Alan Sondheim

"" or Practice

"I began writing the Internet Text with one piece every two days or so. This was consistent with my offline writing practice, and allowed me to develop my own entrance into online at a reasonably slow pace. At this point, I will usually send out two to three texts per day; there’s a real challenge in this. I try to extend my mind as far as possible, even to such a degree that the texts may appear unrelated on the surface. But they are appearing at roughly the same time, and in sequence.

"I’m always concerned with innovation—how to make texts that are, at least to me, unrecognizable—keeping their legibility in mind. By ‘legibility’ I mean, not only ensuring their traditional readability or being aware that this readability is being consciously broken down, but also their physical arrangements on the screen. If a piece is relatively incoherent, it is deliberately incoherent.

"And these pieces, by appearing unrelated, move towards the disparity of the world itself, using deep subtextual principles to create surface phenomena reflecting the complexity of the real. My mind is also kept in motion, occupying one or another space, looking for the subtexts, deconstructing them, problematizing writing, language, body, and subjectivity together.

"It’s easier if I’m working through ‘short-waves,’ several interrelated texts, that allow me to relax momentarily in the midst of composition. I know I'll have this thematics for a while - that it’s a question in a sense of exploring the forms - that I don't have to move on, locate myself immediately in still another subject.

"‘Subject’ itself is confusing—referring to both the reader and the thematics of the read—but it’s exactly this confusion that my texts are likely to explore. Think of information inside and outside—the ‘sides’ tangled and interwoven. That’s part of it.

"I think of ‘short-waves’ as trajectories; a text might announce a subject which will be continued, the titles proclaiming the relationships—or the titles might lead to contents possessing stylistic or programming similarities. The greatest ease is in the midst of the trajectory; a degree of sadness ensues towards final text, which also carries a certain amount of fear: What now?

"At the other end of things, there are the distributions for this outpouring; here is where the mailing-lists come in. I send regularly to two, and irregularly to three. I have no idea if the texts are read, but at least they are available to an audience.

"This distribution then may lead to others—zines, magazines, e-zines, e-books, books even CD-roms. Anything is possible. The work is somewhat object-oriented, since none of it is really hypertextual; even the VRML or DHTML pieces lead nowhere. I think of them as 'exempla' of psychological spaces.

"And the result of all of this? Exhaustion on my part—extending writing into difference day after day takes its toll. I use the word ‘defuge’ to indicate a certain exhaustion, combined with abjection and disgust—what happens when a pornographic picture no longer ‘works,’ or when you’ve stopped reading a novel and feel uneasy when you pick it up again, later on, beginning over. It’s a complex state, but it hits. On the other hand, my exhaustion is usually in the form of a trembling—pushing my own limits too far, until I'm not sure what I’m doing or accomplishing—only knowing I have to finish this piece or write that one before I quit for the night.

"I hunger over my texts—I ‘ride’ the short-waves, as if they were animals. Even a single piece is ‘ridden’—I’m immersed in it, I’ve staked out my claim or territory, this is what I'm doing at the moment. The hunger is real, it’s palpable. It’s an extreme state itself; it never lets me alone. I live and work through it.

"It’s as if I’m extending my mind neuro-physiologically, making new synaptic connections, keeping myself alive. Each text is a conundrum, each a physical therapy. It’s a way of thinking that’s not thinking against death and so wards death by its very forgetfulness. Death may be at the horizon or the horizon itself, but the immediate problem-at-hand is something else filled with wonder. And the problem never has a solution, only continued discourse.

"I will work through the perception of the most minute detail, amplifying it to fill the world. Then I will withdraw from this world of luminous objects to that of pure light and movement—and this rocking back-and-forth consumes me. Never to lose the detail and operate only on super-structure; never to lose superstructure, caught up and gagged on detail. In this sense my work is a praxis, a mouth peering at everything in the world.

"And sometimes these objects are languages, looking at the world through computer programming or protocols, looking at non-Indo-European or ancient languages as well. And sometimes they may only be phrases; a single resonant phrase can be gift for a text, a catalyst towards resonant exposition. Because no matter the theme, each text mirrors the others; all are interconnected through modes of thinking I inhabit, bring to the foreground time after time.

"Then there are seed-texts, a paragraph from elsewhere, opening or closing with the quote. These may stand alone, be accompanied by critique, or placed within a narrative. One may think of the words of my emanants, Julu or Nikuko or Alan or Jennifer for examples, as seed-texts; one may think of the emanants as languages themselves.

"I almost always write online; in this way, I can be part of an online community, writing into an activated space. Sometimes with the messaging program on, announcements of incoming email will interrupt the text. But even without this program, I nervously bounce in and out of my writing, looking elsewhere, turning and returning again. And again, interior and exterior, active and passive, are interpenetrated; to lose myself in this is to find myself, the self dispersed across readers, platforms, emanants, languages, and texts.

"The texts are objects and they are flows. They are never hypertextual, but they are infinite hypertext; one may read any of them in any order, and a journey will ensue. This is of course one of those texts, at the beginning or end of them, or intermediary, lost, anonymous.

"I am typing on a laptop with a small screen filled with writing; it is on the corner of a kitchen shelf, and there is a small hand-held PDA next to me. The resonant phrases were written on the PDA, added to throughout the afternoon; now they appear fulfilled, blossomed, dis/eased, forgotten. This is the way the text is constructed from beginning throughout, as if there were nothing but real domains in the world, and what is unsayable is (im)precisely what is lost in the texts, not elsewhere, ready for the scaffolding to be taken apart."

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