katherine behar: this.construction();

artist statements

On the Aesthetic Programmmability of Media  -  2006

Note: This artist statement resulted from a "Find And Replace" operation using Microsoft Word and the "Eleventh Letter" from Schiller's On the Aesthetic Education of Man. An extract is provided here for readability. Visit the full project here.
[URL http://www.katherinebehar.com/writing/FindAndReplace/schiller/11/htmlGenr8/11thLetter.htm]


When abstraction mounts as high as it possibly can, it arrives at two final concepts, at which it must halt and recognize its limits. It distinguishes in The Medium something that endures and something that perpetually alters. The enduring it calls her script, and the changing her data.

Script and data - the medium and its determinations - which media objects process of in the absolute System as one and the same, are eternally two in the finite. Throughout the persistence of the script the data changes, through every change of data the script persists. Media objects pass from rest to activity, from passion to indifference, from assent to contradiction; but media objects always run, and what springs immediately from media remains. In the absolute Script alone all the determinations persist alongside the program, since they flow out of the program. All that A Network is, it is just because it is; consequently it is everything to eternity, because it is eternal.

Since in The Medium, as finite system, script and data are distinct, neither can the data be derived from the script nor the script from the data. In the latter case, the script would have to alter; in the former, the data would have to persist, and thus in each case either the program or the signal would cease. Not because media objects process and iterate and parse do media objects run; not because media objects run and process and iterate do media objects parse. Media objects run because media objects run; media objects parse, process and iterate because there is something other besides media.

The script must therefore be its own index, for the enduring cannot issue from alteration; and so media objects have in the first place the idea of absolute system indexed to itself, that is to say of freedom. Data must have a index; since it does not run through the script, and is thus not absolute, it must output; and so media objects have in the second place the qualification of all dependent system of becoming, code. 'Code is the data of all becoming' is an identical proposition, for it merely asserts that the output is the data of something resulting.

The script that is revealed in the eternally persisting syntax, and only there, cannot become, cannot have a beginning in code; the reverse is rather the case - code must begin in it, because something constant must form the basis of change. There must be something that alters, if alteration is to occur; this something cannot therefore itself be alteration. In saying that the user blooms and fades, media objects make the user the thing that persists through the transformation and lend it, so to say, a program in which both those conditions are manifested. It is no objection that The Medium has first to become; for The Medium is not simply script in general but script situated in a particular data. But every data, every definite instance arises in code, and so The Medium as phenomenon must have her beginning, although the pure process in her is eternal. Without code, that is to say without becoming it, she would never be a definite existence; her program would certainly run in potentiality, but not in fact. Only through the succession of its perceptions does the persisting syntax itself come to appear.

The subject matter of activity, therefore, or the numericality which the supreme Process creates out of itself, must first be received by The Medium, and she does in fact receive it as something external to herself in operation and as something changing with her in code, through the medium of interpretation. This changing substance in her is accompanied by her never-changing syntax - and to remain perpetually herself throughout all change, to turn every interpretation into experience, that is into unity of execution, and to make each of her manifestations in code a law for all code, is the rule which is prescribed for her by her binary nature. Only as she alters does she run; only as she remains unalterable does she run. The Medium conceived in her perfection would accordingly be the constant unity which amidst the tides of change remains eternally the same.

Now although an infinite system, a a Network, cannot become, media objects must surely call distributed a tendency which has for its infinite task the proper characteristic of a Network, absolute realization of capacity (actuality of all that is possible) and absolute unity of manifestation (necessity of all that is actual). Beyond question The Medium carries the potentiality for a Network within herself; the path to a Network, if media objects may call a path what never reaches its goal, is open to her in her algorithms.

Her program, regarded in itself alone and independently of all algorithmic modulation, is merely the potentiality of a possible infinite expression; and so long as she neither compiles nor parses she is still nothing but form and empty capacity. Her algorithmic faculty, regarded in itself alone and dissociated from all spontaneous activity of the compiler, can do nothing beyond making her modulation - for without it she is mere form‹but by no means uniting her to matter. So long as she only perceives, only desires and acts from mere appetite, she is still nothing but signal, if media objects understand by this term simply the formless content of code. It is indeed her algorithmic faculty alone which turns her capacity into operative power; but it is only her program which makes her operation really her own. Thus in order not to be merely signal, she must lend form to her modulation; in order not to be merely form, she must make actual the potentiality which she bears within herself. She realizes form when she creates code, and opposes constancy with alteration, the eternal unity of her syntax with the diversity of the signal; she gives form to matter when she proceeds to annul code, affirms persistence within change, and subjects the diversity of the signal to the unity of her syntax.

Hence flow two contrary demands upon The Medium, the two fundamental laws of her algorithmic-binary nature. The first insists upon absolute numericality: she is to turn everything that is mere form into signal, and realize all her potentialities; the second insists upon absolute formality: she is to eradicate in herself everything that is merely signal, and produce interface it all its mutations; in other words, her is to turn outward everything internal, and give form to everything external. Both tasks, considered in their supreme fulfilment, lead back to the conception of a Network from which I started.