These three works all use geniwate’s “concatenation engine,” a page architecture designed in Director and inspired by William Burrough’s cut-up. The first one, “Concatenation,” creates a responsive space of exploded letters which generate phrases when clicked upon by the reader following algorithms that randomize word selection and arrangement on the screen. “When You Reach Kyoto,” places the engine in collaboration with Brian Kim Stefans’ photography and text and was published as part of the Machine Poetics“page_space project.”
This is a challenging work because its presents a simple, yet imprecise, interface that allows one to explore an ever shifting 3D virtual space. Its boxes change colors and sizes and display texts randomly selected and assembled from four different datasets, triggered by a schedule or by user interaction.
Like “Translation” and other works by Cayley, this poem can be described as an installation piece: it is designed to run indefinitely. “Wotclock” uses texts and images from What We Will combined with speaking clock algorithms designed by Cayley in Hypercard since 1995. (For an early visual poem which informs this piece, see “The Speaking Clock.”)
This award-winning long poem by Cayley shifts in and out of intelligibility as it morphs from one stanza to the next, one group of letters at a time. Yet even when the traditional meanings of words are left behind, the generated words gesture towards meaning, especially as the synthesized voices read them aloud.
This mesmerizing work by Cayley (with music by Giles Perring) invites the reader to look at this poem for a long time, searching for something to read, particularly if you cannot read French or German. Those patient enough are rewarded by words, phrases, lines, stanzas, and insight on the transformation of ideas when translated from one language to another, and the transmediation from an image of text into a digital text. Stare at the left column for long enough, and you’ll realize how much OCR (optical character recognition) we do when we read. Stare at the right, and you’ll realize how much we desire recognizing words, more than finding constellations in the stars.
Like the night sky, there is no end to this work. It ends with the reader’s aporia (that’s-it-I’m-done!) or epiphany (aha!)— which Espen Aarseth describes as “the dialectic between searching and finding” (91-2). If you become impatient, press Shift-E for about 5 seconds and the English translation will emerge. But don’t rush to understanding, or you might miss the point…
Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
This excerpt from Passage, an ambitious work by two e-poetry pioneers, is both theoretically interesting and aesthetically pleasing. As a generated text designed to never be displayed the same way, it cannot be reread the way one can do so with a printed text. At the same time, one can only intuit the logic of its mutability by rereading it with an eye for its variations. And because it is programmed in Director and published as a Shockwave file, we have no access to its source code.
No worries, though: its animation, music, and language combinations are delicately nuanced and intellectually stimulating. There is much pleasure to be found in its variations.
This “short story-poem-comic strip-musical” by Chris Joseph and María Colino consists of 10 highly stylized Flash pieces in the Dada and Constructivist traditions. Two particularly arresting poems are “River” and “Sex/Conception” (see images above) because of how they use their images and randomly generated texts.
With this series of collaborative e-poems, Andrews uses the cut up, an important technique in his poetics that aligns him with the work of William Burroughs, Bryon Gysin, Raymond Queneau, and Surrealism. His ingredients include e-mails, quotes, concrete poetry, and essay like writing, lovingly sliced with DHTML programming tools. Jim Andrews and his collaborators prep the texts for stir frying, cutting and linking where they see fit. The computer provides the energy to run the scripts and heat up the surface on which the texts are displayed. The reader’s hand, by way of the mouse and its virtual pointer on the screen’s surface, stirs the texts, cooking them up into new combinations and possibilities for his/her consumption.
For more on the Stir Fry Texts and a close reading of “Spastext” read “Cut Up, Heat, Stir” in my dissertation (pgs. 184-205).
In this piece, Jim Andrews curates and meditates on a selection of proto-digital poems by Lionel Kearns from the 1960s to the present. Heavily influenced by McLuhan, Kearns intuited that “if one messes around enough with the physical form of language (either spoken or written), eventually you get to the point where it (the language) drops its load of conventional reference” and created works of visual and sound poetry “right on that edge, where language begins to work into either music or visual art.”
As a sound and visual poem in the Lettriste tradition, Nio consists of a set of glyphs made of stacked letters, each of which plays its own musical phrase— a recording of Andrews’ voice— and its own animation. Verse One allows readers to layer sounds and animation, while Verse Two allows both layering and sequencing.