The characters discuss the creative and subversive possibilities for ARPANET, the prototype for the internet, in 1963, Southern California.
Yves Fissiault, chief electrical engineer at Rockedyne, secret artist;
Mia L’amar, black-listed B-grade science fiction film star;
Thomas Pynchon, the writer before achieving fame while working as a tech writer in the aerospace industry; and
JCR Licklider, director of the Defense Department Advanced Research Projects Agency
YF: What might a history of light entail?
JCRL: Is it the same light at all, this light that hits us through a cathode ray tube?
ML: Would this not also be the case for a reality in which the image of a thing still appears, but is no longer there?
YF: Is not the light reflecting off us, radiating our images to any eyes open to receive them, somehow destined, even if in increasingly diffused form, to travel forever, making our present the past of innumerable futures still to come?
TP: When’s lunch?
JCRL: But where does ARPANET come in?
ML: Who then will question its uses?
TP: It’s not perfect, sure, but what is?
JCRL: And how could it be changed?
YF: What will you do?
ML: What now?
TP: Should a writer publish on ARPA?
YF: How can one “publish” “on” something that is not there and is merely the imaginary flicker?
TP: If writing is a seamless flow of breaks and hazards stretching back and forth, pitching sideways and upside-down, rolling into the depths as well as contracting on the surfaces...if “real” paper texts cannot reach us and be read, then what is the purpose to play the margins of this strange dead land called ARPANET?
ML: How can language in all its myriad and many difficult forms survive this further disembodiment?
YF: But, could a certain kind of sensitivity to the complex eddies and flows of intersubjective exchange allow one to help precipitate the unknown?
ML: Could one learn to accept one’s own interventions as part of a shared unknown?
TP: Could this become a more powerful and pleasing game than proprietary accumulation?
YF: The further question is, do those of us with the knowledge and privilege to use ARPANET understand the politics this involves us in?
TP: : What about the rest of the world?
ML: Can we use ARPA to create culturally based forms of political resistance?
JCRL: In light of the above, might this not, simply result from our desire to communicate the commuicable to a wide audience?
TP: So why isn’t Pynchon a household name?
YF: Is ARPA art? No? Yes? Maybe?
ML: Or perhaps is it power?
JCRL: Isn’t ARPA about communication?
ML: The question is: are these positions mutually exclusive or can we combine them as parts of the same life-art existence?
YF: Are both adequate for a model of artistic action as intervention inside/outside a culture?
TP: And so what?
YF: Is ARPA the death of systems theory?
TP: Am I imagining things?
YF: Given that computers can relay recombinant digital elements of information, how can the writer become an “author” of intelligent poetic responses via the encoding, mapping and modeling of these elements?
TP: You’ve got me on that one, no?
YF: How can such an environment enhance or trigger particular “states of consciousness” in the user?
ML: To what extent can we re-frame the consciousness of the writer via specific modes of translation of operative performative processes and poetic elements of text within functional information systems such as ARPA?
TP: Perhaps there would just be a furious clash of “performances” as each tried to install realities, whether the phenomenological or the political or the luddic (through goodness knows how one discriminates those)....and the performative command is lost at that point, no?
YF: Why should it be “unrecognizable to traditional art discourse” just because gallery goers and art critics don’t know what information theory is?
TP: But isn’t that a bit like saying the literary world cannot understand a writer who makes work about certain intricacies of electrical engineering because they lack the discourse?
JCRL: Is this a cheap holiday in other people’s misery?
ML: A museum of accidents?
JCRL: Has anyone got something worth saying?
TP: Is anyone actually listening?
YF: (Qu’en est il de la memoir informatique?)
TP: But what kind of chaos would it spread?
YF: Could it be a vehicle for intersubjective exchange?
ML: For intelligent politics?
TP: Would that kind of qualify as art somewhere?
YF: Where do “thematic concerns” come from?
TP: The Netherzone?
ML: Thin air?
TP: Seen Death?
ML: Seen more deaths?
TP: More melted bodies?
YF: Seen bombs?
ML: Seen bodies mutilated?
YF: What democracy and for who?
TP: And gas masks?
YF: Men and women?
ML: And babies too?
TP: Shadows without bodies in a cartography of elsewhere?
ML: How does ARPA “feel” about death?
YF: Does some of the ghostliness participate in a denial?
ML: Now again, the question is: what kind of world do you want to inhabit?
TP: A minutely detailed history of the future?
JCRL: Are ARPA users - are we - ready to do something about these kinds of things?
TP: Can it tell us more than the L.A. Times? The New York Times?
JCRL: Is the power of communication related to a specific place or is it a possibility of precisely investing against the solidity of the fixed locale?
YF: Paris....Montreal......a “Canadian”?
TP: Manhattan Beach?
YF: What do we need power for?
JCRL: To become mobile centers of power to gain conditions of existence as individuals?
ML: For constituting a solid powerful place and erase power as problem?
TP: For stopping the inside/outside flow?
ML: A forum for true democracy?
YF: About....what was it again?
TP: How is it said again?
JCRL: Becoming what?
YF: It doesn’t matter at all what it means does it?
ML: I don’t know, what do you think?
JCRL: What more is to be said on this?
TP: What the heck?
YF: Is it not true?
ML: We are talking though, aren’t we, Tom?
TP: At least, I’m listening....only thing missing is a pint or two of beer, or why not?
ML: And for Yves as well, why not?
YF: Perhaps your preference for Mezcal and mine for fine wines explains that?
ML: Is it desirable?
YF: Is that what one is left with in the end?
JCRL: The question is, on what basis do you make the tactical moves?
TP: Using what common sense?
JCRL: Who can offer them, what forms of communication can best propagate them?
ML: Is this process already being carried on?
YF: Is history, as a discoursive technology, being experienced differently anywhere?
Ever onward- Eve Andrée Laramée