Sunday, 8 February 2009

Requiem for the Network: Third Stage

During our early discussions on how to shape and structure the data to be presented in ‘Requiem for the Network’, Rathna Ramanathan and I had considered different possible groupings and arrangement of texts. Our general approach, however, was still very much based upon the notion of connecting discrete pieces of text – barely more than information-rich captions – in a way that embodied the complexity of their relationship to each other: a format somewhere between a genealogical table and a systems flowchart.

This all changed the moment Rathna read the essay ‘Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation’, which I had written for the Embedded Art exhibition catalogue. Her initial response came as a real surprise to me. ‘Your work is pretty much done now,’ she announced. ‘I think you’ve written all we need right here.’ Rathna’s proposal was to take the entire 6,000-word text and isolate key terms, using a colour code to separate out institutions from individuals, publications from concepts and dates. Any syntactic relationship that might still exist between the highlighted words was firmly ruled out by a stroke of Rathna’s pen.

As her printout of the essay began to resemble a complex graphic score, the conceptual purity of her approach continued to make itself plain. Rather than using one text to locate another set of texts within a representational plane, shifting the various pieces of data through a succession of arrangements – a process which ran the additional risk of allowing some of the data to drop out of the frame – why not shift from one arrangement of the material directly to another? The more we thought through the possibilities of this approach, the more exciting they appeared to become.

Above: Rathna’s printout of ‘Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation’

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