Translating patterns along diagonal roaming
(I didnt even need a generator for this title)
An array of elements
One thing I really appreciated as I started reading Robert Smithson's essays was the abundance of references extracted from different domains. His thoughts roam along science fiction, mainstream cultural items, architecture, technology, geology, landscaping and eventually to the human mind. All these elements aggregate together in his essays, opening widely the scope of the analogies that can create meaning.
This had even more echo to me as I started reading Media Ecologies from Matthew Fuller, starting with the following statement :“This is a media ecology made of bits of paper”. Matthew Fuller refers to the Dada aesthetic of collage and some observations made by Deleuze regarding North American literature and more particularly exemplified by the work of Walt Whitman, constituting a “hungry combination of many heterogeneous parts”.
Fuller starts with some reflective observations over a writing practice that has become aware of the way in which it gathers elements to reproduce a situation that has to be depicted by words. Or at least we understand these demonstrations in a ways that display analogies with networked technologies. An assemblage of heterogeneous elements that can recombine to recreate original configurations.
In the case of Robert Smithson, the practice of writing is a mean to express a vision of the world as a system, that is not anthropocentric (McLuhan) but includes human activity within a bigger ensemble of elements aggregating all together. These relations are not new but the materialisation of such processes evolve in time.
“The manifestations of technology are at times less "extensions" of man (Marshall Mcluhan's anthropomorphism), than they are aggregates of elements. Even the most advanced tools and machines are made using the raw matter of the earth. Today’s highly refined technological tools are not much different in this respect from those of the caveman.”
―Smithson, A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Project, 1968
Space = networks of relations
Talking about Networks of relations is redundant, an enumeration of elements in a relationship constitute a network. But somehow it may be good to put the emphasis over the active effect of elements over each other rather than let it feel like a static mesh. Maybe I will change formulation later.
Every metaphor or representation of digital networks is partial and can only express one particular reality, which is the one of the creator of the depiction. This situation cannot be solved. The order of the whole world encompasses matter that goes far beyond the visible stars. Understanding some properties of this order cannot be grasped by the human mind outside the frontiers of what body receptors and measurement technologies (to represent invisible phenomenons) can make of it.
“We do not see things as they are but as the brain interprets them for us.”
― Julian Barbour1
Although this statement may appear as some basic common sense, it seems good to keep it in mind as every representation of some phenomenon is filtered by the human mind, which is based within some locality. Highlighting a network of relations means tracing how an array of elements affect each other, over a delineated surface, a surrounding or an ecosystem. Space is created by the sum of all measurements that can be made following a particular system. From were we are standing we look for patterns from which we extract space.
Therefore, space is made of relations which are represented through systems which are indivisible from human activity and the scope it may affect.
When Matthew Fuller describes the pirate radio movement as a set of interactions of the multiple social, linguistic, algorithmic, technical, and other elements recombining as a media ecology.
(add something about agency of social, legal, political, and economic activity).
“The range of convergence between Site and Nonsite consists of a course of hazards, a double path made up of signs, photographs, and maps that belong to both sides of the dialectic at once. Both sides are present and absent at the same time. [...]. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional things trade places with each other in the range of convergence. Large scale becomes small. Small scale becomes large. A point on the map expands to the size of a land mass. A land mass contracts into a point. Is the Site a reflection of the Nonsite (mirror), or is it the other way around?”
Here I am getting back to where I started from, Media ecologies can be made of bits of paper. Somehow the bits of paper constitute the non site of a media ecology. It reveals particular phenomenons by displaying their mechanisms outside their field of action. The translation from the Site to the Non-Site is a symmetry that works in a way analog between the Network and the map of the Network. A map doesn't necessarily mean to be deceptive, but taking it as a truth for the whole raises problems. A non Site is local as it bears closed limits, contained information, and displays a mirror image. A mirror image holds the object within a site that is virtual. In some ways the metaphor of the mirror image holds analogies with Baudrillard's description of the simulacrum. A representation displays a partial view of the depicted reality. A part of the information that can be extracted from experiencing the site cannot be embedded (weight, smell, temperature etc...). Some information is lost during the translation from a milieu to another one (due to changes in materiality). The Non Site holds what an individual has filtered as relevant information to be redistributed otherly.
Spiral Jetty manifests in three instances, all of equal value. These instances are nevertheless of different scales, geological scale, time scale, fitted within the video medium, spatialised in the linear continuum of the essay.
The Site has referred to by Smithson is the place where art is inseparable from the context of its implementation. Nevertheless this raises the problem of access and diffusion within a world of planetary availability of information (in principle).
The site and non site relationship is the one of a process and a product, a performance and its documentation. The Site is mobile and time based while the non site stabilises experience for transmission in time and space. When the process is over or the field of its perpetuation too remote, the Non Site may suffice but shouldn't be mistaken for being a chiral copy of the Site itself. A non site bears delineated contours.