Is C Actually Red? (Ist C Rot? Eine Kultur- Und Wissenschaftsgeschichte Zum Problem Der Wechselseitigen Beziehung Zwischen Ton Und Farbe: Von Aristoteles Bis Goethe) by Joerg Jewansky (review)
- The MIT Press
- Volume 33, Number 3, June 2000
- pp. 233-234
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Leonardo Reviews 233 Computers, networks, satellites, virtual reality and military-industrial culture are framed in the book as almost incidental latecomers in the history of human engagement with processes of sharing and navigating ideas. This nihilistic techno-iconoclasm bears some similarity to the kind of ambivalence about technology that cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling has expressed. Sterling’s Dead Media Project (an ever-growing Internet list of media forms no longer in use) discredits technological determinism with every newly added example of obsolete media. Thus Sterling and Tofts share a presumably healthy suspicion about “hype”—that which surrounds the official-ized technoculture of board rooms, R&D (research and development ) facilities and the developments seized upon by trendy technomagazines or the stock market. Both authors posit writing as the ultimate proof of a media-form that has no particular vested interest in buttressing the corporate imagination’s aggressive claims to mechanistic Darwinism. Of interest in Memory Trade is a lengthy section on James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake that examines Joyce’s embrace of cinema and television, and how his love of early audiovisual timebased media influenced his inventive, malleable language-fiction. Tofts outlines how Joyce (who knew Sergei Eisenstein) used puns—like montage— to rely on the clash of the visual and the sonic as a form of meaning. In Memory Trade, Tofts hyperlinks Joyce, with his original verbal sight gags and Norbert Wiener, with his cybernetic experiments in the feedback mechanisms of artificial intelligence. There is a kind of palpable glee at work in the book as the author embraces his ideas with the playful relish of an idea-hacker who has stumbled onto a cache of good info, breathlessly linking theorist to theorist, idea to idea. The classical and the contemporary meet head-on here. This tableau of memory-hackers has the appeal of any circus sideshow, only here the many and varied figures are luminaries in fields often kept discreetly pigeonholed by the realpolitik of academia and the narrow-mindedness of publishers and book retailers; hence my analogy to Marcus. The book is lavishly illustrated with finely detailed monochrome photocollages by Murray McKeich, resembling the Gothic horror biomechanics of H.R. Giger—images of doll-like heads, skeletal bones, industrial piping, domestic objects and fish meld seamlessly with the counterpoint of Tofts’ elegant text. These often disturbing images appear like antique photographs , evoking the demented imagination of a Victorian occultist collector on opium. The overall effect of these images and text is the presentation of a new realm in which familiar notions have been stripped of their original contexts and are used as a counterbalance to arguments with which they are seldom traditionally associated. For example , Vannevar Bush’s ideas about building the Memex device find expression in Tofts’ book as evidence of the ways in which the technology of writing has long relied upon mechanisms of recall and storage. In this, Bush’s ideas bear resemblance to Sigmund Freud’s use of the “mystical writing pad”—the child’s toy that leaves a faint trace of an original text after the original has been erased—or they can be seen as a metaphor for the working of the mind itself. Humans store some things and erase others, but a trace is always left behind. For Tofts, it is the traces that matter. This non-space “otherzone” between form and utterance is the metaphysical domain to which the author, at one point, ascribes his own term: “cspace.” “C” (for “cyber”) is not pronounced, illustrating how virtual a text’s role is in shaping an idea. Memory Trade opens up categories we have previously not known in cyberspace writing. To this end, it exemplifies its own objectives. IS C ACTUALLY RED? (IST C ROT? EINE KULTUR- UND WISSENSCHAFTSGESCHICHTE ZUM PROBLEM DER WECHSELSEITIGEN BEZIEHUNG ZWISCHEN TON UND FARBE: VON ARISTOTELES BIS GOETHE) by Joerg Jewansky. Sinzig Studio, Verl. Schewe, 689 S. Berliner Musik Studien, Bd. 17, Germany, 1999. Reviewed by S.V. Sintzova and R.F. Saifullin, Institute Prometei, K. Marx 10, KGTU, 420111, Kazan, Russia. E-mail: . In “Ist C Rot,” Jewansky analyzes the historical development of music-color interaction , from Aristotle to Goethe. It is necessary to emphasize from...