Sediment was presented at the 2012 Computers and Writing Conference. It is a recorded performance that brings together multiple videos. A video showing lathing creates a steady scraping sound. Videos with compilations of imagery and sound appear in various places on the screen. There are also two videos from earlier projects. Waves (included in this collection) takes up scholarly responses in print and video. Now I Have Everything I Need was developed collaboratively through a video exchange with Jason Loan.
The two previously developed videos foreground questions of textual relationships. The meaning of the video Sediment accrues in part as these intertextual materials flow into the new composition as layers and through windows. The audio in the piece includes sounds from composite videos that at times compete with one another and challenge decipherability. The piece also includes a narrative track, which is straightforward and features memoir and scholarly discussion.
00:00 The video opens with a title screen: "Sediment / Daniel Anderson." The title fades out and is replaced by white text on a black screen: "The prosumer marks the blurring of consumption and production. But might the prosumer also represent a new mode of composing? Lev Manovich notes that spatialized narrative in the twentieth century 'was relegated to "minor" cultural forms such as comics or technical illustrations. "Real" culture of the twentieth century came to speak of linear chains, aligning itself with the assembly line of the industrial society. . . .'" (232).
00:19 New text appears on screen: "What if we imagine modes that make meaning with simultaneous arrangements and loops?" The text fades out, revealing a laptop screen with multiple video windows. In the lower left, video footage of a round stock of white plastic begins turning on a lathe. The sound of the lathe motor turning and the bit scraping the plastic can be heard.
00:32 The cursor brings forward additional videos and selects play. In the upper left, the video Waves begins to play, featuring a live music performance of the song "Postcard from 1952" by Explosions in the Sky. A video begins to play in the lower right showing a man in a river bed balancing small rocks on top of one another. A video showing design sketches for a sediment trap appears in the upper right.
00:42 The narrator begins speaking: "Point one, the prosumer is personal. I'm drifting back to 1974, to my Dad's sabbatical, when we put sediment traps in lakes up and down the West Coast. My Dad invented a sediment trap with a device for marking time. The intervalometer would periodically drop a layer of Teflon powder in the collection tube. We would place the traps in lakes, then return years later to retrieve them to study the sediment."
01:15 Music begins to play softly in the background. The narrator continues: "The prosumer is about boundaries, or really about how boundaries can be metaphors for emergence. As Heidegger reminds us, 'a boundary is not [that at which] something stops . . . a boundary is that from which something begins its essential unfolding.'"
01:38 In the upper right, a video shows images of an outboard boat engine being repaired, mixed with images of origami paper being folded. The narrator continues: "Point two: The prosumer shapes materials. Three years later, one high-school summer, I built the intervalometers, working the lathe, engaging the motor, easing the bits into plastic. I remember the steady circling, the making-by-taking-away."
02:02 The cursor brings various video windows to the front of the screen. The moving images contain multiple, partially transparent layers showing lathing, outboard boat engines, sediment traps, origami, and rock balancing. The narrator continues: "I bought my first antique bike with the lathe money, a '50s cruiser. It probably weighed sixty pounds. It folded in half on a hill a few years later. I should have known better. I was taught to love machines, to care for them, to find an engine leak by the smell—the antifreeze sweet or the almost toasty edge of burning oil. I was taught to feel them . . . to listen."
02:44 An animated bird hops within the frame of the Waves video window. In the lower right of the screen, the handwritten phrase "this is writing" is barely distinguishable as a layer over the video of the man balancing rocks. Indistinct voices can be heard softly amid the sound of the music; a snippet of speech is audible: "I don't think I've ever had closure with Pine Point." The narrator continues: "That bike crank was wrong for a long time. It needed lubricating, rebuilding. It needed attention."
03:02 In the background, the music becomes clearer. The narrator continues: "The prosumer is concrete. It cracks like metal under stress. It shapes something out of nothing and makes interventions through time, collecting what is offered by the winds and the tides. I'm talking about a making, wrought through layers, from binary-switching to coded collections of objects to moving images like these, making statements that sound much like heart valve closing and opening or painting on cave wall or words scratched on tablet with graphite wrapped in wood dipped in finish and pressed with its value—2B."
03:55 A small two-stroke engine can be heard softly in the background. The videos of lathing and boat motor repair continue to play. The video window in the lower right showing the man balancing rocks is nearly covered with scrawled writing. The narrator continues: "We pencil in our timelines, tracing, tracking, making the report, the resume, profile essay; sort out the sequences and try to bind them together: 'I'm a bio major. I'm business. I'm poli sci.' Together, we take up the instrument, squeeze its laminated length between fingers and pour language until . . ."
04:30 In the background, the music continues to pick up in intensity. Crowd sounds can be heard. In the lower left, a video depicting underwater diving appears, its greenish light offering contrast to the reds and grays of the other windows. The narrator continues: "The prosumer becomes a metaphor for all meaning making where, as Andrew Pickering reminds us, 'the center of gravity . . . lies . . . at the . . . intersection of human and material agency.'"
04:47 In the upper left, the cursor brings forward a video titled "Principles of Stratigraphy and Cross-Cutting Relationships." The narrator continues: "Point three: the prosumer works in every mode. The way ideas flow in rivulets up a windshield in the rain, droplets lifted back toward source by motion forward. The labor of the prosumer is craft and the logic sparks across darkened splits. Hydraulic tensioners on a timing chain dampen sound; pure metal sings a higher pitch."
05:20 On screen in the video in the upper right, hundreds of metal balls bounce as they are shaken in an experiment. Turning chains and gears are visible in the video in the lower left of the screen. The narrator continues: "What happens when the screen becomes the space for composing? Then word becomes one among many modes, then computing becomes performing. The zoom tool translates layers, the smallest granules become the scale through which we witness the world. Then, zoomed out, the sediment is the memory of the earth. It's best not to be measured by what we're called, but by what we do."
05:57 In the background, the intensity of the music continues to pick up. In the upper right, the frequency of the metal balls bouncing increases. The sound of breathing through a SCUBA respirator can be heard. The narrator continues: "Keith Sawyer says our making must be not too rigid, but not too loose: 'the critical balance for innovation is at the edge of chaos.'"
06:10 In the upper right, the metal balls bounce in many different directions. In the lower right, words, both typed and handwritten, continue to scrawl across the video showing rock stacking. The narrator continues: "Point four: the prosumer pulls like memory. The theory is the smell of bread, maybe ginger-tinged or yeasty at least, warm from the oven, because making is also reaching backwards. We're all intervalometers within streams of sediment gathered from sounds like stones or words like iron gone ferric in rusted bearings. Prosumer time is not just left to right, but up and down. It's a blending that ceases to be sequence and becomes instead space, playing out like sand plying and flowing, alluvial, slow combing, for a moment—forgotten."
07:09 In the upper right, the metal balls bounce frantically. The sound of breathing through the SCUBA respirator can be heard. The music in the background continues to pick up in intensity. In the upper left of the screen, two small windows show an old man making large soap bubbles on a beach and the reflection of the sun on jet contrails along with other elements of the Waves video. The narrator continues: "Final point/first point: the prosumer has nothing to prove. As Nietzsche tells us, 'we believe that we know something about things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things' (82–83). When we recognize the makings of thought in the material world, linear time begins to loop into thing and event, noun and verb."
07:41 In the lower right, the volume is turned up on the video of the figure balancing rocks. The figure works intently to balance a small rock on top of two others. Other windows continue to shift between the foreground and background. The narrator continues: "The prosumer no longer asks us to stake a claim. When the blossoms are coming, we feel their forward turning—the dogwood bud a capsuled blast of papered thought waiting to unfold. We compose because we, too, are turning: the soil, the eye toward flower, making arrays in the face of the abyss."
08:11. In the upper right, an old photograph of a figure on a 1950s bicycle appears. A smiling woman sits at a desk in the frame in the upper left. The narrator continues: "Let the value of field one be performing. Let field two be time. Let the value of our field be becoming."
08:38 The music in the background fades out. The sound of the lathe bit scraping plastic can be heard along with the sound of a crowd cheering. In the lower right, the figure successfully balances the small rock on top of the others. The voice of a spectator can be heard: "So cool. Wow that was so beautiful. Oh, that's amazing. Beautiful. So exciting. Thank you for letting me record it. Um. I. It really feels so tribal. Like so, so elemental. So human." Soft, jazz piano is barely audible. The cursor selects stop on the clips still playing on screen. The video ends.
Sediment includes video compilations that have been developed specifically for the performance. One composite includes imagery of origami folding combined with imagery of an outboard motor being rebuilt. Additional imagery shows information on sediment formation. A second compilation brings together samples from videos showing lathing. A number of materials from a patent application for a sediment intervalometer are also included as well as a personal photograph of the author.
There are also materials sampled from YouTube, including videos on engine repair, sediment formation, underwater SCUBA diving, and a video showing granule processes. The piece also repurposes two videos from prior projects. Waves includes imagery from an abandoned town and multiple blog postings to highlight print behaviors. Now I Have Everything I Need displays writing over imagery of rock balancing to suggest that composing is layered.
Barthes, Roland. S/Z: An Essay. Translated by Richard Miller. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974.
Burg, Rebecca. "Small Girl Rebuilds Small Outboard, 2-Stroke Johnson 15 hp, PART I." YouTube, uploaded by AngelsTravels, February 11, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMEXjofqbdM
Davis, D. Diane. Breaking Up (at) Totality: A Rhetoric of Laughter . Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000.
Heidegger, Martin. Basic Writings. New York: Harper, 2008.
"Highspeed PTFE (Teflon) Turning Part 1." YouTube, uploaded by Serrie1976, January 20, 2008, https://youtu.be/kdy9OhXELuA
"Lathe Teflon." YouTube, uploaded by jackshop, July 12, 2007, https://youtu.be/ioQrVA-vSs0
"Lathe Turning Plastic—Part 1." YouTube, uploaded by GeekJoan, September 26, 2007, https://youtu.be/C-BbH1C03Ko
Manning, Erin. Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Translated by Walter Kaufman. New York: Vintage Press, 1974.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense." In Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870s , edited and translated by Daniel Breazeale. San Jose, CA: Humanities Press, 1979.
"Principles of Stratigraphy and Cross-Cutting Relationships." YouTube, uploaded by Minderellla, March 3, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc3da3-znK4
Rickert, Thomas J. Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013.
Sawyer, Keith. Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration. New York: Perseus Books Group, 2007.
Schieber, Juergen. "IU Flume Movie V1 Part 1." YouTube, uploaded by shalemaster, December 22, 2007, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-rnObaFrvE
"A Simple Demonstration of Granular Phases." YouTube, uploaded by GranularChaos, February 6, 2010, https://youtu.be/ueCtAlHXxCU
"Type 4 Cooling System Rant." YouTube, uploaded by RagaMuffyn Garage, June 10, 2010, https://youtu.be/QywHMH7ljx4
The video suggests that the memory inside computers blends with our own. There is a permeable boundary between the physical inscription of the machine and the recollections of the past conjured by the scanned photograph of a long ago boating trip, the clip of the rebuilt engine coughing to life, the images, sounds, and words that move through our screens. This video creates temporal, meaningful loops by repurposing earlier projects and mixing them with nostalgic sounds and images. The stories are true and linked with items from the author's past: the outboard motor, the bicycle, the bit of the lathe—the stuff of memory.
These accumulated materials are brought into the video as granules in layers (settling and solidifying) and loops playing out in time. The music, for instance, is borrowed from the Waves video recorded some months earlier. The repurposed materials enact the "writerly" text associated with Roland Barthes, who suggests that meaning develops both sequentially within the text, where it "proliferates by layering," and through correlation with "other meanings outside the material text" (8). In Sediment, these intertextual correlations actualize as video artifacts settling into the performance. No doubt, this complicates the reading, which, for Barthes, is a good thing, since it "make[s] the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text" (4). Screen composing evokes productive experiences for readers as meaning multiplies and resists closure. This fits well with Barthes's model, since "forgetting meanings is not a matter for excuses, an unfortunate defect in the performance; it is an affirmative value" (11).
Sediment was created with a one-take performance, captured to create the visual layer. This take also includes the background sounds. After this capturing, the audio narration has been added. In the video, the entities emerge in flows and loops like the steady spinning of the plastic stock on the lathe. This emergence plays out as the performer adjusts the many windows on screen. These performances mark what Erin Manning (following Henri Bergson) casts from duration as "eventfulness," the experience of prehension where time passes past into future. The pieces of Sediment are "composed of strands of pastness recomposing and perishing through [the present]" (67). And though the materials are gathered from the past, the recomposing is about the copresent experience of bringing together the pieces through meaningful moments "where what we see is a composition of holes (intervals) and wholes (pure experience, duration) that together create a field of forces around which perception takes form" (85).
Manning links this form-taking to feeling via the interval, where/when "affect passes directly through the body, coupling with the nervous system " (95). For Manning, images (like those of Étienne-Jules Marey) reveal a "force of composition" through which "affective duration is felt" (95). For screen composers, this linking of feeling and intervals opens pathways for creating in registers that embody eventfulness. Manning points out the overflow of compositional resources in these modes that are "brimming over with microperceptions, with microexpressions never quite actualized" (95). Ultimately, "what is produced is sensation or feeling, affective tone" (95).
The sound of the lathe bit biting into the plastic stock creates looping that sustains the sonic and visual experience of the video. The meaning of the lathing is hard to pin down. The steady cutting sound evokes sensation. The spinning plastic stock offers duration and event. Here, to borrow from Manning, "the composition is not a translation: it is a transduction of movement into sensation through the prism of the image" (95). This transduction creates a new mode of seeing fit for the layered and moving windows where "what we perceive is the feeling of intensity. We feel intensity without seeing its actual form" (96). Intensity can't easily be measured but can be felt and critically deployed through video scholarship and screen composing.
The bit of the lathe makes by taking away layer after layer of plastic. A shape emerges, a canister, a lid; add a groove for an O-ring and you have a watertight container that can hold a timer. The sediment traps referred to in the video drop a layer of Teflon powder in a collection tube every thirty days using a timer sealed in a watertight container made by hand on a machine lathe in 1977. The layers mark moments that themselves became/become temporal loops folded slowly with the daily drifting of granules into the collection tube. The sealed device was patented for marking geologic time in the sediment of lakes: the intervalometer.