The Question Concerning the Sustaining Support of Digital Objects
This text here is (most likely) rendered on a screen. I have written it using a computer. As you are reading this text, some /thing/ is functioning as an interface right now. Although I do not know exactly what this /thing/ is, I know for certain that there is some /thing/ here, slipping your mind as you read this text. This knowledge and this slipping away is the subject of this thesis. In this research project I have questioned the sustaining support of digital objects:
It aimed to challenge the habitualisation towards digital devices, the forgetting of the physical interface that leads to the supposition of digital immateriality, by making the computer apparent as an absurd thing that escapes language. Leaning on Heidegger’s ›Question Concerning Technology‹ and Mel Bochner’s mural stating that ›No Thought Exists Without a Sustaining Support‹, I sought to position myself among these strange and aloof digital things and their effects. I have encircled the ungraspable realm of the computer’s black box by explicating its /formal material/ (Kirschenbaum, /Mechanisms/), which results from the fundamentally irresolvable tension between the metaphysical idea of the Turing machine and the worldly /stuff/ that embodies and performs it.
First, I approached this /stuff/ through language, introducing three metaphors to compare the computer to other worldly things: ruins (considering the existence of the machine, its resting body, and the expectations and promises it entails), vessels (thinking about its function), and windows (reflecting the notion of digital transparency and contingency). Then, I verbally entered the computer, contemplating how its mechanism depends on an act of inscription, a physical /in/-formation of material, and how its effects can therefore also be understood as writing, as embodied information.
However as computing has become ubiquitous, seamless and powerful enough to supersede the speed of thinking (Kittler, ›There is No Software‹), it has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to phenomenologically grasp any friction resulting from this embodiment in the workings of the machines as they operate. In my practice, I physically grappled with this highly evasive body of digital media. Building on the metaphors and terminology I established, and looking for comparisons between Bochner’s post-conceptual sensibility and post-digital ideas, I aimed to evoke those things on which I rely but that lie outside of language: With a knowing futility, I (re-)inserted myself in the processes of digital translation. I slowed the effects of the computer down, emptied out its already silent interfaces, in order to /re/-present it. I constellated and associated pieces of work, suggesting a grammar rather than a narrative, in order to listen to the ›language of [digital] things‹. (Benjamin).
School of Fine Art
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In my work, I try to investigate what Derrida described as the ›secret without mystery‹ of the computer: the literally ungraspable, but by far not immaterial reality of the virtual objects with which digital devices are confronting us.
- Diplom Graphic-Design/Book Arts, Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig, 2011
- Golden Letter (2013), Sponsorship Prize for Young Book Design (2012)