Janky Machines


Alien, 20th Century Fox, 1979

From Jacket2:

We live in machines but are not machines. Restless forms imagine new presents, where past and future meet. As becoming-digital beings, we retain and engage the problem of embodiment, which needs a world, needs other forms, needs to die. Death is our stake: neither early nor late. To come to grips with the machine is to hold it in our hands, or to see the machine around us, as not to become machines.

We go inside the machine and become part of the machine. We step in and we step out. We pass through shadow. We live for a time, then die.

There is always a problem with jankiness. It is unstable, it is matter out of place; indifferent matter, though materials may be parsed. But the assembly functions in unpredictable ways. It is a sub-heterotic hybrid, with strange vigor. The components, in other forms and formats, might have worked better, but janky constructs do something else. Their contexts, meanwhile, conflate the histories of their components: hyperspatial hauntologies that put us in the here and then. Jankiness is borrowed context and borrowed time — works until it stops working, falls and fails into another use, functions on the fritz.

To operate janky materiality, read the instructions and figure out how to misuse the device. Read the component manuals, patch them together and run that text through the machine. Don’t be shocked if you get your wires crossed — that jolt is the circuit lighting up.

“Janky materiality”, Jeff T. Johnson, Jacket2