Art work that incorporates these techniques is growing rapidly (but is still
prey to the old statistical reality that poetry is about 2% of the the textbook
market which is 2% of the magazine market etc....). Because this work is
often unlinked, scattered and invisible to some search engines, I will provide
the following quick list of related sites. A strong mainstream example can
be found at http://www.poemsthatgo.com
edited by Ingrid Ankerson & Megan Sapnar, two online dynamic-text poets
dealing with quotidian themes ranging from the domestic (doing the dishes)
to the romantic (cruising a small town street as a teenager). Their site
is a gallery of diverse international dynamic-text work updated quarterly
with an emphasis on slow textural and spoken-word-based files . A visual
feast of subtle and gently ironic essay-style pieces can be found at www.artandculture.com/ACStatic/IMMERSE/index.html.
Robert Brochuıs small inspired experimental site is at http://www.robert.brochu.com/#
Also engaging is the polemical spoken-word-based incantation of "Schism"
by WangZen (http://www.wangzen.com/TAO/runner.html).
From the subtle-flicker video designed by net-celebrity Hillman Curtis to
accompany the poem "Sky" by Christina Manning (http://www.bornmagazine.com/projects/sky/)
to the primary-school class who sing a ritournelle with a simple animation
the range of styles utilizing this software is already reflective of a living
Within Quebec, there is a growing field of venues and work for digital art. www.mobilegaze.com - a Montreal-based site founded in August 1999 by Brad Todd, Valerie Lamontagne and Andrew Brouse - is currently curating a net-art show for December 2001. La Chambre Blanche in Quebec City offers residencies to artists interested in production of art for the web. The current issue of the online-magazine Chair et Metal published by poet/professor Ollivier Dyens is online at www.chairetmetal.com featuring work by myself and Yannick B. Gelinas who "a publie a l'automne 2000 un recueil de poesie, < Mordre >, en duo avec un cederom de poesie interactive : < Parenthese >. Ce type particulier de poesie interactive publie avec un livre de poesie-papier est une premiere au Quebec dans le domaine de la litterature" (from her bio). Extracts of Gelinas work (online at chairetmetal.com) utilise a bilingual text and soundtrack and graphics which subvert the notion of viewer control. An image of a body partially (but never completely) revealed by mouse roll-overs, its materiality is dissected into blocks which make it seem unreal; while the words, rooted in bodily experience, speak of an ambiguous anguish arising from passion. Paradoxically, emotion, immaterial in its essence, is made tangible through a skillfull utilisation of digital tools.
In the canonical Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan succinctly traced the origin of the novel to Gutenbergıs invention of the printing press. Five hundred years later we live surrounded and inundated by the legacy of Gutenbergıs technical innovation: an avalanche of novels, magazines, textbooks, pamphlets, and brochures. An obvious contemporary re-application of McLuhanıs idea suggests that due to the technological innovations arising from binary-data, a new (and unpredictable) literary form will inevitably arise to redefine our relation to language. By expanding the capabilities and potential trajectories of language, the silicon chip (in conjunction with text-manipulation software whose potency is synergistically increasing each year) is provoking a paradigmatic leap in cultural praxis. The materiality of the paper-book is slowly being subsumed by the apparently immaterial digital-screen. As with any transition, the new communicative technology is both embraced and rejected. Some oral poets in the middle ages, probably found the new printed-press books to be less solid and less important than the vast generous orations of old. Yet oral history has faded in importance, and mainstream culture continues to follow the path of least resistance; every technological innovation has a lifespan. Major changes in communicative technology provoke a turbulent expansion of conceptual paradigms: what was considered impossible, inconsequential and immaterial, is ingested and reincorporated within the contemporary collective body of culture.
Since there are statistics which suggest the rate of technological change is accelerating rapidly, it seems inevitable that our definitions of materiality will expand equally rapidly; humans will increasingly collectively colonize regions currently known as ³immaterial². As Ray Kurzweil speculates in The Age of Spiritual Machines2, if the intelligence of computers continues to grow at the current exponential rate, they will soon equal and exceed the strength of human brains. Our current notions of material reality are delimited and defined by our biological sensory parameters. We see vibrations of light within a specific visible spectrum; we hear waveforms within a small bandwidth; we use touch to navigate through a macroscopic world generated by enormous emptiness and intangible energies. At the same time, ineffable ideas arise from nowhere and have a great impact on our lives. As the next generations of computers are more-effectively synthesized with the human nervous system, the human range of normally-perceptible sensory-reality will expand. Maybe we will be capable of digitally representing the unlimited boundaries of fluctuating and interacting meanings in an interactive cluster of words. Maybe these nebulous clouds will become as common as the newspaper; poets will release poems that drift like fog along the sidewalks. Think of how swiftly we have become conditioned to the invisible permeation of the air with hundreds of tv channels. Imagine what will happen when we become capable of receiving those channels directly through neural shunts. It is a field of study already being researched by renowned performance artist Stelarc.
The focus of a great deal of the net-art emerging now is conceptually related to issues of technological transparency, provoking quick elusive leaps of logic in the viewer as they are reintroduced to the "actuality," the tight byte by byte reality of the code and the enormous supportive infrastructure that underlies these seemingly ephemeral creations. An example of this is the enigmatic I/O/D at http://bak.spc.org/iod/IOD1.html, an alternative art-browser application which in the words of one of its programmers is to provoke awareness of ³actual, rather than virtual, reconfigurations of ways of seeing, knowing and doing.² Or net-celebrity Mark Napierıs Feed (progeny of the infamous Shredder) at the current SFMoMA online show http://010101.sfmoma.org/ which rips apart URLs and spits out colourful data; a cybernetic descendant of Kurt Schwitters.
These are essentially works which challenge all notions of immateriality associated with net-art. They posit an object-oriented attitude3, one which negates the conventional transparency of function to reveal the entrails of the mechanistic source. At the same time, they are paradoxically demonstrating how completely and radically the interpretive capabilities of computer-code can entropically mutate images of our own vulnerable and brief existences existences increasingly drenched in the semaphores of new media. ³Jet-Set Download² by Brief Belief Studios, (a work featured on http://www.resfest.com) is a complex minimalist knit of text, icons and video highlighting antiseptic environments, techno-sexuality and economic crashs; basically our recognition that the idealism of technology that arose in the 1950's and 1960's has not resulted in any apparent eradication of inequity, injustice or human cruelty. We are just equipped with more sophisticated tools to document our reptilean nature.
Half of the code is zeros. Half of the code is ones. The ancient ontological dynamic between emptiness and unity takes root in binary soil. And between the epistemology of absolutes, exists the fluctuating normal realm of life itself: matter seeking meaning and making matter while being mostly made from vast voids where electrons swirl. Cybernetic artistic practise must still struggle with notions of corporality. The Head & Body tags in HTML nest side by side with the Meta. The flying words that touch each other briefly on a computer screen, composed and arising from an incredibly vast collective network of intelligence and technology, are only an ephemeral output of pixelated light sculpted by a human pysche; their precense both a testament to our identity as objects and the immateriality of everything.
David 'Jhave' Johnston - 7.01
********** 1. The NomadLingo exhibit conclusion can be found at http://www.year01.com/nomadlingo/conclusion/loader.html (As with many of the works referred to in this article it requires the Flash 5 plug-in)
2. Ray Kurzweil was the principal developer of the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large vocabulary speech recognition. http://www.kurzweiltech.com. He has also developed a computer program which writes poetry in styles that it learns http://poet.kurzweilcyberart.com/poetry/rkcp_overview.php3
3. Programming utilizes object-orientedı languages, where objectsı are often modulating arrays or matrixes of data which generate a macroscopic experience.
YEAR01 FORUM INDEX
Catherine Ikam/Louis Fleri
TOGETHER WHAT REMAINS: Chris Green
POEMS THAT GO