Posts Tagged ‘Language’

Terminology and the Draw to the Unknown

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Internet or internet: as a proper noun the ‘Internet’ is a specific place, and refers to one specific Internet Protocol Network where as the common noun ‘internet’ refers to the larger inter network of Internet Protocol Networks that we generally think of when we use the word internet. Language for that large part of our lives (the internet part) is made up of metaphor and metonym, to reach into a reality that at its outset couldn’t be comprehended without use of terminology that related to physical experiences, which the general public was already familiar with. At this point I’d like to refer to Ben Vickers’ project introduction for ATARAXIA: Survey #1 below:

“A note on networks. “Networks are not a thing, they are a way of understanding and representing the world. A social networks perspective seeks to understand the way in which discrete units – nodes – are connected and affected by the relationships between them.” Ben Vickers,

Recently I heard a student do a lecture at Goldsmiths University, during which he said that we no longer surf on the internet, but swim, there are currents and we are submerged; a metaphor that relays how the relationship between who is a resource to who: internet content -> <- user, has become mutually balanced in the last five years, due to the amount of receptive content, thus repositioning the users self, in context of the data stream.
Data stream.
Swimming in a stream of content.
We can take ‘walks’ (swims), (basically just whole journeys) on the internet, in so many different ways. Look at Bernhard Garnicnig Soundwwwalks, where he leads the viewer through a sequence of online sites that combine to build a complex audio texture that is then peeled, back page-by-page to silence, he calls these online performances ‘walks’.

Tron, The matrix, both are extended metaphor representations of what is behind the internet interface, because our brains can’t comprehend what dark matter is without subjective narrative and physical architectural identity. As our generation has grown up with this technology, I want to grasp it in real terms, dark matter included. I want to be able to understand it’s true, coded, electrical and invisible form, and not to rely on fictional illustrative allegory. I’m feel frustrated at how much I lean on the right, creative cerebral cortex of the brain and how little my left hemisphere gets involved in comprehending what must be a complex coded system of O and I’s.

Leaning through these physical metaphorical terms, also extends to social network theory, where identity of the internet is analogized from theory of place. For Certeau, it’s a practice space, an extension of the space of experimentation with practical function or without. Marc Augé ‘s theory of non-space has been posthumously protracted to a forth stage, by myself and others, to include non-space on the internet, such as the search engine home page, frequently updated news sights, image search listings; these places are transient and lack any solid or static sense of place, such as a chat room or online archive does.

George Lakoff argues that ‘metaphors can create realities’ ‘cultural change arises from the introduction of new metaphorical concepts and the loss of old ones’ [Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. Metaphors We Live By (IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980),]. Is this true? We have metaphorised the space of the internet and now there are virtual realities and technological systems that begin to bring the physical place of the internet to the room you are sitting in. Has the metaphorical language has built the use, or the other way around?

Over use is what happens to a word when it means too much. What does it mean to talk about the internet when we are on it, in it, constantly. Doesn’t it become redundant and, like saying ‘ I’m on earth’ totally standard. What would happen if we didn’t have this word – the internet – would we all get specific; speak about spending time in live video communications, online broadcasting, email servers, specific news streams, archive sites, or even just a specific YouTube video. Wouldn’t that necessity, force open the web to be less of the mystery place we all go to for hours, and over time, make our negation of it more transparent and comprehendible.

Then I realise – this is exactly what we do want : the MYSTERY place –  the nameless void of knowledge.  When you say ‘I spent the day in the library’ the reply isn’t always followed with ‘which books did you look at’. Like this, the phrase ‘I’ve been surfing the net’ affords the researcher secrets. This over used, broad term ‘the internet’ lends us a closed door; you could be reading Heidegger or you could be looking at cat memes, nobody needs to know where you’ve been on your screen.

The DeLillo chapter that Marialaura Ghidini and the Accordance show reference also depicts the ‘invisible system’ and the surrounding mythology that has grown around that; the myth of what we cannot see to understand. So there are two unknowns, how the system works, and on a personal level, how our neighbors interact with it. Rather than trying to pin down the language and make everything transparent, I think these ambiguities and unknowns are employed by users of the internet. The specifics lost in analogous and loose terminology leave spaces for creative development.

The Lotus Eaters

Monday, February 6th, 2012

“I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-Eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.”
Odyssey, IX


The sun stops half way through its descent towards the abyss. He wonders where it will go, as he moves his eyes away from the dark horizon. Beyond it, somewhere in the night, his comrades are still rowing through the uncharted sea. By now, if everything had gone according to plan, they should have approached the island… The island… Which island? It was home, long ago, but now he can’t even remember its name. Doulos slips a finger between his belt and the cloth he has around his waist. Carefully, he extracts one soft, fleshy petal. He puts it on his lower lip, and with his tongue he moves it inside his mouth, feeling its smooth surface turning thicker, then slowly dissolving. When he first tried the flowers, the overwhelming sweetness coated his tongue, and it was only out of courtesy for his kind hosts that he had kept on chewing. But now, so many flowers later, now that nothing distinguishes him form his hosts, now… Now… Oh, it’s gone. That thought is gone. No point in chasing it. And his comrades, yes. His comrades at home, wherever it is. But they are not at home, he knows it. Without proof, he knows it for sure.

It was that guy, their master. The man of many ways and no regrets. Like they turned the oars in their hands, he turned their lives in his. And enchanted them, even more than the penetrating juices of the petals of lotus. And now that the sun has started again its descent, in the coming darkness Doulos can see their mouths wide open, as the jaws of the unforgiving sea close on them. The monsters, on the shores, in the caves under water, and in the sky above the waves, they were nothing compared to him. The man who deceived Troy, the trickster who didn’t have to threaten his comrades to obey him, as they did so out of their misplaced love. Him… The king… Doulos squints in the agony of the day, and slowly walks back through the shrubbery. The rising wind swirls the sand around his worn-out sandals. In the distance, behind the olive trees, the lights of the village shine along a wide stretch of land. A few lazy crickets greet his stumbling steps toward his hut. A dog is sleeping in front of his door. Doulos kneels down in front of him and gently caresses his head. The dog growls sleepily, raises his head, licks Doulos’s fingers, sweetened by the lotus.

Behind his hut, beyond the lemon grove, and the stream, and the patches of maritime pines, a pile of enormous rocks cut the wind with their edges. He had hidden there, the day his comrades had come back to look for him. The villagers were still gathered around the fire, methodically chewing on their flowers, looking unimpressed at the foreigners’ frenzy. His comrades had searched the village, running from one hut to the other, shouting his name. The two who had accompanied him in the exploration tried to escape and were dragged back to the ships, in tears. Doulos was hiding behind the rocks, still short of breath. He could see the scene, from that distance, as one looks back at a fading dream just after awakening. He remained in hiding, almost motionless, throughout the night, until, at dawn, the new winds filled the sails and the wooden shells of the Greeks started moving away from the shore. As the ships moved further, Doulos tightened his grip on the rocks. That would have been the last time he would have seen his comrades, heard their voices, the sound of his native tongue… At last, as a final farewell, he heard Ulysses shouting, ‘Doulos, you traitor, you’ll be forgotten!’

Doulos stands up, walks towards the door, opens it. A woman is lying on a rug, chewing her portion of petals. She smiles at him, invites him to lie next to her. Doulos takes off his sandals, dusts off the sand on his feet. He goes to the table and pours two cups of water. He sits at her side, and passes her a cup. She ruffles his hair, gives him a petal. As the juice of the lotus envelops his mouth and teeth, memories get lighter. The dog comes in, and licks the water left in his cup. He looks at him wondering around he room, approaching the door and finally lying in front of it. Doulos reaches for another petal and slips it in his mouth. The woman, next to him, stretches her arm and takes his hand, rubs her fingers on his scars, on the long white marks that made him a soldier, on the hard layers of skin that made him a oarsman, on the painful joints that made him a subject of his master.

Doulos closes his eyes, and the sound of another dog, from another hut, faintly reaches him. There, someone else is reversed on the floor, near another half empty cup of water, far away from any memories. Oblivion. Even remembering oblivion is hard, once the lotus has enveloped you. The land around them, with its sand, the present darkness, the coming light, and darkness again, the distant ships, the wind singing through the rocks, the trees… Like fallen trees they all lie, protected from the sufferings of the world. Like corpses they live, so remote from life they could live forever. And forever forget, about the cares of the sailors, the soldiers, the kings and their ambitions, and their flocks of servants, reversed in the sand, lifeless, at the end of the battles, as the smoke of the sacrifices feeds the gods.

Years before, on the shores of Troy, memories of long-past wrongs possessed bodies much younger than the offenses they had been called to vindicate, and through their veins turned into the terrifying power of armed fists. The smile of the swords, at dawn, as the battlefield presented itself as the last day of the many, the memorable eve of the few. And the unbearable weight of the helmets, as burning as the sun, melting away the remnants of the fallen and the minds of the living. Once the dry plains in front of the burned gates of the city had drank more lives than they could stomach, the spectre of other plains, and other lands, came back to haunt the survivors. Home, as a curse. As a destiny, once again, calling them all to take up the challenge of death. And then, had they passed the swirls hidden between the waves, back again to the chains they used to call their own. The kings, always magnificent, raised they voices over the rowing crews. Home! they ordered. Triumphant commanders, on the deck of their ships, they showed no hesitation in taking the sea again, towards the beds in which their queens laid still, chained to their memory.

Sinking deep towards the boundless realm of the gods, the arrogance of those entitled to glory, the crowned few, pushed the ships away from the shore, back to the native fields and prisons. For Doulos, towards the mountainous pastures of Ithaca, where sheep and shepherds share the same thirst. Swapping the armor for the wooden stick, the sword for the whistle, the obedience in the face of death for that of an entire life. Back, back again. Like a winter that follows an unforgiving summer. Between the sea and the shore, craving a corner to sleep on the crowded deck, on the fields of sheep and tributes, hiding from the wrath of the gods as from that of the king, his face in the sand, his hands, older by the day, gripping on the same myths. Lost in an oblivion in which he only would have remained awake to himself, to his forgettableness.

Until, they took shelter in the land of the lotus eaters, after many days of tempest. The woman starts singing softly, in a language he still does not understand. But is there anyone who understand it? People don’t speak, in the land of oblivion, as they don’t remember their own names, and their debts fade into nothing, as the dogs that move from hut to hut, without fidelity. Is this his woman? He cannot say, and in her dark hair there is no place for the mark of anything but of his fingers, caressing her, rhythmically moving along the riffs of her skull. Is this life at all? He places another petal between his lips and presses in with his teeth. The juice trickles, underneath his tongue, between the molars. Memories get lighter. But he has already thought that. But it doesn’t matter. Thoughts die and are reborn, in a swirl of seasons passing so rapidly, as if the countless days that make the world were comprised in those very moments. And then they die, each and every instant, leaving him motionless, perfectly clear, polished like the bark of an old tree. And behind him, beyond the lemon grove, and the stream, and the patches of maritime pines, a pile of enormous rocks are still cutting the wind with their edges. He has been there, one day, many years ago. He had gone there to look at the sky, and the sea, and had fallen asleep. And he had a dream, and had awakened. And again.
And again.
And again.
Until all the seasons would have run out.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The bookshelf and the spell check, illiteracy in Microsoft Word (2005)


Dictionary of Proverbs/ Baudrillard’s Ecstasy of Communication/ Dictionary of Superstition/ Deleuze and Guattari: 1000 Plateaus/ The Two Sources of Morality and Religion/ The Architectural Uncanny/ Being and Time/ Situationist International/ Anti-Oedipus/ The Social Contract/ The Nose/ Lights Out for the Territory/ Of Grammatology/ Clytemnestra/ Oedipus/ Electra/ Alcestis/ Medea/ ETA Hoffmann/ Orestes/ Lysistrata/ The Eumenides/ The Theban Plays/ Baudelaire’s The Generous Gambler/ The Napoleon of Notting Hill/ Melmoth the Wanderer/ Barthes’ The Eiffel Tower/ Rousseau’s Confessions/ Steppenwolfe/ Little Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine/ Will to Power/ Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody/ What is Literature?/ Blanchot/ The Arcades Project/ The Stones of Venice/ Kristeva/ Nausea/ Juvenal’s Satires/ Anais Nin/ The Anatomy of Melancholia/ Beyond Good and Evil/ Suite Ventienne/

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The Prince/ Henry Miller/ The Return of the Real/ The Robert Crumb Handbook/ Madness and Civilization/ World View/ Fathers and Sons/ The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia/ Mark Twain/ Ovid/ Aesop/ Ray Johnson’s a Laugh/ The Man who was Thursday/ Doge and Dogaressa/ Richard Prince/ Sigmar Polke/ Priories and Abbeys of England/ Romanesque/ Ruscha’s Leave Any Information at the Signal/ Modern Man in Search of a Soul/ Why Do Women Write More Letters Than They Send?/ Barthes’ A Lovers Discourse/ Straw Dogs/ Herodotus The Histories/ The R Crumb Handbook/ Francis Wheen’s Karl Marx/ Manners and Morals/ The Moment of Self Portraiture in German Renaissance Art/ John Julius Norwich’s A History of

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Venice/ Venice and the Renaissance/ Piranesi/ Gustave Dore/ Debord’s The Theory of the Derive/ The Parisien Prowler/ Post-Humous Papers of a Living Author/ The Species of Spaces/ Down and Out in Paris and London/ Lord Jim/ Madness and Civilization/ The Object Stares Back/ Ray Monk’s Bertrand Russell Vol 1/ Ray Monk’s Bertrand Russell The Ghost of Madness 1921-70/ CT Onion’s Oxford Dictionary of Etymology/ The Compact Oxford Dictionary/ The Oxford Dictionary of Art/ The Hutton Report/ Chris Burden’s When Robots Rule and The Two Minute Airplane Factory/ Jamie Shovlin on Naomi Jellish/ Jeff Wall/ Raymond Pettibon/ Bruce Nauman/ Mike Kelley’s Catholic Tastes/ Wells Cathedral/ Caravaggio/ From Constable to Delacroix/ Moliere Three Plays/ Candide/ Mythologies/ A Lovers Discourse/ Life A Users Manual/ The Man Without Qualities/ Zazie on the Metro/ L’exercises du Style/ The Lives of the Artists/ Myth of Sisyphus/ The System of Dr Tarr and Professor Fether/ Dave Hickey/ Augustine’s Confessions/ The Critique of Pure Reason/ Erasmus’ In the Praise of Folly/ Helene Cixous/ The Aenid/ Lyotard’s The Post Modern Condition/ Lyotard’s Confessions/ Poetics of Space/ Aristophanes’ Birds, his Wasps, his Frogs and his Clouds/ The Secret Heresy of Hieronymous Bosch/ Prometheus Bound/ Gogol/ The Prisoner of Venice/ Rabelais/ Camus’ Fall, his Plague, his Rebel and his Outsider/ Faust/ Faust/ Faust/ Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander/ Writing and Difference/ Blanchot’s Friendship/ Derrida’s On Friendship/ Betty Radice/ Michael Wood/ The Confidence Man/ Geoffrey Chaucer/ Being and Nothingness/ Bataille/ Johannes Itten/ Catholic Tastes/ Breakdown/ Plato/ John Ruskin’s Sesames and Lilies/ Harrison and Wood/ Revenge of the Crystal/ PD Ouspensky/ CG Gurdjieff/ Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura/ JK Huysmans’ Against Nature/ Paradisio/ Purgatorio/ Inferno