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Alan Sondheim
Date and place of birth
b. 1943, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Current location
Providence, RI
Year(s) of residency and/or fellowship
2011, Project Resident

Alan Sondheim is a poet, critic, musician, artist, and theorist of cyberspace that works in the interstices between the real and the virtual; he has published, played, and performed internationally.

Sondheim’s books include the anthology Being on Line: Net Subjectivity (1997), Disorders of the Real (1988), .echo (2001), Vel (Blazevox, 2004-5), Sophia (Writers Forum, 2004), The Wayward (2004), and “Writing Under” (2012).

Sondheim has long been associated with the trAce online writing community, and was their second virtual-writer-in-residence. His video and filmwork have been widely shown. Sondheim was an Eyebeam resident in 2011.

In 1996 he was keynote speaker for the Cybermind96 Conference in Perth Western Australia – one of the world’s first conferences specifically organised around an email discussion list. In 2012 he was a presenter and active participant at the CyPosium, a one-day online symposium on cyberformance.

Sondheim is the developer of the concept of codework, wherein computer code itself becomes a medium for artistic expression.

His poetico-philosophical writings deal with the notion of embodiment and presence in cyberspace, loosely based on the work of postmodern philosophers Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida. He explores notions of the ‘abject’ in the masculine and feminine online, and more recently has dealt with the machinic using the language of computer code to articulate novel forms of identity in cyberspace. His work crosses over between philosophical explorations and sound poetry and more recently he has returned to the language of music using the tonalities of a wide range of ethnic instruments.

In 2013, Alan spoke at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival on glitch aesthetics and techniques.

In April 2022, his book, Broken Theory was published on the Punctum Books imprint. A collection of writing fragments and ideas, the book is a complex flow of ideas, experiments, and personal reflections that reflect his interests in the somatics of theory, philosophy, and art – how the body is necessary for such cultural production. Broken Theory’s preface is written by Maria Damon, and the volume contains a lengthy interview with Sondheim conducted by the art historian Ryan Whyte.



Sexatar Woundatar Deadatar (2011)

Working with the philosophy and technology, hardware, wetware, and software, of avatar and human-organic distress and their interrelationships. As an example, the Buddhist four noble truths/processes appear in Second Life – where pain physically cannot occur, but neither can its cessation; where the Way may be stated or inscribed, but where the Way cannot be grasped or ungrasped:

This example is through speech transformed into text; usual texture-mapping, more difficult and discomforting examples may be created. He works all of this through choreography, live performance, and issues of mimesis. Sondheim is most interested in the slowing progress/development of the virtual – slowed up and obdurate, abject and messy, troublesome – and thinking through the politics of this, such a collapse and such an opportunity.

Eyebeam models a new approach to artist-led creation for the public good; we are a non-profit that provides significant professional support and money to exceptional artists for the realization of important ideas that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Nobody else is doing this.

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