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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  October 2010

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING October 2010

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Subject:

Re: Rethinking Curation talks

From:

Charles Turner <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Charles Turner <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 15 Oct 2010 20:18:26 -0400

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On Oct 15, 2010, at 2:04 PM, Curt Cloninger wrote:

> In the '80s,

Yes, I was working with Nam June Paik and Amira Baraka in the early 1980s, so I do have a memory of the time. ;-)

Anyway, enough cattyness. I have to thank you for bothering to wrestle with this subject, which gets saddled with more-than-its-share of bad theory.

> My interest in human language is that it is both affective and semiotic (and several other things besides). Not all art is subject to semiotic analysis. Not all art that incorporates human language is subject solely to semiotic analysis. This is where Bakhtin becomes so useful -- he is thinking about uttered human language as the intersection of lived affect and transcendent signified.

I don't want to give the impression that Bakhtin isn't worth your while, but there's really no shortage of very interesting work on the pre-linguistic aspects of the arts. Here's a link to a couple chapters of Robert S. Hatten's _Interpreting Musical Gestures, Topics and Tropes_ that I think you might find interesting:

<http://vze26m98.net/curt/hatten-2004.pdf>

I also want to restate what I think is the difference between noise and glitch, and why I think it's important to be careful with the distinction. Starting with a common sense definition of Glitch from Wikipedia:

"A glitch is a short-lived fault in a system. It is often used to describe a transient fault that corrects itself, and is therefore difficult to troubleshoot."

A fault is an event within the system.

When we hear a sound, unless we already know, we instinctively look around for its cause, the object that made it. So a sound is its own event, likely caused by some event. We want to create an index between the two. Vision works differently in that visually we attend directly: there is no second thing to index.

So a glitch can produce a sound, but the glitch is the (often absent) cause of the sound. You can also extend this to some of the visual artifacts you discuss: your "glitched book of Durrow" isn't the glitch itself, it's the residue of a glitch long gone. Does a glitch ever show itself except through an index?

Noise can refer to the indeterminate interferences that Shannon theorized, but we should note that his use of "noise" is a slang appellation, just like "glitch." Common sense definitions of noise might refer to the loud jackhammers outside my window, or air-to-ground missiles coming across the Pakistani border. There's an aspect of "unwantedness" and in these cases, "unbearable loudness." But in neither case are they "accidental." Shannon's definition of noise doesn't encompass these meanings.

As Hatten remarks: "We are evolutionarily designed, and developmentally conditioned, to interpret and synthesize complexes of sensations into the following emergent meanings:

1) Object or event
2) Plausible agency or cause
3) Movement/direction/intensity/character
4) Emotional valency
5) Any necessary responses (e.g. survival, reflexes) as well as any desirable ones (e.g., socialization, aesthetic pleasure).

So doesn't "noise" fit into meaning #1 and "glitch" into meaning #2, above?

Finally, I'd warn you against creating a straw man argument with the "transcendental ideal of disembodied code": "The myth that humans can upload their souls is related to the myth of pure signal transference. Both of these myths are derived from residual Platonic dichotomies which need to be exploded."

Do you really know anyone who thinks this? (Other than Karlheinz Stockhausen?) Any hacker writing in an imperative language knows they're chained to an abstraction of the underlying machine, and if they're writing in a functional language, they're dealing with it as an (ugly) interface. Computer musicians are constantly wrestling with latency issues. Real-time programers are constantly counting CPU cycles not because tasks have to happen fast, but because they must always take the same amount of time.

I think the effect it has on your essay is to chase away the other side of your dichotomies. You're still stuck with a dualism, just on the other side. As you say "these extremes intersect and entangle in the ongoing, lived and present moment." As Hatten remarks: "Humans trade higher cognitive processing, including generalization, conceptualization, and language, for the vast categorical inventories that animals such as the bloodhound possess."

I'd attempt to entangle the proprioceptive with the cognitive. To ignore these human faculties returns me to my original comment about glitch art being a kind of modern day Impressionism: Monet's "all eye" (and no brain).

Best wishes, Charles

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