Dis­tance Makes the Art Grow Fur­ther: Dis­trib­uted Au­thor­ship and Telem­atic Tex­tu­al­ity in La Plis­sure du Texte


Session Title:

  • La Plissure du Texte

Presentation Title:

  • Dis­tance Makes the Art Grow Fur­ther: Dis­trib­uted Au­thor­ship and Telem­atic Tex­tu­al­ity in La Plis­sure du Texte



  • Panel:   La Plissure du Texte

    Roland Barthes’ canon­i­cal state­ment con­tains an un­der­stand­ing of tex­tu­al­ity that lies at the cen­ter of this chap­ter and in­deed in­formed the pro­ject it sets out to de­scribe. The term telem­at­ics has its ori­gins in the 1978 re­port to the French pres­i­dent by Alain Minc and Simon Nora con­cern­ing the con­vergence of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­put­ers, par­tic­u­larly in busi­ness and ad­min­is­tra­tion. Dis­trib­uted au­thor­ship is the term I coined to de­scribe the re­mote in­ter­ac­tive au­thor­ing process for the pro­ject La Plis­sure du Texte: A Plan­e­tary Fairy­tale, which is the prin­ci­pal sub­ject of this text. My pur­pose here is to ex­plore the ge­neal­ogy of the pro­ject, how the con­cept of mind­at-a-distance de­vel­oped in my think­ing, and how the over­ar­ch­ing ap­peal of the telem­atic medium re­placed the plas­tic arts to which I had been com­mitted as an ex­hibit­ing artist for more than two decades. The pro­ject arose in re­sponse to an in­vi­ta­tion in 1982 from Frank Pop­per to par­tic­i­pate in his ex­hi­bi­tion Elec­tra: Elec­tric­ity and Elec­tron­ics in the Art of the XXth Cen­tury at the Musèe Art Mod­erne de la Ville de Paris in the fall of 1983.

    Pop­per had writ­ten pre­vi­ously on my work, and I was con­fi­dent that his in­vi­ta­tion of­fered a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a large-scale telem­atic event that would in­cor­po­rate ideas and at­ti­tudes I had formed over the pre­vi­ous twenty or more years. La Plis­sure du Texte: A Plan­e­tary Fairy­tale (LPDT) sought to set in mo­tion a process by which an open-ended, non­lin­ear nar­ra­tive might be con­structed from an au­thor­ing “mind” whose dis­trib­uted nodes were in­ter­act­ing asyn­chronically over great dis­tances—on a plan­e­tary scale, in fact. As I ex­am­ine it in ret­ro­spect, I see how a com­plex­ity of ideas can cre­ate a con­text for a work whose ap­par­ent sim­plic­ity masks a gen­er­a­tive process that can bi­fur­cate into many modes of ex­pres­sion and cre­ation. It is the bi­fur­ca­tions of ideas speci.c to the con­text of LPDT—their branch­ing and con­verg­ing path­ways—that I shall ini­tially ad­dress in this chap­ter. The con­tent it­self is trans­par­ent, in­sofar as the text in its un­fold­ing is its own wit­ness.