Episode 8: Tao Lin’s Mandalas, Repetition Compulsion, and Hofstadter’s Labyrinth
Today we discuss Tao Lin’s recently publicized mandala art as an extension of his literary practice. Known for its simple language, circularity, and psychedelic aloofness – biting yet airy, kaleidoscopic yet concise, concrete yet polymorphic, polarizing yet irresistible – Lin's prose and poetry embody, to some, the fullest and most elegant form of human expression, infinite yet featherlight, redolent of a master’s koan.
In a 2016 interview with artist Dorothy Howard, the author paraphrases Jung, calling mandalas “psychological expressions of the totality of the self.”
As texts and images created by computer-controlled “neural nets” proliferate, Lin’s visual art and writing stand uniquely positioned to interrogate the role of human cognition in generating meaningful and aesthetically resonant patterns. What forces inform the unique character of Lin’s work – are they something personal and uniquely human, or a bio-agnostic expression of reality’s latent structures, a universal compulsion to repeat certain forms in a certain sequence?
To confront this issue, we have trained a neural net to "meow" in a sequence corresponding to Tao Lin’s 8x8 = 64 method of mandala generation, converting the 8th sentence of every 8 paragraphs of Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas R. Hofstadter’s seminal work on the primacy of human consciousness, to a correspondingly inflected and contextualized MEOW. The result is a provocative meditation on Tao Lin’s work, the ontology of thought, and the sanctity of human reason.
MEOW is the first and only literary podcast for your cat, conceived and presented in its native language.
This podcast is sustained by sales of our debut book, Meow: A Novel (For Cats).
To view and purchase prints of Tao Lin's Mandalas, click here.