Who or what is David “Jhave” Johnston? He is a digital media artist and poet, certainly, but what exactly is “he?” William David Johnston is a human being, that is a biological, social, legal, (and spiritual?) entity— the kind Auden wrote about in “The Unknown Citizen”). He is also an artist that adopted a nom d’ordinateur, “Jhave,” whose artistic techniques are codified in the digital tools he creates or appropriates, blurring the boundaries between human and machine to the extent we could call him a cyborg. But aren’t we all? “Sound Seeker” is a record of how David Jhave Johnston develops as a cyborg artist and poet.
“Soundseeker” is several things: a Flash tool created by Jhave to synchronize text to sound, a blog that documents the development and fine-tuning of the tool and its interfaces, a blog documentation of an independent study Jhave did “with the guidance and input of Jason Lewis of OBX Labs at Concordia University, Fall 2008,” and it’s a collection of 12 poetic sketches— thinking through writing with these technologies.
“Glider – Language as Life” (above) schedules aphoristic lines of poetry synchronized to the tune of a minimalist soundtrack, juxtaposing it with videos of a pond and insects that can run on water without breaking its surface tension. Is Jhave suggesting that he is merely gliding on the surface of a poetic field with depths have yet to be explored?
In poems like “plife” Jhave used a 3D digital sculpting tool called Mudbox to imbue words with greater physicality than having them cast shadows like the other objects in a video. These words have an almost organic plasticity as they grow into something more than what they mean.
There is so much more to be said about this collection, but I leave it up to you to explore. To see such a virtuoso cyborg artist and poet at play is a reward in and of itself.