[-empyre-] Starting the Second Week / Adeena Karasick and Alan Sondheim

Murat Nemet-Nejat muratnn at gmail.com
Wed Nov 9 01:24:59 AEDT 2016

The origin of the computer involved the decoding of "enigma," a mystery—a desire to penetrate the impenetrable, the veiled, violating the inner sanctum of an enemy in a time of war. Demobbed, in a time of "peace," the computer became as aggressive tool of seduction, offering algorithmic possibilities for happiness and ease/ or obeisance and abjection. (I hope by the end of the day we don't discover that Donald Trump is the apotheosis of this virtual existence where a lie is equal to truth and being "bored with success" is the coin of the realm.)

 Both ADEENA KARASICK and ALAN SONDHEIM are intensely attuned to the deep effect of the computer in contemporary life and culture. While embracing and even ingesting its pervasive presence and adopting its tools to their poetic/artistic purposes, each in her or his way carries out a rear guard action against it, in essential ways redefining or critiquing its nature.

Worddance of a woman of valor—Salome: Canadian poet, performance artist and librettist ADEENA KARASICK is acutely attuned to the seductive impulse that lies at the heart of the computer. But she transforms its hostile functionality to an ecstatic dance of feminist (religious) empowerment and sensual self affirmation. Against an idea of infinity embedded in algorithmic proliferations, she posits a counter narrative—the infinity the 13th century Kabbalist Abulafia (the contemporary of the Sufi poets Rumi and Yunus Emre in Anatolia) saw within a play/dance of language. That's the way Karasick describes it: " For the past couple of decades, I’ve been consumed with how a sense of infinite linguistic play leads not to paralysis'... [But] its seductive swathes of color texture, image typographies are synechdochic of how meaning unveils itself as an ever-spiraling space where “Origin” is unlocateable [italics my own]." Karasick returns to the unlocatable mystery at the origin of the computer.  

"Artist, writer, and musician, working in entangled media," ALAN SONDHEIM is inherently suspicious of the ability of the computer finally to reveal the secret embedded in the enigma. Rather, he sees it as a series problematic codes full of holes, created and combined, proliferating into ever larger systems. Yet the gaps remain, and humanity, culture remain entangled with them. In their skepticism of a final "localized" meaning, Sondheim and  Karasick are similar to each other; but, tonally,  extremely different. For her, the continuous change with "unlocatable origin" is ecstatic. His is melancholy, infused with a sense of catastrophe and dissolution. His work is a continuous meditation on endless human entanglements with codes and the wounds they inflict. Here is how he describes it: " I have been working with computers for decades, and specifically with virtual worlds and motion capture for the past fifteen or so. I developed the notion of 'codework' to indicate works in which code is presenced on the surface, but problematic - works in which meaning uneasily inhabits distinctions among 'worlds of the work' and program-spaces. Of course the distinctions themselves are problematic and entangled among many other things, such as the body, abjection, and 'dirt' in the mix. In motion capture, I've worked with altered software and mapping, producing distorted avatars and avatar behaviors. In virtual worlds, I've been working with concepts of gamespace, edgespace, and blankspace...."

To know more about Sondheim's vast work, one can read the interview "Surging Towards Abjection: an Interview with Alan Sondheim" in The Rain Taxi (http://www.raintaxi.com/?s=Alan+Sondheim+Interview).


I hope the members of the list will participate in the discussions around the works of these two artists.   

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