Ringing the Changes and Liberty Ring!

Stephanie Strickland and Ian Hatcher

Bells celebrate or warn. A new use, originally for sport, arose among ordinary folk in 17th-century England. They began to ring church tower bells in highly structured mathematical sequences, specifically all 5040 patterns possible using seven bells. To do this they needed to memorize 5040 seven-digit patterns, each called a “row” or “change.”

Ringing the Changes (Counterpath, 2020) and its interactive companion Liberty Ring! are created from shareable code based on this ancient art. Bells ring out! But words echo on—texts sampled from writers who probe the changes, needed or existing, in our entangled virtual/real worlds. Online texts explore challenges to liberty, including climate change.

Each print bell features 23 texts, randomly, none reappearing till all 23 are sounded. A different set of 11 texts—sourced from Mbembe, Douglass, Truth, and Framers of the U.S. Constitution among others—populate Liberty Ring!, each peal reader-rung or set to advance on its own. (The mathematics is explained here or here.)

Print sequences and tower peals both create a line of sound. Liberty Ring! texts materialize in a bell-ringers’ circle. Either way, seven threads of thought weave new contexts for each other, in a ring or in a line, in provocative conversation.

About the Artist

Stephanie Strickland’s most recent books of poetry are How the Universe Is Made: Poems New & Selected (2019) and Ringing the Changes (2020), a code-generated project for print based on the ancient art of tower bell-ringing. Other books include Dragon Logic, True North, and The Red Virgin: A Poem of Simone Weil. She has published 12 collaborative digital poems.

Ian Hatcher is a text/sound/code/performance artist based in NYC. His output includes a poetry collection, Prosthesis, numerous mixed media projects, and performances presented across North America and Europe. Selected as a 2020 Fulbright Scholar to Norway, he will (as pandemic permits) teach at the University of Bergen in 2020-21.