Re-reading the ALMAT Documentation
Luc Döbereiner, April 2020
When I read the ALMAT documentation, I was reminded of the ideal that Adorno described regarding his own writing: “every sentence should be equally near the center-point.” In a way, when reading the ALMAT documentation I feel both such a proximity and a remoteness, every sentence seems equally far away from an absent center-point. There is very little hierarchical organization, setup argumentation or “representation” of artistic research practice. Instead one is plunged into a variety of different artefacts. These artefacts have many different forms yet they are never merely explaining or translating an aesthetic practice that would require conceptual articulation. Such an “explanation” would introduce a certain hierarchy. In contrast, the ALMAT documentation reads like an archive, which reflects the materiality of its own digital artefacts and structures these according to egalitarian relations between different media, texts and forms.
On the one hand I experienced a certain lack of context. I first felt confronted with diverse ideas, discussions, blog entries, questions or the documentation of particular aspects of certain artistic works without being able to discern any a necessary or essential connection among these artefacts. Paths were opened, abandoned and reemerged elsewhere. After reading through the entire documentation I began to appreciate how its “content” has a concreteness that resists a totalizing conceptual perspective. Its errant and non-linear organization may be a condition of the egalitarian relation among its parts. The reader needs to traverse and reconnect the many strands of thought, thus (re)creating a constellation of concepts, works and practices. It is mainly the task of the reader to (re)construct such constellations and establish cross-connections among the multitude of notions, works, events, drawings, code fragments, sketches and notes that the documentation encompasses. The lack of contextual narrative is thus not so much a shortcoming but rather demonstrates an essential characteristic of the methodology of the project: the idea of networked rewriting processes. Reading, in this case, is also a form of rewriting.
Rewriting, reiteration, reimplementation and repetition distinguish the project on many levels ranging from the structure of particular pieces to the iterative organization of the artist-researchers’ residencies. Rewriting is also crucial, when it comes to the forms of many of the texts and media that are part of the documentation. These media are traces and transpositions of project activities and are thus already products of forms of rewriting. Many texts or text fragments have been transcribed from audio recordings and subsequently edited and exposed on the Research Catalogue. Reading the ALMAT documentation means participating in an aesthetic rewriting process that connects and juxtaposes diverse traces of practices, bodies, sounds and ideas. By reflecting and enacting the methodology of the project in the format of its documentation, the ALMAT documentation goes beyond the notion of representation. Here, textual discourse does not primarily explicate, justify of conceptualize. It does not translate practices into language. It is much rather a space of experimental doing. I think the fragmentary nature of the documentation is actually a condition for its becoming an aesthetic object instead of a collection of theoretical texts, which always suggest some form of closure. As fragmentary traces these texts retain an aesthetic and conceptual openness and potential, a certain form of unrest.
Besides the lack of context, there is another form of absence that became quite noticeable to me. Divergent notions of some of the central concepts that the project deals with - in particular the notions of the algorithmic and computation - mostly remain implicit. I can discern two divergent notions of the algorithmic, or perhaps rather of its aesthetic value, which inform and pervade the pieces and discussions and which can both be seen as forms rewriting: There is an approach that focuses on recursive processes that have a certain organic identity. Identity in this context means that a process has a certain computational, behavioral and audible space of possibilities. Such processes may be coupled to other processes but always maintain their identity; they preserve a permeable border between inside and outside. On the other hand there is an idea of rewriting as a material transformation of data structures. Sound – as a sort of individuating trace of recursive processes – become (countable) sounds as digital artefacts. According to this view, such data, objects or sounds have an identity independently and prior to the operations and processes that transform them. In this regard, algorithms do something to things, they produce and process. The fact that these conceptions, among many other, remain unreconciled and retain both a practical and a reflective status, gives the documentation an immensely productive power. It is a site for thought, not for representation, or the dissemination of “results”.