Interrupt V: Jhave Johnston, John Cayley, & Maralie Armstrong


JOHN CAYLEY: –everybody. Thank you for coming
to the opening session of this fifth
iteration of Interrupt. We started in 2008, and have
had these regular sessions. My name’s John Cayley. I’m professor and chair of
literary arts, where I run a digital language arts track. I mentioned that I’m
chair, and it’s normally considered to be a
sort of burden, a thing that many academics
try to avoid. I’m kind of chuffed, because
someone who self identifies now as a digital language
artist has just been made the head of a
creative writing department in an Ivy League
university, which seems, to me, a little
bit significant and worth mentioning, I thought. Anyway, I wanted to welcome you
all here, and to mention one just one administrative
thing, which is that if you haven’t
given your email address into the registration
table, then please do so. That’s just so that we can
contact you after the event and let you know if
there are videos online or whatnot, or keep in touch
with you in the future. So there’s no registration
fee, but if you could just give your email address
that would be great. And Theodora Walsh, who
is the chief curator, ably assisted by
Claire Donato, they will be giving a sort of a
much more interesting sort of welcoming address to
the gathering at 6 o’clock. Yeah. The biggest thanks
goes to Theodora, and we’ll have other
opportunities to thank her later, but the literary
arts department supports this event, the
Brown arts initiative, and the Pratt Institute
has also been co-operative and they’re bringing
students for later sessions. So with that, I’m
going to hand over to Cam Scott, who’s
moderating this session, and he’ll introduce
us all briefly. Thank you. CAM SCOTT: Hello. Thank you, John. I am actually just going
to introduce each artist before their respective
performances. So we will, without further ado,
start with Marilee Armstrong Real. Are you third? Is Jhave first? Oh, the order
changed since I was– There will be no
further gotchas. I apologize to Marilee. Jhave is a digital poet, once
again, based in Montreal, a city very dear to my heart,
formerly working in Hong Kong. He plays with language, images,
video, theories, tentacles, food, integrity, time,
paths, love, and intransigent synchronicity. Those are all heady keywords,
and without further ado, join me in welcoming
Jhave to the stage. JHAVE JOHNSTON: That’s bright. Can we take a little
bit of light off of me? It’s nice and
everything, but OK. This will take a moment. I didn’t know I was going first. I thought we’d switched. So we’ll find a path. Thank you very
much for the intro. It’s a pleasure to be here. There is a participatory
component to this. So at some point I’m going to
invite all of you, everyone, to enter into this
particular little game. My laptop is now
plugged in, and that’s when we begin this presentation. Wow, that’s super bright. OK, so I’m going to start. I’ve got a project
called rewrites, but this is the participatory
human + A.I. aspect of that project. So that is why I’m going to
ask you at some point to read. This is the only time
I have ever done it. So this will get tricky. I don’t really need light
there, but it’s lovely. Oh, my god, it’s
fluctuating in here. There’s a climate
system going on. OK, so basically, this project– I take a lot of machine
learning and deep neural nets and apply them to a
custom corpus of language. And it will eventually be
published in 12 months. I managed to write
a bunch of books. I usually work between
6:00 AM to 8:00 AM, and that was about
six days a week, regular practice of sitting
down with no internet, and kind of what I
called carving the poems, so you’re faced by this
monolithic block of text. And you begin to carve it. Here’s an example of
that carving process done in real time. “Whether I kind of gather
an idea of what path I do not write. And in this place
of concave tissue at the end of the sea,
bitterness calls to me, makes us feel emotional,
nervous, perhaps, because I’m talking in front of people. We think of neuroepithelial
bones feeling normative, we think of the prisoner’s
avowal if it is like a moment.” So it’s a way of
constructing or finding little crevices of
poetry within this kind of self-made, disheartened,
elegiac, belching password. So that’s the game, right? That’s the structure
of the game, is just sort of pan
for gold or something in the midst of the debris. In one year, over 4,500 poems
were created, one book a month, all 12 books
published by Anteism, which is an art book press
in Montreal in spring 2019. Here’s one of the books. We’re not going to
watch all of it, but there’s actually
like 300 pages. This is kind of the layout. So it’s just flicking
by too fast to read. Why A.I.? Why? Simply enough, I feel it’s
just an extraordinary tool for augmenting human creativity. It might be a bit
threatening in some ways to the subject of
modernist aspect of genius, but it is genuinely a
wonderful, playful, companion on the path of literary process. I do have to offer a disclaimer
in these contentious times, where terms are used as
ideological leverage. The views and opinions
expressed by this algorithm, they arise spontaneously and do
not necessarily reflect my own. So I would suggest
that we all approach the output of this algorithm
with a kind of generosity as if there’s a three-year-old
idiosyncratic genius child who has somehow absorbed
the vocabulary of millennia, right? And some of go a
little bit fast. Here’s an example of
that kind of speed. This is the real time output
from a NVIDIA TITAN X GPU. “It’s kind of a threat low
talk blueprint [INAUDIBLE] blanched out reality faker
of the tasty side postures blossoming from
the appearance rain of matrimonial wild
Euphrates taken consumption shade in the search conifers–” And this goes on and on. This is like a two hour video. The amount of
material is daunting. And this is now your
time to interrupt. Please, there’s a microphone
here which I hope is working, and maybe we could swivel
the documentation cameras toward whoever might speak. Or if someone feels incredibly
exhibitionist, please, take my place here. Interrupt me. Because we’ll be looking
at this sort of thing, the boxes and the
workers of the old house. I’m not going to talk forever. I really do require
you to come up here to interrupt me
and my scattered talking about the old symbols. I can’t make this up forever. “With this line, the ancient
comets rocky, coming to me, the lost [INAUDIBLE]
in the forest duplicity with the visionary scribble
and the full juicy mazes.” It’s not easy to be a poet,
but it’s easier with this, eh? Like it’s like some sort of
augmented cybernetic virtual muse, in the phrase
of Charles Hartman. So really, please, no
one’s going to help me? I’m all alone up here. I don’t want to rub hands. Oh, Cam, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There’s a screen there. He can read from that, so you
can see whatever you want. And we can even do
a duet, take over. Anyone, interrupt. At the station, I was a child. But that the moon– the way I did it in the light
was a sack of own persimmon. Early films, lackluster, pies,
glisten, children, lusty, she, myself, death, and dove. Birthday, dancer, and sluggish,
threads, Goodwin beggars cause, garnered, gnats of my mouth. Is that the one woman
who of this life has been given like
a package of hot ice? Let down in the
skin, in the air? Turned down like Maryland
prime numbered staples. Especially, Kenya’s phony pair. Try to see a new man. Waiting for anyone
else to interrupt me. SPEAKER 1: Activities. Terminator. Set Fab to 15, colon, 48,
colon, 22, 23, 24, 25. 26. 27. 29. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 44. 45. [email protected] Ubuntu? Colon. Dash. Slash, document, slash. GitHub slash awd-lstm-lm-master. 0.88519227794367. 0.8635562182040235. 0.974816561996. [LAUGHTER] 0.582630732. 1.2488. Zero’s with a dot in the middle. Oh, the zeros have
dots in the middle. [LAUGHTER] They’re breasts? 1.42929938=semicolon 17. 1.27– [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 2: Bludgeoned. Modernity. I, angels, morning,
composing, neurochemistry. Side, turned, eye. This is the finest
emperor in my decision. Small boy, spare me off. Knees, the most serious soldier
disavows yon white plain, and a white meadow ridge,
and the total fish. In November 21st,
Trojan prosecution. Under gathering fire
effect impairments fixed. Faceted Heraldic pajamas,
inequality to belief, to acting which gray
well nib breasts. Straight teenager. At. Is a vast craft. Calcium. Thoughtful study of
jade, flayers, duplessis. Heed high-hearted
lilt rezzinico. SPEAKER 1: Less astonishment. State trade or hat sheep set. That unhappy, yet
that junk sidewalk. A magnificent child. I am with his own self. Name. It was like a young father
for temples gone into to be the Italian boy. I am with his own. The wrong worth the roots. Austerities or a century. Your veil drifts like
the French thrush. Student looking upon the grave. Not problem. That’s how I plunder
their answer. As the sun opens to
the end of the world. And the only way to sullenly. Stonehenge connected
to a quarter. Stole tail flick and drift. In my brothers, from
memory science pain. Canonical, enchanted. Or as I successful the
Tarzan alone waiting crescent leaves omniscient or
exalted for veiling anal part. As aspirant island’s
refusal frowns gauging Mozilla’s Romer lonely. International gloves. Color couldn’t. Wavelengths and the
flow and fight all now. 15 or later dropping
into the cords. SPEAKER 3: Color Couldn’t
in the bar or oral. QVC translating. An outside made. Sound. Brazil. China’s breathe. Why we were, dear? Ballistic. Naive. TV. Seemingly might. It backed from corner freed. Was non repeating. Seemingly might. You made a wife inside
or on your head. Fall. Walls. 14. Pastiche. Codicil. All his cruiser in fahardo. HARMONY. Seconds vanishing. Conviction. Seconds vanishing. Conviction. Seconds vanishing. Is translating months before our
dough-boys sown the afternoon. Months before bags, deck
chairs covered rusticated. Clinksturrpuchink. Wisdom. Model. A two represented when covered. Snub nosed. 5. twelve-string is cryptograms. Gait is merry
flowere scheherezade. Having migrated. Hotel of the sea. Tough gentleman. A secret. Allegories battle. Of common tormented music or– [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 1: Who an
orchestra has chosen reach. SPEAKER 3: They’re. SPEAKER 1: Still asleep. Bags cloaked in cloud,
jack-o-lanterns. The whole world. The undaugnting. I thinks still. SPEAKER 4: And shrieked
but not even none. SPEAKER 1: Hung through the
molds of the wheat stillness. Human SPEAKER 4: The flour mill. Hadn’t lived refined. SPEAKER 1: Michigan child. SPEAKER 4: I take account
indulged with One World. SPEAKER 1: With One World. SPEAKER 4: The
White Sea grinding with silver and frosting. SPEAKER 1: Idiom. SPEAKER 4: Looking occasionally
at the familiar acceptance. SPEAKER 1: Keeps
therefore summoned biodiversity and luminous
in its passionate rigging– SPEAKER 4: Rotting warts. SPEAKER 1: –with the world. SPEAKER 4: The name,
the mind of the world. We have the same failing. SPEAKER 1: Singer blows
off bids, blockage. What they call the man. SPEAKER 4: Some lost
conversation in his own body. SPEAKER 1: Sleeping
as it fell down. SPEAKER 4: And his
luxuriant boy parched. SPEAKER 1: Their face. Dallas. Sensuous. Dead. My body babies the earth
and breast on handy ground. Clings like the breath of time. SPEAKER 4: Yet I keep
you released, exultant, more serene, and more complete. SPEAKER 5: E [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: This pantomime, the
Gnome of the city, hoisted. And the word will be a story. Early falling from the harbor. SPEAKER 1: Hoisted in
ships with confidence. SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: So many recruits
embrace in the universe. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 1: At runners. At runners recreating. SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: Prune back clitoris. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: Beep. Different ontological wave
crests and progression. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: Auto piloted men. SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 1: Fucked cows
conjoined under love the miracles of angels said. SPEAKER 4: The much famous
ex-wife for pillows. SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: Guttural students. SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: One face in syntax. The nasal ekfersis. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: Like the
Broke back beam. SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: My father
shot back and made it to the north station. SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: And the steady
rain and the water. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: The sun turns deep
and she stood on the roof. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS] SPEAKER 4: And was
taken back in the woods. SPEAKER 5: [MAKES SOUNDS]
Eel antlers. SPEAKER 4: Green protocols
vibrated and bleed through songbirds. Saddled hearts
regularly reminds me of insects and all beautiful
days if some sperm is present. Mountain and bridge has been
a brick path like a cool ride. Imagining brush. No trousers. The language cleave the wings. The soft word. SPEAKER 6: Yellow starless. Claw hold. Turbulence. Possessive. Beyond adult divulged drummed. Obsessed passing
student or in Maryland. Dualism. If you’re asked to
draw, Emily knows. $300. I got up and sweep. Hell benders. And we convertible women
coming into the sky. Window boxes. All the researcher on a bench. SPEAKER 7: (SINGING)
A voice in the air. SPEAKER 6: Of the men. SPEAKER 7: (SINGING)
Who had been ruined. Who had lived but– [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 6: Coach wheels. SPEAKER 7: (SINGING)
But left their soul. SPEAKER 6: Dustpan. SPEAKER 7: (SINGING) Of
the men who had no women. SPEAKER 6: Things seem simple. SPEAKER 8: Uno. Punto. Dos. Tres. Tres. Cuatro. Seis. Nueve. Ocho. Cinco. Uno. Dos. Dos. Zero. Punto. Ocho. Cinco. Dos. Cuatro. Cuatro. Cinco. Cinco. Zero. Tres. Uno. Uno. Dos. Cuatro. Nueve. Uno. Cuatro. Uno. Punto. Cuatro. Nueve. Cuatro. Seis. Zero. Ocho. Cinco. Siete. Nueve. Uno. Cuatro. Cuatro. Seis. Seite. Cinco. Zero. Punto. Seis. Dos. Tres. Cutaro. Cinco. Uno. Seite. Dos. Tres. Uno. Nueve. Tres. [INTERPOSING VOICES] JOHN CAYLEY: I’m
afraid I must interrupt because we’ve run out of time. Thank you all very much. That was extraordinary. [APPLAUSE] That is really wonderful. Thank you to all the readers. CAM SCOTT: Thank
you to everybody who helped to vocalize that. Up next is John Cayley, who
makes digital language art, particularly in the domain
of Poetry and Poetics. And I think that these are
works of inviting rigor that I admire a great deal. Cayley is Professor of literary
arts here at Brown University. Without further
ado, John Cayley. JOHN CAYLEY: So a
little bit of setup. I realized I’m not going to– If I give a coherent
presentation, although I’m going to
perform a PowerPoint, that I gave at the MLA– this is going to come to light. So some of you have
heard this before. But at the MLA I had
to make it five minutes and I want to do it in sort of
a quasi performative manner, especially as we’ve just heard
voices that are coming out of a machine at process. So it seems to me. It was amazing that there
is an overall voice there I think somewhere. Which needs commentary
and critique. The language that machines read. The language the machines
read at any particular moment is extracted from what Walter
Ong would call a graphalect. A graphalect is a dialect. Like a dialect. In other words, you
have English then you have dialects of English. And then you have
a graphalect which is a graphic representation,
that particular language practice, that is
expressed graphically. That and transdialect language
formed by deep commitment to writing. That’s wrong. A little more
precisely, machines read encoded transcriptions
of graphaclectic languages, plural, if we do not
constrain our attention to the absurdly global
English graphicalect. So they’re not even
conversant with graphicalect. They’re only conversant with
transcriptions of graphalects, A transdialect, language. Consider that written languages
might be better thought of as particular modes
of language practice or rather as other languages
that you might not know. As in, I don’t know French. And if you don’t
know French no one considers you to be
an incomplete human. Why should you be considered
an incomplete human if you don’t know the graphalect
of your particular language? So what is language
ontologically as a being? From experience and the
science available to us, it is something interpersonal. Depends on and
constitutes society that we have evolved to have. We’ve got it but it would not
exist without others of us. It is something interpersonal
that we have evolved to have. Thus, it must be
brought into being by the Active Response of an
other to persons or entities making formal gestures
of virtual language. So I take the Jhave’s
algorithms to mean to be making formal gestures
of virtual language. But not necessarily language. Language must be brought
into being by the Active Response of an another
to persons making formal gestures of language. Persons or entities. And that’s what we did,
we made Active Response. We actively responded
to a formal gesture of virtual language. This Active Response
may be called reading. If we need to distinguish it
from conventional reading, scanning and processing
a graphalect, we will call it
grammaleptic reading. Grammalepsy is not a disease. It’s a condition. It’s when you are seized,
when you seized the gesture as a symbol in your language. That’s the grammaleptic moment. When you seize the gramme. Reading. An established usage
of this word obviously, precedes its application
to conventional reading. In other words, it
was used in cultures where reading was rare. And also not what we do at all. The now predominant usage
in the sense of the word is derived from something
like the ability to make well advised convincing
articulable guesses based on signs or sign
like human gestures. Or, on the world’s
gestural forms. Data not capta. The data not capta is
because the world gives data but what we can capture of that
data is what we now call data. In other words, raw
data is an oxymoron. Grammalepsy, condition
or circumstance. Grammalepsis, process. I.e. Reading. Grammaleptic, adjective. Grasp seizure of by gramme. These events of sudden
discrete graph seizure occur when gestures
in any support medium become itterable shared symbolic
forms, and simultaneously elements, at any level
of linguistic structure of language. Thus, bringing
language into being. Grammalepsis generates gramme
as shared symbolic events of language bringing
language into being. Constitutive language,
as opposed to designated. That’s from Charles Taylor
and it’s a distinction between the languages. Something which you
describe or behave human behavior to describe. Whereas, language is actually
something that we have that makes us more human. Constitutive of the human. This is me. We become language animals
when certain perceptible forms that we make
suddenly give us access to a world that is more
human because it is suddenly more language. So as you seize the
gramme you bring it into the being of
language and you become more human in the
process of doing that. Grammalepsis of language
is support media agnostic. Any perceptible medium will do. Proved by sign
language, obviously. Which is full-on
natural language. All traces of
language constitute archi-writing in Derrida sense,
and media agnostic amounts to certain aesthetic
in Derrida sense. In other words,
language is not tied to any particular
perceptible medium. It partakes of anything. Any aspect of perception. Grammalepsis operates with
differAnce not difference. DifferAnce is that which can be
grasped, generated, introduced, grammalected into as language. Documentary, encoded literature
is not constitutive language unless and until it can operate
with and generate language from differAnce. Literature as such–
right, in other words, literature that we read as
makers of what what’s sometimes called creative writing. It gets to be fully human
language because of history. And because of
all the differAnce that we can discover within it. Which is very different from
its documentary, encoded transcription, which is
what typically algorithms are working with. Literature as such, as
we prejudiced we know, it earns this status
through history and style. Through voice as the substance
substantial medium of language ontologically as
previously indicated. The voice. In other words, when you voiced
the Jhave’s algorithmic output you brought it into language. And you substantiated it
within practices of language. Machines cannot
read documentary, encoded language literature as
language unless and until they can. Which they can’t yet, for sure. For absolute sure. You can just you can check on
the latest NPL and LP research. You can check on
the latest machine learning research that’s done. There’s still not
getting even close. And part of the reason
they’re not getting close is because they aren’t really
using language as such. They’re using a transcription
of a graphalect. Elect. Right? So that’s the material. You can infer a lot
from that but you can’t do it as well as we can. And they won’t be able
to do as well as we can for quite a while. And they will not do so as
long as a systematically stupid computational structuralist
model of language and mind prevails. It does prevail since
the Second World War. Distant reading, this
is just as an aside for the digital humanists
amongst us, is not and hardly ever reading in any
constitutive or aesthetically tractable sense of these terms. Usually it produces
statements for the sociology of literature. Or, decorative literary
critical aesthetics suggestively
prescriptive sociology. A crisis for language,
for artists of language, and also possibly for language. We face consequences due to
the advent of transacting synthetic language. And the reason it’s so
particularly powerful at the moment is
because it’s in the form of actual synthetic voice. Which sounds to us
like it’s human. So it’s humanoid
and we also believe that these devices are listening
to us and parsing what we say. In other words, that
we think that they might be doing grammalepsis. They might actually be
partaking of language but that’s up for debate. Vectoralist superpowers–
Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon– are able to facture
programmatically artifacts based on a merely
designated model of language– That’s the systematic
stupidity– as humanoid by synthesizing
perceptible gestures that are socialized as voice. Right? So your speaking listening
device makes gestures to you and seems to receive your
gestures as if it’s language. But it’s not necessarily. Not until it is. This, by the way,
the socialization is the only thing that you
can talk about seriously in relation to AI. AI is obviously,
it’s artificial. Is it intelligence? No. It’s obviously not intelligence. It’s something else. It’s modeling something
completely different. But the socialization of
the gesturing algorithm that’s why we call it AI now. And why AI is back in fashion. A crisis for artists of
language, how will we? Should we? And the should we is
because maybe if you’re into this, if you really want
to go there, if you really want to partake of that world
of a virtual linguistic gestures that may not be language
at all, and dive into it and make that the
language of the future. Well, then maybe
that’s we should do. Or maybe we shouldn’t. How will we, should we, continue
to work and make art in voice as the substantive
medium of language? And how should we
distinguish our voices from the synthetic
voices of the programata? Right? So I just published book of
essays it’s called Gammalepsis. You can get it for open
access at this thing called Bloomsbury Collections
in case you want to read more. OK. So now that’s that. And that’s the
sort of a polemic. But I do think of it
as being a polemic that is very important for
anybody who’s working in the digital with language. And then I’m just going
to show, very briefly, the things I’m working
on at the moment. Which is old work. And this is just going
to be purely casual. And it’s also a commentary
on the type of practice that these practitioners that
I call digital language artists used to be called
electronic writers by me. Still are called
electronic writers. That if you make work in a
supporting apparatus that’s made with software, then as
you know it becomes obsolete very quickly. So some of the stuff that
I made a long time ago is now completely unreadable
because the tech techniques that supported it is gone. So I’ve been engineering pieces,
which has been quite fun. And I get to see this
piece translation big for the first time. Because I re-engineered
it in JavaScript So it can now be a web app. And I’ll be putting
that out into the world. And it was also requested
for an exhibition recently. So translation. And really this is
supposed to be ambient. Oh, I got a plug-in the sound. Hopefully that’s in. So this is just
the title screen. The scroll-bars are coming up. I’m sorry about that. I fixed that in time. And now this is as I
say, it’s an old piece. It’s called Translation. And it’s based on
some quotations from Walter Benjamin’s
on language as such in the language of man. And it’s a sort of art
aesthetic poetic, ambient poetic commentary on translation
as conceived by Benjamin. Or an interpretation. So it’s surfacing now in German. And then I could move it on but
the natural state of the piece is an ambient state. So now it’s in its ambient
state with the audio paused. And in this state the
different passages drift. They’re all floating
at the moment. Well, one is sinking
to the bottom. The bottom passage is sinking. It’s sinking in English. And the other
passages are floating. Now, the third one is sinking. So they randomly vary and
then there’s a personification that goes with it. The left side is just a
map of the right side. The text, the part
that you try to read or that has sort of a
relationship with reading, is on the right. And on the left is a
sort of a visualization. And then there’s a– [SINGING VOICES] And what’s happening there
is that if you looked at the left hand
side very carefully you’d see a couple of little
cursors running through it that are hitting the letters. And then as they hit the letters
they’re sung in the language that that particular passes
happens to be in at the time. So now it’s going to
surface in English and you’ll see exactly
what’s happening. Because there’s only– [SINGING VOICES] So you can hear it spelling. [SINGING VOICES] So you get the idea. And that’s really all I
want to show you except, no, I’m going to show
you a little bit more. And I’m not hiding the Chrome. I forgot. Oh, here. Here we go. I just wanted to highlight
another aspect of the weirdness of our particular practice. So where’s the studio? When somebody is going
to do a studio visit, what do you show them? Which I think that’s very
difficult. Because what happens is in the course of
developing, and I’m sure this will be of
interest to other colleagues, you come up with
things like this. [SINGING VOICES] No. Sorry. I’m not going to try
and recover from that. What I’m saying is
that in the course of developing you come up
with these weird hybrids, because you develop from
one work to another work. And then you find
that the sonification you’re using for
one work, you’re applying in another work. And then you get very,
very strange versions of the sonification or strange
versions of the visualization. And I was thinking that
those are my studio. But they mostly get covered
over by the development. They get lost. And so there’s nothing
hanging on my walls because I’ve moved
on and I’ve developed towards the final piece. And I have very little left
of all the weird byways and spin-offs that were part
of the development process. OK. I’m going to stop
there and thanks very much for indulging me. [APPLAUSE] CAM SCOTT: OK. So thank you, John. We’ve come full circle it seems. It is my pleasure to
correctly introduce this time Maralie Armstrong, who is a New
York based artist, vocalist, and educator. Whose work. spans spirit and tech realms,
ritual and virtuosity. I admire it a great
deal, as well. If you can’t tell, I’m
excited to be here. She performs as half of Human
BEAST and solo as Valice. Join me in welcoming Maralie. MARALIE ARMSTRONG: Bear
with me just a moment. [PAUSE] There’s going to be some slight
flickering on the projection just as a warning for anybody
that might be bothersome too. [PAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] SPEAKER 10: You mind helping
me with the screen over there? I think just raise the screen
and put chairs right there. CAM SCOTT: OK. JOHN CAYLEY: Let’s get
chairs and microphones. [INAUDIBLE] [SIDE CONVERSATION] JOHN CAYLEY: Don’t just
work when you can show. CAM SCOTT: Thank you. Each of you. First of all, that
was beautiful. We probably have– I won’t rush anymore but I’m
sure we have a quarter hour, 20 minutes or so for questions. But I thought I might put a
couple of things to the three of you first and then
we can open it up. I love this idea of kind
of technological mediations of language and images. Like a trans-personal
social tissue. John, you talk about
socialization of text. And you use the kind of ad
hoc sociality of this room in the arcane criteria
of a user’s desire to sculpturalize text. And this kind of– How to say– Oceanic shadow play, it
leaves a lot to each onlooker. So I was curious about
the status of the social. These are quite I think
humanistic visions of poetry that a lot of people perceived
to be quite technologically impersonal and impermeable. So I thought I might just
start with a question about the broader
theme of the social and where you locate that with
reference to your projects? JOHN CAYLEY: I can start. CAM SCOTT: Please. JOHN CAYLEY: Well,
for me, the social is something which
takes place chiefly in discourse amongst humans. But these days I
believe one of the ways of dealing with
what’s going on is that you can speak of entities. POTENTIALLY socializable
entities that we should– in Bruno Latour’s term– we should welcome them. It means they have to be
treated in their own terms. We don’t get to
anthropomorphize them. We have to discover them
and then greet them and then figure out how they relate
to our ideas of sociality. I do think see that– I mean, in the talk
I presented, that’s there as an aspect of language. So the social is
implicated with language. In Jhave’s work, that
there are entities and there are echoes of voices. Where those voices come
from and whether there our voices or our voices
being borrowed by entities, that’s an interesting problem. And then in Maralie’s work,
in that particular work, that was one of those moments
where within the audio visual there was an entity. An entity was being
conjured and addressed. And brought to so that we would
have some relation with it. Which in a lot of audio
visual work, doesn’t happen. There’s a concept. And that concept
as being expressed by the audio visual and
I think Maralie’s work goes beyond that. MARALIE ARMSTRONG: Thank you. I Just said thanks. [LAUGHTER] JHAVE JOHNSTON: [INAUDIBLE]. MARALIE ARMSTRONG: I could. I don’t feel like I
have language to do so. Because engaging the social
with that particular piece, I feel like usually
when I presented it’s in a much less
formal situation. And people are
usually close enough or they can see what
I’m doing on my screen. I often have smoke involved
and I didn’t really want to bring it into
here because I wasn’t sure about the fire alarm. So, you know, all
these different sort of sensory elements
come into play that get muted, or
changed, or challenged depending on the venue. So the social is it’s a– I don’t know. I’m just going to stop there. [LAUGHTER] CAM SCOTT: Intensify
the obstruction. MARALIE ARMSTRONG: Yeah. JHAVE JOHNSTON: Somewhere John
Berger refers to the poetry and things is a presence. Before all language there’s
the presence of something. And I think that we’re
talking about entities and artificial intelligence, I
kind of agree with you, John, that the artificial intelligence
is really rudimentary. There’s really no
entity there yet. Except what we extrapolate, or
project, or transpose onto it. It’s the same with this
fluctuating light field and the fluctuating
Language Field. I think we’re reading fire
in a way or reading water. We’re going back to
the totemic origins of finding beauty and things. And the reason why I kind of
made this participatory aspect of the rewrites was because
I had a documentary film crew making a documentary
on artificial intelligence and art. And they came to FILM me in my
studio but then at one point, I invited the
cameraman to try it. And after he finished,
he said, that was way more fun than
watching you read this shit. MARALIE ARMSTRONG: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] JHAVE JOHNSTON: He’s right. That’s the socialization. There’s a capacity
that’s given to others. I think by these algorithms
even if they are not entities. And in the same way the light
gives the people this potential to be shamanic in some sense. MARALIE ARMSTRONG: Yeah. Definitely. And that’s definitely an
influence and an inspiration. I call it scrying. I’m using digital technology
and this very rudimentary– like you were saying– going back to sort of
to water divination. And then thinking about
the material of glass and how that has played a
role throughout humankind in some way for
reading language. For receiving some
sort of communication. I’ve realized that I don’t
think a lot of people think about glass or think
about how much we’re actually just staring at glass. We call it the
screen, but thinking about this material that is so
prevalent but it’s invisible. Yet, brings so much
into our vision. CAM SCOTT: That was
certainly something I thought about was the
status of the screen. You were talking about the
difficulty of the studio visit. A lot of the objects you
create are specialized even when you go to their
online presence. And for each of you, I was
very curious about the status of the screen as a
surface for projection. But perhaps someone else,
speaking of projection, has some questions. We have a microphone
that we can ferry to you. MARALIE ARMSTRONG:
Where is the mic? CAM SCOTT: Pardon? MARALIE ARMSTRONG: Is
it just floating around? CAM SCOTT: Yeah. no, it’s right there. There is a floating microphone. That’s very bright. JOHN CAYLEY: Nobody
has any questions? CAM SCOTT: Nobody
has any questions? JOHN CAYLEY: Nobody
wants to say anything or interrupt or anything? Mm-hmm. Interesting. Well, I can say a
bit more about the– I should say,
welcoming the entities. That’s one thing. But careful what you let in. The reason why it probably
comes across that the I’m very, we were using the
word this morning, curmudgeonly and
resistant to what I call transactive synthetic
language is because it’s over determines by
transacted sociality. By commerce and transaction
and the need to produce frictionless transactions. All right? So the voice which
could be something that would be an interruption
and an interesting encounter, just becomes an instrumental
tool for getting things done, which is a nightmare. And if all of the engineering– not science, the engineering
is going into that aspect then we risk being bombarded
with the presence of entities that are basically
just very, very stupid. And very, very uninteresting. CAM SCOTT: I think
maybe that’s even what I mean when I talk about
the humanistic dimension of your respective
practices is something like the difference between
empty and full speech. You talk about oxymoronic
raw data and so on. It requires some kind
of subjective supplement or something like that, perhaps. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] CAM SCOTT: That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. Hello. [LAUGHTER] JOHN CAYLEY: Someone
has to start. AUDIENCE: Yeah OK. So I’ll just start
with a few questions. I want to thank you all
for your performances. And I thought that was
extremely invigorating to see some of the ideas
put around here through sound and
technology and of course, artificial intelligence. Which is creeping everywhere. And I think it’s just
a basic question. I like the lexicon that’s
coming out of grammalepsy. And I think that’s
quite interesting work. I haven’t read the
Bloomsbury piece yet. But I know I should look
at it more closely when I get a chance. And I think it’s
really interesting. One of the things that
I find puzzling about it when I think about
it, I think well, when I talked to scientists
working with AI– and they often differentiate
between that sort of narrow AI that they work with. It’s just the task getting done. And they say, you humanists
or you in the humanities, you are constantly
looking at this vision that you want something. We don’t want anything. We just want to
get the job done. And I think that’s
really interesting and I thought maybe I
could just put that out as a general question. Because getting the
job done is working. The transactions are
becoming frictionless. I find it’s too much effort to
pull cash out of my pocket now and that worries me. So I just maybe just a few
comments on that speaking through your own
works, your own ideas. JHAVE JOHNSTON: The rewrites
are essentially an attempt to re-appropriate
the transaction, the great commodification
of our words and language to bring
it back into something that’s playful and poetic. In the same way
that I think light– to keep pulling you into
this conversation, which is about language– but
the light at its origin, has become commodified. Right? That really glittering
advertisements since Claude Bernays came along
and Madison Avenue sprouted. And then got turned
into boutique studios. We’re all subjects of these
very pernicious and effective modulations or reflexive
intrusions upon our agency. Which convert us from
being autonomous subjects and make us, transform us,
into these partially automated consumers. And it’s the same with
language our language is being sifted and taken from
us right from the inbox. Right from where we
speak to our friends and our family and
our colleagues, it’s being absorbed. So that an alternate
synthetic voice for ourselves is being established. And I think it’s
time for it to– and you’ve been talking
about this for a long time, and I think by your
gestures you’re doing it is to really somehow,
in small ways assume control and use the tools of
the advertising industry in the alternate way. MARALIE ARMSTRONG:
Subverting them. Misusing them. JHAVE JOHNSTON: Yes, or
perhaps it’s not a subversion. Because if you’re using
light and reverential– and you used the
word invocation, which brings us back to the
very ancient roots of poesies. Like, why do we do any of this? We do it because there’s
some sort of primordial field of unity which might
emerge from poetry, which is kind of obscured behind the
veil and fog of the apparatus of capitalism and subjectivity. JOHN CAYLEY: Yeah. That business of
getting the job done is it something
that’s very explicit. I mean, it’s a bit unfair to
say this, but I went to a talk yesterday about machine learning
and NLP, Natural Language Processing. And the degree to
which it’s something that requires testing to
see whether it’s worked– it’s astonishing that
that’s still happening. In other words, it’s not
really about reproducing what we do with language. Because what we do is
not captured anywhere. There aren’t really very many
good data sets of what we actually do with language. And then and then
there’s the heavy over determination of the idea
that language is basically just an extension
of formal language. It’s basically just an extension
of logical understanding of language. It’s demonstrable because the
NLP and the machine learning approaches to solving these
problems doesn’t work. And then the response to
that is, it doesn’t work. Well, we’ll have to try
harder until it does. Rather than realizing you’re
looking at the wrong thing or you’re doing the wrong
thing if what you want to do is language. So the degree to
which that’s the case is hard to exaggerate
to the extent that it’s not just that
these engineers are– They’re not definitely
are approaching language, but they’re not even
approaching linguistics. So they just they
just do something that performs linguistically
and they’re not even referring to linguistics. they’re not even– no longer. It’s all statistical or
it’s pattern recognition for machine learning. So there’s no reference to even
like a model a historical model of language. Which is weird. You just throw that out. And pretend that the
science of language is just an engineering problem. And things may not go
on like that forever. But it’s but it’s
an indication of how crazy things are with respect
to language and computation, I think. And it’s part of our whole
everything that we do. That underlying issue. CAM SCOTT: Someone
commends engineering to the purposes of poetry or if
it’s just about highly, highly specific metal languages too. Which is one cause
for which we’re here. How’s the room feeling? We probably have
a few more minutes if anyone is feeling curious. Or we can stop right on time. [LAUGHTER] OK. Thank you so much to the
participants and to all of you. [APPLAUSE]

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