Next Tuesday, the Electronic Literature Organization will be launching the Electronic Literature Collection, volume 2 at The Kitchen.
512 West 19th Street /New York, NY 10011 / (212) 255-5793
ELC/2 includes 63 works in 6 languages from 16 countries. An astounding variety of forms and genres are included: text movies, interactive fiction, poem generators, codework, animations, Second Life excursions, chatbot drama, augmented reality, and games—to name a few. There are works of poetry, narrative, documentary critique, drama and creative non-fiction for screen, gallery, and virtual environment. The Keyword glossary inside each Collection provides definitions of new forms and software, and each of the works is introduced briefly both by the editors and by the authors.
Below are some screen shots and descriptions of the works that will be presented at the reading.
The Mandrake Vehicles challenges our notions of the normal economy of a poetic text by providing numerous different readings of the same set of letters, in the process concretely moving the graphemical (if not psychological) “subtext” of a poem to the foreground in clever, surprising ways. Transitional animations, in which letters fall, expand and disappear, transport the reader between texts like through a time (or other) sort of warp, a pictorial revelry that brings this seemingly stable, stylistically intricate text to the frontier of linguistic meaninglessness and back.
Johnston brings his exquisite, idiosyncratic—and by turns seductive and strange—visual sensibility into this suite of love poems, which are literally pulled forth from the video image by user interaction. Sooth, like slippingglimpse elsewhere in this collection, is one of a growing number of works that seek to integrate algorithmically animated, interactive text with rich video imagery. Despite the title of Johnston’s work, however, these images and soundscapes can stray far from the type of imagery associated with “love poems,” leading the viewer/user into a compelling meditation on the body, the soul, the subconscious and the desires and fears that plague it. On a national level, Sooth, which slips between French and English based on user interaction, enigmatically addresses the subterranean linkages of the “two solitudes” that is present-day Canada.
The absurdist spirit of Russian Futurism infuses this work which otherwise resembles a commercial website gone amok. While certain sections feel like conventional narrative literature, others include invitations to imagery theater events, warped Google searches, a manifesto addressed to the future of humanity, a propagandistic movie in support of “Monad Technologies” and other less-definable digital genres. Whether this work is a cry from the past or from the margins of today, the Modernist communicative logic of broadcasting has clearly succumbed to the more prevalent logic of communication today: participation culture. While September 11th is evoked as an illustration for why we need to think “beyond the human” because people gum up the perfections of (military) technology, Reconstructing Mayakovsky as a whole corrupts the panoptic logic of the database, the 19th century novel and the internet itself.
In the gaming environment of New Word Order: Basra, the player is invited to read, explore, and destroy words taken from a Billy Collins poem, sample lines of which read, “walk inside the poem’s room/ and feel the walls for a light switch. They begin beating it with a hose/ to find out what it really means.” If interpretation itself disfigures poetic language, then the player of New Word Order: Basra makes that violence literal by using an arsenal of weapons (including a crow bar) to disfigure and reconfigure the words of Collins’ poem.
slippingglimpse is a verbal-visual collaboration between a poet, programmer, and videographer. Each of the ten parts consists of a video of moving water associated with a poetic text that can be conventionally read in split-screen format as it scrolls upwards. (The “scroll text” view enables conventional reading only in the sense that the words are stable and the small window has a verso-recto format; otherwise the layout and lineation invites reading on both the horizontal and vertical axes.) One of the central themes of the poetic text is the materiality of writing and image-producing technologies, ranging from stained glass to C++. This theme echoes the mechanics of the text itself, which in broad terms is algorithmically generated in relation to the movements of the water.