[spectre] Autopoeisis: novelty, meaning and value

Simon Biggs simon at littlepig.org.uk
Wed Sep 14 18:01:56 CEST 2005

Sorry for cross-postings

An email to draw attention to a new book.

Autopoeisis: novelty, meaning and value
By Simon Biggs and James Leach

'Autopoeisis: novelty, meaning and value' addresses the value of novelty in
contemporary culture and is co-authored from the point of view of two
disciplines - fine art and anthropology. Sections of the text have been
authored jointly whilst other sections have been authored individually.
However, there has been a constant process of question and answer and
further joint revision, including regular instances where one author
corrects or annotates the text of the other. The result is a format where
texts weave around each other thematically, sometimes in sympathy, sometimes
in contrast.
Complementing the authored texts there are three other components. The
first, which initially might appear indistinct from the main textual body,
is an auto-generated text. This is a text written not by one of the authors,
nor by any other author, but by a machine - a computer programmed to take a
previous text by James Leach and to use it as a dictionary for the
auto-generation of a new text. The principle objective here is not to try
and find or create new meaning out of Leach's original text but rather to
explore, by example, the value of novelty when applied to such an extreme
that all that determines the nature of a particular text is that it is
different and unique, any sense of authorial intent having been removed.
Each of the authors has also contributed visual material related to their
primary practices. Leach has included a series of photographs taken in the
field when undertaking research in Papua New Guinea. A number of these
photographs accompanied the earlier text which Biggs has used as source
material for the auto-generated text and which Leach discusses here in
detail in order to reflect upon his own practice as an anthropologist.
Biggs has included a series of quad-tone lithographic images produced via
automatic methods (computer generated) from an earlier project Great Wall of
China. These images are derived from documentary photographs of various
architectural styles from a range of different cultures and historical
periods, organised by applying typographic rules to the composition of the

Born in Australia, 1957, Simon Biggs moved to the UK in 1986.A visual and
inter-disciplinary artist, he places the computer and interactive systems at
the centre of a practice addressing issues around identity and reality as
social constructs. He is Research Professor in Digital Art at Sheffield
Hallam University and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of

James Leach is Research Fellow at King¹s College, Department of Social
Anthropology, University of Cambridge. He has undertaken long-term field
research on the Rai Coast in Papua New Guinea. Recent work has focused on
ownership, including intellectual and cultural property in Papua New Guinea,
and knowledge production more widely. He is currently engaged in comparative
research on creativity and ownership in inter-disciplinary collaborations in
the UK. 

Autopoeisis: novelty, meaning and value
Published 2004 by
Artwords Press
65a Rivington St
ISBN 0-9543908-4-9

Available in select bookshops and via Amazon.

Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk

Professor, Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

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