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Open “Orbital” by Max Dunlop and Neil Jenkins
This poem is the result of two creative collaborations: Max Dunlop’s poem “orbital: a postcard to space travel” and Neil Jenkins’ generative engine that creates an entirely different experience of the work.
A conceptual link is that of human communication across space. The idea of a postcard is very tied to travel, since they can be sent through a postal service anywhere on the planet to a physical address. This paper-based model of human communication doesn’t work well when people leave the planet, requiring technologies that work with electronic signals. During a time of digital networks, packets are still being sent from one address to another, but they are digital sequences sent to numerical IP addresses, translated into more natural language by DNS servers.
Dunlop’s poem is about space travel across time, from sailors guiding their ships with the stars to modern day traffic out and around the planet and beyond. Jenkins’ interface incorporates the IP addresses of its readers into an algorithm that selects a word from Dunlop’s poem and places it into a space that responds to the reader’s mouse movements to direct their orbital motions.
The voice reading the IP addresses out loud are a constant reminder of the locations that inform the text generation, but it gets old fast. I recommend muting the voice to lose yourself in what can be a powerfully ambient visual poem that produces delightful juxtapositions.
Featured in Poems That GO.