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

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Fri Jan 10 16:01:11 EST 2014

Johannes wrties

Alan's reply is indirect and direct, to me the words and works are not 
weightless nor as you say are/were their bodies and carriers. You 
profoundly hit upon a subject that of course is often avoided as we rarely 
talk about death, and pain in these soft_skinned conversations, yet you 
are right to remind us of the dialogues on "Pain, Suffering, and Death in 
the Virtual" (back in October 2012). You are deeply pessimistic, I sense, 
and thus a realist and I much enjoy your poetic descriptions and 
evocations of what I care about too, the " the interior, what feels within 
and looks without" which in performance comes, for me, from the physical 
energies and mental imaginations we exert while moving or making music, or 
if you like indeed, play into the far reaches or edges of virtual worlds, 
and as you mention multiverses, yes I remember conversations with particle 
physicists (working at CERN) engaging the contracting, spent breath and 
darkness visible of woundspace in cosmic chasms.....

-- I wish I'd had those conversations. It's not pessimism, it's realism 
which is far too often ignored at our peril, I keep returing to the 
optimism of wired magazine and Amazon drones in relation to the practico- 
inert of the planet and our species as well. If so many Americans believe 
as they do - that the human species has been here for all time, then time 
thuds, collapses, in the face of all evidence, Bacon et. al. 
notwithstanding, and here we are, not at the apocalypse, but at the cold 
war soviet epistemology of greyness, brute force, and a korean criminal 
who has formal birthday parties with terrible choreography and 

The difficulty is that realism knows no way out because the curtain closes 
which it does in the midst of our local mayhem and as our personal 
psyches falter - and their representations of worlds falter - even the 
physical residues are picked apart. I remember in the MOOs, before they 
shut down if they shut down, I'd wander among the remnants of avatars in 
body bags and the textual objects and machinery they created - they lay 
for someone to read the note, pick the "jar" up... At one point all of 
lamda MOO was 100 megs, that's all. Among other things, realism is the 
hard drive behind it all, the circuity, the child armies and child miners 
working under slave conditions to get the raw materials to make our 
machines to try to resusciate some of these "things" momentarily, on the 
other side of the world.


but those were more poetic conversations (some mingled with science, and 
the poor CERNers looking for a "god particle") and they reminded me that 
the starting point ? for the work I reference in the link ? was language 
(A Kafka story) and body, and the imagined real (virtual?) wound to be 

-- I'm not sure what you're referencing, "god particle" was always 
denigrated and unfortunate, american advertising. As far as I know the 
link was mathematics and the intricacy of large-data processing; the 
particles weren't bodies or things. There's a good book on particle 
physicists and their machine that came out maybe a decade ago? - Beamtimes 
and Lifetimes - not sure if you've read it, but it's germane.

The wound turns out to be untreatable, and so I appreciate your ironies, 
and your mind.  But the ground is never dead, and I want to share an 
incident from last week, in the hills of Texas, when a sculptor, Bob 
Bocock, showed me around the ranch and pointed to the heavy metal pieces 
he had made over the past 40 years and placed around the land.

The sculptor smiled and did not answer my question when I asked him about 
his life's work, and why had he not shown the work, I wondered?  He said 
showing or selling it did not matter to him. Making it did.  And he now 
suffers from chronic back pain. Then he showed me each piece, some 
"conceptual" steel sculptures rising up against the blue sky, other rusted 
ones bending down, others silver & futuristic, spread-eagled  ?"Tricky 
bird,"  "Telescope",  "Mystical energy place," "Dead deer" (steel), "Gate" 
(an interactive gate lock construction with rope, stone face, after 
Picasso, wood). The interactive gate was wonderful; it is to keep the 
cattle out. Bob thinks he will die in the not so far future,  and then the 
sculptures will be left to live there as they are too heavy to move.

-- This sounds wonderful, I think also you misinterpret me or I wrote 
poorly - the ground - in the sense of the cold death of the universe - is 
dead, always already such; on the other hand, the ground as a basis is the 
death of consciousness, the ceasing/seizing of the world. Among us, the 
ground qua ground, earth, is always alive, and among the creatures that 
inhabit it, inhabit the interstices of rock strata themselves - as well as 
the complixity of boundary lines, permissions (which I mentioned before), 
land rights, and so forth; every patch of earth is fecund with ecological 
significance. So I didn't mean that; which is why I say below: "The ground 
is the ground, ground up, as featureless as death and in the sense of 
materiality, the body is already dead, and in the sense of transformation, 
always alive." - in other words, the dichotomy disappears. The body is 
dead qua body; otherwise there would be no coroners; on the other hand, as 
transformation it is always alive, but presumably not consciously so, may 
spirit strike me dead.

- Alan, and thank you for the dialog, and I do hope others will 
participate in this one, although I think another is close to beginning -

Johannes Birringer

[Alan Sondheim schreibt]

Should this go first to the body-Johannes-Birringer and then to the
listserv (if such be the software), a form of indirect addressing? Is the
body of Johannes Birringer receiving these words smoothly? I ask only
because the element of the body as weight or pull has entered the dialog,
only _as_ since the words here are weightless, although their carriers and
data-bases are not. I keep going back to Clement Rosset, who I read only
in part years ago to the effect that the real is 'idiotic,' which I quote
far too often, but which means for me that it is just there, as mute
haecceity perhaps at best. The ground is the ground, ground up, as
featureless as death and in the sense of materiality, the body is already
dead, and in the sense of transformation, always alive. The states grind
into each other; bump and grind have no other meaning than sweat and
something felt; what goes bump in the night speaks nothing, and its sound
is muted. So all dancers fall, fail, at the end, and their memorized
movement is or is not captured from particular viewpoints, but not from
the interior, what feels within and looks without. These can be dialed-in,
in virtual worlds, objects turned physical, but they carry no weight. I've
worked with such, watch them reach the edge of the game-space as the
tumble across the sim, then disappear. Sometimes they're returned to
inventory, sometimes not. This is playing out the game with its rules, the
kind of virtuality everyone talks about today, talks about of course until
they're dead. I'd say the ground isn't virtual because it doesn't speak;
in this forum months ago I wrote about the unspeakability of untoward and
numbing pain, often close to the curtain of death. The body sinks, and
what then? Nothing, old tech software, and the interior/internal, spoken
and thought world sinks as well as the body dies. The virtual, we might
say, is among and for the living; the body, dead, is out of the gamespace

On the other hand, what we're not talking about, virtual particles and
multiverses, holographic universes and black hole interiors, who knows?
One can only hope to live on, in a perhaps drastically-altered cosmos, and
perhaps we already are.

I would have liked to have heard the Finnish tunes -
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

directory http://www.alansondheim.org tel 347-383-8552 music/sound
email sondheim ut panix.com, sondheim ut gmail.com

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