“Noiselines” by Pedro Valdeomillos and Jason Nelson

Screen capture of “Noiselines” by Pedro Valdeomillos and Jason Nelson. Low resolution satellite images overlaid by diagonal text in tiles.
Open “Noiselines” by Pedro Valdeomillos and Jason Nelson

This collaborative poem is composed on a “page space” created by Valdeomillos to explore the signal-to-noise-ratio by placing interface, image, and text in a relation by which they create noise for each other. When compared with his collaboration with Lluís Calvo who provided an image and a text that provided a coherent signal, once one had sorted through the noise, we can see Jason Nelson’s goals to be quite different in its strategies and goals.

Nelson is a poet whose work is characterized by its tactical use of noise, or elements that pass as such. This poem is a good example: in addition to text and an image, he provides sound and scratchy images that are both evocative of dust and scratches in film and of problems in television signal—noise from those two media. Even his lines of free verse can be characterized as “noisy” requiring nontrivial effort to decode— in the ancient tradition of poetry used as encryption for a message. Nelson’s poems generally contain very personal material within but that content is encoded and obscured by multiple layers of other content, interface, and noise.

As you read his lines of verse and zoom in and out to see the composite image, keep in mind that the signal-to-noise-ratio is skewed towards maximizing noise and there’s a good chance you might not “get” the signal. And perhaps the noise is the signal…