Content and Discontent: An Alchemical Transformation

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Symposium:


Session Title:

  • New Vocabularies and Directions of Digital Media

Presentation Title:

  • Content and Discontent: An Alchemical Transformation

Presenter(s):


Category:



Abstract:

  • In its desire to be free from the form/content coupling, form ingested its content partner and re-presented it as information, information which ”just wants to be free.” And, while science and technology have been taken up with cultural critiques of their ”neutrality” and ”transparency“, information, gathering speed in the computer age, has managed to slip away. In this paper, I explore my discontent with information by asking what has happened to subjectivity in computer culture as we become ever hungrier for information. Although alchemy is not so much a theory as a practice of knowing and doing, I want to suggest that it offers insights and inspiration for this exploration. I will begin my alchemy of information with a moment of separation.

     

    Separation

     

    Take a deep breath, pass through the gate of separation, and face the anxiety of the will.  Separation…anxiety – this is the title of a sound work of mine which I would like to recall (and later play) here – Separation Anxiety: Not the Truth about Alchemy. While the title does have a certain obscurity, as with any alchemical text, it also condenses two aspects of alchemy I am particularly interested in. “Separation” is one of the 12 ”gates” or stages of an alchemical transformation. “Anxiety” refers to a cultural moment where truths are no longer comfortable and comforting. It is an anxiety crisis of ”will” and its morality. Alchemy presents an ideal mode of rethinking that dominant moral concept of ”will” as a basis for action because alchemy is about suspension of will and allowing things to manifest (Marshall, S.A.).

     

    Full text p.42-45