[-empyre-] authors and authority :.

Jean-baptiste Labrune labrune at media.mit.edu
Sun Oct 17 06:26:53 EST 2010

Hello Penny,

Le 16 oct. 10 à 13:15, Penny Florence a écrit :

> Hi All
> This is my first iPad email, sent from London on the way to Paris,  
> which in some undefined way seems appropriate.
> JeanB provokes responses that put him in a determining position in  
> this discussion, which is, in a way, a good strategy, if a little in  
> conflict with his take. I say this not only because I think it is  
> true, but also because it relates to what I want to say- I'm sure  
> you won't take it personally, JeanB!

No pb :]

> Taking up what Lorna said at the end of her post, the issue of how  
> you negotiate institutions is gendered (or sexed, as I prefer to  
> say, as it's an embodied term) This applies at the level of theory  
> and of practice: at the former because, as a woman in patriarchal  
> institutions, I am a subaltern Subject, as is Lorna in getting  
> Making Senses together; and at the latter, that of practice, because  
> one lacks the kind of credibility so taken for granted by male  
> colleagues that it is invisible (ideological in the sense once  
> current in more politically aware days). This makes the act of  
> foregoing certain privileges adhering to power signify differently.

You are of course right to remind the patriarchal (literal and  
symbolic) organisation of these institutions. I totally agree on the  
importance to try to change this by being present in institutions and  
try new things. I was more thinking the proposal from an intellectual  
point of view not situated in a specific timeline. Reality as you so  
importantly tell it, imposes negotiations, scaffolding, and in the  
case of art+(human)sciences, breaching - à la Garfinkel.

As I read through emails, I understand that there are some cultural  
commonalities in the participant network of these two events, mainly a  
global agreement on certain socio-anthropological challenges such as  
the renewed question of (post)feminism, sociocolonialism, & human- 
science epistemology, critics and star-system. I would need like all  
of you more time to think about these topics. My posture now  
privileges (as a pyrrhonian experiment) face to face interaction since  
I believe emails (and to an extreme perspective maybe) written  
discourse (publications, books, and their author/ity) fail in creating  
an emotional body needed to absorb/dampen/relativise the shock created  
by any encounter with the Other, what/who:ever it/she/he is. So don't  
hesitate to contact me next time you're in Paris (i can unfortunately  
not being with you this time since I am abroad).

> The Mallarmeen Subject is highly equivocal (equi/vocal), which is  
> one reason why he is a male practitioner of ecriture feminine (the  
> auto text changed "ecriture" to "scripture"! And I haven't figured  
> out the iPad accents yet).

That's very interesting. My lecture of your project was very  
superficial, reading only the top of the words (mailing-list syndrom)  
and I agree more now on your choice and tactics for this event. This  
is actually fascinating for me to understand more and more everyday  
the power of art/narratives when it comes to inspire action in  
reality, to turn fiction (artefacts, technology) into social  
experience. The nature of the link between both remains still hard to  
understand to me... Fiction/Reality is still a dualism (like Mind/ 
Matter, TheoryofMind/EcologicalPerception, Abstraction/ 
SituatedCognition, etc) as dense and complex than in the "hard  
sciences" when it comes to understand or explain it :))

> JeanB, you a partly right in your interpretation of the ways  
> Mallarme anticipates the web, but there is much more to it than  
> allowing space for the reader in the generation of meaning, which  
> would not really be distinct from any readerly text in Barthes' sense.

or in Eco's Opera Aperta.., on this topic cf the seminar of Jean-Louis  
Weissberg on the Critical history of the notion of 'interactivity' .  
Some fragments in english here http://www.omnsh.org/spip.php?article64  
from the original publication here http://www.editions-hyx.com/boutique_us/fiche_produit.cfm?ref=ISBN2910385AAA&type=7&code_lg=lg_us&num=0

> It's about the operation of the Subject in the syntax, and other  
> aspects of the poetics (including temporality and the erosion of  
> word-boundaries. These are central to what John and I are  
> experimenting with.
> There's more, but I am out of time for now
> All the best

Sure, have a good time in Paris!

> penny
> Sent from my iPad
> On Oct 15, 2010, at 6:24 AM, Lorna Collins <lpc29 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>> Dear Jean-Baptise, dear all,
>> JB, I want to make a very brief comment on your message, about my
>> experience of organising this event. We -- I suppose you could say
>> that we have formed a royal we, which in this instance refers to the
>> committee of people who have organised the second colloquium at
>> Cambridge. This is not intentionally separated or hierarchical royal
>> We. We have not wanted to close ourselves to a small group, on the
>> contrary we are constitutively open, but in order to organise this
>> event we have had to communicate between a small amount of (eight)
>> people in order to make it happen. These people were not 'chosen' but
>> volunteered at a meeting, and we formed a natural committee. One of
>> the purposes of the second colloquium is to set up the next event in
>> this series. We will open the floor to see who wants to be involved  
>> in
>> organising an event like this. How can we organise an event without
>> forming a smaller grouping of people, and asigning different tasks to
>> different people? And JB, how can we organise this event in a way  
>> that
>> challenges the authority of the institutions? We have found ourselves
>> continually challenged by the institutions and we try to new find  
>> ways
>> of communicating with those in authority. This is not a  
>> deconstructive
>> or destructive intention -- we need to communicate with the
>> institutions, in a language that can open and redistribute their
>> hierarchy. We do not want to incite an aggressive revolution, but,
>> rather, we try to explain to the institutions how their system and
>> authority can be challenged and an alternative suggested, in this  
>> way,
>> and we discuss how to make things make sense and then change. 'In  
>> this
>> way' -- what is this what? What is the alternative? How do we make
>> things make sense and then change? These are the very questions that
>> we will be discussing and experimenting with at the colloquium.
>> At the first colloquium in Cambridge, on the day we found that we
>> could use artistic performance to open and invigorate the protocol  
>> and
>> system that governed the institution that housed us; this opened the
>> day to all who participated. Our creativity and collaboration made a
>> new kind of sense, which we went on to publish (forthcoming, with
>> Peter Lang, Making Sense 1). Most of all this was not about the names
>> or their authority, it was the way that art can open an interface for
>> difference, it doesn't matter who or where you are, the process of
>> creating an artwork, and the process of encountering an artwork
>> creates a free space.
>> I realise that I can't say something like that without receiving a
>> hoard of critical questions from the large group of people who
>> subscribe to Empyre, which is quite scary. But I genuinely believe
>> that the 'we' of Making Sense, which is laid open to all of Empyre
>> during this debate, is creating something really important.
>> JB you ask: "are we ready to abandon what constitutes current
>> political space, especially authority and control of curation of
>> experimental endeavours ?" I would say that this is one of the
>> questions we are challenging with Making Sense. Clearly you have a  
>> lot
>> of ideas about this, so I'd like to ask you what you would do, or how
>> you would contribute to answering your own question?
>> All the best,
>> Lorna
>> 2010/10/14 Jean-baptiste Labrune <labrune at media.mit.edu>:
>>> Dear John (and Penny, Lorna and *.Empyre),
>>> Thanks for your time in explaining your desire and early  
>>> production in the
>>> context of the Making Sense event to happen in few days. I have no  
>>> doubt
>>> your production with Penny and other participants will be very  
>>> creative and
>>> rich.
>>> As you mention it, the open nature of a Mailing-List like Empyre,  
>>> allowed me
>>> to rant on an extended scale :) and not only in the time allocated  
>>> to me if
>>> I would have asked a question during this event (especially on  
>>> controversial
>>> topics such as the organisation of the event itself, and not only  
>>> on the
>>> topic of the day).
>>> When Penny talks about Mallarmé and the making of his patrimonial  
>>> artefacts
>>> (the book) as maybe a precursor of Memex or the Web or when you  
>>> quote the
>>> text as practice, I imagine that you both refer to semiotic  
>>> systems where an
>>> audience, a reader or other externalities to the author are  
>>> involved in the
>>> Sensemaking process. There is therefore a difference of nature  
>>> between the
>>> creators (authors) and the space of reception of the artefact,  
>>> artwork,
>>> discourse.
>>> In the same way, there is difference let say of chatting in Empyre  
>>> (or
>>> NetBehaviour, IDC, Nettime, ...) and publishing under the name of  
>>> a famous
>>> brand such as Pompidou, Tate, Cambridge, Brown, you name it, is in  
>>> the
>>> authoritative surrounding of this production. Making Sense (and  
>>> society!) ,
>>> as many other events use the rhetoric of openess an  
>>> experimentaton, (and it
>>> looks like you have a great line up for an extraordinary event! ),  
>>> however I
>>> was just pointing out how social authority is so manifest in the
>>> publicitation of the event. From big names (Nancy, Stiegler, etc)  
>>> to big
>>> brands, it looks to me that it was important for the organisers to  
>>> make this
>>> event legitimate, using people or places authority. If we want new  
>>> political
>>> atmospheres, are we ready to abandon what constitutes current  
>>> political
>>> space, especially authority and control of curation of experimental
>>> endeavours ?
>>> Everybody can launch a discussion on Empyre or any other lists, so  
>>> as
>>> everyone can create a webpage to express an opinion, even create a  
>>> project,
>>> curate a topic. On the contrary, everybody can not be on the  
>>> organising
>>> committee of a Pompidou-related event, it is a closed club,  
>>> usually not
>>> constituted solely on merit or research/artistic excellency but  
>>> usually
>>> following a discretionary process, involving a lot of branding,  
>>> authority
>>> and social networking.  The context (or situation) I was talking  
>>> about is
>>> precisely the one of the curation of a public event that proposes  
>>> to discuss
>>> and experiment on Sense Making in the context of politics and  
>>> society. I
>>> believe that openness (like open-source in the IT world) has its  
>>> limits,
>>> usually sketched by the power of people and their need to sustain  
>>> their own
>>> narrative. In this sense this is more the republic than democracy  
>>> - and in
>>> the kalipolis, artists where out if they didn't want to abide by  
>>> political
>>> imperatives.
>>> In adressing the social constitution
>>> of this experimental event, I am not only playing the role of the  
>>> party pooper/troll/etc of a party where I was not invited to  
>>> participate from the organisation point-of-view, but I am also, I  
>>> think, raising out how huge claims lead to the dilution of  
>>> arguments or experiments.
>>> After a second look at the flyer and homepage of the event, and  
>>> after
>>> re-reading all the emails on Empyre, it is obvious to me that the  
>>> actual
>>> experimental collaboration that was pulled up by Lorna and  
>>> colleagues is
>>> pretty impressive and I have no doubt that it will be a kick-ass  
>>> event (and
>>> yes, very experimental compared to traditional formats such as  
>>> 20min pres
>>> adn 2 min question), and I see here a tension with what is claimed  
>>> (as in
>>> territory) on the webpage announcing the
>>> event http://www.makingsensesociety.org/
>>> I also want to underline how much a challenge it is to organise an
>>> international line-up of speakers/experimenters in my dear french  
>>> capital
>>> where french is still the only intellectual currency :)))
>>> With that said, I wish you bon courage for the organisation and  
>>> look forward
>>> to reading the post-hoc accounts of Making Sense !
>>> Cheers,
>>> Jb
>>> --
>>> Le 14 oct. 10 à 00:13, John Cayley a écrit :
>>> Dear -empyre-
>>> I was ready to write with some thoughts on my collaboration with  
>>> Penny
>>> Florence when my reading of Jean-Bapiste Labrune's recent  
>>> responses rendered
>>> me acutely aware of the context of this practice, and of the  
>>> context of
>>> aesthetic practice generally. I've become so paralyzingly aware of  
>>> context
>>> that, for example, I originally wrote 'Penny' and 'Jean- 
>>> Bapiste' (as if you
>>> and I know both of these people well) and went back and added  
>>> surnames,
>>> since I don't know J-B and many of us may not know Penny, at least  
>>> not as a
>>> collaborator. I have just playfully (I hope) evoked the  
>>> indeterminate play
>>> of address that is prevalent in all critical discussion but  
>>> radically so in
>>> digitally mediated fora. The link here is institutions. J-B asks  
>>> us to be
>>> aware and wary of the institutions within which we work,  
>>> especially while
>>> pretending an autonomy for this practice. I agree absolutely that  
>>> we are
>>> always within and necessarily complicit with _many_ institutions  
>>> as we work
>>> and that the value systems of these institutions - only occasionally
>>> aesthetic - often manifest agonistic and contradictory relations. A
>>> contemporary problematic - the institution of a contemporary  
>>> problematic -
>>> arises from networked and programmable media's ability to generate
>>> potential, emergent, virtual (in the strong, contra-digital sense  
>>> of this
>>> word) institutions with close-to-immediacy. I'm here. I'm in - 
>>> empyre-. How
>>> did I get here? And do I belong? Scaled-up somewhat, these remarks  
>>> apply to
>>> the institutional complicities which J-B interrogates.
>>> As it happens, and perhaps in opposition to the practices of what  
>>> are now
>>> suddenly and shockingly predominant institutions - Facebook,  
>>> Google Accounts
>>> - -empyre- is exemplary. I have been introduced. You already know  
>>> that next
>>> week I will play a collaborative role in a presentation to the  
>>> 'Making
>>> Sense' colloquium in Paris-out-of-Cambridge. Terrifying. I have,  
>>> through
>>> Penny, been introduced to an institution that I do not yet know  
>>> well. As
>>> Penny set out in her recent post, our work entered into productive
>>> correspondence during and after the organization and realization  
>>> of a series
>>> of events at the Tate Modern that placed digitally mediated  
>>> literary poetics
>>> in dialogue with art. My other qualifications for this engagement?  
>>> Until
>>> 2007, I practiced and theorized irregularly and relatively  
>>> independently as
>>> a poetic writer in and of programmable media. Pretending the role  
>>> of a
>>> writer of this description means that I attempt to produce  
>>> literary work for
>>> which computation is a vital aspect of the literary artistic  
>>> medium. In 2007
>>> I accepted a position in the Literary Arts Program at Brown  
>>> University.
>>> Although Brown's program is rightly recognized as strongly  
>>> innovative,
>>> institutionally it is also a part of the "creative" "writing"  
>>> program(me)
>>> that has pullulated in the US academy (cf. Eli Batuman in a recent  
>>> LRB).
>>> Context indeed. That's how it's happened; here (at last) is how I  
>>> see it
>>> working:
>>> Penny's outline has been posted. Here is a summarized retelling  
>>> from the
>>> viewpoint of my current practical engagement (in the midst of my  
>>> attempt
>>> actually to make something that is new to me - and I do mean that  
>>> I am doing
>>> this in this extended, shifting present). Penny responded to certain
>>> formalizations of iterative, literal translation that I have  
>>> represented as
>>> process in coded, time-based pieces of literary art. She refers  
>>> specifically
>>> to the series that I call _translation_, and has already provided  
>>> a link to
>>> my lamentably 'ancient' website. In this series, nodal, natural  
>>> language
>>> texts are sited within a dynamic system driven by relationships  
>>> between
>>> protosemantic elements (those _on the way_ to 'making sense' -  
>>> although
>>> 'sense' for me is a difficult word) at the level of the letter.  
>>> The texts
>>> perform transliteral morphs from one to another, often across  
>>> languages. At
>>> stake, I believe, is an aesthetic and critical wager that (even)  
>>> these
>>> directed protosemantic processes have some significance- and
>>> affect-generating bearing on the texts with which they engage and  
>>> also that
>>> such time-based processes themselves can and should be read as  
>>> _the text_ in
>>> a broader and ultimately more comprehensive understanding of text  
>>> and
>>> textual practice. The process is the text.
>>> Penny was as interested in the virtual critical address of such
>>> text-as-process towards (found or composed or conventionally  
>>> translated)
>>> 'host' and 'guest' texts (these terms are from Lydia Liu's  
>>> _Translingual
>>> Practice_) in systems where these categories of text are  
>>> implicitly or
>>> explicitly paired. Do the generated liminal, transitional states  
>>> of the
>>> system have a critical or aesthetic purchase on our readings? My  
>>> investment
>>> has already been made clear. Yes they do, I wager, poethically (Joan
>>> Retallack's formulation). But Penny sees a way to go further.  
>>> Taking up her
>>> long-standing readings of Mallarmé, she paired a sonnet, 'Le Pitre  
>>> chatié'
>>> with some verses extracted from the 'Prose pour Des Esseintes' and
>>> challenged us to find a way to put these texts into a dynamic  
>>> relationship
>>> based on underlying translations, ultimately by both of us, into  
>>> English.
>>> Penny is also interested in allowing the protosemantic, transliteral
>>> processes back into the work as, I would suggest, subprocesses of  
>>> those that
>>> will drive an initial iteration of 'Mirroring Tears: Visages' but  
>>> I may not
>>> get that far in the coding before our presentation next week and I  
>>> also
>>> worry about the incorporation of the audio correlates that Penny has
>>> identified.
>>> It all sounds reasonable now but it took a while before this made  
>>> sense -
>>> practical sense, sense as practice - to me. In my other work,  
>>> currently, I
>>> am explicitly engaged with reading (_The Readers Project_ another
>>> collaboration between Daniel C. Howe and myself) - with what  
>>> reading is, and
>>> with how all the endlessly various dynamic visualizations and
>>> representations of reading that digital media make possible - how  
>>> these may
>>> reveal or conceal, enhance or destroy what reading has been for  
>>> us. Now, I
>>> am tending to see many of the digital poetic pieces that I have  
>>> made as
>>> 'readers,' but as readers that read critically and that also,  
>>> arguably,
>>> write - with and against me, with and against us.
>>> What one may see or read, when 'Mirroring Tears: Visages' is  
>>> presented, will
>>> be two poetic texts, in French, each with "wind-eyes" "torn" in  
>>> their
>>> "tissued facade" (quoting phrases my my own translation of 'Le Pitre
>>> chatié'). Inside these windows, words and phrases mined from all  
>>> the English
>>> translations made for both texts by Penny or I will be shown,  
>>> according to
>>> an algorithm the details of which I am still working out. These  
>>> "tears" in
>>> the texts will read and translate the two texts one into and out  
>>> of the
>>> other, with, virtually, a critical, human translator's address -  
>>> an address
>>> that will be mediated by a technological encoded representation of  
>>> 'reading'
>>> - reading that relates to human reading but is programmatic:  
>>> exhaustively
>>> describable in terms of digital symbolic manipulations. Penny  
>>> asked: can
>>> digital poetics perform a critical address to these texts? We hope  
>>> to
>>> present one of many possible answers.
>>> And all I really wanted to say is that I have already learned and  
>>> will have
>>> learned so much from this collaboration. And I anticipate that  
>>> much of what
>>> I will have learned will derive from its context. I will have been  
>>> making
>>> sense, although I may still have been struggling with the object  
>>> implied by
>>> the practice that this rubric continuously suggests. On the other  
>>> hand I'm
>>> sure, more or less, that we will have been making.
>>> Yours,
>>> John (Cayley)
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>>> --
>>> Jean-Baptiste Labrune
>>> MIT Media Lab
>>> 20 Ames St E14-464C
>>> Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
>>> http://web.media.mit.edu/~labrune/
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> -- 
>> Lorna Collins
>> PhD Candidate: "Making Sense; art practice as a social act"
>> Jesus College
>> Cambridge
>> CB5 8BL
>> http://web.me.com/lornacollins/
>> http://www.makingsensesociety.org./
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre


Jean-Baptiste Labrune
MIT Media Lab
20 Ames St E14-464C
Cambridge, MA 02139, USA


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