a trembling line

a trembling line |
marina kassianidou & mira dayal

a trembling line takes the form of a series of linked pages of visual materials that ask for a viewer’s heightened attention to the margin, the liminal, and the off-screen in order to progress through the ensuing pages. somewhere between an adventure and an examination, the project invites the computer user into formal and conceptual play with what it means to perceive, read, and access.

dayal’s and kassianidou’s practices converge in a trembling line — a quiver, a hair, a crack, a speck of dust, a friction ridge — whose movement is barely perceptible. slight as it may be, this line has might: it recalibrates our vision. squint, get closer, wipe the screen. what kind of labor does subtlety engender? when is nuance valuable in, and valued by, society?

to be able to discern subtlety may be nothing less than to prove one’s humanity. this statement is neither existential nor optimistic: consider the reCAPTCHA test, in which one was formerly required to transcribe words indiscernible to machines in order to distinguish oneself from software, malware, or the unaccompanied computer (and to assist Google Books in digitizing publications). machines have vastly improved their reading abilities, so the latest versions of reCAPTCHA tests instead rely on contextual information about a user’s behavior — now, the program discerns nuance in the user rather than the user discerning nuance for the machine.

the ability to discern nuance, arguably an important political skill, is also a fraught metric of humanity, relying on a set of assumptions about the user’s vision, tongue, and abilities. to recalibrate is to reset and rectify a tool, to “measure against a standard” anew. take that against: we could measure in comparison with a standard, or we could measure in a way that opposes a standard.

the line quivers and shakes, refuses to flatten out. it is one, but it is made up of many. zoom in, look longer, enlarge the imperfections, and unfurl a map of alternate, forking and circuitous paths.