in Marginalia

This, oh this…!

I came upon this via Twitter this morning: Sam Lavigne wrote a program that will turn any text into a patent application. Of course, that’s just delightful in itself, especially with the sample output he supplies: Kafka’s The Hunger Artist becomes “An apparatus and device for staring into vacancy”, and from the illustration idex to the Communist Manifesto (“A method and device for comprehending theoretically the historical movement”, PDF) we learn that

Figure 52 schematically illustrates the icy water of egotistical calculation.

Great, right? Being a big fan of machine-appropriated nonsense, this tickled my fancy enormously, but Lavigne’s inspiration for the program was just as exciting to me:

I was partially inspired by Paul Scheerbart’sPerpetual Motion Machine, a sort of technical/literary diary in which Scheerbart documents and reflects on various failed attempts to create a perpetual motion machine. Scheerbart frequently refers to his machines as “stories” – I wanted to reverse the concept and transform stories into machines.

Machines as stories, really? See, that’s another thing that alwaqys makes my mouth water, cross media metaphors 🙂 Lavigne also provides this illustration from Scheerbart’s book which — apart from the obvious similarity to Mickey Mouse, there — immediately made me think of comics:

fig-21True, I think of comics pretty much all the time, so no surprise there. For instance, I’ve been evangelising about IKEA manuals as a form of pure, pantomime comics. However, Scheerbart’s approach adds a layer of complexity (cause and effect, directional motion) which 1) adds to the narrative potential of diagrammatic comics, and 2) is very tongue in cheek for his part, because he’s really having us on with the whole construction bit. Perpetual motion is, of course in violations of the laws of thermodynamics, and Scheerbart is merely using the form of technical schematics to his own, philosophically meandering ends.

I can’t claim to have a very technical mind, myself, but this caught my interest enough to look further into the visual techniques of diagrams, and hopefully work some of it into my own, idle comics experiments. Oh, and Das Perpetuum Mobile is available as online text, although only in German as far as I can see.