[ISEA97] Paper: Norie Neumark – Content and Discontent: An Alchemical Transformation


In its desire to be free from the form/content coupling, form ingested its content partner and re-presented it as information, information which ”just wants to be free.” And, while science and technology have been taken up with cultural critiques of their ”neutrality” and ”transparency“, information, gathering speed in the computer age, has managed to slip away. In this paper, I explore my discontent with information by asking what has happened to subjectivity in computer culture as we become ever hungrier for information. Although alchemy is not so much a theory as a practice of knowing and doing, I want to suggest that it offers insights and inspiration for this exploration. I will begin my alchemy of information with a moment of separation.


Take a deep breath, pass through the gate of separation, and face the anxiety of the will.  Separation…anxiety – this is the title of a sound work of mine which I would like to recall (and later play) here – Separation Anxiety: Not the Truth about Alchemy. While the title does have a certain obscurity, as with any alchemical text, it also condenses two aspects of alchemy I am particularly interested in. “Separation” is one of the 12 ”gates” or stages of an alchemical transformation. “Anxiety” refers to a cultural moment where truths are no longer comfortable and comforting. It is an anxiety crisis of ”will” and its morality. Alchemy presents an ideal mode of rethinking that dominant moral concept of ”will” as a basis for action because alchemy is about suspension of will and allowing things to manifest (Marshall,S.A.).

  • Norie Neumark, Australia, is a sound/radio artist, who also works with multimedia and installation. Her recent sound pieces have been commissioned and broadcast by the Listening Room, ABC Classic FM, and include Into the Interface (1994), Shock (1995), and Separation Anxiety: not the truth about alchemy (1996). All three were rebroadcast in the U.S. by New American Radio and the Performing Arts. Her current work for multimedia grew out of Shock, and was funded as an installation by the New Media Arts Fund of the Australia Council and as a stand-alone CDROM (prototype) by the AFC. Shock in the Ear was installed at Artspace in Sydney in April-May, I997. The AFC is currently funding the comple­tion of the stand-alone CDROM. The CDROM has been exhibited at techne, Perth Festival,1997; Matinaze,1997; transmedia (Berlin) I997 and has been invited to Altered States, Interact, Melbourne. Norie Neumark also works as a lecturer in Sound and Cultural Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has given papers about sound and multimedia at Sound Culture 96, and at ISEAs. Her pub­lished works include articles in Essays in Sound 2, Leonardo, and Media Information Australia. She received a PhD. in his­tory/politics from the University of Sydney in 1976.

Full text p.42-45