Liminal Processes: The Living Utterances of Speaking Applications
Can a machine, a computer, create a living utterance? AÂ talking machine is required to follow a strict set of linguistic rules that govern the English language, but howÂ different is that for the average English speaking person?Â In the sixties, Bell Telephone Labs developed computerspeech programmed with punch cards that allowed themÂ to control a set of nine control signals. These â€śsignals correspond to voice pitch, voice loudness, lip opening andÂ other speech variables. When every instant of sound isÂ specified, and every variable accounted for, such a machineÂ produces human-sounding speech.â€ť1 This assumes that whatÂ is programmed is, of course, a rational set of commands, aÂ sentence, or a specific word. Does this strict assignment ofÂ meaning, that has to exist as computer code for the machine Â to speak, make the words that are spoken â€śfixed realitiesÂ with consistent referents?â€ť2 Is the computer then a fundamentalist of language? George Quasha, an artist, poet, andÂ musician, writes in his essay Configuring Principle aboutÂ a thinking language, one that is not bound by a program,Â but is living, coming & going; it is what he calls â€śpoeticÂ thinking.â€ť3 He speaks of WORDS that can be â€śviewed as aÂ continuum between extremes of meaning. Therefore, theyÂ are sites of more or less continuous transition. And theyÂ are thresholds, what I have called limens, logoic zones ofÂ liminality.â€ť4 He calls for â€świder circles of referential engagement, and then a reflective level, much like the thinkingÂ we are doing here, and then: what? A certain leap, a nonordinary giant step, a break in the frame, shadows with noÂ projective light, figurings and unnamables- The apparitionÂ of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough.â€ť5
The installation Liminal Processes: The Living UtterancesÂ of Speaking Applications is made up of eight Aesthetic Interfaces (custom computer software that was developed inÂ MAX/MSP). These applications are â€śAestheticâ€ť because theÂ applications are not logically programmed and diagrammedÂ for efficiency or easy reading, but are arranged subjectivelyÂ as a drawing. Placed within the interfaces are the sentencesÂ listed above. The computers are programmed to speak theÂ words in order from left to right. However, this is not alwaysÂ what takes place. Each application, as an individual, has itsÂ own random procedures in which to operate; proceduresÂ such as changing the speed, pitch, and rhythm of the voice.Â As these real-time operations are performed, confusion hasÂ the potential to arise, ordering becomes mumbled, and atÂ times the speed being asked of the computer reaches theÂ threshold of the processorâ€™s capabilities. In these moments,Â the computer is at PLAY. It reorganizes the structure ofÂ language asked Â of it to perform. The computer acts likeÂ young child: it does not know how to comprehend what itÂ is saying. Children learn by mimicking their parents; theÂ computer is not learning, but it is playing, and there is a lot toÂ be learned from playing. Each application has each word inÂ the sentences spelled correctly and has the chance to be saidÂ correctly. However, several of the applications also containÂ a play on each word that explores the limits/parameters ofÂ the computerâ€™s pronunciation. This creates a language gameÂ that the applications can play by utilizing random selection.Â There is a constant shifting and maneuvering through theÂ predetermined sentence structure. Do these utterances haveÂ life, or at least live in the â€śpoetic thinkingâ€ť of the viewer?
Notes: 1 Written and directed by D.H. VanLenten, Contributed by Russell Scholl, Acessed Jan. 2011 http://www.ubu.com/outsiders/365/2003/062.shtml 2-5 George, Queasha. Configuring Principle, Acessed Jan. 2011 http://www.quasha.com/writing-2/on-art/configuring-principle
How was MAX used?
The Interface of Max is organized as a drawing, it is apart of the piece aesthetic. I call my patches that I develop like these 'Aesthetic Interfaces'. Applications that are not neutral, but are an subjective interface, a Interface in drag, a Interface that is over the top, the Interface of more, the Baroque Interface, and extravagantly organized Patches/Applications.