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RESEARCH CLASS: Hands, letters, holes, silences and songs

Hands, letters, holes, silences and songs
research class by Andrea di Serego Alighieri and Martino Morandi

“The noisy tactility of typewriting destroyed the hushed and hallowed status of the written word. If writing had turned language into a silent, visual code, the new machines made a music of their own: in secretarial schools, women were taught to type in rhythmic patterns which had nothing to do with either the meaning or the sounds of words but was more akin to the abstract beat of drumming and dance.”
–– Sadie Plant, zeros+ones

This research class proposes to explore writing as a way to re-understand the relation between language and the digital. In a period in which text has become essentially mediated by computers, you will experience how writing, as a physical and performative act, offers the possibility to re-organize the relation between letters, codes and bodies, allowing for a creative space of experimentation against the ‘black box’ of interfaces.

The seminar will start from a technical object: a teletype machine. The teletype is the meeting point between typewriters and computer interfaces, a first automated translator of letters into bits. Equipped with a keyboard, a transmitter and a punchcard read-writer, it is a historical link between early transmission technology such as the telegraph and the internet of today.

The purpose of the research class is to explore the implications of how text is structured by the writing support it appears on and by the technical means it is written with. The typewriter brought a grid of letters and voids of the same size, turning the absence of a letter (the space) into a key itself (the spacebar). The teletype completed this process, inscribing the space in the very same material as all other letters: electrical zeros and ones. Here, hands and bodies, initially serving only a mechanical function, also appropriated and redefined these means in new, critical and creative ways.

The class will be organised around writing exercises, aimed at studying and experimenting with the various iterations and translations that the machine offers (from text to code, and back again), as well as allowing you to experiment more freely. Next to these, two lectures will explain and explore in depth the context and implications of this technology for computing and creative writing respectively, touching upon software studies, feminist theory, (science) fiction and poetics. Guests from different backgrounds (music, performance, writing and publishing) will join us for short interventions and presentations.

No prior computer knowledge is required, since the class will primarily focus on writing, scripting and performance.

Andrea di Serego Alighieri
Andrea di Serego Alighieri works on projects where a focus on writing, language and translation—and of politics thereof—is of central concern. He is lecturer in writing and typography, thesis tutor and researcher at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

Martino Morandi
Martino Morandi researches on and struggles with bio texts, writing interfaces, networked computation, urban surveyance and other social arrangements that we usually call “technology". Martino's allies and co-conspirators can be found in and around LAG in Amsterdam, Constant in Brussels, and CIRCE in Italy.

>> This research class is part of the RESEARCH WEEK October 2022 and the annual research festival ARTICULATE 2022.