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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Recombinant Poetics

Re: Brian Holmes

Well, I'm not sure I follow your point about "the general engineering of
consciousness." I think you're overreacting to the idea of "order" which
is kind of why I threw that quote out there, to get a response. On the
other hand, I could be completely misinterpreting you, but anyway...
here's my two bits...

I actually don't think the kind of high modern art you're talking about
(at least in the case of Kandinsky, and I think I could make a pretty
good argument for Cage) was about true randomness at all. Later on in
your post, you refer to indeterminancy, which seems more on the mark to
me, and which actually is not random in the strict sense of the word. N.
Katherine Hale's point about recombinant art, it seems to me, was about
that difference between indeterminacy and randomness - modernist
artworks, for want of a better term, tended to create indeterminacy from
order by setting up a latticework of connections which couldn't
ultimately be pinned down to a single interpretation (but were also not
open to "infinite" interpretations, if such a thing can exist). They
created a certain kind of "chaos" from order, a chaos which could be
reduced to neither chaos nor order, but existed somewhere inbetween. Of
course this was all formalized and codified after the event by
post-structuralism, and now that that has been codified in its own
right, we have the idea that randomness and reader's choosing their own
adventure is some kind of escape from control, hierarchy, the canon,
whatever...which is really a somewhat naive viewpoint imho.

Recombinant artworks of the hypertextual type tend to involve
connections that are closer to randomness, although again I don't think
they're totally random because the author usually has some control over
the range of links that can be created, if not the exact links (in fact,
people working in hypertext have told me that they have more control
over the reader's experience, not less). The signal to noise ratio,
however, is likely to lean more in the direction of noise. Personally, I
think that can be a problem: I want meaning of some kind from what I
read, and I don't believe that any two (or more) fragments can always be
connected at will to produce something more than either alone. It's like
when I'm reading online, and there's a lot of links in the piece of
writing: if those links aren't worthwhile and carefully thought out,
then they're wasting my time. I'm not going to sit there and invent some
meaning from them; that's not some kind of freedom of the reader as far
as I'm concerned. I want productive links. So the point I was really
trying to make with that quote about 20% repetitiveness is that some
degree of order is necessary (and, in fact, almost inevitable; I forget
the exact math here, but I'm pretty sure that it's impossible to produce
information which is pure signal or pure noise) and really not
necessarily "authoritarian" or "controlling" at all. All this is not to
say that there can't be good hypertext/recombinant art, or that I think
20% repetitiveness is some kind of absolute; it is to say that
recombinant artists probably have to put, if anything, more effort into
creating an ordered structure that moves beyond itself.

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