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Claire Evans on Theodor Holm Nelson

‘Nelson is wilful and demanding, forever frustrated by the gap between expression and vision, as are all great artists’

  • Part of frieze magazine’s 200th issue. Read more from the landmark issue here 

For somebody who hates to write and has spent a lifetime contriving ways to do it differently, Ted Nelson is a magnificent writer. As a neologist, only Buckminster Fuller comes close; Nelson gives us words like ‘fantics’, ‘intertwingled’, ‘wholiness’, ‘thinkertoys’. He is wilful and demanding, forever frustrated by the gap between expression and vision, as are all great artists. He is both the dream-seed and the antithesis of Silicon Valley hacker culture: a computer pioneer who, after a lifetime of enormously focused work, has produced an almost sacred amount of nothing. For someone who has been so famously characterized as a crank, a crackpot, a Svengali of vapourware, from his earliest writings he has never been wrong: the enemy is still ‘Central Processing’, held by a priesthood of inflexible computer people; we still live in media as fish in water; and we still deserve systems worthy of the complexity of human thought, systems which inhibit narcissism and enable the creation of a greater human corpus, indivisible, ‘intertwingled’ with the visible connections that form the nervous system of a larger cultural legacy. The technocapitalists made quick work of marginalizing such thought, of excising the visionary questions from the design of our global telecommunications infrastructure, and we are left with little to dream about that is not reactionary drivel. 

Main Image: Ted Nelson T-Shirt, Courtesy: Claire Evans

  • Part of frieze magazine’s 200th issue. Read more from the landmark issue here 

Claire Evans is a writer, artist and musician based in Los Angeles, USA. Her book Broad Band (2018) was published by Penguin Random House.

Issue 200

First published in Issue 200

January - February 2019
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