When I first read the passage transcribed in the last post, from Darren Wershler’s The Iron Whim, I was, I admit, a bit confused. The idea that “no one is ever alone at a typewriter” didn’t quite make sense to me. Here I am typing, in the dark of the morning, and I feel pretty alone (even though these words address you, Reader, but you are just a piece of my imagination, or a memory, & that is another story). Obviously, when transcribing a passage from a book, one is taking a sort of dictation. But when one is writing, “generative typing” as it’s called in the book, where is the dictator? Am I not writing this?
And then I saw it. My body is not doing what my mind is doing. My mind is making up words. My body is transcribing them into/onto this electronic surface. This is not my inner voice, projected pure and clean and forcefully through the electronic channels. This is a transcription, an abstracted representation, of that voice. The technology of writing (of the written alphabet itself) and the technology of the computer force a separation between myself and “my” words. The alien, borrowed, learned, cultural nature of language (all that Other stuff, that comes from you, Readers) becomes apparent. Aaron Cohick wrote, or typed, this, but I did not say it.
So the writer, sitting at his/her computer/typewriter/notebook, is a part of a larger machine. So the artist, sitting/standing in his/her studio in front of whatever it is that he/she does or makes, is part of a larger machine. So the act of construction is always dictator + “writing machine” + amanuensis. Or matrix + printing machine + printer. Or supervisor + office/factory machine + worker. We are always a terrifying mirror of our own inventions.
I’ll be your mirror.
I want to be a machine.
The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.
Where are we?