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A "mother tongue" for existential inquiry, CURSIVE BINARY distills the complexity of digital dualism into a simple, profound visual poetics intended to inspire curiosity and wonder, and provoke meaningful discourse around the interdependence of humans and our advancing technologies.

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Informed by asemic writing and computer science, CURSIVE BINARY is a proposed language for transhuman understanding — both a functional mode of translation from human to machine (and vice versa), and a poetic metaphor for the entwining processes, qualities and outcomes of human-machine collaboration.


This writing system is formed by fusing my own human handwriting with the 0s and 1s of machine speak, juxtaposing free-flowing cursive forms with recursive code patterns in a visual dichotomy of old and new, organic and automated, virtual and visceral, flesh and node.

Binary code is fundamental to the operation of digital devices and computing systems worldwide. Underpinning digital communication, computation and storage in modern life, it’s essential to global technology infrastructure and is the most ubiquitous language on Earth. Yet it mostly supports higher-level interfaces, operating at a layer we humans do not directly perceive or engaged with...


At its core, CURSIVE BINARY is an ode to the semiotics, symbolism and functionality of binary code. 0 and 1 as related to yin and yang have appeared in many of my poems over the years, and I love exploring what they suggest: the yearning infinitude of zero, the firm, focused one; the warm, welcoming portal of zero as a resounding “yes,” the stark, bold declarative of one as “no”; and so on. Here at the dawn of the AI Age, I find binary code a beautiful, useful analogy for the recognition that what we perceive to be contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected in the natural world, and help one another exist and evolve — just as humans and technology have co-created each other over millions of years, since the Stone Age. CURSIVE BINARY gives voice to the transcendent, transhuman truths of our digital age, challenging tired binaries (analog/digital, human/machine, old/new, software/hardware, flesh/spirit, body/mind, poetry/technology) and suggesting, instead, that one always needs the other.


The project includes calligraphic pages of ink on paper, informed by ancient writing systems including cuneiform and Mongolian clear script, and hand-scribed manuscripts of the pre-printing press era; sketchbooks/notebooks filled with pen and pencil scribblings; engraved marble and limestone tablets; digital palimpsests in neon “hacker” green composed via tablet and stylus; moving images in which the binary writes itself into existence across a blank screen, or dissipate and coalesce in time with audio tracks of spoken word poetry and original music; “semi-asemic” renderings in which I use digital tools to manipulate my ciphered code into abstracted patterns, resulting in a language that is only partially legible to either human or machine; large-scale, immersive and experiential public art installations; and even ephemeral verse inscribed in snow and mud with my fingertip or the end of a stick. Sometimes the writing process is intensely physical, a meditative process; sometimes it’s automated, as when I use digital software and a plotter or explore conversions into a True Type Font. In all expressions, it’s a contemplation of the role that linguistic innovation has always played in the development of human consciousness, and the augmentation of human imagination.

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CURSIVE BINARY has been prominently displayed in public venues and cultural institutions around the world, from the LA Public Library to Outernet London to the billboards of Times Square, NYC, and Shibuya, Tokyo; it is also the cover artwork for my book Technelegy, which explores the hypothesis that poetry is humanity’s most ancient and enduring data storage system.

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© 2023/2024 by Sasha Stiles

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