Shockwave application, 400 x 450 px, 2003
In collaboration with Rainer Mandl

embedded image
© Snapshot, screenshots, Pedigree, 2003
The word Pedigree makes dog-lovers think of canned dog food and dog-breeders of genealogy and race. The misunderstanding between aficionados of art and aficionados of dogs could be cleared-up, at least for the latter group mentioned above, if the can were filled with dog meat instead of with beef and renamed Pandora: puppies eat the dog that fathered them to gain the energy to mate with their mothers. Luckily for dog-lovers, symbols and codes feed virtual electronic art and language is the meat of the digital.

Language does not serve the software of Pedigree by describing givens, a thought or a mood, it in fact produces what is being represented. Language becomes a performative act—becomes meat—that triggers a narrative: not a poem, not prose about something but processual script. The text becomes the reality of language, organic fabric that grows and consumes, gives birth 
and dies.

The text on which Pedigree is based generates poetry where two dots stand at the beginning that, as in biology and in life, propagate themselves. The computer simulates a Petri dish for cultivating an “antique” culture in its virtual nutrient solution: from the union of Laios with Iokaste emerges Oedipus, who then fathers progeny with his mother. The individuals represented by quantities of dots generate new generations depending on the constellation and the contact, which then continue to reproduce or be extinguished. In each generation, the prophecy inscribed in the mythical algorithm is fulfilled afresh in that incestuous love and murder in the digital realm are drawn graphically on the screen as a rapidly expanding geometry of lines and dots. Like in concrete poetry, the text and the image enter into an alliance that plays with meaning and the spatial positioning of signs. Concrete poetry becomes a discrete art in the algorithmic that, within its countable rules, grows beyond the boundaries of language and emerges as a processual poiesis. The linguistic raw material becomes an ambigram: texts produce images whose codes generate texts—in Pedigree these are diagrammatic images and dramatic texts.

With the perpetuation of the programme, the genesis of the tragic family tree climaxes as comedy, an eschatological but endless struggle for survival of Malthusian proportions. In Pedigree, the law of unlimited reproduction is not contradicted by a mathematical axiom of population according to which the nature of the nutritional resources follows a mathematical progression and the individuals follow a geometric one but by a mythical curse written into the code. This curse is a blessing for Pedigree as it is the source of the irony of the programming code: “A character with a mixture of good and evil is more compelling than a character who is merely good.—And Oedipus is definitely not perfect.” Therein lies what is liberating, what it is that differentiates Pedigree from the hermeticism of con-crete poetry and the modernist self-restriction in the treatment of the material properties of the language. Signs organise themselves according to a strict logic, and nevertheless gain a processual independence that makes playful writing and storytelling possible, emerging from the immanence of the language. Under new prerequisites the narrative renders the self-referentiality of the artwork productive and emancipates the work as a poetic code.

(Thomas Feuerstein)
Exhibitions: • CODeDOCII, Ars Electronica, Linz, A 2003 • International Media Award ZKM, Karlsruhe, D 2004 • Mi2's Computer Art Exhibitions, Zagreb, HR 2003 • Runtime Art Exibition, Split, HR 2004

Festivals: • Transmediale 04, Berlin, D 2004 • Viper 04 – internationales Medienkunstfestival, Basel, Ch 2004

No: 03-002