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Category Archives: 3. Exactitude

This category is for Calvino’s Memo of Exactitude.

Calvino defines Exactitude as accomplishing three things:

1. a well-defined and calculated plan for the work
2. evocation of clear, incisive, memorable images
3. a language as precise as possible in choice of words and expression of subtleties

My understanding of what Calvino meant was creating images through words that when combined, form a much bigger and more coherent picture. An analogy that he used to describe this phenomenon was the description of the cityscape in his work, Invisible Cities, and how each part of it was described in fine detail, but when combined they formed a general (but exact) description of the city itself.

One analogy that defines Exactitude in my mind is the concept of the expanding universe. Similar to Calvino’s city in Invisible Cities, the universe is theorized to be expanding, not only in mass, but progressing on every planet. Every planet or piece of mass, every molecule in the universe is expanding in the same way that Calvino describes his city. When we zoom in or focus on any area of space, we will undoubtedly see a scene that is ever changing, being built upon; these small details are being added together to form the wider picture of the universe.

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When we zoom out, we see a much larger picture of the universe, one where change is not as noticeable over time as it is on the smaller level. This is a symbol of the vagueness that Calvino spoke of — the composition of many pieces of detail that create a vagueness in the bigger picture.

I think an emblem that most succinctly describes Exactitude would be a photo-mosaic image. Photo mosaics crop together hundreds of tiny images to create one larger image in a well-organized collage.

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This image is a composite of many smaller images, which symbolizes the way Calvino describes using many smaller fine details to create one large picture. Another aspect of Exactitude is that these descriptions could go on indefinitely, mapping out everything in words. The photo mosaic can be done the same way; if someone wished, they could expand the image using smaller images into infinity as well (provided they had the resources). In this fashion, the infinite image would be compromised of many smaller finite images.

“Code Movie 1” by Giselle Beiguelman is a good example of Exactitude. Not only does the code itself imply a high degree of precision, the content of the piece does as well. Looking at each individual digit of code won’treveal much, but watching the movie from a bigger perspective shows many fluctuating images. I think the intent of the piece was to show that even though code is translated into images such as .jpg’s or .gif’s, code can also be physically manipulated into the shape of images.

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On the smallest scale, these works of E-Lit are composed of pixels, and these pixels combine to form smaller images, and these smaller images combine to form even larger images; or in the case of my emblem for Exactitude, mosaics. I believe it is this concept of combining many small, precise details into a larger form that constitutes Calvino’s notion of Exactitude.

“Code Movie 1” can be found here.

I think the best concept from Hayles’ text to apply to “Code Movie 1” is her notion of generative art. While Beiguelman’s piece is animated, when it was being created it was probably generated art based on an image comprised of nothing but computer code. Hayles calls generative art “the technique of using algorithms to scramble and rearrange letters [to create art].” Beiguelman took this concept and turned it into a repeatable animation, probably one she particularly liked.

Beiguelman probably used generative algorithms to maneuver her image through an animative process, something that would look trippy and visually stimulating, and then added some fast-paced music to go with it. What the reader doesn’t see is the code behind the code, which Hayles argues is just as important as what’s on screen.

(Continue on to Memo 4. Visibility.)