Alan Sondheim on Fri, 25 Jan 2008 19:43:09 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> 2 articles: on Gaz' works and on organism/emanent characteristics

I met my Baby, out behind the Gaz-Works

You don't often think of your body unless you're thinking of your body. 
It's there and even when you think of it, you're incarnated, presenced. 
You're presenced all the time. Sign off Second Life and you're gone. 
That's the ground state, disappearance. In SL your bodies intended, 
there's nothing given but the slate. Whatever is added parallels cinema 
and the mise en scene - nothing is left to chance unless chance is 
determined, built-in. But it's the projections that fundamentally 
characterize it - introjections from SL body to organism, projections from 
organism to SL body. Think of this as jectivity, an uncanny relationship 
which escapes determination, which flirts with abjection. The SL body is a 
body that is witnessed, except for the somewhat clumsy 'mouselook' which 
places you within it; the mouselook eerily bends the landscape while the 
framework monitor remains static. There's always background going on in or 
within/without SL; jectivity operates through a normalization that behaves 
as dream-screen - for jectivity to occur, the SL/organism interface must 
appear coherent, cohering - an inhabitation or dwelling beyond building. 
Gaz breaks through this in a way that would be illicit in the world of 
organism, of course; pulled or distended limbs in the latter would be a 
form of torture or death. One might still speak of self-image and perhaps 
drugs which alter it, even the appearance of the physical scaffolding of 
the organic body, but Gaz does this with what one postulates, again as a 
kind of background radiation, as a normal state which is a state of 

All of this is too neat and I'd argue further a few things - first, that 
body and mind are always already both 'real' and 'virtual,' the computer 
monitor appearing within this almost as afterthought - and second, that 
culture, which is interlaced with intentionality, occurs all the way down 
and across - not only from amoeba to, say, bird (with destructive humans 
halfway across this continuum), but also from carbon- to silicon- based 
lifeform which would include both amoeba and computer, if not the internal 
combustion engine. I speak of spew and emissions - of signifiers which 
ride across and above the surfaces of what's really going on - the true 
world - and it's these signifiers that are subtextual operatives within 
Second Life and art- or culture- working in Second Life, which is coding, 
coded, recoding, writing, rewriting, and wryting itself constantly - 
wryting being the implicit inhering relationship of inscriptive to the 
body, bodily inscription and inscriptive body coalescing and coalesced 
from the very beginning.

Think of edges of worlds and bodies; Second Life adds two new constants: 
height (evidenced in flying) and gameworld boundaries, for example at the 
bottom of the ocean where everything is transformed, and moving forward 
out of the gamespace results in asymptotic returns to the interior. Camera 
movement can distance you from the avatar; one can move within, beneath, 
above, within her. There are at least two positions of inherent interest. 
In the first, the camera leaves the avatar altogether, in order to peer 
beneath the gamespace or elsewhere across forbidden zones, and in the 
second, the camera appears within the avatar body - a view that brings the 
sheaves/prims to the foreground, not goreground, as the avatar dissolves 
into empty space. Gaz' reach extends, appears to extend, of course it 
doesn't and can't, outside the gamespace altogether (a point in an expand- 
ing universe is still within an expanding universe) - this is an inversion 
of a caveworld, transformed into private plateau. Again the physics are 
odd, exposing the Second Life universe as non-isotropic whatsoever - as a 
construct within which worlding occurs and within/without which the true 
world operates as it does, ontologically and epistemologically, everywhere 
we are, can think of, within and without jectivity.

Now there are issues of entrapment, reminiscent of current RIAA stuff; Gaz 
insists that one's body in Second Life is not one's own, and that jectiv- 
ity in the same is only artifact, in fact mitigated by Linden Labs, at 
best. S/he's a gadfly or parasitic (in Serres' sense of cultural producer) 
about the game (as one is a man or woman 'about the town'). So one's 
behavior in the vicinity of a Gazwork, gasworks (think of Bhopal) is not 
one's own, either; the distortions and entrapments, the weighings-down, 
are not of one's making, but of one's wandering into a work such that the 
wandering becomes the catalyst or primordial state of the work.

Not always, but almost always, avatars are smaller than one's physical 
body, or appear so. And one's viewpoint is not always, but almost always, 
above and behind the avatar, slightly raised - as if one's watching a 
soccer game, which for a spectator can be senseless from a ground-based 
camera. I think this kind of miniaturization tends towards a maternal 
reading of the world, a reading within which the image on the screen forms 
a safe matrix; after all, the computer goes on and off, games and software 
are replaced or updated, and both the world and you go on. So here's this 
safe world, and jectivity or what one might call the 'jectivity-braid' - 
the braid of psychoanalytic renderings, readings and writings, introjec- 
tions and projections, dreamings and hallucinatings, all before or within 
and without the screen - this braid is taken for granted; it's the safe- 
house of the world, transforming the world and the true world into a 
habitus. As a result of peering and miniaturization among other things. 
And the ability to chat and keep or erase chat. And the ability to fly or 
teletransport, playing into Freud's condensation/displacement in the 
dreamwork. Second Life is a _pun_ in this regard - one place quickly sub- 
stituted for another, and such substitutions revolutionary or disrupting 
as one landscape disappears, another appears - perhaps throwing everything 
off but just for a (very safe) moment. It's the safety in punning that 
makes them revolutionary, and the same safety occurs in relation and 
through the braid. So again, when Gaz takes a meta-position in relation to 
this relation, when Gaz appears apparently half-in and half-out of the 
gamespace, the disruptive becomes difficult to absorb, becomes something 
that doesn't happen in the real (except perhaps with sado-masochism and 
the use of safewords which break out of one theater into another). It's a 
contradiction which can't be absorbed. And to return to one's "own" avatar 
body after Gaz' distortion, one logs out of Second Life - in other words 
out of the fundamental world, what is _being_ the fundamental world - into 
another world with its real dangers, etc. - the world of the inert or 
'idiotic' real (Rosset).

So that the space-time slice within which your body is distorted must be 
abandoned. So that one returns and in this return, like the prodigal 
daughter or sun, the body is made w/hole again, just like in the MOOs and 
MUDs and various adventure games which are the history of all these spaces 
and WOW and whatnot. (I want to mention briefly my own work here, which is 
concerned with inconceivable positionings of one's own avatar, position- 
ings within which behaviors pile on behaviors, creating 'behavior colli- 
sions' that create, for the viewer (distinct from the performer), a 
disturbing and/or dis/eased representation of the body, an abject body 
that indicates something else other the normative is occurring, something 
that can't be absorbed. With Gaz, this occurs first-person - the change is 
to _me_ and my image/imaginary; with my work, it's third-person and in a 
sense stains or transforms the mise en scene into something abject and 

To conclude on a mundane note - There are two things that distinguish Gaz' 
works as well as Second Life, and are critical for contemporary theory, to 
the extent that contemporary theory is critical. First, the latter: When- 
ever people talk about an experience in Second Life, they talk as if 
they're _in the world_: "I just wandered around and didn't see much." "I 
talked to some people and a bird flew overhead and grabbed me." "I was 
teleported to the Odyssey Gallery and saw an amazing work there, well, not 
actually _saw,_ but experienced." "I kept looking for someone but all I 
found were empty spaces." And so forth. So the _experience_ of SL melds 
with experience otherwise (or the same), and this doesn't happen with 
other online experiences, except of course games and other social spaces. 
We adapt quickly to the screen, we're braided to the screen, and this 
permits the creation of artworks and environments that simply have no 
parallel elsewhere: "I entered this house and it flew away." "I turned 
myself from a forty-year-old man into a sexy twenty-year-old." "I couldn't 
get lose from the bird until I logged out and in again." "I was buried in 
paintings." "Records played by themselves." "I flew." We say these things 
as if they're everyday, as if they were always possible. "Question-marks 
were falling everywhere." Sometimes the servers are hacked or slowed up, 
but even this can be absorbed until everything grinds to a halt, and then 
one just logs out, waits, logs in again. This logging-out/logging-in has 
become an integral part of SL, in fact, just as online/offline otherwise 
is integral to being in a post-industrial world. (I do want to point out 
that this isn't, naturally, the only world - the world outside the matrix 
or braid is characterized by intense poverty, local wars, starvations, and 
so forth, and SL is powerless in relation to these; one might argue in 
fact that SL is too much of a safe haven, that it detracts from real 
praxis and real difference in the true world. And there's truth to this.)

The second, related, thing in conclusion, is Gaz' works themselves; as I 
pointed out above, the behaviors they trigger couldn't occur outside 
gamespace without bodily destruction - and some of the behaviors couldn't 
occur at all. So these behaviors, these works, are absolutely unique in 
this respect; they depend on both a reading of the SL environment as 
'natural,' and a scripting within and of that environment to produce the 
'unnatural' which is still read as natural. These works, on this level, 
question the authority of the real, of the idiotic real; they're a kind of 
critique that couldn't exist anywhere else. The viewer/participant isn't 
prepared for them. (UPS trucks falling on one!) So one engages both crit- 
ically and psychologically/psychoanalytically - the works create both 
contemplation and affect, in ways we're not used to. And that, at least 
for me, is one of the highest goals of art - to create that sense of 
dis/comfort that gives us a place to question everything, and to return 
from that questioning hopefully wiser. On a personal note, I can't say 
I've found anything as intriguing as Gaz' works, anywhere, and for a long 
time, and I'm still fathoming out the implications, still feeling the 
limbs extended almost to the breaking-point. Gaz is a pioneer in the body 
and space of the Other - and perhaps nothing more need have been said than 


References in no particular order (check online for details):

Drew Leder, The Absent Body
Alfred, Schutz, Reflections on the Problem of Relevance
Dalai Lama, introduction by Jeffrey Hopkins, Kalachakra Tantra,
  Rite of Initiation
Janet Gyatso, Apparitions of the Self, The Secret Autobiographies of a
  Tibetan Visionary
Candrakirti, Madhyamakavatara (The Entry into the Middle Way)
Hevajra Tanta
Visuddhi Magga (The Path of Purification)
Paul Fishwick (editor), Aesthetic Computing
(by various) second life, the official guide (2007)


some characteristics of organic and emanent life

homeostasis - boundary maintenance + (coherency of avatar body)
elaboration: coherency references a body that remains topologically
  connected, no matter what external and internal motions occur.
consideration: of course the body may be split by wounding, division,
  and other processes; in these cases, the body homeostatically
  repositions itself. external motions: the organism or emanent changing
  position in relation to the external world (space time coordinates);
  internal motion: processes, motions, within the body of the organism.

immunity - identity maintenance + (database accountancy)
elaboration: immunological processes based on body identification
  (organism) and database stability and stable addressing of whole and
  parts (emanent).
consideration: relationship of dis/ease and disease/hacking. identity
  maintenance occurs within absolute fluidity; with organism, motility
  and bodily changes (disease/death/exhaustion/dissolution/decay/
  extinction/mutation etc.), and with emanent, 'remakes' (new textures,
  bodies, accouterments, etc.), corporate transformations (economy,
  merger, dissolution, etc.), and interest/disinterest/defuge in
  relation to maintenance.

culture - remembrance and communality + (history of interactivity)
elaboration: organism - culture occurring 'all the way down,' with
  internal/external memories/storage/data-processing/quantum and
  molecular, etc. memory and communality inhere. emanent - relation-
  ship of external (organic) or internal (digital) mind to avatar
  _steerage_ (which is intentional).
consideration: mind inhabits organism inhabits mind; inherence is
  primordial, backgrounding. there is a complex relationship between
  this inhabitation and issues of health, disease, death, etc. - issues
  that simultaneously reify and parcel the body, and a turn towards
  moments or places/spaces of body (pain for example) that call for
  tending. there are qualitatively different tendings for organism and
  emanent; it is a matter of time before they coalesce.

negation - circumscription of an other + (avatar interactions,
  game physics)
elaboration: circumscription sends the other to the pale; structures
  gesture and language, transforms ikonic into indexical. 
consideration: semantics of avatar boundaries on a subtextual level;
  semantics of organic boundaries on the supra-textual. the latter is
  ikonic, the former, indexical. (perhaps there is no place for the
  symbolic in the midst of emanents and organisms.)

consumption and excretion tropisms (energy flow)
elaboration: evanescent organic life as abject spew, continuous
  breathing. a stationary emanent requires no energy; a stationary
  organism continues its tropic behavior.
consideration: nature of the tropism, energy-seeking, pollution-
  fleeing. direction of emanent irrelevant; energy comes from external

variegated metabolic processes (chemical, quantum, atomic)
elaboration: striations and differentiations within organism.
  epistemologically, organism transforms internally and externally
  from horizon to horizon; emanent possesses epistemological
  equivalence (substance) and differentiation occurs in syntactics.
consideration: herbert simon's nearly decomposable hierarchies;
  differentiation in organism occurs on the level of the phoneme.
  emanent and organism meet on the plane of semantics, sememe.

-- absorption and excretion
elaboration: or circulation, necessary for organism, and only for
  emanent in the sense that mind requires circulation (as do
  computers in terms of cycles, energy-flow, etc.). 
consideration: note in all of these instances we're considering life
  in terms of the _metabolic,_ flux-processes, remembering, identity,
  recognitions, tropisms, negations, perceptions.

-- reproduction 
elaboration: organisms most often self-reproduce through one or
  multiple generations; emanents do not. organic emanent minds do
  but not electronic emanent minds, do not. 
consideration: reproduction is not necessarily a constituent of
  life - dreams of the loch ness monster point in another direction.
  and there is always the exhaustion, punctum, of the 'last of a
  species' or reproductive pool, which is becoming more and more
  common. say that reproduction temporally smears the organic while
  identity spatially restricts the organic.

----- carrier image (reproductive plan, layout) + (template)
elaboration: reproduction is haunted by the organism to be, whether
  template or internal processes.
consideration: with organism, reproduction is always already uncanny;
  with emanent, reproduction is canny. with organism, internal and
  with emanent external, steered. the emanent is always already
  hallucinatory, which is not to say inexact or 'unreal'; its model
  and modeling are elsewhere. let us say that the emanent is freed
  from reproduction but an emanent class is bound to steering mind for
  continued existence.

maintenance of interiority
elaboration: what goes on inside, stays inside, is maintained inside.
  for organism this includes temperature control (or adjustments to
  non-control); for emanents, this again is a matter of contiguity at
consideration: wounds close, bruises heal, diseases disperse; there
  is an ideal at the back of organism, backgrounding organism, as if
  primordial (and when i use 'primordial' here, i mean nothing meta-
  physical, only primitives, backgroundings, against or within which
  everything else occurs). nothing immediately with emanents, but a long
  time ago, in irc (internet relay chat), netsplit would occur, and
  members of coherent communities would be cut off from each other -
  there would for example be two, not one *love channels. it would be
  of interest to think through the metabolism and political economy
  of irc channels and channel communities as organisms.

biome and niche maintenance (immediate vicinity cleanup)
elaboration: what happens outside the body of the organism, more or
  less in the immediate vicinity (think of potential exceptions such
  as albatross or plankton, bring them into the model by including
  mobile niches, evanescent biomes). emanents also tend to control
  their immediate vicinity; sl avatars will have a 'home' teleport
  site, will fly to a certain height, will be admitted or not to
  restricted territories (and may create restricted territories of
  their own). 
consideration: mobile niches within evanescent biomes are of great
  interest; they reflect the potential of taz (temporary autonomous
  zones) and extend the concepts of home and territory - the latter
  might be considered a personal niche, and the former, that biome
  which provides a necessary degree of comfort for its species and
  occupants. different species may connote different biome
  definitions which overlap and are displaced from 'human geography'
  and its defining characteristics.

contiguity of body or bodies + (substructure of sheave-skin)
elaboration: organic body held together by skeletal (internal and
  external) structures, skin and muscle, etc.; the sheave-skin held
  together by parent-child relationships and restrictions on size
  and angle. contiguity is complex with sheave-skins; importing a
  bvh file into blender requires hand-setting the parent-child
  relationships, and motion capture models permit extensions and
  topological remodelings of these. generally organic bodies are
  topographically defined; there are physical restraints to size, etc.
  while emanent bodies are topological, once 'set' into structure by
  node assignments. again, the latter reference external steerage.
consideration: this external steerage of emanents is mapped in
  various ways - through mind and gui or other interfaces, through
  virtual reality interaction software, through software itself which
  may operate emanents autonomously, so that the emanent becomes
  nothing more than an output display of a program epistemologically
  other. of course this may change in the future; there is no reason
  why emanents should not be autonomous and locally-so, so that
  steerage, communication, etc., is part and parcel of the emanent
  software, integral to it, inhering.

regulated, homeostatic communication
elaboration: organisms and emanents are nodes, channels, transmitters,
  receptors, codes, encodings, decodings, part-objects and their per-
  ception, skins and sheave-skins and their perception. to the extent
  that regulation occurs, cohering semantics emerges; to the extent
  that noise or parasitism enters the systems, transformations and
  possible mutations occur, beneficial or destructive, possibly inher-
  ited or not (and the latter, with emanent mind-steering, becomes to
  some extent an issue of conscious choice).
consideration: one begins to approach a _plasma model_ within which
  forms flux, and flux forms, stases are imminent and always in the
  process of forming and dissolving; memory is primordial (in the
  above sense).

-- internal and external + (between mind and emanent)
elaboration: internal processes are homeostatically regulated in
  organism; it is moot whether such occur in emanents except to the
  extent that _emanents are inherently part of the gamespace, do not
  ontologically exist other than as gamespace._
consideration: external communication - one might bring issues of
  data-bases with both organism and emanent, steerage, community and
  individual memory, community and individual hallucination, etc. it's
  here that language comes forth as the mutual orienting of cognitive
  domains (maturana); while one might speak of the cosmos as languaging
  and only languaging (epistemologically and ontologically), one might
  also conceive of languaging as ikonic in terms of the primordial,
  the thinging of language, or language grounded (as in electronic
  grounding) in things. in this sense, language is literally an after-
  thought, shape-riding.

-- emitters and receptors (within and without organisms)
elaboration: sm (sado-masochist/abject) maws/fits/misfits,
  the contradictory transformed into the contrary or wayward.
consideration: emitters and receptors are in-line, online, bought
  into line vis-a-vis codings. without emitter and receptor interfaces,
  languaging doesn't happen; one might think then of emitters and
  receptors _themselves_ as ikonic languages, so that sign-flows are
  fundamental (but not symbols or indices).

---- emitter and receptor codings (entranceways and exits)
elaboration: entrances and exits but also molecular or protocol
  structures, sm touch/scent/contact. information must obey etiquette,
  otherwise it's noise. etiquette touches on the aesthetics and
  efficiency of coding. _coded emanents have no code_; their code is
  external steerage, subtextual beneath the surface, in the dis/splay
  of sheave-skin.
consideration: it's important to think through analog/ikonic and
  digital/indexical here. organism code is ikonic to the extent that,
  for example, dna coding _is_ molecular, while emanent code is
  indexical since to some extent programming languages are interchange-
  able, they're teleologically drawn-out to steerage goals, and they
  form/construct a performative layer which runs the emanent directly.

---- domain orientations (tropic turns towards energy, communication
elaboration: organisms are tropic, turning towards, away, or skew-
  orthogonally; emanents are tropic through camera positioning (without
  the camera, emanents are invisible, non-existent, which are not equiv-
  alent) within the aegis of mind.
consideration: cameras move emanents as residue, dejecta, abject stain
  on occasion blocking the field of view.

pollutions and abjections (body disposal, chemical slough)

-- purifications and expulsions
elaboration: this operates on the epistemological if not ontological
  dichotomy described re: kristeva, douglas, etc. organisms are channels
  and flows; the flows channel, and the channels flow. the abject is
  integral to organism, just as purification and expulsion may be
  integral to emanent.
consideration: this may be far too simplistic, but it's a step at
  least. when the true world is considered, emanent and organism are
  interpenetrated, intermingled, formed and in/formed together at the

emanents and avatars inhere, cohere, mishmash, spew, emit, slur, slough, 
intermingle, interpenetrate, within the true world, they are true-world- 
ing, in a sense mind-only, but only in the sense that steerage is always 
present, from language through metabolic process through retinal process- 
ing, immunological defense systems, heartbeat, hormonal maintenance, soft- 
ware updating and replacement, membrane filtering, and so forth. this is 
_not_ life force, but inherited and inhering organization in relation to 
reproduction, within which the carrier image is but a dream, our dream, 
our presentification of the future anterior.

(elements marked + pertain in particular to emanent/avatar process. note
that in the above, 'emanent' and 'avatar' are to some extent equivalent, 
although the latter is mostly reserved for entities within second life
and other online/offline 'virtual' worlds.)

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