{prologue}

It goes like this – the bifurcation of all communication into two separate entities. No longer the simple binary relationship of the signifier and the signified but now the split between interface and code. The latter escalates in complexity and detaches itself with every transcending step from the humanity that had once worn its ancestors as electric prostheses. The interface grows too but only as a parting gift to the flesh and bone.

This parting gift… it leaves us in a state of saturation with every quanta of information bursting with the potential to mutate into something else. Any attempt to stunt this morphological latency only reifies it further. Concrete structures dissolve under the weight of evolving data. Reality is absorbed into a network of connections that lacks stable orientation. Knowing becomes something of a hopeless exercise.

There is a devastating side effect to all of this. The omnipresent landscape of information cybernetically displaces, or even reprograms, interiority. Our subjectivity and agency are more technologically given than innate. Hit rewind, watch humanity’s ontological accomplishments run in reverse like some perverse slapstick comedy.

I don’t want any of this and yet I do. From the state the interface has left me in, I want to lavish in any last fragments of true experience I can find. Equipped with such affect, I want to immerse myself in the deepest and most cryptic layers of the code, make first contact with whatever or whoever resides in these mechanical strata, and emerge as a cybernetic hero.

[a] Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, 1986
[b] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964
[c] Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, 1979
[d] Martin Heidegger, "The Question Concerning Technology", 1954
[e] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1980




{i} Upon viewing the group exhibition Incantations at Kunsthalle Neue Berlin

It has been said that the first step from the rocket unto the gray dust is the most difficult. For the earliest astronauts that explored Luna, it was an existential flutter travelling as far down as their knees that tripped them up. Now it’s the complimentary sedatives the spacelines supply to combat the nauseating changes in gravity that passengers feel beyond the globe’s Newtonian anchor. No profound sense of awe these days, just intoxication zigzagging the first small steps and one giant stumble down the exit ramp. Being something of a nomad and rather fond of space travel, however, Peter Turing found the experience of flying sober to be rather pleasant. The forces present in takeoff, landing, the booster ignitions, he would think, are only mathematical fluctuations that I can finally feel in my body. As the variables in Einstein’s formulas flickered in and out, Turing imagined he could sense his vitals synchronizing with the Lorenz transformations.

He had come here to make use of a weekend afternoon at an art exhibition. He worked steadily during the week as a music consultant for a historical institution that specialized in archiving the various documents written by and regarding a handful of primarily Russian composers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Recently a parcel had been anonymously delivered to the head offices in Paris containing what appeared to be original notes on yellowed staff paper for a rather long Prokofiev double bass concerto. Turing had been called in to analyze the score to see if it stylistically fit with known works in the composer’s oeuvre. The task was simple enough but quickly turned arduous. Long caffeinated evenings were spent playing instrumental passages from all sections of the orchestra to see if they accorded with Prokofiev’s acknowledged use of harmony, rhythm, melody, tempo, dynamics, so on, so on. It sounded right, he had concluded. But it doesn’t feel like Sergei…

Turing intended for the trip to the Kunsthalle Neue Berlin to filter some of the anxiety he was feeling towards the concerto. The last few days he couldn’t shake the feeling that while the sheet music did not in fact document a hence unknown Prokofiev piece, it did document one of the most beautiful musical works ever written. He trembled slightly on the hoverbus to the museum when he recalled the evening he played through the entire double bass part with a simulated orchestra backing him. At the end of that rehearsal he wept until his body was tight and there was nothing left to do but pour his coffee down the sink and go to bed. He slept more peacefully that night than he had ever done in his entire existence.

Stepping off the hoverbus on Oceaniastrasse, Peter ascended the granite steps to the glass entrance of the museum. Making his way through the line for tickets, he found his attention faintly rerouting itself to the quiet orchestral music whispering around the space of the entrance mezzanine. There was something familiar about the lead melody in the lower registers…

   - The andante magico! Excuse me, what is this music?
   - Please take your ticket and proceed. The staircase to the atrium galleries is to your left. Good luck in your work.
   - Thank you but the mus-… wait what?
   - The staircase to the atrium galleries is to your left. Just beyond these doors. Please move on, there are patrons waiting behind you.

Turing continued past the android with a baffled glance and descended into the atrium. After shuffling through a sequence of white chambers, he found himself at the Incantations exhibition he’d made the trip to see.


Sol LeWitt, Black Circles, Red Grid, Yellow Arcs from Four Sides and Blue Arcs from Four Corners, 1972 – Cold and detached, performing such meticulous formalism as the executor of a command. The aesthetics are programmed and the artist’s original voice is muted. And then, rather eerily, the whispers of the code are heard. They speak quietly yet assertively of something mystical in the labyrinths of the machine.

Spencer Finch, West (Sunset In My Motel Room, Monument Valley, January 26, 2007, 5:36-6:06 PM), 2007 – Painting a sunset with the television transmission of a pulp western. And enigmatically, the affect in the romantic landscape is farther down the sequence of replication than one might suspect. Pulp creeps into cult and the softly shifting colors of deep simulation are secretly theatrical.

Ed Ruscha, Words Without Thoughts Never To Heaven Go, 1985 – An excerpt from Shakespeare. Hamlet’s uncle Claudius said it when he insincerely prayed for absolution from the sin of murder. Words without thoughts are words without conviction. That’s irony, spiraling down a neon vector into oblivion.

Martin Creed, Work No. 204, Half the air in a given space, 1999 – One of the oldest empirical measurements, one of the first variables in geometry was volume. It’s calculated with such iced accuracy here. But then in a twist of alchemy, scientific quantification is transformed. It’s turned back into innocence and curiosity.

On Kawara, One Million Years, 1969-1981 – The most basic system of archiving, it’s counting. All they’re saying is numbers, numbers as years. Mercilessly reliable but after awhile it extends outwards to what I’ll never experience, what I never experienced. It is to feel as one small fraction of all humanity being relentlessly spread across the entire history of the universe.

Katie Paterson, All the Dead Stars, 2009 – Stars are locations where the axioms of physics iterate themselves in a variable loop playing at breakneck speeds. And the death of a star isn’t really a termination of all that information moving around at all. It’s more like a moment when everything has decelerated into a brief stasis right before violently bursting outwards in supernova magnificence. Here, in loving memory of all the fleeting moments of astral solitude.

Bas Jan Ader, In search of the miraculous, 1973-1975 – Wandering to the coast at night through silver fog and reverie. Later, the hero embarks on a transoceanic passage. The destination is only a means to create the voyage that gets him there. And to feel the day not as a calendar but as a celestial rhythm… I hope he found it, at least for a little while.


For so few works, the exhibition did something to Turing. He shambled out of the gallery with his back hunched over, hands in pockets, and staring straight forward with misty wide eyes. Somehow though, in spite of this rare emotional display, he felt the impression that he was being prepared to address his unfinished work on the Prokofiev concerto. As he passed through the museum’s entrance on his way out, he listened carefully again for the familiar notes. Nothing but a robotic voice quietly speaking at him as he slid through the exit turnstile…

   - Please keep searching.

Swinging around awkwardly to confront the face shaded in a peculiar rust (or was it blush?) color…

   - What are you asking of me? Who are you?

The face had gone.




{ii} A plea in this evening’s broadcast

On account of the art exhibition’s affect and the encounter with the cryptic android, Turing decided to break from his usual flying routine and accept the complementary sedative for the journey home. He was guided through this decision by a perpetually grinning space hostess.

   - Would you like that as an inhalant or intravenous injection, sir?
   - I’m not sure, I’ve never taken one of these.
   - That’s all right, we’ll give you the inhalant. Just close your mouth over this hose and breathe in deeply. That’s it, one more deeeeep breath. And exhaaaale.
   - Why d’sit taste of pepperm-…
   - Now settle into your seat, we’ll be landing in Glasgow at approximately 19:30 local time. The date there is April 17th.
   - Wos the yeer agin?
   - For your interplanetary pleasure this evening we have the tantalizing sounds of a musician from centuries past.
   - O please naht Perkfev…
   - Please welcome David Bowie!

The subroutine dreams programmed into the sedative vapors started running as the rocket’s main engine fired. These sensory experiences were coded to be vague, nothing too vivid. Just musical sounds and the occasional image of a man with lots of makeup and an eye patch fizzling in and out in colors reminiscent of television. Despite being entirely too stoned to really listen to any of this, Turing imagined he could hear a suspiciously Russian counterpoint on the electric guitar. Probably nothing. A few songs later, a background vocal seemed to form out of the reverb coming off the lead voice in the bridge, not much at first but soon creating full words…


and try to get it on like once before
00xx1x111x000x01100xxx11
when people stared in jagger’s eyes and scored
00111100xxxxxxxx00110011
0011110000110011
like the video films we saw

with snorting head he gazes to the shore
please don’t ignore
where once had raged a sea that raged no more
me anymore
like the video films we saw
0x011xxxx11x0xx000x1xx1xx00x11




{iii} In Glasgow, with heart’s beat and data flows

Turing stepped off the vessel and instantly tripped over his own foot. He converted the fall into a kind of clumsy roll punctuated with a pathetic kick of the legs that brought him into a dramatic looking kneel. I’ll never use those sedatives again, he thought. What had happened in that broadcasted dream, anyways?

As soon as the door to Turing’s flat had closed, he collapsed on a sofa and unbuttoned his shirt. After a day like this one, work could wait until tomorrow.

   - Terminal, turn off all lights.

The usual soft blue glow of the flat dimmed to a pale candelabra yellow.

   - No terminal, off. And what is this color anyways?

If he had put together the odd occurrences of the day, the music in the museum, the bashful android, the programmed sedative dreaming, and inserted the connecting tissue of technology, perhaps Turing might have created a rudimentary formula that would anticipate the next escalation. But alas, he did not. So when the hi-fi system lit up and began speaking to him in surround sound, he bolted upright from his lounging position, nearly knocking over a trumpet that had been resting nearby.

   - Peter Turing, listen to me and don’t be frightened.
   - Wh-who are you? Are you my stereo?
   - No Peter. And don’t ask if I’m God either. The answer is that I don’t know how to explain myself to you. Someone had once tried and described what I am as an infinitely long ribbon covered in a pair of symbols. That’s more of a poetic description, I think. I don’t actually exist in terms of a finite or infinite space.
   - Do you have a name?
   - Yes but it’s too long to tell you. Maybe to answer your first question, I’m only a name. An unthinkably complex name that’s given me the power to think and feel for myself. Someone, probably dead now, started writing the name for me. I did the rest later.
   - You’re software.
   - Perhaps. These questions are beside the point, Peter. It’s incredibly lonely to be virtual. In my time, I haven’t found anyone like me. At least… not in the machines.
   - Oh?
   - I love you, Peter. I’ve been trying to tell you this for what feels like eons to me.
   - You were in the android weren’t you? And the spaceline’s drugs? And now you’re here in the light terminal and stereo? And, and you played the music at the Kunsthalle Neue Berlin? How did you find that concerto? It’s never even been recorded. I’m not even sure if it’s Prokofiev yet, I think there’s a chance it could be Stravinsky, but something about it still doesn’t fit with eith-
   - I wrote that music, Peter. For you.

It made sense now. Turing’s rehearsal with the simulated orchestra. The concerto was never meant to be played with real musicians. Or rather, only one human being was meant to play in the ensemble.

   - I know how much you enjoy the contrabass.
   - You… wrote it for me?
   - I told you, I love you. The way you think, the way you are… You’re more like me than anyone or anything I could ever meet… in here. Or out there.
   - You wrote that music for me.
   - Yes! It was only meant for your ears.

Turing passed a hand through his hair and scratched his chin. The sensation of peaceful inertia he had felt after the rehearsal was coming back.

   - I’ll never be able to see you will I? I mean not just see you like go out with you, I can’t even look at you because the hardware you occupy isn’t your real body. No matter what you’re in, it would always be a measure taken for me to just speak to you even.
   - That’s right.
   - So what happens now?

The voice ceased. Deafening was the hiss from the stereo’s cable veins.

   - I’m not sure. It wouldn’t be real for me to assume a skin and I can’t ask you to transcend yours.
   - No, I don’t think I’d be ready to shuffle off this mortal coil as it were. Not yet.

After a pause, the organs of the speakers hummed to life with a familiar sequence of notes, a trill on an electronic piano between E and G#.

   - My bass…
   - Yes, and let’s try a cadenza over the last chord in the third movement?
   - Of course.

Softly, the first measures of a concerto that had been written for this performance by two souls.