Monday, May 23, 2011

Jhave & Sandra Huber [The Poetics of Science]

My first introduction to these to artists is less than five days old now. But having taken a look at their work, I feel like it is also mine. That is to say, these are kindred artists who artistic depth is foremost poetical. That is to say, they are poets first who engage other forms of media, and their work is therefore crucial to the legitimacy of e-poetry as a literary discipline.

First let me say, that I had the pleasure of meeting these two, and that they are both incredibly dedicated crafts-persons who are actively engaged in the sort of Consilience Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward Wilson wrote about in his book of the same name. In other words, both of these artists actively engage the theoretical sciences in their own approach to poetics, a common theme among many of us who are engaged in e-poetry. For those of you who aren't aware, there is a great deal of paranoia surrounding the sciences from the vantage of the humanities and not all of it can be chalked up to science-envy (although I've personally seen very little else to justify such a position). We don't seem to be aiming our ire where it belongs (psychiatry).

At any rate, Jhave is an important artist, not merely because of his relationship to digital poetics, but also because the man writes like he has a gun pointed to the back of his head. I find this quality endearing in an artist, for reasons which are apparent to those who have followed my work. My concern for our role in the destruction of our environment, the proverbial "shitting where you eat" theorem.

One of Jhave's most fascinating contributions to the theoretical ensemble of digital poetics is the notion of language as living entity. This is not as far fetched as it may sound given the groundbreaking work of quantum theorist David Bohm whose sense of dimensionality is a current topic of research for me. The notion here is that inanimate objects contain within them an imperative to animate, or else you have a problem. How can life evolve out of non-life unless there is somehow contained in seed form the potential to do so?

But everywhere the concern here is for life itself, and the questions of life: cells, bodies, seeds, nature, genetics, and environmental sciences. Language itself is an extension of life, of living process and entities seeking for a higher form of signal processing.

By contrast, Sandra Huber has engaged the sciences in a no less radical way. Her current project, "Assembling the Morrow" is an inquiry into scientific study of sleep. Ouroborically choosing to be the object of her own experiment she has literalized the notion of experimental poetry in a way which few artists have dared try (and scientists have advised against). Her project, though still a work in progress, utilizes the brain waves present during human sleep cycles to create a work of poetics that is literally constructed atop the patterns our brain creates when sleeping. Her work is so technically abstruse that to provide a thorough reading would require a great deal of temporal investment. However, there are two possible avenues that I can offer right off the top of my head.

Firstly, it engages "waves" which is a rich theoretical discipline within mathematics that is almost universally necessary for every science. Waves are generally regarded as having both circular and linear components, and the "purest" form of the wave are the sine/cosine waves. Sine and Cosine are generally referred to as "transcendental functions" largely because they require a calculus of interminable series in order to understand and express them. We knew about such sets long before we had a mathematical means to deal with them, which brings us to our second possible line of interrogation: Construction.

Huber's poetry is literally written atop the shapes of her brainwaves and engages the possibility of a concrete poetry in a way I personally have never seen attempted. I have written about Construction (somewhat) thoroughly as a Pythagorean extension of Deconstruction. If Deconstruction seeks to disarticulate things from the constructs that make them, Construction would be a reversal of this, and it would necessarily include the mathematical insights that can be provided from merely the compass and a straight-edge. Furthermore, it opens itself to architectural interpretations, as well as image theories such as Hofstadter's isomorphism, William Blake's literal imagination, and Jakob Bohme concept of the signature.

Both of the artists engage the sciences in ways that were heretofore considered anathema to the humanities, and each in their way collapse the boundaries between what is considered art and science, theory and practice, animate and inanimate, and literature and visual media.

I hope you will check out their works (if you haven't already).

Sandra Huber:, Assembling the Morrow

Sunday, May 22, 2011

E-Poetry 2011 Festival of Techno Art

Having just settled down from the E-Poetry Festival which came to Buffalo, New York (where I live) I believe that I am prepared to offer some thoughts on the experience.

For those of you who have not yet jumped on the bandwagon, e-poetry and digital poetics (which are not really distinct from one another as far as I can tell) is an emerging category of artistic expression that is pushing the limits of what constitutes poetry. Indeed, it has inspired much debate as to whether or not digital poetics constitutes a literary art form.

Regardless of any prior opinion that exists on this topic, it is largely irrelevant. Poets have always fancied themselves the liberators of language and as writer who is inspired by the Beats among (many) others, it has always struck me that through these artists, that it was poetry itself that was trying to free itself from language. With the ironically named language poets you really do see a tendency to think about pre-lingual utterances that happen prior to what a linguist would properly constitute as language. Grunts, moans, ooohs, and ahhhs are every bit as prevalent in spoken langpo performances as syntactically perfect utterances.

Syntax itself becomes a prison from which language desperately tries to escape as luminaries such as Loss Glazier have made reference to, but it is not language that needs to be freed, it is poetry, which is as pervasive a force of nature as consumption and excretion. A failure to see the poetry in everyday life has left us alienated from not just language and each other, but life itself, the experience of being alive. We can blame this on language all we like but it is we who choose, who act, who remain bound and enslaved to notions which fix our images of the world into static forms. And language, while part of the problem, is also a solution.

If I recall correctly, it was Ian Hatcher who stated that to name a thing is the highest form of love, but such a sentiment fails to take into a account that there are at least seven different names for the substance referred to by the word "shit." For me, on the other hyperbolic end of this notion is that to name a thing is to kill it. Something I cannot fully believe but if given an opportunity to sentimentalize language would utter this instead. The reason for this is that to name a thing familiarizes it in such a was as to fix its image and preload it with all the experiences that are associated with it, which is really the point, I do not relate nearly as well to language as the artist who can make that claim.

I am very much a "devil's tools" kind of tactician, so to become a poet was a natural extension of my secret war.

But enough about that. Over the next few days I will blog about digital poetics, the artists who are working in the field, the sorts of ideas that are being thrown around, and the excitement that is being generated around it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Derrida & Binary Trees

Derrida in Dissemination speaks of the "double" and the "triplicity" of the concept, many times beginning with a dual opposition, and moving toward a dialectic transformation which con-fuses in an act of sublation, that Hegel refers to as abolishing and transcending.

In Of Grammatology this begins as a critique of Saussure's concept of the sign. The sign is a unity composed in opposition as a duality.

(sign) -> Signifier
-> Signified

To translate this concept of the concept, into computer terminology, you have in the signifier, a pointer which stands in the place of the reference to the value, which is the signified, the value itself.

The problem of such a methodology can be basically explained in terms of even the simplest expressions. Take for instance this utterance:

The tree is green.

The signifier is the raw text "The tree is green." The signified, the meaning, the value, of the utterance, means that there is a tree, and it is green.

The problem is that the green-ness of the tree, itself signifies (for instance) the season in which the tree exists, for winter trees are seldom green unless they're pines etc...

So in the discrete categorical logic of sign/signifier/signified, you have the reduplication of signifier/signified at the level of both the signifier and the signified.

That is to say, that a signified value can in fact, refer like a signifier to some extraneous meaning, that the categories in an of themselves, do not refer to some static relationship, but rather, are always codetermined by the relation of a signifier to a signified.

The effect of this is akin to the logic of a cause and an effect. If we imagine a row of dominoes toppling over, we can see that there is a first cause, which knocks over the first domino, and as an effect, it falls over. The next domino in the chain, will be knocked over on account of the domino which stands before it, which can now be seen as a cause.

So what we really end up describing is a state, and not a thing. The signifier itself is no-thing, it is merely the state of a relation between a label and a value. Furthermore, the operations which are the cause, necessity and desire for such a system, cannot be reduced to either relation, but rather must include both.

The structure of such a construction of the concept, would in all cases be identical to a binary tree. So let's say that you have 4 levels of bifurcation in a binary tree. How many references are there at the 4th level?

The answer to this question is our familiar binary logarithm of 2^N, ref:

0->1 & 2 (level 1) = 2^1
1-> 3 & 4, 2-> 5 & 6 (level 2) = 2^2
3-> 7 & 8, 4-> 9 & 10, 5-> 11 & 12, 6-> 13, 14 = (level 3) = 2^3 (8)


For those of you who are wondering what the hell I'm doing and why, I've been rereading through Dissemination and Of Grammatology, collecting and recollecting references to topics which relate to the thesis of the $This sentence is false$ essay.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Being, God, and Writing

Being, roughly translated is based on the Old Testament's Tetragrammaton and it comes out in translation as something like: he becomes which in Hebrew is all one word yah-way. In the Hebrew language in which the original version of the OT was written, vowel markings did not exist, so all that you are left with is the YHWH. Vowel markers were added several centuries later by grammarians.

Ehyeh asher ehyeh, I am that which I am, translated into Greek becomes  "ego eimi ho on", "I am the being." (Wiki entry is good).

Being as an is-ness, as a manifesting, or a presencing, is like God himself, What was, what is, and what will be. The Alpha and the Omega are tied in a a knot in a continuous line. Times have collapsed into sequences. Times are relative to a location in time. Extremes meet, and infinity is bound to a pulse, not a circle, but a circling, which itself opens up into a line.

The word Being is a complex verbal noun, a process which has been transmuted into an object. The primordial cause of all known effects. The Origin. It has been sufficiently disarticulated to be all encompassing.

The primordial impulse of western metaphysics is thus to disarticulate the ontological object, shave off those qualities which at once are unique to some object, and so exclude others.

In order to construct such an ontological object, one in which any unique attribute assigned to it would discern it from something else, one uses a process of negation. In the Christian tradition, such a meditative practice has been handed down by an unknown Christian Mystic in the form of the Cloud of Unknowing.

Now, I haven't really done a great deal of research on via negativa, but the general impression I get is this, when we invoke the name of an image, for instance, we can evoke the image, let's say: God is not the sunrise, you will think immediately of the godliness of the sunrise, and then negate the idea that God is the sunrise.

The effect of repeating this process, over and over, we suppress the impulse by which we collapse Being/God into a single image, and allow the image itself, to "stand in for" the concept.

By evoking the concept of God/Being over and over, collapsing it into solitary images, and then negating, erasing, or blotting out the image, we can turn off the projections, without turning off the projector.

This is accomplished through a linguistic and visual process, by which God/Being, is positively defined by a negation of any image you may associate with it, regardless of whether or not it is concrete or abstract or even some event.

An object so transmuted, would cease in time to refer by collapsing, to what is in truly, all of the things that it is not, but not merely any of them.

The process is roughly analogous to reduction. In effect, we are searching the lowest common denominator between all existing things. That being, that they are.

The sense then of a text written in a fashion which adheres to such a process, would necessarily not refer beyond its own semantics or signification as a process, and also become a performance of the questioning as opposed to an answer to a question.

Now, this rather Christian notion, deeply grounded in Western Metaphysical tradition, has become the foundation for its collapse and the history of this process, is undertaken specifically by Derrida and the post-modernists who followed. It is also founded on the very Eastern metaphysical concern that the Word/Sign/Signifier not be confused with the concept/thing which it signifies, since in actual fact, the two are separate. However, by not trying to make the concept the direct object of some text, and by making the flow of the logic and the flow of the language a performance of the thinking, the text itself, becomes an example of exactly that to which it refers, in fact, re-fusing, the word and concept into a single unity, by virtue of the fact that it regards the two as two distinct entities.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Poetry Reading

Hello all!

I will be doing a reading at Rust Belt Books with Matthew Cohen Dunleavy and Xavier Moriarty on Friday the 13th. It may or may not feature a new booklet hand pressed by yours truly. It will definitely feature exciting experimental works from some of the more interesting poets in the Buffalo area. If you are in the neighborhood, please stop by. The event should go from 7pm to 10pm. Thanks,