of insufferable pain and death, it is a
composition positing its own history, one that remains after death in
fact. Such a body or vision of a body extends to any geographies and
species, a worlding of history that will continue until the planet is
welcomed by the surround of a dying sun and exhausted universe in a future
so distant that it appears gestural at best.

I only want to add a few notes on Second Life. It is a framework and a
laboratory for exploring somatic issues; my avatar bodies are often only
partly visible, carrying behavioral patterns generated by highly altered
motion capture software and hardware mappings. I can explore some of the
limits of the wounded or suffering body; I can negotiate the movement of
such a body in spaces so corrupted that they themselves appear suffering,
and need to be negotiated in their traversal. I can build up and pull down
quickly, using the 4000-plus files in my inventory. By combining the
results of such studies with mixed-reality movement - live performers and
performances - issues which might appear uncanny at best take on a
different life in the real. These issues translate poorly into text, as
does some of the soundwork I do. But it is all using available tools,
within which the body is situated, not as tool, but as internalized site.
This is where I live and ultimately this is where the book lives.

Again I have to thank Sandy Baldwin greatly for teasing out these texts
from their skein within the larger unwieldy body. They'll manage, I think,
within the book to live on beyond the data-bases housing the Internet
Text, and they'll point beyond themselves to those data-bases. But every
one of my texts is every other, and these are no exception.

- Alan Sondheim

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