Alan Sondheim

Alan Sondheim is a New York-based artist, writer and critic who has worked in the experimental arts since the early 1970s. Since the 1990s, he writes something he calls the "Internet text", consisting of frequently autobiographical E-Mail writings for which he does use his software - most notably his Unix commandline environment around the shell, awk, grep, sed and other text-manipulation programs, scripting languges, but also programs like Mathematica and commercial multimedia software - not merely as a tool, but at something that flows into the text itself with its sourcecode, status and protocol output, thus becoming the textual equivalent of a musical instrument, something which allows Sondheim to express his subjectivity in a surprisingly physical,- frequently sexual - ways. Sondheims self-built software "toolset" and his "text" are no longer really distinguishable as separate writings, although he still maintains that "the commands are catalysts for text production - not designed to deliver the final text, but to deliver a textual body I can then work on, operate upon."

A more complex piece of running code he wrote is "Julu", picked here as just one piece of his overall work. According to Alan Sondheim's own description, "it asks a lot of questions and returns complex texts I can use for writing. It
has 'arrays' in it, lists of words that it will substitute in various sentences at various times. [...] When the program runs, it asks me to enter lines, gives me material in return - and I write in and out of the material it gives; it then rearranges the lines according to its own internal logic, and gives me a text at the end."

The sourceode of Julu itself is an artistic and literary work, and can be read even by non-programmers.

Editor's note: As of 4/2010, the original project link is broken. However, here's the link to Alan Sondheim's website with a collection of his works:



feature about this project: Julu

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project homepage: http://www.gu.edu.au/school/art/text/oct01/sondheim.htm
keywords: perl-philosophical-literary-poetry-ascii-
open_source-passionate-sampling-deconstructive software for linux and the Internet
category: code art/code poetry
uploaded by cantsin, 28 Feb 2003

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