[-empyre-] Alan Sondheim
sondheim at panix.com
Fri Dec 13 10:47:05 AEDT 2019
Hi - I've worked independently for years now. Azure and I returned from a
success trip to London (ICA and Brunel U.) and Cypress (NeMe in Limassol)
a couple of months ago. I've been working on the idea of "somatic
ghosting" - uncanny presence of bodies haunting the digital (among other
Here is a recent piece with description -
Gloss on +++Muror / The Cry
This piece came about through considerable archaeological work
with old .bvh and .pz3 files applied to an old Poser 7 program
with its legacy files. The .bvh originated in work done 10-15
years ago at West Virginia University, using (even at that time)
antiquated motion capture equipment, working with Azure and two
dancers, Kira Sedlock and Foofwa d'Imobilite. The .bvh were
'applied' at various stages of a long .pz3 original file; the
avatar matrices were augmented and spread among several figures.
Poser requests for additional files were answered with other
files; the original supplements have long since disappeared. I
tried to create a 'direction' of skin and feverish behavior
among the newly-added avatars; the whole was a mix. I didn't
know what the final result would be - I had a general idea
(formed by sliding a cursor through the frames), but that was
all. I changed the lighting to match a background I made a few
weeks ago as well. The background is a body blurred out in the
middle of the night under deliberately low lighting conditions.
For me the result was only partly formed by my (self)-conscious
decisions; the rest wasn't left to chance, but to the exigencies
of the program using this odd collocation of files, lightings,
and images. (The lighting on the figures themselves was also
changed to match the background and a sense of 'brass-metallic'
slightly sexualized but distraught avatars.) In other words, I
was fascinated and appalled by the direction the software was
taking me; at the same time, I wanted to see what direction that
was. What emerged was a narrative, not of sexuality, but of
external and internal violence, all of the figures dead at the
end. I hadn't planned for this, consciously or unconsciously, but
it happened, appeared at the end of a long rendering. It's as if
the whole situation was self-determining, autonomous, as if the
figures were speaking to me - about the violence and deprecations
in the world around us, about murderous gender inequalities,
about my own internal states of mind as well.
So I called it 'Muror' - murder, murky, marrow, muddy, etc. - a
small constellation. And I wrote out the litany of 'what then?'
thinking of Levinas, of capitulation, of suicidal tendencies, of
the horrors of the world contaminating everything. Originally I
used slashes - '/' - between the words or phrases, later changing
them to periods - '.' indicative of compression and a kind of
morbid telegraphy. I hate my own repetition in this matter; I
feel I inhabit a world that's very real, that's closing in,
that's fundamentally destructive to human and environmental
rights, a world where neoliberalism and finance are corrupting
any possibility of fundamental change, no matter what we do.
So perhaps this piece is a kind of Kaddish, hoping something
better will emerge. I've placed the piece below again; in terms
of aesthetics and dialectics between analog and digital, I think
it's one of my best.
+++Muror / The Cry
Here are some notes:
Some Simple Ideas (to the point of uselessness)
These motivate me and the currency of my work now -
1 Once digital imagery was created, it was clear that it was
possible to change a single pixel independent of the whole. This
irrevocably altered the nature of truth and facticity in everything
we do and think; it altered the very nature of the world for us.
Nothing would ever be the same. (No longer was there 'same.') The
single pixel transformed our very being in the world.
2 AI will produce great poetry from the viewpoint of someone in
pain or dying, great and artificial testimonies from the viewpoint
of genocide, scorched earth, annihilation to the limit. There is a
fundamental difference, however, between AI generation of a
literature based on these experiences, and a literature of the
testimony of bodies, from bodies to bodies, what in the future
might be called somatic literature (somatic thought, somatic being
in the world).
3 Combining 1 and 2, it is possible for the difference for the
reader to be annihilated, as if there were somatic ghosting at the
very root of culture, as if bone and pixel were lost, absorbed in
4 There is a moot state and stage when extinction of a species
occurs, the absolute end of a lineage - occurring as well when any
organism is killed.
5 There is a moot future when global extinction will occur; this
comes. Everything we do is necessarily in relation to this. A
complete transformation of human thought, technology, and behavior
would be necessary, now, to reverse the ongoing chaos and
desecration of the planet. There is no reason to be optimistic
about survival given this state of affairs. (In fact, populations
are increasingly dominated by absolutisms, strongmen, militias.)
(An aside - whether the 1% of the 1% of the 1% of the rich
manage to survive through this is of no concern to me. The
fecundity of the planet is descending to degree zero, inexorably
6 My own work is based on the somatic/organic under siege; it is
it is based on the distinction between inscription (this and that)
and fissure (this and this); it is based on failure and inadequacy;
it is based on the distinctions among gamespace, edgespace, and
blankspace; it circulates around annihilation to the limit; but it
also makes space for workspace, createspace, networkspace within
and without the ruins.
7 And last, any analysis is always open, fissured, failing and
inadequate of course. Personal, individual death ends the process.
The most we can say now - the independent transformation of the
individual pixel changes everything.
(Of course the ideas are simple to state and deconstruct easily,
they devolve, etc.; however their consequences and relationships
Here's a very short bio -
Alan Sondheim is a city-based new media artist, musician, writer, and
performer concerned with issues of virtuality, and the stake that the real
world has in the virtual. He has worked with his partner Azure Carter
among others. Sondheim is concerned with the examination the grounds of
the virtual and how the body is inhabited. He performs in virtual, real,
and cross-over worlds; his virtual work is known for its highly complex
and mobile architectures. He has used altered motion-capture technology
extensively for examining and creating new lexicons of behavior. His
writing stems out of codework, a problematic style in which code
substrates and surface content interfere with each other - in which, in
other words, the textual body and body of text are deeply entangled. His
current music is based on the impossibility of time reversal, on fast
improvisation, and anti-gestural approaches to playing.
We live at the moment in Providence, RI; we've been here for years, but
know almost no one. I'd be interested in collaborating on project with
anyone who might be interested.
I can be reached at sondheim at gmail.com and webpage is
Thanks greatly, Alan
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