onwhatis. 2015

Artware re-writing Parmenides fragments in real time.

Engine: Colin Gay.

UX: Michelle Gay.

Notes on the work:

Parmenides lived in 400 BC and was one of the first western philosophers to grapple with questions about the nature of being and reality. One of his central ideas is that thought and being are the same, which creates the reality we know. Only 150 lines of his text remain. Citations, translations, dialogue, and debates spurred by his concepts started during Parmenides’ lifetime, with a lineage that can be traced back to the Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers. Many of these discussions were not written but shared orally. It was the philosopher Simplicius who quoted a number of Parmenides lines and his recording became the documentation of reference. A great number of translations have been produced ever since and no singular version is considered as definitive, each attempting to clarify the previous, accumulating analyses and possibly altering ideas in a centuries-long ‘conversation’.  onwhatis continues this game of broken telephone using three translations (Coxon, Burnett and Gallop) and submitting the text to further alterations, this time by computer software producing new permutations in real time.

Word replacements may range from poetic to ridiculous, subtly shifting meanings in an absurd exercise that seemingly enables the machine to think about being and reality. Unpublished and ephemeral, the resulting endless versions evoke another mode of transmission, reminiscent of the oral tradition.

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