Introduction to Alan Sondheim

[welcoming talk given at Incubation 3, Nottingham Trent University, 12th July 2004]

Alan Sondheim's output is varied and energetically learned: much music, films, graphics, performance and writing…

And theory….

And pedagogy.

For rough brevity, I shall call it all writing.

His writing exploits the plasticity of natural and machine language and other codes, unpicking seams of system front ends; and he is a stylist, even with system-mediated text, the style in appropriateness rather than familiarity. He writes - in his writing as writing - through avatars, one at least called alan; and any narrative you construct will soon be as reliable as a very loose handrail. It's ideal writing for anyone who has ever been subject or object of statements like "that isn't like you" or "now I am seeing another side of you" and not worried.

He's funny, but it's not punchline humour; and it can be difficult to know how to receive it, it destabilises…

The writing comes at stand up speed, largely via email, in an inversion of the bureaucrat's need-to-know, assuming we all do need to know. These are emails which stay emails. This is it. Sent, soon after being written, to a variety of internet contexts.

He projects and expands and redirects personal need, working through it intensely, hunger amidst insubstantial plenty, where the material is imaginary.

Not writing for web-content nor any purpose other than its own; not delivery of contentment or white space infill, nor the covering of white noise. Writing as individuation:

I existed on continuous rewrite. I lived naked on the net.

Here is a sample, from shining upwards

the face in which epiphany is produced and which appeals to me, mirage of breath, perhaps I am doing this for you, an epiphany. there is always epiphany, talk, sleep, breath, 'a state of _phantasmic exaltation_ forms the typical introduction of the organism from space, all breath and exaltation.' the midst of the grasping, the organisms, saying, ending in ellipsis ... and the exaltation of violence which makes a man, a man. among those macroscopic moments of exaltation are emotions.


but the interior may be lifted into exaltation, this state, i have said to you, this state of the organism, this epiphany when worlds …

a temporal detumescence or slackening - an order associated, if you will, with an end, the resulting detumescence partaking of defuge

And, of that word, defuge, he writes elsewhere:

fetishization transformed into discard, disgust, the image no longer working, _that_ body used up in masturbation. It is so common that a word is necessary here, the _defuge,_ defuse / refuge / deluge / refuse, de-light, de-flower. Rhyme patterns, frames, defuges; it is the defuge that draws the poem forward beyond return

Literary territory; but in a place occasioned through computers, where what is familiar is parodic, undermined / undermining as it is manifested.

Ongoing learning outputs the topology of output, cyborgian persistence creating itself in process awareness - an idiosyncratic use of "cyborg"; but, for a Turing test, we don't need to know about the physical layer of the platform the ideas and creativity run on.

Being on line involves awareness that not only is I an other, but is also self-aware of being a confederation of awarenesses of which there is neither one spokesperson nor border.

Yet the net is glamorous, sans merci, and we remain animals, many alone and palely loitering during downtime:

I write myself into existence and write myself out of existence.

Yet of the many things I like about Alan Sondheim's imaginative writing is the acceptance of and writing with human physicality - the mammal with a machine; the self-prostheticised, making intellect.

In that sense, the net, Sondheim's net, is a potential polity in which, if one found oneself clicking with apparent reality, one might rewrite some of the script!

Usually what I talk about is "seamless virtual reality," and for an example, I say just look around us now - if we only knew the safeword, the keyword, we'd be back in the real world - in the meantime we're stuck with this. This is a real possibility with constantly exploding bandwidth; more likely, we'll be entangled in some monstrous corporate enterprise, with advertising banners all over the place, as if we were permanently living in Times Square. Or a third possibility, that we'd be bound by our own sexual energies, eternally fulfilled - until the money's gone...

Incubation is an ideal environment for such a challenging creative confederation. Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Alan Sondheim

Copyright Lawrence Upton 2004, 2007