Siri: Iris? Vincent Van Gogh and Travis Bickle: Assisted
Gregory L. Ulmer and Darren Tofts
Gregory L. Ulmer, Professor Emeritus, English and Media Studies, University of Florida, is the author most recently of Electracy (2015) and Avatar Emergency (2012). His current project is Konsult Experiment, including the book Konsult: Theopraxesis, and a blog, affiliated with Parlor Press, Electracy and Transmedia Studies series.
Darren Tofts, Adjunct Professor of Media & Communications, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. He would include his website address but it has been hacked.
Cities have their own way of talking to you; catch sight of the reflection of a neon sign and it'll spell out a magic word that summons strange dreams. Have you never seen the word "IXAT" glowing in the night? That's one of the holy names. ~Grant Morrison
"Theory Hobby" as model, Taxi Driver as relay:
"Write a scene for a hybrid film, in which Freddy Krueger is teaching Philosophy at the École Normale" (Ulmer, “Theory Hobby").
Such is the beginning of invention. A simple and yet evocative invitation or instruction that at once invokes a speculative "what if" scenario, as well as incites an instructive provocation to remake rather than simply make. So, taking a hint from the intersection of "Elm Street" and "Rue d'Ulm" (address of the École Normale Supérieure), translate Krueger’s "actions in the American film into a theory in the French version." While the "déjà-parlé" is implicitly one iteration of this model, the making of something new is explicitly its Other– Krueger as Francophile polymath as well as psychopath.
Hence: Write a treatment for a film, in which Brian Eno is a producer of ambient music as well as being a taxi driver and hi-tech interpretive navigator (SIRI) through the streets of New York.
Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is the heuretic device in which Travis Bickle shifts with Eno. The inventive logic of the connection allows as well as invites Eno to enter the stage by virtue of a simple correlative: as a practitioner of ambient music he is simultaneously everywhere, mobile and nowhere, just like a New York cab driver: both anticipate ubiquitous electracy.
Scenario One: Travis & Sport – a somewhat heated dialogue
"How’s Iris? You know Iris don’t you?"
"I don’t know nobody named Iris."
"How’s everything in the pimp business?"
"Do I know you? Get the fuck out of here man."
"Suck on this!"
In an olfactory haunch of gun smoke and the fleeting whiff of the Argentinian pampas, the cinematic avatars of Travis, Sport morph into two shadowy figures. These avatars, conjoined and discrete at the same time, are a composite derived from "the mythologies of the suburbs" of Jorge Luis Borges’ Buenos Aires. In a phantasmagoria of space and time it materializes into the pan-Pacific coupling of "Ulmer and I". Self and Antipodes combine into a unified composite. They address each other in the interrogative register.
"You know SIRI? You know SIRI don’t you?"
"I don’t know SIRI. I don’t know nobody named SIRI."
A pause brings the scene to an indefinite stalemate.
Scenario Two: Ambient 1: Music for Airports
Brian Eno's West London studio, Notting Hill. Two furtive, enigmatic figures imagine themselves at its portal, speculating what is going on within. Neither has any intention of entering, nor of bothering its owner. A thought detains both of them: what if the musician’s studio were mobile, like the sounds made within it? Like, say, in a taxicab. Perhaps that’s why he’s not receiving guests at home.
Anagrammatically "Eno" is also "One," like "the One," James Brown’s first law of funk. And like the Rolling Stones’ mobile, Eno can go anywhere, anytime. To the Bronx, Harlem? We can hear him in Bickle's response: "Anywhere, anytime." Eno is the ambient driver of a portable recording and production studio, comparable to Pirate Radio stations of the 1960s. Its intimate privacy is his Utopia. George Martin’s company seems to be mixed up in it. It's all about sound moving through the air. As well it is a mobile Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface, otherwise known by the acronym SIRI. SIRI accepts the fare and cruises towards Times Square.
Eno's fey, slightly feminine appearance brings to mind the cab driving, seductive figure of Esmerelda Vela Lobos in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. The intimate, enclosed domain of the cab is counterpointed when Eno speaks to camera, sotto vocce: "Now I've found a sweetheart, treats me good just like an armchair." But there is also melancholy. To the tune of "Cindy Tells Me," sampling himself, he intones:
Iris tells me, the rich girls are weeping
Iris tells me, they've given up sleeping alone
And now they're so confused by their new freedoms
In a slow dissolve the visage of Iris Steensma, immersed in the crowds of New York
streets looking for tricks, blends into the riotous spray of a Van Gogh painting.
Scenario Three: Van Gogh & the sickly smell of flowers
VO: Van Gogh (letter to Theo):
VO: Travis Bickle served in Vietnam in the Death's Head Company, whose shoulder patch insignia was Van Gogh's moth.
In a letter to his brother written from Arles in the south of France, van Gogh described the Café de l’Alcazar, where he took his meals, as "blood red and dull yellow with a green billiard table in the center, four lemon yellow lamps with an orange and green glow. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most disparate reds and greens." The clashing colors were also meant to express the "terrible passions of humanity" found in this all-night haunt, populated by vagrants and prostitutes. Van Gogh also felt that colors took on an intriguing quality at night, especially by gaslight: in this painting, he wanted to show how "the white clothing of the café owner, keeping watch in a corner of this furnace, becomes lemon yellow, pale and luminous green."
Scenario Four: Van Gogh's Palette/Palate/Pallet
Scenario Five: Lust for Life/Death
INT: Night. Café/Bordello.
Two artists in the company of Iris: Vincent Van Gogh—the man and the Legend, played by Kirk Douglas—and Paul Gauguin (Anthony Quinn) in Lust for Life, channelling Paul Schrader, along with the other makers of Taxi Driver (Scorsese, DeNiro).
"When I saw the flower pattern on Iris's blouse it reminded me of the Irises I painted in the over-grown garden at Saint-Paul asylum, Saint-Rémy."
"We packed a lot into 'Iris,' you can be sure, starting with the basic meaning of the name in Greek mythology, as messenger or message, which would be her function regardless of her proper name of course. Prostitutes often wear a certain perfume, and we wanted to suggest the violet scent associated with the oris rhizome when used in perfume."
"Painting is therapeutic, for me, and also for anyone viewing. Irises conveys serenity, security, a feeling of hope and consolation."
"Our Irises (yours and mine) constitute a principle emblematized in this encounter. The philosophers use the German word, Riss, meaning both Rift and Design: the RISS in Iris. Together we show the polarity (the 'electricity') of our archetype—the prostitute-rescue motif. We are complementary, like your colors. What was the name of the prostitute you wanted to marry?"
"Sien, you made her into an emblem of Sorrow! That is the tension, the rift, of our design. You recall the scene when the pimp, Sport, offers Iris to Travis, saying he can do anything with or to her, except no rough stuff? Your name became the slang term for one of the things he suggests: to van gogh a woman's stomach, alluding to your impasto brushwork, no doubt. We could remake Taxi Driver, to add your character as the other side of the polarity. Travis is the Diurnal Warrior, defending his individuated separation against the Night, and you are the Nocturnal Mystic, opening to participation and convergence. Travis's position is paranoid; Van Gogh is ixoid. The ixoidal receives and welcomes otherness, the viscosity of your impasto brush expresses glue-like binding abhorrent to the Sun Warrior. Diurnal and Nocturnal belong together and in fact necessarily are found together and work dialectically, whether explicitly or otherwise, instantiated the principle of rift-design (Riss). When the philosophers refer to the schizoid as opposite to paranoid, they should say rather ixoid, to identify the viscous feeling of glue. Van Gogh was in fact diagnosed as 'epileptic.' A paradox in your work, according to rift design, is that while some of your most famous works have nocturnal settings, Night Café for example, or Starry Night, but you also have so many Sunscapes."
"That was my question for you, in a way, since the Yellow Taxi moved me greatly. You know the Yellow House that I rented in Arles, that I had painted and repaired, was to be a refuge for destitute artists, a place to retire like old Cab Horses, was how I explained it to Theo? Tell me what that cab meant to you?"
"You know, like you, I thought I wanted to be a minister, to follow in my father's footsteps. I was attracted to movies as an adult because they were forbidden in my church at the time. I fell away from religion. I was down and out in L.A., driving around in my car all night, drinking and suffering from an ulcer. That was when the metaphor hit me for Taxi Driver, and I realized that was the metaphor I had been looking for: the man who will take anybody any place for money; the man who moves through the city like a rat through the sewer; the man who is constantly surrounded by people, yet has no friends. The absolute symbol of urban loneliness. That’s the thing I’d been living; that was my symbol, my metaphor. The film is about a car as the symbol of urban loneliness, a metal coffin. That is what I was: this person in an iron box, a coffin, floating round the city, but seemingly alone. See, that is the Sun Warrior, and he is a messenger of death. I like the idea that the Yellow Taxi is somehow the Sun (especially your Sun) traveling on the Night side, like the Egyptian sun chariot."
"We think about death in opposite ways. Death is within life as the cycle of seasons. The parable of the sower shows it, as in my favorite, Millet's great scene that I copied so often. The Yellow Sun is setting, but it will soon be noon again with the wheat ready for harvest in a field full of crows."
"Travis's Taxi touched that Sun in you. Is that Sun shining in all the Yellows in your work? I'm thinking of your setting, painting on location in Arles, your house, your chair, the sunflowers—all intensely vibrant Yellow?"
"That chair is a self-portrait, as you know. I painted your chair also, since our two chairs declared we were on opposite sides of that rift you described. That is the drama Life/Death, but I don't know if one can choose sides."
VO: Van Gogh letter to Theo.
VO: Van Gogh's biographer.
"Vincent felt abandonment. From the moment his parents drove away in their carriage, loneliness overwhelmed him. For the rest of his life, he would return to the memory of their good-bye at the school door as an emotional touchstone—a paradigm of tearful leave-taking. Years later, he would compare his plight in Zevenbergen to that of the forsaken Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, crying out for his father to rescue him. At the end of his life, he compared his days at the Provily School to being locked in an insane asylum: 'I feel every bit as out of place now,' he wrote from the asylum at Saint-Rémy, 'as I did when I was a twelve-year-old boy at boardingschool.'" (Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh).
Scenario Six: Wizard and Moondog
Moondog. Blind seer of the city and boroughs of New York. Viking of 6th Avenue and vernacular poet of midtown Manhattan. He always seems… well, out of place. And his albums don’t do him any favours either.
He is a long, long way from where he hails, the wilds of Wyoming. He’s also a long way from his current home in the Bronx when he starts up conversation with another wizard. "The Wizard," cab driving denizen of the New York demi-monde, known by no other name. Moondog is soliciting studio time in a cab, but it is the wrong cab, hence his put-out gaze unwittingly to camera. Unknown to him it is currently turning into Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village with John Cage and Meredith Monk in back.
As this is apparently a Wizard’s cab, the hermetic musician is immediately drawn to it, although he has absolutely no idea why this driver is called Wizard, hence his put out and confused countenance.
The Wizard's unseeing interlocutor is not fazed by the strangeness of the situation, nor the Wizard’s abrupt invocation. "Man, you gotta get laid, seriously," wringing his hands in affirmation. The polite, enigmatic figure, diffident under enveloping lamplight,
turns away with a dismissive shake of his head. Moondog is gently moved on with the aid of an unspeaking, previously unseen companion, also orientalised in a djellaba, who comes out of nowhere.
With the aid of his assistant, Moondog assiduously waves down a ride with the invocation of his staff. He's interested in more than a simple trip elsewhere. He seeks studio time in a fabled cab-mixing suite that cruises around town, the sonic avatar of its driver. Like his familiar, Tiresias, the oracular and unseeing Theban, Moondog digs on ambience and wants to capture the sound of New York flâneurie in all its admixture of grit and grace. And Columbia wants a new album for the Fall. There is some necessity to move on this.
Unseen by the two interlocutors, another cab glides by into yet another anonymous night. Words exotic and out of place can distantly be heard trailing into not unexpected silence, at odds with the "I ♥ NY" decal on the windscreen:
We are the central shaft
And we are here to let you take advantage
Of our lack of craft
Certain streets have certain corners
Sooner or later we'll turn yours
Scenario Seven: Transcendental Gastronomy
INT: Café, Night.
The cabbies are on break, meeting at an all-night bar/diner, to share stories and get some food. TV behind them tuned to PBS station broadcasting a show on French intellectuals, featuring an interview with Roland Barthes. Barthes is reflecting on his reading of the eighteenth-century figure, Brillat-Savarin, known as the Marquis de Sade of food, The Physiology of Taste. Barthes is explaining a shift in his thinking away from Semiotics with its reliance on vision, spatiality, perspective imaging, toward a mode he calls "bathmology," concerned with temporality, matters of variable degrees, between zero and infinity, sequential unfolding, based not on sight but taste, understood in the broadest terms of the complete internal sensation of the body. It is ixoidal. He admires Brillat-Savarin for counting sexuality among the senses, sex perhaps the most important organs of sense integrating all the others. It amuses him to consider a gastronomic eroticism, aphrodisiac recipes. He generalizes to bathmology as a subtle measure of degree, analog continuity distinct from digital algorithm. Bathmology is heuretic, exploring inchoate vagueness of unknowing, personal in the manner of identifying the qualities of wine: the dialectical opposite of algorithmic rules for predetermined outcomes. Bathmology plays Night to Semiotic Day. Eno shushed the banter several times in order to hear the TV.
Wizard and Eno cannot decide what to order. Eno produces a deck of Oblique Strategies. They agree to let the card guide their choice. Eno offers to let Wizard draw, but he prefers to shuffle the deck and deals a card to Eno. "The Meaning of your name in Philosophy."
"That's perfect. It doesn't just make me do the anagram to get "One." It wants us to look for our order relative to the One in Philosophy. That takes me back! I had to do something like this in college, Ipswich Art College, for Roy Ascott's Groundcourse. In Ancient Greek Philosophy, the One is Hen. Macaronic pun, gives us our answer."
"Chicken, macaronically, from Hen. We order whatever chicken dish they have."
"Sure, One Chicken, or Two? Fried? But what's with this Greek Chicken? Is that where the chicken crossing the road came from? Like why did the One need to move at all?"
"Wizard, are you a college boy? The chicken will be good, because the One is defined as the Good. They both are transcendentals, meaning they are free of properties. The problem addressed with Hen concerned the pair Measure/Infinity, what is Limit and how do we know? Cool that Barthes coincidentally confirms the game, since Hen must be cooked bathmologically, without recipe."
"I doubt this dive's cook has the proper training."
"The only thing I really remember about it from Ipswich is that Hen cannot be known by reason, but only by presence, you feel it (bathmologically), so close you can taste it. Plotinus put it in an image, which is why I recall it, no doubt. Hen is the center of all motion, like dancers around a choirmaster, and all distortions obscuring understanding are due to the dance, the turns and turning away from the director, something like that. But Limit, Measure, is present to you in the dancing. Made me
think of Yeats, not knowing the dancer from the dance."
"If dancing is part of the deal, we need something with chicks, not one of these Greek conga lines. I vote for the Can-Can. Can we do that?"
"If we are able to, van Gogh would dig it."
"Can we get a menu?"
The development of the User is also driven by the ability of artificial intelligences, simple ones and complex ones, to enter the User position and engage The Stack directly. They do this on the direct behalf of a human User, and they do this with or without human supervision, such that the human is in a way Siri's co-User as much as the other way around. So then, who is Siri and
who (or what) would the wider population of similarly personified interfaces/bot agents become? As the base model of the ideal assistant, her personality is specifically defined in relation to what the range of options might be, but her supposed neutrality as a universal assistant is highly contestable. She is one individuated person, not a plurality or multitude or composite. She is by default setting female in gender. She possesses a kind of patient and understated omniscience. Though a bit hard of hearing, she is extraordinarily reliable, and by the same turn, she is reliably subordinate. When asked strange things, she may demonstrate a dry sense of humor (Benjamin H. Bratton, The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty, MIT, 2015).
The choice, such as it was, of Brian Eno method-acting as a New York taxi driver was pretty much happenstance. Having one anonymous night re-watched Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) I habitually put on some music. Brian Eno's Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978). The choice had nothing to do with the film, although postprandial digestion may have had something to do with it. Now all films, we learned from Structuralism, are in one way or another unwitting (generic), as well as self-conscious (reflexive) re-makes. With this in mind one scene caught my eye. Throughout the film one of its recurring leit-motifs is the camera’s static gaze of Travis Bickle framed through the front windscreen driving his cab. This image has been seen in hundreds of films and probably many more to come. As if to make the point, Quentin Tarantino self-consciously captured this figure in Pulp Fiction (1994) in the image of the seductive Maria Vella Lobos driving Butch through the streets of downtown LA after his fight with Floyd. As we look directly at her, as if hitching a ride on the bonnet, we notice that the backdrop through the rear-view mirror is sampled from some classic Hollywood urban street scene from a noir film of the 1940s, like Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep (1946). And no doubt being familiar with Tarantino’s canny use of quotation and pastiche, the visual traces of Marshall
McLuhan’s “rear-view mirrorism” are already in the pockets of poindexter reference scouts glued to the tele.
What also struck me, in one of Greg’s "Eureka moments," was the ambience of taxi drivers as they spend long hours cruising the same streets of cities, time and time again: "anywhere, anytime," as Travis remarks to one of his chums, repeating the phrase for emphasis as well as to condense the grueling, diurnal endlessness of being a New York cabbie. Not only in this particular city, but all cities, all suburbs, all boroughs, everywhere, ambient. Through the simplest gesture of metonymic substitution, Brian Eno was installed in Travis’ place. Thinking too of Greg’s concept of "anagrammatology" as a mode of invention, I was doubly excited to realize that SIRI is a palindrome as well as an anagram of Iris. Différance squared, but also John Cage’s "indeterminacy" at work, in that I have absolutely no control over what work the word is up to in any act of inscription. Once this duplicitous poetic had found us, it was our turn to work with it. Semiotic hostages were immediately taken. So along with the automotive theme of the film, Michel de Certeau’s concept of urban perambulation enabled us to also walk with it and within it.
As I scribble these reflections on the process of conception and composition of SIRI: IRIS? music plays quietly: Brian Eno’s Discreet Music (1975). This is a choice that might have appealed to Travis. As he tells the recruitment guy in the Taxi co-op,
he can’t sleep and all-nighters and long shifts appeal to him. Hence Discreet Music. Eno reminds us that it is not only his longest playing album but also the quietest. I wonder what Travis would have made of it, especially its abstract titles such as
"Fullness of Wind," "French Catalogues" and "Brutal Ardor." We know from the film that he doesn’t know much about music, buying Betsy a Kris Kristofferson album from Tower Records without ever having auditioned it. Nor does he know much
about porn. As he walks Betsy and her album into a cinema showing Sometime Sweet Susan (titillatingly subtitled "The Way You Want it to Be," starring the redoubtable and mustachioed Harry Reems) she starts to become detached from the vibe of the evening and its promise of a pleasant night out with a man she finds surprisingly attractive and, further, has never before met anyone like him. But the film's code is immediately understood by Betsy as she stops in her tracks: "This is a dirty movie." Despite Travis’ wholesome ministrations to the contrary (lots of couples go to see it) Betsy is not convinced. Nonetheless she sceptically goes into the theatre. Predictably she is immediately confronted with what Alex De Large in A Clockwork Orange calls "the old in-out in-out." Offended by the coital revelry and brutal ardor on screen, she walks out of the theatre. After confessing his ignorance of cinema, he suggests taking Betsy to another movie. Adamant, she walks off. When he urges her to take the
record, she bluntly remarks that she has already has it. It is aptly named The Silver Tonged Devil and I.
And so to the punctum. The priapic duo of the devil and I is a metonym of sweet Susan and her many bedmates and the times at which they meet in flagrante delicto. Translated as "blazing offence," this term aptly and uncannily captures, as well as condenses the code of porn as a cipher of the exact moment of offense, outrage or transgression. Sex and sexuality, of course, are not offensive per se (as mandated by the understanding of transgression as simply crossing the boundaries of a norm). But its exploitation as spectacle immediately casts it as taboo. Repetitive for its own sake its flow, such as it is, is a static scenario – two or more people fucking or engaging in other sexual activity as the object of a scopophiliac gaze. It is arguably not the kind of diversion in which one would take soda, candy and popcorn, although Travis does indeed do this when he goes to a porn film one night by himself, buying popcorn, a Pepsi and a Chuckles bar. As the primary code of the genre, fucking is a machinic, piston-like repetitiveness that is embedded in meagre and trite scenarios, or, indeed, none at all. Suffice to say unlike her gift from Travis, she is not familiar with Sometime Sweet Susan and walks out of the theatre with its subtitle in mind, it is clearly not a way she wishes to be.
SIRI: IRIS? The question mark kind of says it all. That is, it invokes an act of interrogation, introspection and provocation. The subtitle suggests the shadowy, uncertain and ambiguous presence of Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp is, as Hugh Kenner described the presence of Swift and Sterne in Ulysses, a kind of "tutelary deity" haunting the work. SIRI: IRIS? is indeed a kind of "assisted readymade," a found object snatched from the vast catalogue of cinema, reworked and remade into something else. And as Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine Tiresias might have somewhere said of this work, without the possibility of ever having read it (we think), "Ulmer and Tofts have enriched the halting and rudimentary art of reading with the technique of the deliberate anachronism and the erroneous attribution."
Getting Iris's Massage
Gregory L. Ulmer
One fine day fooling around on Facebook with Darren Tofts, because Facebook, a puncept appeared: Siri Iris. We imagined that this puncept or choral word (activating the semantic field of iris) was a key to the personality and persona of Siri, beginning with the Greek goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the Olympian gods, passing through the iris of the eye. Visceral design suggests that all commodities have default personalities, and we proposed to inquire further into Iris using reasoneon, flash reason, conduction, the logic of invention native to electracy. Our intention was to follow this dada inference path as a massage (McLuhan) from the daimon, relying on the particular devices of Brian Eno and (rudimentary) photomontage.
Each of us began with a different association: Darren thought of the Iris Jodie Foster played in the film Taxi Driver. Van Gogh's painting, "Irises," was already on my mind. Conduction as dada inference adds a further dimension to the three modes invented within literacy to guide thought from the known into the unknown, maintaining some formal correctness: abduction, deduction, induction. These operations proved their worth from Aristotle to Charles Sanders Peirce, popularized in the ratiocinative procedures of Sherlock Holmes. Conduction, the fourth inference, emerged in the digital apparatus, developed by the experimental arts in the nineteenth century and theorized in twentieth-century poststructuralist philosophy, in a metaphysics of the absurd. Investigation in electracy is hard-boiled, thymotic.
Reasoneon may be violent, in the style of mash-up or moshing. Our procedure was a re-mix collision of two films: Taxi Driver and Lust for Life (as image source for the life of Van Gogh). Conductive inquiry is not hermeneutic but heuretic (not interpretive but inventive). A heuretes is one who finds, as Ernst Gombrich noted (Picasso: "I do not seek, I find"). Siri as Iris does not seek; our query is not focused, not intentional, but peripheral glancing, making the browser function according to its namesake (to browse), as is appropriate when assisting creative invention rather than problem solving. The process generated numerous hits, more than enough to translate into literate essays, if one were so inclined, beginning with perhaps a book-length introduction to ixomorphism, to do for nocturnal mythologies what Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalysis did for diurnal disjunctions. Vincents are native to the night; Pauls are alien. As preparation for writing the Taxi Driver screenplay, Paul Schrader reread Sartre's Nausea, dramatizing a repulsion or abjection of existential viscosity. Identifying what is at stake, Timothy Morton reminds us that hyperobjects are precisely viscous, the anthropocene as tar baby, so to speak. Becoming ixomorphic, Iris orients invention along the thymotic axis of attraction-repulsion.
There is nothing mysterious about conduction or reasoneon: flash reason is ancient (the operating device of oracles), renewed or retrieved in modernism, beginning at least with Baudelaire's correspondences, taken up in Rimbaud's illuminations, Rilke's world inner space, Joyce's epiphany, Eliot's objective correlative, theorized in Benjamin's dialectical image, Freud's dream work (transference). The crisis of thought in the digital apparatus is decision at the speed of light, flash reason against the Internet accident, as I have said, alluding to Virilio's account of our challenge. Here is the place of intervention for electracy as metaphysics of a digital apparatus, identifying a possible program for Digital Humanities as a discipline. Everyone should learn programming, as Lev Manovich recommended, certainly, but that is not what Humanities brings to the table. We may share the User's position (actantial subject) with Siri as co-User, correlated with human judgment (phronesis, metis), if invention is to have a chance. Events occur within the conditions of a dromosphere (Virilio), as mapped in the probabilities of game theory, MAD with three seconds to decide whether to launch. Can humans think at light speed? Yes. We have thousands of years of accumulated traditions of instant insight, creating forms designed to align our limited native capacities with those of the gods. Iris is the emblem of this interface—Epiphany repurposed from revelation to algorithm. Iris as Avatar (in the sense unfolded in Avatar Emergency) locates the ambition of apparatus invention in electracy, to realize the ultimate dream of humanity (becoming god): god: assisted.
Let me remark on two revelations Iris found, creating pattern through repetition of signifiers uncoupled from signifieds. First is the yellow color of sunflowers for which Van Gogh is especially famous. Iris registered this yellow as the key to Van Gogh's mystory, linking a primary feature of his paintings with the defining memory of his childhood. It reminded me that my mother (Iowa farm girl with a high school education) hung a framed reproduction of "Sunflowers" on the wall of our dining room in the house in which I grew up. The mystorical design in Van Gogh's career was generated through the relay of Taxi Driver—the yellow color of the cab—but it could have been found in a conventionally literate way.
The other insight, however, emerged through photomontage, and contradicts the literate documentation. The place Van Gogh portrayed in "Night Café" included in its services some of the functions of a bordello, which aligns it with the concluding scene of Taxi Driver. Although Van Gogh described the mood of the painting as calming and transcendent in a letter to Theo, the place is associated with a notorious incident of violence in Van Gogh's life: the amputation of his ear during an intense argument with Gauguin, delivered as a gift to a young woman who worked at the café (called a "brothel" in many accounts). The incident occurred on December 23, which happens to be my birthday. The collage interpolation into "Night Café" of Travis Bickle, performing the gesture of suicide after his assault on Iris's brothel, transformed my intellectual understanding into emotional experience of ixoidal passion.