So, it’s been a couple months, but it looks like I’m still thinking about Pattern Recognition, or at least, Ferguson’s article got me thinking about it again.
In the book, Cayce’s journey revolves around the origins and meaning of the mysterious footage. The portions of the footage that Gibson describes are short, but evocative. Segment #135 for example, only shows a kiss between two ambiguously dressed individuals, and yet, from Cayce’s reaction, it’s clear that the clip is something significant; she literally shivers when she first sees it, partially because of its importance to her personally, but also because of its own inherent beauty (pg. 23). When Cayce finally meets Nora and sees her at work, she is brought to tears and describes the experience as like seeing “the headwaters of the digital Nile” (pg. 305).
That’s a pretty dramatic way of putting it, but I kind of understood what she meant when I saw Kevin L. Ferguson visual “sums” of Disney movies. Even though they were just blurry composites of color and light, there was something really beautiful about them. Treasure Planet’s sum was my personal favorite, and I agreed with Ferguson when he called it an accurate representation of the movie’s “dazzling, dense, and vibrant” animation. Seeing the way that Ferguson broke down a film into some of its essential components felt, in some ways, like seeing the headwaters of the animated Nile. Disney’s artistry originates in the colors, shapes, and patterns that Ferguson’s images portray.
In Pattern Recognition, Nora’s damaged but brilliant brain serves as a substitute for Ferguson’s software, breaking down found footage into its essential parts to create something beautiful. When Cayce first enters Nora’s workspace, she observes Nora working on a single frame featuring the two characters from the footage. Even that one frame is meaningful, partially because of Cayce’s connection to the footage, but also because of the frame’s inherent characteristics. Similarly, Ferguson’s sums are meaningful because they represent a broader work, but they also are beautiful on their own. I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand how the footage in Pattern Recognition gained a cult following, but Ferguson’s images helped me to see that even small pieces of digital media can be significant, whether they’re mysterious footage, or summed frame z-projections.