Common Code

W. Scott Howard’s SPINNAKERS (re: sails) present a book of shelves and object-words collected, organized idiosyncratically, and transmitted anxiously from beneath the suburban expansion of an endless war-on-terror. In this bunker one may find boxes of fabrics with which to clothe the body in algorithmic text/tiles rather than what at first appears to be streams of random data.

By listening through and across fields of newspeak and jello moulds organized in english and morse, the reader faces the poetics of making verse fall into place, and then out of place, through the sudden absence of language on each alternating page. This reminds us that all language is a form of code, that each code is a container, and that small containers hold complex notions, double meanings, and illegible nothingness all at the same time.

The morse code becomes thick with dead air, with clouds passing between retribution and understanding, countered by words that shrink and break and form ideophones—sound patterns that cult-mimic the dots and dashes or the flags and arrows of signification. The arrhythmic valleys and vantage points do create a sort of music though, or to take a phrase from the author, a “windup ode” requiring force and friction to hear what is hidden inside an aluminum tinker toy.

Moving through the text, pedaling across the google-asphalt, one may begin to see the dots and dashes not just as a coded version of the words situated above it, but as a prismatic device, unveiling the fact that the real cipher is in the words themselves, and in their fractured placement. Read this book two times, even three; read it backwards and upside down, connecting neuro-political jargon back to its many vocal manifestations.

Ryan Wade Ruehlen


This text originally appeared as the introduction to W. Scott Howard's SPINNAKERS

Shadowtrash Tape Group, experimental cassette label

Shadowtrash Tape Group, experimental cassette label

Ryan Wade Ruehlenis originally from Hays, Kansas. He has exhibited his work inter­nationally, esp. with Flinching Eye Collective (recipients of the 2014 Idea Fund Grant, a re­-granting program of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts). Ryan has worked as a gallery and independent curator, performer, organizer, sound designer, university lecturer, and currently co-­operates Shadowtrash Tape Group, an audio­ art cassette label in Boulder CO. Much of his work is collaborative and exists at the intersection of sound, media, and performance. He holds a BFA in studio arts from Fort Hays State University, an MFA in studio arts at the University of Colorado­ Boulder, and is currently a candidate for a PhD in Intermedia Art, Writing, and Performance at the University of Colorado, Boulder.