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  • Orai, or How the Text Got Pleated:A Genealogy of La Plissure du Texte: A Planetary Fairytale
  • Roy Ascott, (artist, research director) (bio)

This paper is an attempt to make sense of the Japanese word orai and to consider in what way the author's own "comings and goings" across artistic, literary and esoteric pathways led to the formulation of his practice, later to be theorized as telematic art and to be understood as a form of associative connectivism. The paper focuses on La Plissure du Texte, his first project involving distributed authorship.

"Orai" is a Japanese word, meaning comings and goings, communication, and contact, as well as streets and traffic. About 200 years ago, a book titled Nagoya [Orai] was compiled and published in Nagoya and it was used as a kind of textbook for teaching and writing. Through discussions around art and its interdisciplinary studies, ISEA2002 NAGOYA [Orai] hopes to provide an opportunity to create a new text in this electronically networked society [1].

Pathways in the Net—let us call them hypertracks—are like pathways in the brain—non-linear, associative, bifurcating. If we apply hypertracking to the rubric "orai" [2], we are led geographically from Nagoya to Lithuania, to Brazil by way of Portugal, to the Pays Basque, to Poznan, to Italy and finally, with a little twist, to New Mexico. This leads me to conduct a semantic routing: orai means weather in Lithuanian, pray! in Portuguese, today in Basque; in Polish it stands for Laboratory of Operational Research and Artificial Intelligence, and in Italy, Organización Revolucionaria Anarquista Insurreccionalista. Orai leads us to Oraibi—long the most important pueblo of the Hopi people, who have lived there for over a thousand years. Old Oraibi, on Third Mesa, has the distinction of being the oldest continuously inhabited village in the United States. We are also told about the Orai Shinsatsu (The New Correspondence Manual) of the Northern and Southern Courts Period in Japan, and we quickly see that with the slightest shift of intonation it becomes orei—a cash gift made by Japanese custom to doctors as a token of appreciation. And all of this just in the first 10 minutes of Net associative thought.

Increasingly my thinking is Net thinking; increasingly the flow between my internal associations and my hypertracking is seamless. If I were not always on, umbilically connected to the Net (which is to say, always in the Mixed Reality of physical space and telematic space)—when I am reading, on the phone, mobile-texting, or in face-to-face seminar mode—I would lose half of my imaginative thinking capacity. Increasingly, my better half is in the Net. So this marks out a phase space in a shifting landscape: weather—pray!—today—Artificial Intelligence--anarchic insurrection. Try triangulating these semantic loci. Then the scene shifts to Hopiland—where the most significant tracking motif has to be the ladder, linking those levels between the kiva floor and the sky altars, just as the Hopi language itself is layered, stratified, stepped.

What kind of thought landscape is constituted by this process? Where is the linearity of the Enlightenment, the determinism of regulation science? All gone! A new kind of romantic revival is at work here, not the romanticism of self-expression but that of self-navigation, of connectivism, a liberated, open-ended routing through the mind. This mind, however, is amplified by the computer, made artificially more intelligent, quicker, multitasking. More PDP (parallel distributed processing)-dependent than centrally controlled, driven more by contingency than will. Hypertracking through

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Fig. 1.

Pamphlet announcing the Plissure du Texte project, 1983.

© Roy Ascott

[End Page 195]

the Net, communicating and interacting as much as retrieving and depositing ideas in a state of telematic immersion, brings us close to the mental activity of the shamans immersed in a psychic space of limitless dimensions, minds opened to a larger source of ideas, images and wisdom. Hypertracking, web-wandering; these are ancient dreams, played out in the new numinosity of cyberspace.

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Fig. 2.

The Texas Instruments Portable Memory Terminal 765.

This process produces a kind of...


Additional Information

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pp. 195-200
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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