Unreal Nature

December 16, 2016

Risk of Instability

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:26 am

… the apparently predictable work may be more at risk of instability; whereas the giddily unguessable work is in fact metastable, given stability, that is, by the very uniformity of its fluctuations.

Continuing through In Defence of Quantity: Living by Numbers by Steven Connor (2016):

… As a sometime historian of and speculator on the voice, I have had occasion to enjoy and endure a number of episodes or performances of glossolalia, both in artistic and religious contexts, in which sounds are emitted that are said to be pure nonsemantic utterance, or at least to belong to no recognizable earthly language. The interesting feature of such utterances is that, far from being impelled by the pure language of the spirit, or of the elemental passions, they always in fact seem to be subject to careful internal monitoring, so as to avoid the accidental articulation fo meaningful words.

[line break added] Given that many of these words arise from the crystallization of accident out of the mouths of babes and sucklings in many different times and climes, it is highly improbable that an entirely unfiltered stream of spontaneous utterance would not occasionally contain them, yet I have never heard a glossalalic performer come near to articulating ‘mummy’ or ‘pop’ or ‘bugger’ or ‘haddock.’ In order to count as entirely open, such speech cannot in fact be open to simply anything and everything. The order of accident must be tacitly defended against the accident of order.

Seen in these terms, the ideology of chance may be seen as the effort to disavow this intermingling of the determinate and the indeterminate — an intermingling that can never itself be fully determinate or calculable, though this does not make it incalculable either. What we may call the aleator, or artist of chance, is therefore the mirror image of the determinist; where the latter strives to leave nothing to chance, the former is at pains to have absolutely nothing go to plan (except that).

Works on the operations of chance in different art forms tend to focus on the ways in which such forms might or might not succeed in surrendering or opening up to a principle that is held to be alien or antagonistic to its nature.

… What is often seen as a desirable dividend of innovation in artworks — largely because of the horizons of interpretation within which the things picked out as artworks tend to operate, in which sudden changes of meaning and value are themselves a premium source of value — may be seen as an undesirable, even catastrophic cost if one is talking about a bank or an air traffic control system.

[line break added] It is commonly suggested nowadays, for example, that the immune system of somebody brought up under conditions of strictly controlled hygiene may be unable to cope with the unexpected infectious or pathogenic agents they may later encounter. By contrast, the toddler who has consumed their mandatory peck of dirt and has therefore primed their immune system by exposure to bacterial noise may be much better defended against unpredictable contingencies.

[line break added] We may say that the strongly determined work can have the first kind of immunity. Precisely because it seems so strong, it may in fact be weak at certain crucial points, and in proportion to its strength. The strongly or programmatically undetermined work, by contrast, can come to seem almost immune to accident or the unexpected.

… Where the strongly determined work has many entry points for indetermination, the strongly undetermined work only has one entry point for a difference that would make a difference, which is at the level of the initiating intention to make an aleatory work.

… the apparently predictable work may be more at risk of instability; whereas the giddily unguessable work is in fact metastable, given stability, that is, by the very uniformity of its fluctuations.

My most recent previous post from Connor’s book is here.

-Julie

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