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Editorial. By the President of the Therolinguistics Association
What is Language? This question, central to the science of therolinguistics, has been answered—heuristically—by the very existence of the science. Language is communication. That is the axiom on which all our theory and research rest, and from which all our discoveries derive; and the success of the discoveries testifies to the validity of the axiom. But to the related, yet not identical question, What is Art? we have not yet given a satisfactory answer.
Tolstoy, in the book whose title is that very question, answered it firmly and clearly: Art, too, is communication. This answer has, I believe, been accepted without examination or criticism by therolinguists. For example: Why do therolinguists study only animals?
Why, because plants do not communicate.
Plants do not communicate; that is a fact. Therefore plants have no language; very well; that follows from our basic axiom. Therefore, also, plants have no art. But stay! That does not follow from the basic axiom, but only from the unexamined Tolstoyan corollary.
What if art is not communicative?
Or, what if some art is communicative, and some art is not?
Ourselves animals, active, predators, we look (naturally enough) for an active, predatory, communicative art; and when we find it, we recognise it. The development of this power of recognition and the skills of appreciation is a recent and glorious achievement.
But I submit that, for all the tremendous advances made by therolinguistics during the last decades, we are only at the beginning of our age of discovery. We must not become slaves to our own axioms. We have not yet lifted our eyes to the vaster horizons before us. We have not faced the almost terrifying challenge of the Plant.
If a non-communicative, vegetative art exists, we must rethink the very elements of our science, and learn a whole new set of techniques. For it is simply not possible to bring the critical and technical skills appropriate to the study of Weasel murder mysteries, or Batrachian erotica, or the tunnel sagas of the earthworm, to bear on the art of the redwood or the zucchini.
This is proved conclusively by the failure—a noble failure—of the efforts of Dr. Srivas, in Calcutta, using time-lapse photography, to produce a lexicon of Sunflower. His attempt was daring, but doomed to failure. For his approach was kinetic—a method appropriate to the communicative arts of the tortoise, the oyster, and the sloth. He saw the extreme slowness of the kinesis of plants, and only that, as the problem to be solved.
But the problem was far greater. The art he sought, if it exists, is a non-communicative art: and probably a non-kinetic one. It is possible that Time, the essential element, matrix, and measure of all known animal art, does not enter into vegetable art at all. The plants may use the meter of eternity. We do not know.
We do not know. All we can guess is that the putative Art of the Plant is entirely different from the Art of the Animal. What it is, we cannot say; we have not yet discovered it. Yet I predict with some certainty that it exists, and that when it is found it will prove to be, not an action, but a reaction: not a communication, but a reception. It will be exactly the opposite of the art we know and recognise. It will be the first passive art known to us.
Can we in fact know it? Can we ever understand it?
It will be immensely difficult. That is clear. But we should not despair. Remember that so late as the mid-twentieth century, most scientists, and many artists, did not believe that Dolphin would ever be comprehensible to the human brain—or worth comprehending! Let another century pass, and we may seem equally laughable. "Do you realise," the phytolinguist will say to the aesthetic critic, "that they couldn't even read Eggplant?" And they will smile at our ignorance, as they pick up their rucksacks and hike on up to read the newly deciphered lyrics of the lichen on the north face of Pike's Peak.
And with them, or after them, may there not come that even bolder adventurer—the first geolinguist, who, ignoring the delicate, transient lyrics of the lichen, will read beneath it the still less communicative, still more passive, wholly atemporal, cold, volcanic poetry of the rocks: each one a word spoken, how long ago, by the earth itself, in the immense solitude, the immenser community, of space.
from The Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics, by Ursula K. Le Guin
"Nevertheless, without writing human consciousness cannot achieve its fuller potentials, cannot produce other beautiful and powerful creations. In this sense, orality needs to produce and is destined to produce writing. Literacy…is absolutely necessary for the development not only of science but also of history, philosophy, explicative understanding of literature and of any art...
..There is hardly an oral culture left in the world today that is not somehow aware of the vast complex of powers forever inaccessible without literacy. This awareness is agony for persons rooted in primary orality, who want literacy passionately but who also know very well that moving into the exciting world of literacy means leaving behind much that is exciting and deeply loved in the earlier oral world. We have to die to continue living..."
Orality and Literacy
By Walter J. Ong
... What happens to human language when it is glitched by media machines? As receiving humans, we still try to semiotically decode such language (language as a system of "meaning"), but we also experience it as a material, affective force (language as utterance/event).
... Only the contact between the language meaning and the concrete reality that takes place in the utterance can create the spark of expression. It exists neither in the system of language nor in the objective reality surrounding us. Thus, emotion, evaluation, and expression are foreign to the word of language and are born only in the process of its live usage in a concrete utterance. (Mikhail Bakhtin, "The Problem of Speech Genres," in Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, trans. Vern W. McGee (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986), 87)
... Note, however, that glitched language is never merely pure affect, because it always retains a residue (however violently glitched) of semiotic meaning and linguistic structure. There is always a non-affective element of language riding the waves of glitched affect; or, conversely, there is always a non-affective element of language that glitched affect is able to surf. McLuhan was hyperbolic to say, "The medium is the message." Actually, "medium | message" wind up being just one more Platonic dichotomy awaiting explosion and rigorous entanglement.
From: Curt Cloninger, GltchLnguistx: The Machine in the Ghost / Static Trapped in Mouths 2010 http://lab404.com/glitch/
Performance: Supra Semiotics. 30 min.
May 25th 2021 20h Paris time.
Attunement: https://jaapblonk.bandcamp.com/album/antonin-artaud-by-jaap-blonk or/and https://jaapblonk.bandcamp.com/track/prelude-2
"Utterings" is a networked performance and research group whose members gather online on a teleconferencing platform and engage, while blindfolded, in utterings as communication. They create an on the fly “new” language that forwards attention, trust and feeling, above rationality. Put another way, they seek to develop a shared, experiential, supra-semiotic form of communication based on their ongoing performance history with each other. The active interlaced communicative structure, mediated by machines, cables and compression algorithms, is not driven by efficacy, nor ruled by code or conventions, but seeks connection through affection, attention, glitches, delays and even voids. Humans and machines are involved in a process of shared auditory exchange and attention.
COVID E-lit exhibition. May 1st 2021 Opening.
Utterings | Breathing.
Confronts the viewer with a “being” that is the result of an intricate, active, interlaced communicative structure in which both humans and machines are involved in a process of shared auditory exchange and attention. Through the mixing of six audio and video streams emerges an image of a phantom-like breathing, pulsating entity that thrives through affection, attention, glitches, delays and even voids.
Link to the exhibition.
Panel: Toward a Supra-Semiotic Telepresent Communication.
May 26th 2021 14h30 Paris time.
"Utterings" is a networked performance and researchgroup whose members gather online and, while blindfolded, engage in utterings as communication.We want to create an on the fly “new” language, that forwards attention, trust and affects, above rationality. Put another way, we seek to develop a shared, experiential, supra-semiotic form of communication based on our ongoing performance history with each other. Michael Bakhtin's concept of the "utterance event" as a node of intersection between lived, present-tense communication and atemporal, semiotic meaning has informed our research. Over the past year, we have enacted eight performances online "at" festivals "in" Nantes (France), Birmingham (UK), Linz (Austria), and London (UK).
Members of our group will collectively discuss what we have pragmatically learned and experienced in our performance research thus far. During the panel we will make a writing pad available, where the audience can collectively write their thoughts on utterings as a communication form. Our group will join and continue the discussion on the writing pad in the last part oft he panel.
Link to the conference website.
ELO 2021 Conference and Festival: Platform (Post?) Pandemic
Workshops: 24-25 May, main conference 26-28 May, The arts program will unfold over a longer span of time, with a series of events and exhibitions during March, April, and May 2021.
For conference and festival visitors only. We have some private invitations. PM one of us if you want one.
Supra Semiotics performance from 3:00
download the transcription of the talk / panel .pdf
"Towards a Supra-Semiotic Telepresent Communication"
0:00 elo jingle / housekeeping
12:00 - 51:00 conversation on our project
last 25 min reariting of the pad - no zoom
link to reariting pad (still active)
knowing each other's rooms
we can then be together
Cited from the "Four Stills", "The Poet" by Anselm Hollo.
download .pdf 9 pages of the reariting 26 05 2021