08 October 2006

Order as difference/fixed as random

re: literary value and innovation, some idea encounters i’ve enjoyed of late, from odd sources:

----first line in an article in a yoga magazine about a musician who specializes in sacred music (paraphrased): a true artist knows how to blend the conventional form of his work with the innovation.

----an essay from 1995 (yep, that’s me, about 10 years behind the times...you’ve all probably heard of this before) by greg lynn that uses william and gregory bateson’s systems theories to discuss innovation in architecture:

Issue 1, 1995

The Renewed Novelty of Symmetry [1]
Greg Lynn

and the following is me working through this in my head: among other things, lynn conducts a vigorous examination of newness itself (newness by definition involves difference; in gregory bateson’s words, “difference that makes a difference”) and suggests that we think of novelty (innovation) as being similar to evolutionary development (this is where william comes in), in which difference occurs in increments that allow previous conventions (symmetry, for lynn) to reorganize in recognizable ways. (merriam-webster’s *fourth* definition of “symmetry” is “the property of remaining invariant under certain changes.”) that is, a building might contain innovative design traits (novelties), but in the end it’s still a building (generally similar to other buildings). thus monkeys did not mutate suddenly into palm trees. and, innovation spurs reorganization of convention (monkeys adapt to walking upright, which brings its own set of what will next become conventions), rather than the other way around. or, reorganization does not spur innovation (some rogue monkey cannot insist his brothers walk upright). lynn finds the two design possibilities, novelty and symmetry, to be symbiotic, if you will.

i could quote any section of his essay, but here’s one taste useful to me:

In this economy of order and difference, novelty, rather than being some extrinsic effect, can be conceived as the catalyst of new and unforeseeable organizations that proceed from the interaction between freely differentiating systems and their incorporation and exploitation of external constraints. Novelty and order are related in an autocatalytic rather than binary manner as they are simultaneously initiated from a constellation of viscissitudes [3]. This regime of dynamical organizations should not be understood as either Neo-Platonist or Neo-Darwinist as they are neither reducible to merely external nor merely internal constraints. It is the resistance to both fixed types and random mutation that makes flexible, adaptable, emergent and generative systems so provocative at this time.

i guess the yoga magazine writer is saying something similar (KINDA). what concerns me now is “the resistance to both fixed types and random mutation.” i would suppose that literarily-speaking, no innovation will be random (from ME and Greek “run impetuously”), since it will emerge out of a directed (always already) culture. chaotic, perhaps (productive of patterns that emerge from that which appears to be disorder), but not undirected. social forces are at work (huge duh). perhaps what poststructuralists would say to lynn would be that the random is already fixed in some ways.

so, maybe the random and the fixed are actually the same thing?

is this position of any interest to artists who might previously have said that they wish to fall on the random side of things? or does it kill innovation dead?


1 comment:

blonde said...

sorry it took me so long to respond...i had to process that shit. i think i get it now.

i wanted to comment on the relationship between novelty and symmetry as symbiotic rather than binary.


innovation and order, or chaos and organization, are NOT binaries. that is a hoodwinking of sorts. they feed one another, they give one another life and death, pretty much exactly the same way as biology or particle physics. put simply: one cannot exist or thrive and grow without the other.

another angle on this notion is of course deconstruction, but that's a different "storyline."

at any rate, when we speak of innovation, and when we get even more concrete and say innovation in art, and when we move down even further to innovative writing, i think where i stand is this: innovation isn't random at all. i mean aside from the original barf stage where creativity emerges in undifferentiated form or pure intuition, once it's out there, it is always already (a deconstructive catch phrase), ordered. systematized.

sometimes i think the paradigmatic case for this kind of idea is GERTRUDE STEIN. who was, for those who have studied the fuck out of her process, incredibly ordered and precise. perhpas anally so.

anyways, thank you in waterfalls for the glorious mind fuck.

i loved it.