[-empyre-] setting fire to avatars, collapsing realities

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Tue Jan 7 16:03:53 EST 2014

On Mon, 6 Jan 2014, Johannes Birringer wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> happy new year to you all.
> Alan posted an interesting series of opening comments, and if it were 
> possible and if we had time to look at details in the posting, I would 
> ask you, Alan, whether you are sure that the "virtual is always real 
> (the rest is undifferentiated/differentiated substance) "  - and how am 
> I to understand this, if the rest is what you say it is?  I guess I tend 
> to go for the differentiated substance.
I've just been listening to lower sideband short-wave communication which 
requries a great deal of tuning to bring the signal in properly. The 
signal is most likely analog; the radio I use is digital. Inside the 
radio, if I'm not mistaken, virtaul intermediate frequencies are generated 
and eliminated; a lot of signal processing occurs. The virtual is just as 
much in radioi transmissions, in Dufrenne's world of the novel, in the 
doubled and tripled representations of speech, in the phenomenology of the 
gesture, as it is in the obvious creation of buildings and shapes in 
so-called virtual worlds. My world in Providence, aka New Providence aka 
Providence Plantations aka zip code 02903 is equally virtual, equally 
differentiated by imaginary boundary lines, just as SL is for example. 
There are also whole levels of differentiated permissions; for example I 
am in an historic building which MUST have white shades facing outwards on 
the windows. There are contracts and contracts that can be broken. The 
autonomic nervous system etc. works with the imaginary of the body, body 
image, in ways somewhat paralleling the manipulation and feedback from 
avatars in SL.

I'm trying to summarize without being boring or carrying on too much, and 
the transmission, the tracerouted protocols are currently misbehaving as I 
type this.

I thought years ago of the analog as a form of substance, and 
characterized by the notion of fissure - a fissure being defined as 
separating the same from the same, as opposed to but entangled with the 
digital notion of x and not-x in-relation-to-x, so that the union of x and 
not-x was not the universal set but the universal set-in-relation-to-x; 
the opposite held for the intersection and the null set. Of course in real 
life all of this is entangled, and x and not-x are entangled with a 
division resulting in x and x, for example, dividing air or water so that 
on both side there's just that, neither more or less. And this fissuring 
is analogic, sloppy, semi-differentiated, while the digital tended towards 
definition, potential wells with high walls, corporate and other protocols 
and so forth. Obviously there are holes in all of this; the point is that 
the digital has a bit of defining going on, as well as separation 
according to natural and/or corporate kinds, beneath as well as leaking 
out from the sign of capital -

which is operating now, making typing, inner-speech, thinking through text 
almost impossible as what I'm writing now is compromised by delay, lag, 
misrecognition, and now complete invisibility of these words, as the 
machine in them (wires, routers, servers, satellites) breaks down to a 
greater and greater extent.

> It seems that there is no clarity in virtual worlds, to my mind, and 
> certainly I think that the dancer you mentioned who might work/dance 
> to/with a projection is not in the projected space. An image, data, or 
> avatars and animated objects might be in that other space that does not 
> affect the dancer (well, here we would have to start examining the 
> affect that Patrick posited, and also the "new media" discourses on 
> so-called interactivity which Patrick mentioned (Manovich, and others) 
> which may or may not be as institutionalized as you assume, surely not 
> in the performance and music communities. Manovich does not mention 
> performance or live art as far as I can remember, and Kwastek I have not 
> read (her only performance examples seem to be Blast Theory?). 
> Interactivity is not very relevant these days for dance; at the recent 
> "Motionbank" workshop in Frankfurt (Forsythe Company) it was not part of 
> the conversation or the choreographic processes even though plenty of 
> digital data were captured and archived to help understand better some 
> of the physical choreographic principles and vectors of movement (this 
> tends to relate to dance that is motion-oriented rather than 
> narrative-gestural, conceptual or hypertheatrical).

Well in our case it does affect the dancer, and frankly although we're not 
doing this now, I pay little attention to what or what not is in fashion 
"these days" as you put it - in fact dance itself is not in fashion, 
Linden Labs is not in fashion, OpenSim is not in fashion, none of this is.

Re: What is in the projected space - _nothing_ is in the projected space 
or rather the epistemology is a bit smeared, as it might be considered in 
projective geometry as well, between say pole and polar.

I don't know what kind of clarity you want in virtual worlds, but there is 
clarity to the extent that the languages are usually somewhat well-formed; 
otherwise I would have been able to accidently eliminate about a quarter 
of Odyssey sim years ago when I was accidently given greater permissions 
than I should have been; I didn't know what I was doing, but the actions 
were clear enough and pfffft so many people's works were temporarily 
> [Alan you play music with other musicians in real space, not in 
> interactive computational space, right? do you capture your gestures at 
> the instruments?]

Not sure what you mean; we record sufficiently and when we're playing we 
inhabit the sonic space - in other words, we're in inordinately complex 
and virtual sonic worlds - Jackson Moore speaks of sonic citizenry which I 
quite like.
> And Patrick set fire to Stelarc's 'avatar body'!  which took me by 
> surprise [ as I never heard him mention it]. Interestingly, Stelarc has 
> recently returned to suspension performances (as in his early work), the 
> real body hanging from hooks and floating right there in front of you.

I've only seen that in reproduction but I've always admired his pain 
threshold; in my case I'd be quickly screaming. Patrick set fire to 
nothing of course, and your statement "And Patrick [...]!" is itself 
virtual, you see; I have to take yours and Patrick's word for it! :-)

> Alan, you mention examples of the "smearing of boundaries" and hope or 
> strive for "physical collapse " - but what collapses, what physical 
> reality, or do you only mean the "gamespace" (online worlds? SL?)?  The 
> manipulation of the physical body is limited , clearly differentiated 
> from avatar matter, would you agree? There are only so many games you 
> can play.
Nothing collapses, just the online imagery presents the appearance of 
collapse, but, as with the end of a novel or the Gettyburg Address, the 
ending and/or collapse of language, just finishing something (and 
"finishing" of course is complex and relevant here - what on earth is ever 
finished but our declarations that such is the case?) is of the virtual.

Re: The physical body; I just previewed a new piece Foofwa d'Imobilite is 
working on (online) and I was amazed as usual, not by the limitations of 
the body but how many new movements are possible, even now, and what sorts 
of gestural repertoire emerge out of them. There are infinite games! To 
the extent that the body is substance, analogic, met/flesh...

> Of course I grant you that it's all entangled, and politically 
> dangerously so.

Wonderful edges to explore!
> Admittedly also, I am writing from the distance (in the west Texas hill 
> countries, near the desert, so signal available, thus no social media 
> either), and am enjoying a few days having escaped the virtuality you 
> posit, Alan, which has little currency here. Up where you are, the ice 
> storms?

The storms are beautiful; the other night at the coldest for a few brief 
moments I went out in a shirt and pants to feel the temperature - but it's 
nothing compared to Wisconsin of course.

I hope I've replied satisfactorily; with "the net" acting up at my end - 
it's like the days of 2400 baud - I can't really go back and correct 
typos; I'm afraid all of this will disappear. Sometimes linux saves and 
sometimes it doesn't...

- Alan, and thank you!

> with regards
> Johannes Birringer

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