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

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