Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 8#4 Paul Groot 1 Jan 1996

Gasperini, Rice Dixon, Morrow


ScruTiny in the Great Round -

ScruTiny, the CD-ROM, is a perfect expression of the extremes you experience when you are doomed to live under the sign of Saturn. Here you can bodily experience the depro-mentality with which you are damned as a child of this planet: in the expression of a nostalgia which I have never actually experienced so literally, or perhaps only with Baudelaire – sublimated in his interpretation of Spleen. Heavy Gothic melancholy contained in a yearning for Baroque decay. What this kind of experience does to your soul is in fact unbearable. Unless it is transposed, which fortunately happens in ScruTiny, to the soothing spheres of higher aspiration. And yes, here we encounter the evidence of melancholics driven by the ultimate longing for art. The old dream of the amateur alchemist who, not entirely unwillingly, moreover denounces the kitsch of the industrial aesthetics of the CD-ROM.

It is the alchemical tragedy of procreation, with much chlorophyl and blood and all manner of masculine and feminine interchanges. Inspired not only by Blake and the Bhagavad-Gita, but also by biological images and of course, above all, by the alchemical handbooks and surveys. ScruTiny has an interface modelled on instructions from alchemical literature; in peculiar images which are mostly intended to create a suggestion of the black light, but which moreover, in a vague erotic atmosphere, let mercury and metal do their work. A 'Chemical Marriage' in which the compelling desktop metaphor of documents, files and directories is replaced by retorts and containers full of experimental liquid. The mainstream Unix and Windows interfaces are gradually exposed as seemingly scholastic instruments aimed at the results of a compelling, simple, logic. Here you smell the scent of the alchemist's laboratory, with its bottles full of secret brews and its attention to astrological combinations and cosmological structures. ScruTiny recognises the Gnosis as a practical religion and is blissfully ignorant of any techno-gnosis. Chemical and physical representations have entered into an alliance with Torah and Talmud, but there is no place here for modern imagination. Thanks also to the intimacy of the CD-ROM, this adds to the experience of all those images, texts and sounds, a form of privacy which strikes a poetic, or rather even a priestly, note. You are actually witnessing a highly religious ritual, in a rudimentary form. This is the celebration of the Black Mass, in subdued colours and a brooding, overheated atmosphere. The macrocosm and the microcosm, macro- and microscopic details, everything here is governed by the movements of the planets; with as a result a rising Weltschmerz caused by the alternating phases of the sun and moon, the dark tones and flaming, scorchingly lit up details.

The cursor is your only weapon here. You gradually metamorphose into the various phases of the sun or moon, or you become one with a baroque bird which takes you ever deeper into this Great Work. The various positions of these celestial bodies stage a conspiracy which offers no postmodern sophistication, but rather leads the way into a past where the essential and highly subversive images from alchemy still had meaning.

In fact, ScruTiny is nothing less than an electronic book, made by Jim Gasperini, Tennessee Rice Dixon and Charlie Morrow and based on an original book of poetry by Dixon (published in 1993 by Granary Books, NYC, in a special edition of 22 handmade copies). An instruction manual on alchemy, whose pages simply come alive: exactly what a genuine electronic book should be. Particularly moving is the suggestion that these are various palimpsests and facsimiles with pictures drawn and coloured in real-time. And the morphs, which show that this is the work of contemporary heretical monks indulging in electronic image distortions, have a mediaeval beauty.

Translation Olivier & Wylie.