The Letter in ART

art, poetry, technology

I am reading a book on vispo coincidentally with the annual ELO conference – Electronic Literature Organization. I really dont know what vispo is/was but I did a deep dive into concrete poetry recently (visual poetry) and vispo appears to be a continuation or derivation of that.  It also seems to coincide nicely with my current explorations into creative coding via letter generation. 

As a young child I was captured by the magic of letters, symbols and alphabets far before I could read. And for me they did, and continue to have, a meaning beyond information (reading). A letter, for me, is imbued with meaning beyond being a letter of the alphabet. I have no idea why this is the case – but I know I am not alone in this since so many people have associated letters with numbers and symbols, archetypes and so forth. 

On the first page of the Vispo book I am reading, Nico Vassilakis writes “letters lose their chemical word attraction, their ability to bond to one another; to cohere into words.”  This is where I am right now in my creative code exploration of letters. What are letters as atoms – apart from words. Back at my apartment I have a book that looks at letters as if they were letters or chemical compounds.

This is an example of Systems Poetry – overlapping the grapheme with the chemical.  

There is a question about reality. What is real about the letter? We can get into all sorts of thorny issues here, and category mistakes and what not. This is a metaphysical question.  But when I play with letters in creative code, this is the core. What is real about the letter?

This reminds me of the imaginal realm. Is the imaginal realm real. Can it be shared with another consciousness or is it purely subjective.   There are interactions between letters, addressed by kerning or spacing with artists like Aram Saroyan. And Crag Hill’s second essay in this Vispo collection touches on this. Then we move from the word to words – to the relationship between words, to the empty space, or the page.  Mallarme used white space as silence – another quote from page 69 of the vispo collection in Mittenthal’s essay. 

There is also the breath, and the constraints provided by a typewriter – as explored by Charles Olsen. We can imagine the new constraints of css, or of pixels, of curves and points of  OpenGL, of computer protocols, APIs, and forms. This is the breath of the computer, or of the cyborg (the human+computer). 

In looking at lettering I am inspired by

Jesse Ferguson and letters of different sizes and rotations, of The Lions and letters integrated with illustrations, of Anatol Knotek which reminds me of my experiments from last week, of Petra Backogja which reminds me of concrete poetry, of the absolutely beautiful and magical Oded Ezer’s the message a movement of hebrew letters from 2D space to 3D space and into movement and animation (4D), of Bill DiMichele and Cecil Touchon and Jim Leftwich and experiments with tiles and matrices that I also am experimenting with,  of Troy Lloyd who appears to reference Braille, Fernando Aguiar who brings text off the page and into life with translucent prints and natural environments, of James Yeary who makes me think of Sigils and James Joyce, and Derek Beaulieu  – because I see how I can make something in this structure, of Gareth Jenkins and the creation of new letters and accents.

These are my inspirations this morning. 

Notes on Simondon and Technicity

philosophy, technology

I just read “On The Existence of Technical Objects” in a reading group and I wanted to jot down my ideas before I forgot them.

This is a book about technicity – which is sort of like tools and automation. How is technology created, what is the role of technology in society (and economics)? Spoiler – its central.

Some specific thoughts

The language of the book
The language of the book is theoretical. Simondon makes an assertion that something beings (either human society or tool making)in a unity that has the structure of “magic.” This then becomes bifurcated into technics and religion with their point of bifurcation being called aesthetics.  Technics and religion further bifurcate into practical and theoretical. The theoretical for technics is inductive reasoning, for religion it is theology. This type of thought is labeled – “scientific reasoning”.   The practical for technics is an implied (or perhaps deontological) ethics, and for religion it is a value ethics.  Some people interpret the practical as a distinction between applied ethics and normative ethics, but I disagree.  This is labeled ethical reasoning. 

So the language of technics is the language of religion  – likewise we could talk about religion in the language of technics. This is perhaps what is happening when we talk about about yogic “technology” (like certain breath work). 


There is the notion that technics emerge through a process of individuation. This individuation process is based in work. This is opposed to the grounding of at least ancient greek philosophy in leisure and contemplation.  Through the process of individuation the technology becomes itself. 

I am really interested in the relationship between this – individuation and psychology because my favorite psychologist – Jung- is all about individuation. Jung is also influenced by metaphors of alchemy – who’s goal is “the work” the philosopher’s stone or something like that, not just the contemplation. I would at some point like to formally explore this. 

Science and Individuation

I am currently influenced by Owen Barfield, since I read him a few weeks ago. and the relationship between observations and science. I am also influenced by Vaclav Smil, and his history of technological innovation in the 19th and 20th Centuries. 

The interesting thing to note is that – per Smil – in the 20th century innovation happened based on scientific models. They were a reification of theory. Prior to that, innovation happened by trial and error, or tinkering, etc, by ‘working’.  So this 20C transformation, where is the work happening in technics? Is the work happening in the instrumentation that has us record the data that leads us to develop the models. The technics here are the the instruments. But then also technics are related to moments of rupture when the resultant technology breaks. The model turns out to be inadequate -as most models are – and we have to work, in a trial and error tinkering fashion to complete the technic individuation process. 

I am not going to talk about what Simondon does to place technics at the center of social and political thought – but I am going to note it and revist it.

There are other questions of alienation and economics that do not interest me that much – but I am going to put them here in case at a later point I want to revisit them.  If it is true that alienation comes not from selling our labor (per marx), but in not fully understand what our labor is doing via the black box of the tool (my interpretation of Simondon). Then instead of abolishing money or the market economy, we should just open source all tools and technics and make all related education free, accessible and integrated into society so that people that use the tools/technics. Perhaps we cannot release new tools/technics until people can understand how they work. 

A coda… fixing bugs and troubleshooting software and hardware systems to me is a process of tinkering. When I was a yeoman developer someone told me – a complete idiot and fool if you ask me- that if you write good software you dont need to test it. This is like saying all models will produce technology that always work. This is just not the case.  Software in particular is in a constant state of individuation (refinement through fixing defects), and this can be considered the beginning transindividuation. Yet another point for another time, but the notion that we should not relate to tools as mere use (contra Heideigger), but the creation of the world as interaction between technics and humans. (a little bombastic – but i cannot help some rhetorical flourish now and again(

Martial Arts -Tai Chi

performance, technology

Yesterday (and today), for the first time in about 9 years I practiced Tai Chi. My old tai chi teacher sent out a mailer saying he was doing zoom classes with Ba Gua and I asked him for a Tai Chi refresher. I did Ba Gua in the past and I enjoyed it but it did not speak to me. It felt off in my body and did not vibe with my inner vitality. Tai Chi however I loved. I preferred it to Kung Fu. I also loved Qi Kung. But I loved and still love Tai Chi.

I love the dance of tai chi, the precision, the angles of the body, the role each party of the body plays, but I also love the martial aspect.  The story is… and I might have already written about this, but that the Shaolin monks would fall asleep while meditating, and a Buddhist yogi one day came to the temple and taught the monks yoga and this was the beginning of their physical practice. So they could stay awake while meditating, or working on their inner life. I am not sure where the martial aspect was introduced but this is key for me.

When practicing tai chi you it is important where you are looking, where your energy is coming from and how your hands are positioned because you are theoretically engaged in combat. I mean they are important because it is important to do things well, but this doing well has to do with sparring with an opponent. 

This is a critical aspect to Tai Chi, that I value, that does not exist in other inner arts like Qi Gung or Yoga. What does it mean to be martial. When I think about sparing I think about refining my ideas, testing myself against the world, interacting with the world. This interaction can be a dance, it can be a fight, it can probably be a number of other things. With the martial aspect you are defending yourself, you are preserving yourself. You are not merging with a dance partner but asserting your own sovereignty in opposition to another. 

What are other martial symbols? Sagittarius with the bow and Arrow, Diana the huntress, Mars/Tyr and Tuesday (Tyr is the norse god of war). Some sports are more martial than others, like boxing. Fencing or archery could be construed a western martial art. I am not sure what my own Jewish tradition would be considered martial historically, but now there is Krag Maga.  

When I imagine the archer, I imagine someone with a goal. I imagine a crystallization of will. The will flows from the body, from the inside, and is tested against the world in the martial art.  So I may never fight someone in the street, but that is not why one should practice a martial art. It is to practice testing oneself against the world and asserting sovereignty.

Also – this is technology,,,



MOL gloves

Technology and Clothing

clothing, technology

I was leaving book, Tools: Extending our reach – which is a monograph of from an exhibition at Cooper Hewitt.

Above is a photo of the Gloves for Manned Orbiting Laboratory. The entry for this piece discusses the relationship between tools and clothing. That once we create tools we create other tools to allow us to maximize or use our tools.  Gloves in this case are protection, they are an interface or mediator between ourselves and the tool.  In what respects does clothing function in this way – as an interface – as the API to tools or the environment?  

In these gloves there is a translation mechanism that translates the touching sensation on the glove to the finger through the fingernail. So even within the clothing there is technology. 

Clothing can also be tools themselves, but they are perhaps a different order of tool. 

I love these gloves. Something about clothing with a lot of embellishment really excites me… all those strings! Even tools with lots of little tools – like a swiss army knife with 100 little tools. As I got older I began to appreciate single use tools – something well made to do one thing. But I get excited about multi-tools. It is really imaginatively potent for me.