Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Interactive poems: intersign perspective for experimental poetry, Di Philadelpho Menezes

Relazione presentata nel Convegno Internazionale della Associazione degli Studi Parola/Immagine, Los Angeles. Ha come fondo del discorso il lavoro di poesia ipermediale dell'autore.

Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (Brazil)

The view that I intend to explore in this paper is that the possibilities opened to poetry by the new technologies of communication may be considered on two levels: (i) the possibilities of interaction with the reader, the most obvious and basic element of NTC, but the one where most theoretical discussion of the novelty of the technologies is concentrated; (ii) the interfaces that NTC imposes inside the communication system, that is, the internal interface between visual, verbal and sound signs of the poem. Despite the fact that my comments are based on poems that I call “intersign poetry”, these questions can be extended over the other communicational fields and products with similar analyses (newspaper, advertisement, encyclopœdic CD-ROMs, dictionaries, etc.). My view is that hypermedia, developed from hypertext, whether in CD-ROMs or in websites, does not come to be used only as an exercise in mechanical interaction with the user, but also to suggest rich ways of mixing different kind of signs, obliging the user to adopt an intellective approach to the exercise of reading. This activity brings the user out of the traditional system of languages, separated into their specific fields, into to an intersemiotic system of communication. If this interface between signs of different languages does not work in a hypermedia construct, NTC is merely reducing the activity of the user to a functional and programmed use of technology and communication. Some might argue that a functional work immediately produces new behaviour patterns and paths to new sensations. This is a predominant trend in contemporary theory of communication since Marshall McLuhan established the concept of medium as a message in itself. Nevertheless, recent theorists of technology have criticised this concept, arguing that without a level of intellective consciousness, it is impossible to establish new ways of relating to machines; without a certain level of reflection, is difficult to know exactly how to exploit the perspectives that the new technogies open up for us.

My analyses dialogue with two importants studies on digital communication published in United States in the 1990s. The first is Hypertext - Th Cconvergence of Contemporary Critical Theory, by George P. Landow, of Brown University (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997 edition). Landow defines hypertext drawing on different theses such as Vannevar Bush’s conception of memex, Jacques Derrida’s deconstructivism, and Roland Barthes’s analysis of the new relationship between text and reader. Technically, for Landow, hypertext can be defined as a technology of texts put into a web that can make clear the intertextuality inherent in literary works. But, by making rapid and explicit the consultation of subtexts, and by increasing the potentiality of nonlinear and decentered contemporary literature, hypertext changes the conception of text and writing, thus transforming the role of the author and the possibilities of literary education. This new ethic of technological texts must be considered even when we go out of textuality and enter hypermedia programmes, a further development of hypertext, where non-verbal (visual and sound) signs are joined. Hypermedia facilitates working with experimental poetry as hypertext does literary works.

The second approach towards technological writing that I intend to consider is that of Richard A. Lanham in his book The Electronic Word (University of Chicago Press, 1994). Lanham analyses the transformation of the internal feature of the sign, its variable and changeable forms, its ways of organising itself according to the principle of collage. Computer graphics provoke “judgments about scale, a new icon/alphabet ratio in textual communication, nonlinear collage and juxtapositional reasoning (...) - all these constitute a new theory of management”. So Lanham deals with the concept of rhetoric, viewed as a dialetical play established in looking AT a surface pattern of communication and THROUGH it.

By the other side, the experimental poetry appears as an already traditional place for mixing different codes in the modern and contemporary poetics. It is useful to understand clearly what is the concept of “experimental poetry” adopted here: it is a kind of poetry, manifested in some styles and movements in the twentieth, whose form is not displayed in verses. So the concept is rooted in two grounds: I. in the visual field, experimental poetry embraces since the spatialization of verbal texts (like the foremost Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés) until poems with printed images (like the italian visive poetry of the 60’s), passing through very well known visual poetics as the chaotic arragments of futurism, the figurative poems of Apollinaire’s calligrammes or the geometric constructivity of the concretism; ii. in the sound field, experimental poetry contains since phonetic ruptures of dada’s poems until the polipoetry concept of Enzo Minarelli’s creation in the 80’s, crossing the inventions of the electroacustic poems of Henri Chopin, the French lettrism of the 50’s, some beatnik kind of discourses, among others.

A privileged place for the discussion of these issues, central to the contemporary poetics and aesthetics, is the digital technology because of its opened use possibilities, either the perspectives that they can still offer to the mix the two trends of experimental poetry in only one space of the communicational. Regarding a new spatial configuration that is no longer the codex form of the book, the poetry inevitably trespasses the limits of the verbal sign itself. Overcoming the unchanging and bidimensional space of the page as a support for the printed word, necessarily the possibilities to work with the isolated verbal sign in an instigating way is, we could say, also overcomed inside these news configuration of space. If the hypertext becomes naturally hypermedia by the inclination to the integration of the languages within the digital technologies, the digital poem also becomes a traffic between signs of different languages that, when well done, could be called “intermedia” - I prefer “intermedia” term to indicate the communication of a poem where a semantic and functional integration between different kind of signs is predominant, requiring a exercise of “composition” by the reader/observer. The “multimedia” term is preferable to designate poetic communications where free accumulation and superposition of many signs install a simple illustrated and didascalic ways of relation between signs. However, poetry, before entering the technological space of communication, had already reached, according to the intersign poetics, the object poems and the sound poems where, respectively, elements sucs as interactivity and immateriality, two totems of the emerging (and yet so fragile) theories of poetics in new media, are achieved. What matters also in the use of these new technologies is the easiness and the encouragement towards integrative realizations between languages where non-verbal signs (sound or images) are not reduced to the role of mere elements of reinforcing the verbal feature.

On the basis of these considerations, I have been trying to develop a concept of “interpoetry”, related to exercises in the field of experimental poetry, first with visual poems, later with sound poems. Interpoetry has two meanings: that of interactivity and that of intersign poetry. The fusion of these two meanings in one poem is the concern of my work in the area of interpoetry. I will start with the older meaning: ‘intersign poetry’ is the name I used fifteen years ago(1) to express the idea of a poetry created by the fusion of verbal and non-verbal signs. At that time, I was concerned with exploring the characteristics of a visual poetry that, produced in the years after the concretist movement, distinguished itself from the tradition of experimental poetry up to the time of concretism: the tradition of making the visual element derive from the verbal element. From the figurative poems of Greek Antiquity to the concrete poetry of the 1950s and 1960s, every type of visual poetry in one form or another exploits the graphic form of the text, the word or the letter, that is, the various visual forms taken by the verbal sign. In some rare cases, when drawings or engravings enter the space of the poem, the visual element acts as an illustration of the text. The idea of intersign poetry was to use visual images (drawings, photos, numbers, or other graphic elements) as compositional components of the poem through formal interrelationship and semantic interpenetration with the verbal sign; from this, the coming to fruition of intersign poem is the function of an exercise in decoding, interpretation, and decifering that the reader/observer must undertake in the light of the montage of visual and verbal signs present in the poem. Thus intersign poetry emerges as a kind of visual poetry which negates past forms of visual poetry.

These questions led me to an idea that has guided my work since: poetry is a specific form of organising signs in a poem (formal fusion plus semantic montage); it is a language. It is neither a problem specific to the verbal code nor a problem of the techniques through which this language is exhibited or transmitted. Hence, when in the first half of the 1990s I began experimenting with the possibilities of sound poetry, I sought to try to introduce these concepts into the field of sounds by producing poems in which non-verbal sounds played, in the sound poem, the role of images in the visual intersign poem: to create formal fusions that produced not only acoustic effects but more especially meanings deciferable through intellectual interpretation(2).

In the second half of 1997, I began producing poems in which sounds, images and words coalesce, in a complex intersemiotic process, in a technological environment which precisely facilitated the simultaneous presence of verbal, visual and acoustic signs: hypermedia programmes. The idea here was to avoid doing what the visual poem up till concretism had always done: make the visual follow on from the verbal. Or what recited poetry always did: illustrate the reading of the text with music or incidental sounds.

But it was also necessary to avoid the equivocal discourse produced by artists who worked with the new technologies: these latter assume that the mere use of new technologies produces new languages, that is, new ways of combining codes. In practice, this does not happen. Technologies like videotext, computer graphics and holography, present new environments in which the signs of the poem are placed; that is, they suggest new ways of organising these images into spacial and temporal structures, different from those of the printed page. But this does not mean to say that the poem automatically takes advantage of these new structures. Technology suggests; it does not impose. And what we see today is a traditional visual poetry ( principally following concretist and futurist forms) reproduced in terms of the new technologies.

Intersign poems are not “experiments of poetic written texts”, but intersigned processes of word, image, sound, movement, varied ways of reading, where the image, the sound and the movement are not simply features of the word. Interpoetry sets out consciously to occupy the structures provided by the new medias, modifying the relationships between image, sound and word within the specific environments which only hypermedia makes possible. There are two levels of structure which may be considered typical of interpoetry:

1. the mode of relating image, sound and word, which gives continuity to the processes operative within visual and sound intersemiotic poetry, establishing the basis of intersign poetry in hypermedia, obeying a certain specific development of the poem within the time and space of hypermedia.

2. Forms of relationship with the reader and the question of interactivity. The intervention of the reader/user amplifies the forms of participation that the avant-gardes had introduced into art, breaking with the classic contemplative role of the reader/observer. The option of multiple paths for the reading of the interpoem gives rise to two circuits of association: a network of connections based on the technological links made available by hypermedia; a network of associations set up between the data of the poem, which refer to eachother, subterranean to the virtual links, and which could be called post-virtual. The suggested links (interpretative associations) thus supplant and subvert the links that are offered (virtual paths). The interpoem thus establishes the primacy of ‘suggestion’ over ‘explanation’, one that characterizes technological art in general. And it underlines the rethorical question put by Lanham: the superficies of technical links, this opened way to be read, keeps our attention AT the communicative features of the poem as a kind of game; the web of suggestions made by virtual (or mental) links requires our reading THROUGH the communicative features up to semantic conections. It could be said that the rethorical structure of reading an interpoem lies and relies upon the oscillation between “explanation” and “suggestion”, “technical links” and “semantic links”.

The intersigned fusion conducts, after all, the creative exercise towards the fusion between the text genres, where the poetry penetrates the field of theory, tale and encyclopedic information. Everything proceeds to the creation of big systems of communicating chambers where the narrative fiction, the game, the poetry, the scientific research, the daily information and the interpersonal contact can be moments of the same productive exercise.The fusion of genres is, furthermore, natural to interpoetry: visual poetry, sound poetry, theoretical text, encyclopœdic information, fiction, lies, games, all are possible paths within the interpoem. Questions are further raised by the perspective of incorporating narrative forms, by the production of works which could be called ‘interprose’ and which could appear as a follow-up to interpoetic work.



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. LÉVY, Pierre: O que é o virtual?, São Paulo: 34, 1996.

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Above copied from: http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Lights/7323/philadelpho.html

Introduction to net.art (1994-1999)

Introduction to net.art (1994-1999)
    1. net.art at a Glance
      A. The Ultimate Modernism
        1. Definition
          a. net.art is a self-defining term created by a malfunctioning piece of software, originally used to describe an art and communications activity on the internet.
          b. net.artists sought to break down autonomous disciplines and outmoded classifications imposed upon various activists practices.
        2. 0% Compromise
          a. By maintaining independence from institutional bureaucracies
          b. By working without marginalization and achieving substantial audience, communication, dialogue and fun
          c. By realizing ways out of entrenched values arising from structured system of theories and ideologies
          d. T.A.Z. (temporary autonomous zone) of the late 90s: Anarchy and spontaneity
        3. Realization over Theorization
          a. The utopian aim of closing the ever widening gap between art and everyday life, perhaps, for the first time, was achieved and became a real, everyday and even routine practice.
          b. Beyond institutional critique: whereby an artist/individual could be equal to and on the same level as any institiution or corporation.
          c. The practical death of the author
      B. Specific Features of net.art
        1. Formation of communities of artists across nations and disciplines
        2. Investment without material interest
        3. Collaboration without consideration of appropriation of ideas
        4. Privileging communication over representation
        5. Immediacy
        6. Immateriality
        7. Temporality
        8. Process based action
        9. Play and performance without concern or fear of historical consequences
        10. Parasitism as Strategy
          a. Movement from initial feeding ground of the net
          b. Expansion into real life networked infrastructures
        11. Vanishing boundaries between private and public
        12. All in One:
          a. Internet as a medium for production, publication, distribution, promotion, dialogue, consumption and critique
          b. Disintegration and mutation of artist, curator, pen-pal, audience, gallery, theorist, art collector, and museum
    2. Short Guide to DIY net.art
      A. Preparing Your Environment
        1. Obtain access to a computer with the following configuration:
          a. Macintosh with 68040 processor or higher (or PC with 486 processor or higher)
          b. At least 8 MB RAM
          c. Modem or other internet connection
        2. Software Requirements
          a. Text Editor
          b. Image processor
          c. At least one of the following internet clients: Netscape, Eudora, Fetch, etc.
          d. Sound and video editor (optional)
      B. Chose Mode
        1. Content based
        2. Formal
        3. Ironic
        4. Poetic
        5. Activist
      C. Chose Genre
        1. Subversion
        2. Net as Object
        3. Interaction
        4. Streaming
        5. Travel Log
        6. Telepresent Collaboration
        7. Search Engine
        8. Sex
        9. Storytelling
        10. Pranks and Fake Identity Construction
        11. Interface Production and/or Deconstruction
        12. ASCII Art
        13. Browser Art, On-line Software Art
        14. Form Art
        15. Multi-User Interactive Environments
        16. CUSeeMe, IRC, Email , ICQ, Mailing List Art
      D. Production
    3. What You Should Know
      A. Current Status
        1. net.art is undertaking major transformations as a result of its newfound status and institutional recognition.
        2. Thus net.art is metamorphisizing into an autonomous discipline with all its accouterments: theorists, curators, museum departments, specialists, and boards of directors.
      B. Materialization and Demise
        1. Movement from impermanence, immateriality and immediacy to materialization
          a. The production of objects, display in a gallery
          b. Archiving and preservation
        2. Interface with Institutions: The Cultural Loop
          a. Work outside the institution
          b. Claim that the institution is evil
          c. Challenge the institution
          d. Subvert the institution
          e. Make yourself into an institution
          f. Attract the attention of the institution
          g. Rethink the institution
          h. Work inside the institution
        3. Interface with Corporations: Upgrade
          a. The demand to follow in the trail of corporate production in order to remain up-to-date and visible
          b. The utilization of radical artistic strategies for product promotion
    4. Critical Tips and Tricks for the Successful Modern net.artist
      A. Promotional Techniques
        1. Attend and participate in major media art festivals, conferences and exhibitions.
          a. Physical
          b. Virtual
        2. Do not under any circumstances admit to paying entry fees, travel expenses or hotel accommodations.
        3. Avoid traditional forms of publicity. e.g. business cards.
        4. Do not readily admit to any institutional affiliation.
        5. Create and control your own mythology.
        6. Contradict yourself periodically in email, articles, interviews and in informal off-the-record conversation.
        7. Be sincere.
        8. Shock.
        9. Subvert (self and others).
        10. Maintain consistency in image and work.
      B. Success Indicators: Upgrade 2
        1. Bandwidth
        2. Girl or boy friends
        3. Hits on search engines
        4. Hits on your sites
        5. Links to your site
        6. Invitations
        7. E-mail
        8. Airplane tickets
        9. Money
    5. Utopian Appendix (After net.art)
      A. Whereby individual creative activities, rather than affiliation to any hyped art movement becomes most valued.
        1. Largely resulting from the horizontal rather than vertical distribution of information on the internet.
        2. Thus disallowing one dominant voice to rise above multiple, simultaneous and diverse expressions.
      B. The Rise of an Artisan
        1. The formation of organizations avoiding the promotion of proper names
        2. The bypassing of art institutions and the direct targeting of corporate products, mainstream media, creative sensibilities and hegemonic ideologies
          a. Unannounced
          b. Uninvited
          c. Unexpected
        3. No longer needing the terms "art" or "politics" to legitimize, justify or excuse one's activities
      C. The Internet after net.art
        1. A mall, a porn shop and a museum
        2. A useful resource, tool, site and gathering point for an artisan
          a. Who mutates and transforms as quickly and cleverly as that which seeks to consume her
          b. Who does not fear or accept labeling or unlabeling
          c. Who works freely in completely new forms together with older more traditional forms
          d. Who understands the continued urgency of free two-way and many-to-many communication over representation

      Natalie Bookchin, Alexei Shulgin
      March-April 1999

Monday, February 11, 2008

Some Aspects Of Meta-Networking, Henning Mittendorf

1 -- Today's science, for instance quantum theory and radical constructivism, teaches that one cannot recognize an objective independent reality, but that one can only construct viable patterns, models, reciprocal effects, evolving symmetries by cognition and communication, spirit, and creativity. For that matter, models as spontaneous ideas of spirit do not exist in anybody's head or other isolated structure but within the open reciprocal effective process of perception, thinking, and doing -- i.e. within the meta-network's organization itself, for instance that of mankind or of the whole world, its totality.

2 -- The model of totality is constructed as an evolving fractal meta-network consisting of -- according to the onlooker's position -- various evolving self-organizing differentiating out multi-dimensionally interlocked into another built up one on top of the other self-similar dynamic-symmetrical reciprocal effective entities, meta- and sub-meta-, etc. networks. Every partial meta-network concentrates upon certain circles of problems and only the overlap takes care that the entire network has at its disposal a (collective) knowledge, spirit that is more than the sum of all partial knowledge.

3 -- Within all meta-networks, from the sub-material spheres up to the ones beyond the spheres of artificial intelligence, the same mechanisms of creativity and spirit are active to slow down and, hopefully, to avert, the final failure of totality, entropy. Creativity and spirit are the mechanisms that lead to the production and reduction of quantities (reproduction and death), varieties (variation and selection), local intensity of variation (aiming aimlessness) and of intensity of reciprocal effectiveness (attraction and isolation) that altogether awake to consciousness within the human spirit by cognition and communication. Cybernetically seen within every network doing (creator) and done (creatures) imply each other and can be exchanged, there exists within the self the alien too, there are all parts of the same importance and there are dis-symmetrical as well as a-symmetrical entities of effectiveness, breaking of symmetries, only comprehensible and effective with a hidden symmetry in the background.

4 -- Since within the global meta-networks of mankind the elites, especially the ones of the western industrial states, mainly do follow selfish particularistic rational interests and thus degenerated to strategists of global catastrophes' productions, (wo-) men do interconnect, interact, are reciprocal effects, network world-wide within alternative super-socialised meta-networks, to replace dualistic conceptions by meta-symmetrical holistic models of meta-networks and to eliminate deadly dangers by counterpoises constructing and testing viable patterns, models, new ways of living preserving and evolving creativity of mankind's meta-network. For them there only remains - with regard to the surrounding deadly menaces - freedom for life, love, hope. They oppose against the realization of all that can be realized and they recommend an orientation at the sociable by conscious participation of (wo-) men in the shaping, organizing, constructing of the world, including especially its communications' conditions, aiming at the strengthening of (wo-) man's cognitive autonomy and his (her) elementary need, to communicate opposite to the institutions of today's information society and its high and mighty technical information systems that can be abused as a big potential of manipulation.

5 -- The meta-network of the consciously networking artists belongs to the alternative meta-network(s). The artists try within their network to come to an understanding with another actually, exemplary and life-oriented by forms of expressions, ideas of presentation, media, that are still qualified for expression, when others' tongues refuse, don't bring out anything anymore. This network is characterized by the specific artistic means that come into being by the melting together of all sorts of modern partly heavy high-technical traffic- and communications-systems as well as their media, for instance the world-wide postal net, with the individual creative cognition and that are used by artists to come to an understanding. The networking artists do choose for communication across large distances normally mediated, indirect, non-face-to-face communications' forms, for instance mail art, fax art, mail boxing, because they save energy, time and other resources. They prefer non-mediated, direct, face-to-face communications' forms, if they want to intensify understanding by animating, inspiring, it, especially by personal contacts, for instance when working together on the spot on the occasion of voyages. Thus they transfer the duration, they do miss in their existence while grasping at the - in the last analysis unattainable - totality, into a more intense confrontation with the alien, the other person, artist. This specific form of communication cannot be used across large distances frequently, as it is very costly compared with the forms of indirect communication. In addition it can happen that the intensity of a personal contact can be refused sometimes, because it exceeds the intensity of reciprocal effectiveness, the artist's cognition is able to deal with respectively his other possibilities, abilities (temporary isolation). Networking of artists all in all isn't allowed to take place only within the meta-network of networking artists. The meta-network of networking artists rather has to become interconnected with other social meta-networks, as artistic work, networking, shall express exemplary, actual and vital reciprocal effects and their topics of understanding shall become a matter of many (wo-) men, of general interest. If this happens, the artistic contribution to communication unveils the joint patterns, qualities and mechanisms of all meta-networks, of totality, and shows that all is open and can be transformed into a more comprehensive, more life-effective form of sociability. Besides one has to notice that interconnection can be planned, but understanding cannot be programmed. This is the task of autonomous cognitions, the unique cognitive-empiric place of individual as well as social construction of realities, senses and values - by communication. Networkers, especially meta-networking in spirit artists, thus do create for themselves and vicariously for all the others - as autonomous persons - a social sphere, wherein they can preserve and develop together with their equals their identities. And if creative power, spirit, i.e. cognition and communication, creates viable patterns, life-serving models within the artist, then networking becomes the mastering of the unknown and at the same time mastered existence, successful shaping and shape, successful life and work, always anew.

6 -- Artistic meta-networking therewith is an experimental-visionary basic research, especially in respect of models concerning the knowing of knowing dealing with the understanding of (wo-) man's relationship to the other and to totality, our world - and thus to itself.

above copied from: http://neoscenes.net/hyper-text/text/third/hemi1.html

A Manner of Speaking: An Interview with Gary Hill, Lucinda Furlong

March 1983, Afterimage, Vol. 10, No. 8

Although he is better known for his videotapes and installations, Gary Hill has also been prolific as a sculptor. Born in Santa Monica, Calif. in 1951, Hill moved east in 1969, and in the early '70s began making videotapes at Woodstock (N.Y.) Community Video. Like many artists in the late '60s and early 70s, Hill's earliest tapes reflected a highly experimental approach in which the capabilities of various electronic imaging tools were explored. For the most part, this kind of video was visual in orientation, and Hill's work was no exception, drawing as it did on conventions of abstract expressionist painting. Eventually dissatisfied with the limitations of such an approach, Hill began to make tapes that integrated the audio and video components so tightly that sound became almost visually apprehensible. This concern-in which the immaterial is somehow made physical-is central to all of Hill's video installations and tapes, and to some extent, is derived from his background as a sculptor.

In his most recent work, however, language and thoughtrather than electronics-are the immaterial entities that are given form. Hill's tapes since 1980 are of two types: short, descriptive, often convoluted passages which are sparely "illustrated" by abstract black and white imagery; and extended monologues that directly address the viewer, to which video is rapidly edited to the beat of Hill's voice. Though they differ greatly in tone, these tapes reveal Hill's exacting-almost obsessive-weighing of image and language as carriers of meaning. At the same time, they are richly evocative pieces that variously resemble poems, stories, and soliloquies. Hill's installations, too, bespeak his interest in setting up dichotomies between sight and sound, language and image.

Hill has received production grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and PBS-station WNET in New York. In 1981, he was awarded a video artists' fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. A 1982 recipient of the United States/Japan Exchange fellowship, Hill will travel to Japan next fall. This summer he will be teaching video at Bard College's recently established M.F.A. program in video.

The following interview was edited from transcripts of two meetings in Barrytown, N.Y. on Oct. 28, 1982 and Jan. 5, 1983. The interview incorporates Hill's additions and revisions.
-Lucinda Furlong

Lucinda Furlong: You worked in sculpture for a long time before you became interested in video.

Gary Hill: I got into sculpture in 1969, when I was 15, while I was still in high school in Redondo Beach. I had always been interested in art, and the brother of a friend of mine-Tony Parks-was a sculptor. He welded. I saw him working and was immediately drawn to the process. I had a summerjob at a hamburger stand on the beach-a surfer's dream-so I saved money to buy welding tanks and started welding. Soon after that I was set up making sculpture in all my spare time, except for a little surfing. It's not that easy to give up.

Even though I had vague notions about the avant-garde, I really wasn't aware of American art. I was looking at Giacometti and Picasso. Picasso was a god to me.

I had lots of support from my friends and parents, in particular my high-school teacher, Mr. Pelster, who just let me do my thing. He was a big reason why I even finished high school. I didn't see much point in it, and almost quit. When I got out, I saw a pamphlet for the Art Students' League in Woodstock, N.Y., which described it as an idyllic artists' colony. I came out for a month on a scholarship, but I didn't do sculpture. I just drew and painted, made thousands of drawings. Then I went back to California to go to a community college-partially for a draft deferment-but decided I would get out anotherway, and college definitely was not for me. I quit in about two weeks.

My teacher at the League-Bruce Dorfman-had invited me to work independently with him. So I packed my belongings and hopped in a driveaway car. I experienced my first fall, first snow, first being cold-as-shit, first super struggle. I didn't stay in that situation very long, though. I got jobs. Actually, I've been pretty lucky in terms of being able to do my work with very little struggle.

About that time, I began to see art in New York, and the thing that really overwhelmed me was a show at the Met called "1940-1970." It was the New York School. I was knocked out, and went through a lot of different attitudes in my own work. I still used the same materials, but I went from making cage-like structures with human forms-almost Bosch-like-to abstract biomorphic shapes mixed with geometric shapes. Pretty soon it was all geometric. I started using wire mesh, spray paint, welding armatures for shaped canvases which were incorporated into the work. I would make shapes, pile them into a corner, and then work with them later. It was like being my own factory. I went through a complete cycle of color. I slowly started to add color to the metal. I got very extreme using fluorescents, and later I toned down to metallics, essentially monochromatic, and finally back to the natural color of the material-copper-coated steel welding rods. I started improvising large constructions in the exhibition space, usually working off a wall and down to the floor into a kind of sprawl. I was working a lot with more patterns, and the sheer density of layers and shapes. Experimenting, burying myself in the process, working all the time. It wasn't intellectual. It was more like-how far can I take this material as a worker?

LF: How did you get involved with video?

GH: I got into sound first. I discovered the sculptures generated interesting sounds, lots of different timbres. The overall texture seemed to mirror what I was seeing. I worked a lot with loops and multi-track audio tapes, which later became an integral part of the sculpture.

Getting into video isn't so smooth in retrospect. I think at the time I was getting frustrated with sculpture. I needed a change. I was drawn more and more into working with sound. Around that time, Woodstock Community Video had been established. I walked up the stairs, knocked on the door, and said, "Gee, I'd like to try that. Can I take out a Portapak?" So I did a performance/environment piece with a friend, Jim Collins. For four or five nights in a row, we painted colored rectangles in the town of Woodstock-all over everything, stores, private property, public property. They slowly appeared,'til we got caught. I did a little-not really a documentary ... I just went out and talked about it with people, about what they thought. Should there be more colored rectangles? Should they go away? I really enjoyed the whole process, the experiential aspect of that little thing up there next to my eye. It seemed like there was a high energy connection to whatever I was looking at. I guess I became obsessed with that electronic buzz [laughs]. It was like a synapse with the rest of the world in a removed way, yet attached at the same time.

So I exchanged work at Woodstock Community Video-- recording town board meetings, or whatever Ken Marsh [the former director] wanted-- in exchange for using the equipment. Sooner or later I got a job there, because NYSCA [the New York State Council on the Arts], which had been heavily oriented toward community video, seitched to the art route--in video at least.

LF: When was that?

GH: Around 1973-74. I was given a salaried position as the TV lab coordinator, helping people to use the equipment. They had a few devices-a broken genlock unit and a keyer-put away because they didn't really work. So I asked Ken Marsh if I could come in late at night and see what I could make them do. I totally got into that. Everything half worked. The keyers would put out really harsh, broken edges. I don't know what the genlock put out, but there was always something. I had monitors all over this little stud io-rescanning everything, starting and stopping the tape, manipulating it with my hands. Everything was open. It was a very free feeling. Discovering how to manipulate this material was amazing.

I can remember being totally naked, lying on the floor with a tripod over my head pointing a camera down on my mouth and another camera lying on my stomach. I would make kind of a primal sound with my breathing, raising the camera on my stomach so that it would reveal my head from the bottom view, making this sound. This was all somehow mixed through a special effects generator. In a manner of speaking, I was practically fucking the equipment. Some time around then I made Rock City Road [1974-75].

LF: Were you colorizing the tapes?

GH: There was no colorizer thereat first, but Ken was friends with Eric Siegel, and he got a Siegel colorizer fairly soon. About the same time, I found out about the Experimental Television Center [now in Owego, N.Y.]. I didn't know about the equipment there; I just had heard that they had all these possibilities. With the tools I was using in Woodstock I saw an infinity of image-making possibilities, and they had a whole set that was much more sophisticated.... So I went up there and met Walter Wright [artist-in-residence at the Experimental Television Center from 1973-75], and became very good friends with him. We did some multi-media performances together called "Synergism" [1975-6], with Sara Cook, a dancer in Woodstock. Then we started fantasizing about having our own machines, but it didn't really happen until 1976. Ken thought that Woodstock Community Video was going to be a media-organization-in-residence at Bard College. Everyone involved moved over to Rhinebeck, but it fell through at the last minute. So for a short time Barbara Buckner, Steven Colpan, and me all lived together as artists-in-residence. There we were in this big house and we weren't using all the rooms. I made Ken a deal-I asked if I could have David Jones come down to build some equipment, and I would pay extra rent [Jones, a video tool designer and builder, is now affiliated with the Experimental Television Center].

LF: What did he build?

GH: First we put together four input amps and an output amplifier. The main thing Walter and I wanted was a multichannel colorizer. Ironically enough, we never got to that. David had designed an analog-to-digital converter, which led to other things, culminating in a small frame buffer with a resolution of 64 by 64. One day I came home and David was gone. He had left the equipment on, and there was this digitally stored image on the screen of him smiling and waving. Suddenly colorizing seemed superficial, next to having access and control over the architecture of the frame in real time.

LF: Is that around the time you made Windows?

GH: No, the first tape I made using any digital processing was Bathing [1977], which was all done through the analogto-digital converter. [In Bathing, a color tape shot in real time is intercut with stills rescanned with a color camera and digitized. Different placements of color and gray level are derived from rearranging the digital-to-analog output.] I'd record something, take the circuit board out, resolder the wires, and try it again until I got the images I wanted. It's just another way of working. It's like when I started at Woodstock Community Video: you mess around with the innards, where all this stuff really happens. It was a process of trial and error. Since I wasn't working so much with preconceived images, "control" wasn't a problem. There were always surprises-images that happened outside of control, things you wouldn't dream or think of.

LF: How did the converter change the image visually?

GH: Radically. It remaps the gray levels of an image and it also remaps the color you're mixing with it.

If it had any imposed framework, Bathing was centered around vague ideas of painting, taking traditional subject matter-a bather-and exploring it with the notion that any one frame could be a painting. Windows [1978] was the first tape in which I explored the idea of mixing analog and digital images together. I did it as a study for an installation that would have been similar in nature-dense, layered images, structured compositionally, but on several monitors. The images would pass between monitors, all under automated control. No tapes. I was still working intuitively, feeding off the images, seeing an image, liking it, working with it.

In those early tapes, though, I was distracted by the phenomena of electronics-several tapes were really part of that learning process. I'm glad I went through it-to have the knowledge and to feel free to do what I want within the medium. But if I never do something strictly imagistic again, it wouldn't matter. The knowledge of how things work is embedded now; it applies itself to whatever I'm doing.

LF: Those early tapes seem to fit what has become a genre of video art-image processing.

GH: I think there's a big problem even with the term. What does "image processing" refer to? Any tape that has processed an image electronically?

LF: It is too broad. It can mean video put through a time-base corrector or something that's been colorized.

GH: Yeah, but when someone says "image processing," what automatically comes to mind is a heavily mixed collage, like Windows [laughs], that I can't possibly decode-in fact I can't even see the point of using color. When you look at a painting, you can't always verbalize why the artist used a color or shape, but you feel some kind of visual tension, something getting at you. So much that I see that falls under "image processing" I can't even fathom.

When I first started working with machines, and exploring images-around the time I was working with Walter WrightI remember him calling tapes Processed Video l, Processed Video ll, etc. But process had no reference to machines. It had to do with the process of working, an improvisational situation in which devices could be patched in a number of different ways. Image processing suggests taking known or fixed images and processing them, sort of like food processing. I think for some people who are put in this category, it was an open method of working-dialoguing with the tools in search of images.

LF: Did others think of it this way, too?

GH: I don't know. The Vasulkas had to be among the first to experiment with the properties inherent to video. They were certainly more methodical than anyone else. Whatever machine they had, they expored it to the n `h degree. When I think of their work chronologically, the development is razorsharp, didactic, yet mysteriously powerful, especially Woody's. Steina, I think, became more idiosyncratic, and that's probably why they present themselves as two separate artists now. Between the two of them they've covered a lot of ground.
This experimental notion of dialoguing with tools has its tradition, though. It's like whatfilmmakers did. That'swhy-in the end-it was no longer interesting for me. OK, it's video, it's electronic, it functions differently, it has different properties-but it's the same approach that photographers and filmmakers already applied. I started to see it as a dead end. I wanted to dialogue with my mental processes, consciously, self-consciously.

LF: How important do you think it is for viewers to know the technical circumstances under which a tape was produced?

GH: It's an element, part of the information that's valuable. But I think that for anything to work, it has somehow to translate that. Some works do and some don't; all the explaining in the world and all the complex electronics and knowing the insides of the machine won't do anything. It's a difficult question. You can't sidestep the mechanics of the medium, but it's not what makes something. A whole different shift occurs in putting a work together-materializing it-and perceiving it. If a piece really works for you, your response goes beyond a question about how it was made, though it might come up later as extra information.

LF: I agree, but it's something I think a lot about when I look at tapes that are exhausting or investigating the properties of video. They stop at a certain point. I "get it"-l understand what that tape is "about," and it ends there. It seems that "Primary", "Elements", "Mouth Piece", "Sums and Differences" [all 1978], and "Objects with Destinations" [1979] not only investigate the properties of video, but how video and audio function both separately and as an integrated unit. They illustrate well how the two can operate on one another.

GH: But how video and audio function separately and together are the properties of video. What I was getting at is something else, granted a little more difficult to talk about. I think Sums and Differences really works in terms of sound and image actually becoming one another. [In this tape, four separate video images of four musical instruments and their corresponding sounds are sequenced together at a continuously increasing rate. Normally, a video image is scanned on the video raster at 60 cycles per second. As the rates of change increase, starting at about one cycle per second, switching becomes faster than the time it takes to scan the complete image. This produces an effect whereby all four images appear simultaneously on the screen in four, 8, 12, etc. horizontal bars. When the switching rate is at higher frequencies, the different sounds, including the switching frequencies, become blurred into one, just as the different images become one image.] In that tape, audio and video can't be separated. There's a simultaneity of seeing and hearing.

If I were only investigating the "properties," I wouldn't have digitized the images, electronically generated the instrumental sounds, or used additional frequencies slightly out of phase with sync that slowly roll through the picture. These were also digitized, which created thin horizontal lines on the edges, that at certain times I associate with "strings." There's an overall energy constructed from a lot of subtle modulation. The question here becomes-Did I add things that weren't there, circumvent my own concept, seduce you, the viewer, into believing something that wasn't there? I think from this tape on a basic theme in my work became physicality. I no longer wanted to be behind the glass, playing jazz with my friends. I wanted to, you know, communicate-reach out and touch someone.

LF: "Picture Story" [1979] seems to represent a shift to how language is used to construct meaning. [In this tape, Hill's didactic voiceover describes a quality shared by four letters of the alphabet-H, I, O, and X. Whether they are written upside down or backwards, their readability, and meaning, is essentially unchanged. As we hear this description, rectangles containing words referring not only to video, but to narrative and pictorial representation, randomly collapse into horizontal and vertical lines and points, whereupon a hand traces them. At the end of the tape, the four letters are used to draw an image of an ox. The letters thus form not only the basis of a story, but a picture as well.]

GH: It really wasn't a shift. Language simply became fair game, too. What I discovered in doing that piece was that there are these invisible properties-properties of language-that I could work with, rather than essentially mechanical or electronic properties. Structurally, perhaps even organically, in some way linguistics seemed related to electronic phenomena. I remember calling it "electronic linguistics." I really began to think of the mind as a kind of muscle, and wanted to physicalize its workings in some way. But I don't feel there was a jump from working with the elements of video to a plateau where I said, "Gee, I'm working with ideas now." I don't have any hard-and-fast rules about how I work.

LF: I'm not trying to impose any final categories on the development of your work, but as an observer of your tapes, I think that while your working process may have been the same, the end result isn't.

GH: In terms of development, "Ring Modulation" [1978] was just as pivotal as "Picture Story". [In "Ring Modulation", the video screen is divided into three sections. In the bottom portion, there's a close-up of hands holding a welding rod, attempting to bend it into a circle. As this happens, Hill's mouth vocalizes an "Ah" sound, which becomes distorted by the effort of bending the rod. In the upper portion of the screen, one box contains a full image of Hill bending the rod. The other contains a wavering circular image from an oscilloscope, generated by mixing Hill's unsteady voice with a steady electronic signal. If, instead of the voice, the second sound was a cosine of the first electronic signal, a circle would be produced.]

In "Ring Modulation", there's a paradoxical struggle: trying to sculpt physical material into a circle and simultaneously trying to form a circle electronically with non-physical materialwaveforms. It's impossible to do. I did it as a kind of alchemical ritual, trying to change this "material." In this light, the copper coating of the welding rod took on other meanings in relation to the phosphorus green of the oscilloscope. When copper rusts, it turns green. "Ring Modulation" was, again, returning to working more physically, using sculptural concerns, getting back to things I had left hanging.

The installation Mesh, which I worked on during the same period, had similar concerns-trying to merge physical material and concepts into some sort of unifying tactile resonance. It was a fairly complex installation, in some ways a culmination of burying myself in circuit building. [In the installation, layers of wire mesh were mounted on walls; each layer contained one oscillator which generated a certain pitch depending on the size of the mesh. The pitch generated would pan between four speakers mounted on each layer of mesh. Hill used small (3-in.) speakers to give a metallic quality to the sound and to give the effect of the sound being "woven" into the mesh. Upon entering the space, the viewer-participant activated the piece, became "meshed" into it when a camera picked up their image. This image was digitally encoded, producing a grid effect, and was then displayed on the first of four monitors. Each person who entered the space generated a new image, which, when, displayed on monitor one, cycled the previous image to monitor two, and so on.]

I didn't use discrete multiple channels in that piece-or Primarily Speaking and even Glass Onion. It's all dynamically controlled and inter-related, so that you're taking information and moving it in space, which is really interesting. I want to take this idea a lot further.

LF: You mean a kind of layering? I'm remembering Soundings [1979], where you put sand on an audio speaker, and it vibrates as the sound comes through. Then you go through variations-water, burning the speaker.

GH: I meant taking one or more images from cameras or tape and directing them out into different spaces, different monitors. Moving images in space. The work came about because I'd used a lot of mesh in my sculpture, and was interested in overlapping things to make a third element or pattern. Literally, the title refers not only to the material-the mesh-but compressing sound and image together. What was different about both Mesh and Ring Modulation was not only this preoccupation with physicality, but that an underlying concept was becoming increasingly more important. In the earlier works, there was much more of a visual orientation.

LF: Was Mesh your first video installation?

GH: Actually, the first was Hole in the Wall, done in 1974 at the Woodstock Art Association. Unfortunately, the only remaining element of the piece-a tape-was destroyed by accident. You have to see it in light of the political-social context of the Woodstock Art Association, where there's an old guard, and there are always new people around who want to get in. When I was involved with it, it was always a hotbed of controversy.

I set up a camera and zoomed in on a wall, framing an area approximately actual size when displayed on a 23-in. monitor. On the video screen, you saw a hand with a ruler drawing a frame on the edge of the screen. A matte knife entered the frame, cut the muslin surface on the wall, and then various tools were used to cut through a number of layers-plasterboard, fiberglass, etc.-to the wall outside. At one point, we reached structural beams. The camera zoomed in and framed a smaller frame. Then that was cut through to the outside. At the opening, a monitor was fitted into the hole, and played back the tape performing the action. When the camera zoomed in, I took the big monitor out, put a smaller one in, and then at the end of the tape, when you see outdoors, I took the monitor away.

Besides the fighting between the older, established artists and the younger ones trying to break into the scene, the Woodstock Art Association didn't consider video an art form. It wasn't until the mid-'70s that they accepted photography! So the political implications are obvious, and formally the piece contained reverberations of drawing, painting, sculpture, video, and conceptual art. What made it even more interesting at the time was that an art critic, Irwin Touster, mentioned the piece in the local paper, The Woodstock Times, with a statement like "Hill's Hole is a monumental act of hostility in the guise of art." I sent a letter to the editor which simply read: "Re: Irwin Touster's review ... a rebuttal," with a large photograph, taken in the gallery, of my ass sticking through the hole. So that was my first installation.

LF: Getting back to how your work changed, Around and About seems like a big leap.

GH: It was. I was talking in the first person directly to the viewer. When I was making Windows, for example, I never dreamed-it was the farthest thing from my mind-that I would use language. Now language seems like it will never go away. It's like a monkey on my back.

In the summer of 1979, I just started writing. I wrote the texts that ended up in Equal Time [the tape was done in 1979; an installation of the same title was shown at the Long Beach Museum of Art in March 1982], Picture Story, and a few of the Videograms texts. In the first month of 1980, I made Processual Video, BlacklWhitelText, and then, shortly after, I made Around and About. That was a very prolific time for me.

LF: Someone told me Around and About came from your frustration with your class at the State University of New York at Buffalo-that you couldn't communicate with the students.

GH: That's not true. I had to move suddenly, and I was also going through some heavy changes in a relationship. I had to move all my things, my studio, into my office at SUNY. Those two things coinciding put me on the edge. I had a lot of anxiety, and was paralyzed in terms of what to do. I sat down and wrote the text very quickly, as if I were talking out loud. I think the idea of editing the images to the syllables of my speech came out of this frustrating situation. It was almost as if I wanted to abuse the images, push them around, manipulate them with words. Maybe I was trying to expand this tiny little space, persuade the woman I lived with of the art-life paradox in plain English. On both accounts, I failed. I did the whole thing in my office, and each shot was set up and edited as I went along.

LF: So you wrote the text, laid it down as an audio track, and then plugged in images as you were shooting?

GH: Right. Even the concrete wall-where there's one layer of wall over another? I had two cameras. I would set up the matte, then zoom in the camera, then set it up again for each edit. And I edited it by hand. I didn't use a controller.

LF: That's amazing, because it looks like you used sophisticated equipment.

GH: People ask me if I used a Quantel. It's great to tell people how it actually was made-especially students-because then they don't feel intimidated about equipment. The thing about "Around and About" is that I was able to use the image and the text as a single unit. Suddenly I began to think about how far the images could get from what I was saying and still have the tape work. The images could be whatever I had at hand. Of course, the tape was also determined' by the frustration of being in this closed space-stuff was everywhere. I couldn't have done anything else anyway.

LF: There seem to be two different strains in your most recent tapes. While they all are made from texts with non-synchronous video, some-like "Around and About" and "Primarily Speaking" [1981-83]-make use of direct address. You establish an I/you relationship, and it's very confrontational. On the other hand, "Videograms" and "Processual Video" [1980] are much slower, descriptive, and you use the third person.

GH: There's an urgency in "Around and About" and "Primarily Speaking", whereas the others are much more timeless, almost about beauty. Videograms and Processual Video are much more object-oriented-"Here, look at this." There's a relationship between these words and this image.

LF: When you make the "Videograms", do you write the text first, and then sit down and figure out images? [In Videograms, abstract black and white images undergo subtle transformations as Hill recites short passages whose simplicity and compression resemble Haiku poetry. Because the passages are variously concrete and abstract, descriptive and metaphoric, the images alternately become illustrations and counterpoints.]

GH: So far, the texts have been written beforehand. However, when I actually combine them with the video, a phrase or a word or the ordering might change here or there. Little details might change, but in essence, the text is written beforehand.

LF: What do you use to produce the abstract images in "Videograms"?

GH: A Rutt/Etra Scan Processor. [The Rutt/Etra, invented by Steve Ruff and Bill Etra in the early 1970s, allows one to manipulate the video image or raster. According to "The Electronic Image," an unpublished paper by the Experimental Television Center, Owego, N.Y., the raster can be described as the visible rectangle of light emanating from a cathode ray tube, and is normally constructed by a beam of electrons focused to a fine point. This point is moved around in an orderly and continuous manner-horizontally from left to right and vertically from top to bottom-so that the raster, or image, is described. The rate at which the raster is drawn is determined by a timing pulse called sync. The Rutt/Etra allows one to manipulate sync signals, providing an enormous amount of flexibility in altering a video input, or in generating new images by using other inputs, such as waveforms. The images produced are always black and white, and cannot be recorded directly; they must be recorded by pointing a camera at the display monitor.]

The Rutt/Etra is interesting. Conceptually a lot more is possible on it than with commercial digital effects. It's a powerful machine, and relatively unexplored. It probably never will be because it's hard to find access to them, and people tend to bypass black and white like it's-well, you know, black and white is black and white, man, it's not color. And you have to re-scan it. And that's primitive. It's not state-of-the-art.

LF: What's nice about the Videograms is that they're so spare.

GH: Some of the "Videograms" are more successful than others. Some are too literal, others I'll probably redo because the image isn't quite right. I'm working on a new work, "Happenstance", which has similarities to "Videograms", but it's not a series. It's continuous, and it uses sound and character-generated text in addition to the voiceover. The images are more developed, also.

LF: Something more like "Processual Video"? [In "Processual Video", a single white line revolves clockwise in the center of the monitor. Its movement is synchronized to a text read by Hill, so that the mental images conjured up by the text are often reinforced by the location of the line. For instance, when a line is in a horizontal or vertical position, there are references to surfing and skiing, the ocean and mountains. Into these visually suggestive sentences, Hill interweaves seemingly random, but highly self-conscious musings, about the text and the line.]

GH: Actually, I did a performance out of Processual Video for the "Video Viewpoints" series at the Museum of Modern Art. In fact, the piece was written as my lecture for the series.

LF: How did it work?

GH: There was a large monitor facing the audience, and the text was scored on paper. I watched a small monitor so I knew approximately where the bar was in relation to what I was reading. In different readings, there would be slight variations, but it all remained pretty close to the score. In that tape, there are references to me, references to the audience sitting in chairs, but it's more allegorical than "Around and About" and "Primarily Speaking". In those tapes, the address is acutely direct. "Primarily Speaking" is probably the most complex work I've done. It still isn't finished. Its complexity gets subverted by the use of idiomatic expressions. I still haven't unwound it because it exists on so many different levels.

LF: In "Primarily Speaking", why did you use color bars as a background for the two boxes? Was it a reference to broadcast television? [In the single-channel piece, the screen is divided into two boxes which are framed top and bottom by vertical bars of color-a standard test pattern for adjusting the color video signal. Inside the boxes, two sets of images are rapidly edited-like "Around and About"-to the syllables of the text, which is constructed entirely from idiomatic expressions.]

GH: It's a general reference, an idiom of television. To me, it becomes a kind of social frame. The tape has a very superficial layer to it, which I love, in that the whole thing is constructed from idioms. It's curious, when someone says something using an idiomatic expression, it's taken with a grain of salt. And yet, idioms are the heart of the matter, expressions that originally put a thought or feeling in a nutshell. I really constructed the text. It wasn't like writing. When I was doing the text, I thought of Matisse's cut-outs, these re-energized primal shapes. Idioms seem like language cut-outs. Once you get inside of idioms, they're incredibly rich. Television is the most advanced communication system and yet it's one big idiom. Everything that's spewed out is an idiom-the corporate world takes on how life should be.

LF: Did you divide the screen into two boxes to designate one box as the speaker and the other as the viewer?

GH: Not specifically, but to set up the idea of oscillating relationships.

LF: You establish some very literal connections between the images and what your voice is saying in that tape. For example, when you say, "So," an image of a pig flashes by; when you say "Listen," there's a conch shell. But the tape doesn't operate just on that level. Most of the word-image connections are impossible to pin down, and I found myself reading into the tape, trying to figure out what the nonliteral connections meant. At one point, I was convinced that the tape was a comment on industrial pollution, because there were all these images of pipes and industrial waste, and you say: "They've done it again." At another point, I thought you were talking about the inability of two people to communicate. Finally, I felt that that was what the tape was designed to do-bring me to this process of making associations. But I also felt that it didn't matter if the associations I was making were the "right" ones, because there really could be no "correct" interpretation. On the one hand, the tape seemed extremely tight and structured, and on the other, the relationships were completely ambiguous.

GH: All those things are there, they exist, a lot are intentional. But then again, all those things-the images, the puns-are to me distractions from the heart of the work, which is the text. Consequently, Primarily Speaking. It's like a spear, and everything else is outside that. At the same time, it's an internal dialogue and a monologue addressing someone: who is talking to whom? There's a section where the images are just black and white rectangles-1 thought of this process as standing in front of a mirror for a long time, of the way you can separate the reflection from yourself and kind of have a conversation.

When you're trying to focus an idea, you're always in the context of everything else. All the external distractions are still going to exist, and they're going to affect that honed-in moment you're having. But the text is the heart of it. Language can be this incredibly forceful material-there's something about it where if you can strip away its history, get to the materiality of it, it can rip into you like claws, whereas images sometimes just slide off the edge of your, mind, as if you were looking out a car window.

LF: Well, one always has an ongoing mental dialogue. One thing you seem to be doing to make that apparent is editing the video to the pace of the audio. The video becomes subservient. The images pass by faster than you can assimilate them.

GH: That gives a contradictory feeling. It makes the textimage construct, the syntax, the way it's coming at you, seem very purposeful. They're one unit, yet so much of the time they're disparate; they're pulled apart. The video is forcing associations-you could easily wander off-but the text continues straight ahead, getting larger than life, almost. At certain times, I try to second guess the viewer, fill in their mind with their own thoughts.

LF: Are the images completely arbitrary then?

GH: Yes and no. If I went out and did that tape right now, I could take the text, erase all the images, and put in a whole new set. The work would be archetypically the same; it would be a variation on a theme.

LF: In "Primarily Speaking", the rapidly edited images in the boxes are interrupted a number of times by short breaks or interludes in which your voice says or sings a puzzling rhyme. One of them is "Time on our hands is blood on our hands." Your voice sounds like it's been processed-it has a very eerie tone, especially in the break where you have two dangling telephones.

GH: It's vocoded speech [a Vocoder breaks down an audio input into 16 different frequency bands, then imposes those frequencies onto another carrier frequency]. I was trying to come up with almost idiomatic, harmonic sounds analogous to what's being said. The telephone is a rather pessimistic reference to communication. I remember that when I shot it I wanted the dangling phone to turn around so that the ITT on it could be read. The receiver hanging there conjures up, to me, images of something,that happened to someone while they were on the telephone, or they simply left, or the telephone's dead.

LF: What about the rhyme that goes with it?

GH: In that section, I say: "Blue, green, red, cyan, magenta, yellow, food, feed, fed, I have the time of dayglow." It's a way of saying that television feeds us constantly. It even gives us the time of day. In the section, "Time on our hands is blood on our hands," when the two GASILAND signs appear, that's probably the most synchronous segment in the tape. First of all, you have the rhyme, the political implications of blood and gas. Then you have the actual sign being in languagewords-on a sign that's designed to look like a TV set, which coincides with the frame of the monitor TV.

LF: I don't know that I would have made those connections, but I read them as general references to communication. You also made an installation from "Primarily Speaking", and there the interludes work very differently. [In the installation, two walls of four monitors face one another, forming a corridor about the width of outstretched arms. The images which appear inside the two boxes in the single channel tape are two separate tapes in the installation: one rectangle fills up the entire screen. On one end of each side of the corridor, the two videotapes are played on monitors facing each other. On the other three monitors are solid fields of color: one set of monitors displays red, green, blue; the other set displays cyan, magenta, and yellow. Each wall of monitors alternately functions as a "speaking" wall, in that the text emanates from the speakers on that side only. As in the tape, the video is edited to each syllable, as if Hill's voice were activating the movement of the images. The other wall functions as a "listening" wall, in that no sound emanates from its audio speakers while the other wall is "speaking." The video on the "listening" wall is also activated by the audio, but rather than being edited to the beat of every syllable, the image actually rotates from one monitor to the next at a pace slower than the rapid video edits of the "speaking" wall. During the breaks, the images--all the monitors are rapidly sequenced, so that they ripple up and down the bank of monitors in a fixed relationship to one another.] How do you think the tape differs from the installation in terms of how each is experienced?

GH: The tape is very linear. You sit in front of it; it locks you in-your eyes fix on two squares that are almost like horse blinders, spatially. The installation expands the idea of the images being an element that distracts from the text. In the tape, you're on the outside-watching. In the installation, you're inside. It's as if the two walls are speaking to each other; there's much more of a sense not only of talking back and forth, but on the images relating back and forth. You're constantly looking over your shoulder, walking up and down in a thoroughfare of images. The movement constantly distracts. The solid fields of color soften this, wash the space in a kind of sensuality, another distraction.

LF: Do you have a preference for installations over tapes?

GH: Installations. I like the complexity of working spatially, combining materials and media in different ways. I generally have ambiguous feelings about the experience of watching tapes on television.

LF: You mean sitting in a gallery and watching tapes?

GH: Yes, even more so with seeing video work on television. But it's more that the tape, the images, don't have a surface. They're encased behind glass. Yet at the same time, I really like the quality of emitted light.

LF: In the pieces that exist both as tapes and installations, you always change them in the process of going from one to the other, don't you?

GH: Definitely. A lot of times, in the middle of making a tape, I'll be thinking of an installation. It's not an afterthought. Some people think that one compromises the other, but for me, it's all raw material, even the texts. It's not pristine-this text belongs to this tape, and anything that's done outside of its original context compromises it.

LF: It really depends on how it's realized as an installation or as a tape. Some people show tapes from installations as unaltered tapes, and it often doesn't translate.

GH: Yeah. For instance, there isn't a Mesh tape, and there's not a "War Zone" [a 1980 installation at Media Study, Buffalo, N.Y.] tape, although I do have a tape documenting it. But I don't show it as a "tape."

LF: You've called "War Zone" a metaphor for the empty mind thinking to itself. That seems very similar to the "internal dialogue" in "Primarily Speaking".

GH: There's a similarity in dealing with image and language, but "War Zone" deals with it more directly. The scenario was image and language being at war. It also refers to the left and right sides of the brain, the perceptual and conceptual faculties battling for control. It's definitely a battle within myself, but the experience of the two pieces is very different.

The original idea for "War Zone" was to have many speakers in a room whispering single words, so that the experience would be walking through a room of white noise. As you walked around, individual words naming the objects would become audible. In the end, this became the basic texture of the piece. The large sound-space [at Media Study] determined certain details. It's insulated for sound recording, and feels quite raw, with exposed fiberglass on all the walls and ceiling. The pink of the fiberglass and the deadness of the sound changed my thinking about it, and I constructed the piece much more literally, picturing the space as "inside the mind."

LF: In using the metaphor of fighting, the camera represents a machine gun, the audio speakers function as mines in a mine field, the panning lights become surveillance lights. How did you choose the objects you used?

GH: A lot was determined by what I found around Media Study. Once I got a few things, it gave me the idea of using objects that would become analogous to thought processes, psychologically symbolic. For instance, a ladder represented a kind of hierarchy of thought; the dolly represented a stable thought, moving horizontally in any direction, but never shaken; a mirror represented reflection; and various things, such as a rope hanging from the ceiling, represented escape. There were 16 objects identified with speakers. These references were not intended to be perceived exactly the way I described them, but rather as a kind of map or diagram for constructing the piece.

LF: What about the white rabbit?

GH: That rabbit was the only live element; it represented illusion. When I think of the way rabbits dart around, it represents to me the creative aspects of the mind. Among the identified objects in the space, it served as the unidentified, non-verbal, unconscious element.

LF: Your other installations, "Glass Onion" [1981] and "Equal Time" [1982] also seem to set up physical spaces in which language and image play off of one another. In "Glass Onion", you used a rectangle constructed from video feedback as the only image. What was the thinking behind that? ["Glass Onion" consists of four concentric rectangles. In the outermost layer are four monitors; in each of the next two layers are four audio speakers; in the center is a single monitor displaying a tape of an image of a black and white rectangle which was constructed from video feedback. The central monitor and the speakers all lie on the floor facing up. Pointing down from the ceiling is a camera with an automated zoom lens: when zoomed all the way in, it frames the single monitor; when zoomed all the way out, it frames the outermost rectangle of monitors. This undulating image is displayed on the outer monitors. It is also altered whenever a person enters the space, because their image is picked up by the camera. The rate at which the rectangle shrinks and expands-or the rate at which the lens zooms in and out-is determined by the sound track, which is measured by the enunciation of the three syllables: reo-tan-gle. Based on the rhythm of these syllables, a mathematical structure of enunciation is set up for the entire text: one phrase overlaps another at a certain rate, mimicking and thereby describing the process of video feedback.]

GH: I "did Glass Onion" right after "BlacklWhitelText" [l980, the single-channel work that "Processual Video" is based on]. They're similar in that both take a very basic image and try to question image versus language-what happens when you use a very simple image with a text that gets very complex. "Glass Onion" is much more anchored to the original tape than my other installations. It uses a known image and process as a foundation.

The curious thing about feedback is that it's about delaythat's what makes the squares within the squares-but you see it all at once. You don't experience the time until you know what it is, and then you can conceptualize the delay. The problem with any feedback is that it just keeps feeding on itself, and you're pulled into it without any kind of external check. It's like two people who begin by having a conversation and get into an argument. If you listen to it later, it oscillates into oblivion. That's what I think of when I watch video feedback-it's meaningless after awhile.

The text provides a check, a kind of third party. It isolates segments of time, so that you don't fall into the feedback. The experience of text is perceived as time passing; with the image, the parts, are not separated. There is no isolation of the individual loops or segments of time that construct the image.

LF: In other words, the video feedback flows continuously, whereas the text is composed of discrete syllables and words that provide an overall structure?

GH: It's more specific than that. It's the way the description is structured. The idea was to try to isolate the individual rings in the feedback, and to have an analog in language, something that would be comparable to video feedback, but without actually using audio feedback. The text literally describes feedback, and is structured as a process of feedback. It is read backwards so that the phrases pile up on one another until they invert and you actually hear it from beginning to end. The end of the sentence is said first, and then each phrase is repeated, overlaps with the phrase before it, until the whole paragraph is constructed. Each phrase is twice as long as the one before it, and so there's a mathematical relationship almost like a pyramid. The installation itself is laid out like a pyramid, topographically.

LF: So you layered the phrases in order to create an experience similar to looking at video feedback?

GH: Yes, you don't follow the words linearly; it's a kind of linguistic maze that one gets lost in and every once in a while, when the individual phrases double up on each other, "objects of meaning" appear.

LF: What do you mean by "objects of meaning"?

GH: That term is a little obtuse, isn't it? The text literally defines the outer parameter of the space as a character-generated image that crawls along the bottom of each monitor. This outlining is again reinforced by the quadrature movement of the sound (speech) between each set of four speakers, which mark the corners of concentric rectangles. The charactergenerated text consists of the individual phrases or units that make up the text you're hearing, but in linear order. The first barrier is the "reading" of the text. This describes what you're entering. With each successive barrier or rectangle, the "description" gets more complex-that is to say, it's no longer a word-for-word interpretation. Experientially, something else is taking place. The sound of the text feeding back on itself is becoming that object of meaning, which finally leads us to go to the central monitor, the image "tomb," and there it is, in living black and white-this graphic image of where you're standing. One tends to retrace one's steps, to feedback on one's own movement, and construct this "object of meaning."

LF: How does this installation compare to Equal Time?

GH: "Glass Onion" is autonomous in the sense that the installation defines its own space. In fact, the height of the overhead camera and the focal length of the lens are the determining factors. When the camera is zoomed out to the widest view, that becomes the outer rectangle. Equal Time was set up in a given, almost symmetrical space, with all the components set up as oscillating pairs, everything in a kind of reciprocal relationship, all trying to cancel each other out. This cancelling relatioship is prevented by the viewer's own participation, because of the nature of perception when seeing and/or hearing two or more things simultaneously. This idea was the structuring principle of the work.

In the original tape, there are two texts. Each is a long paragraph. One describes the opening of a fictional art show. It's kind of a joke: one gallery wall is painted white, but it's still wet. That's the exhibit. People are at the opening, drinking and talking, and at the end, they notice that they have paint all over them. The other text is a description of a private performance, very solitary. Both texts are very image-oriented and descriptive-except one's public and one's private. Both texts are the same length, and the last part of each is the same: "I left the room, exiting to a hallway. It was long enough to form extreme perspective looking in either direction with doors to other rooms on both sides. I crossed the hall and entered the room opposite me."

This is another instance where the text could be replaced with other texts, and the piece would still be the "same." The content would be different, but "Equal Time" isn't about the content. It's about how content is experienced when structured in this field of simultaneity. I considered having other pairs of texts, which would change every other time I crossed the hall and entered the room opposite me. I felt this would have made it unnecessarily complicated, giving the impression of rooms with many scenes. The repetition of just the two texts reinforces the static quality of being inside an object and figuring out how it's constructed.

In the installation, there are two adjacent rooms connected by a narrow passage. In the center of each room there are monitors facing the passageway, and each other. The monitors display separate tapes which consist of the same images, images which refer to the text. The only difference is that on one monitor the images corresponding to, say, text A are prioritized, or keyed over, the images of text B. The opposite exists on the other monitor.

LF: So while you can always hear both texts, one text always dominates, depending on where you are. And in the room where one text dominates, its accompanying video also dominates?

GH: Right. At the end of both tapes, one hears the same last sentence, and then the two audio tracks are reversed, along with the images, and repeated in opposite rooms. Inside the passageway there are two more monitors, also facing each other, displaying another videotape. In that tape, there's an abstract image of two shiny, grid-like panels that slowly move until they overlap each other. They overlap at the point where the two texts overlap, creating a more pattern; and then, when the texts start up again, the panels start to move again.

LF: What was the reasoning behind using the abstract imagery in the small space?

GH: The abstract imagery was the original tape for "Equal Time". It functions similarly to BlacklWhitelText, somewhat diagrammatically, mirroring the movement of the sound/text. There are also a lot of textural, abstract references to the text. Because of the location of those inner monitors becomes so narrow, you almost have to turn sideways to get through. It became a kind of synaptical point, where all four monitors pointed towards each other. It was the "hot spot," especially when there were several people in the space. It was the ambiguous zone, where one asked where one space met another.

LF: Given that you're literally saying in Equal Time that people in the art world are all wet-covered with paint-I'm interested in what you think about video being plugged into that world.

GH:I think that essentially it's not.

LF: No?

GH: Peripherally, but not really, basically because it's not marketable.

LF: They said that about photography, too.

GH: It maybe in the future, but right now it's not. Video as an art form proving itself ... for me the whole idea of the singularity of an art form is backwards, dead, reactionary. So much is manipulated and defined by the market.

LF: Don't you think that there's an imperative to intellectualize, institutionalize, and legitimize video?

GH: Sure. The Paik show ["Nam June Paik," a retrospective originating at the Whitney Museum of American Art, April 30 June 27, 1982]. It was still a great show though. I don't know. I could see some point-not necessarily far away-where I wouldn't be doing video, but something else. I don't see myself as a video artist. Anytime I feel like I'm falling into "this is what I do," I don't like it, and I want to push it away. I worked in sculpture longer than video. I could see working with just about anything, working with nothing, not doing anything for two years. Just thinking.

The Fall (1973, 11 min., black and white, sound)
Air Raid (1974, 6 min., color, sound)
Rock City Road (1974-75, 12 min., color, silent)
Earth Pulse (1975, 6 min., color, sound)
Embryonics 11 (1976, 12 min., color, silent)
Improvisations with Bluestone (1976, 7 min., color, sound)
Mirror Road (1976, 6 min., color, silent)
Bathing (1977)
Electronic Linguistics (1978, 3:25 min., black and white, sound)
Windows (1978, 8 min., color, silent)
Sums & Differences (1978, 8 min., black and white, sound)
Mouth Piece (1978, 1 min., color, sound)
Ring Modulation (1978, 3:25 min., color, sound)
Primary (1978,1:40 min., color, sound)
Elements (1978, 2 min., black and white, sound)
Objects with Destinations (1979, 3:40 min., color, silent)
Equal Time (1979, 4 min., color, stereo sound)
Picture Story (1979, 7 min., color, sound)
Soundings (1979, 17 min., color, sound)
Processual Video (1980, 11 min., black and white, sound)
BlacklWhitelText (1980, 7 min., black and white, stereo sound)
Commentary (1980, 0:40 min., color, sound)
Around & About (1980, 4:45 min., color, sound)
Videograms (1980-81, 13:25 min., black and white, sound)
Primarily Speaking (1981-83, 20 min., color, stereo sound)
Happenstance (in progress, black and white, stereo sound)

Hole in the Wall (1974), Mesh (1979), War Zone (1980), Glass Onion (1981), Primarily Speaking (1981), Equal Time (1982).

Above copied from: http://www.experimentaltvcenter.org/history/people/pview.php3?id=6&page=1

Hypertext 2.0: An Interview With George Landow, Lars Hubrich

Hypertext theorist George Landow's seminal work of literary criticism, Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology, was published in 1992, ancient history in "web years," and has since sold tens of thousands of copies. The "yellow book" as it's been called, has been translated into many languages, most recently Japanese. A much expanded new version of the book, called Hypertext 2.0, will be coming out this August with the Johns Hopkins University Press. And now that so much of our current artistic, critical, economic and scientific energy and resources are being devoted to the World Wide Web's research and development, we thought we'd ask Landow, who first introduced us to the important correlation between the deconstructive philosophy of Jacques Derrida and the spirited ideas behind Ted Nelson's Literary Machines, what this explosion of mainstream interest in this not-too-long-ago esoteric field of study means to him.
Alt-X correspondent Lars Hubrich, who has been working with Landow at Brown University, conducted the interview in Providence, Rhode Island.

What are the main differences between the first version of your book and the new edition? What things did you add or leave out?

First, I took a lot of the emphasis off Intermedia and moved it on to a whole series of other kinds of Hypertext systems, such as Storyspace, Micr ocosm, World Wide Web, and various CD-ROMs. Second, there is a whole new chapter, almost a hundred pages in typescript, on writing hypermedia, the rhetoric and stylistics of writing, and the notion of Hypertext as a kind of collage or montage. There are also new sections on Hypertext fiction and Hypertext poetry. The chapter on narrative thus is about twice as long.

The chapter on education, instead of being entirely about more orthodox educational applications, now has added to it lots of sections on inventing new forms of writing for the electronic space. For this chapter, I depend chiefly on student projects but also include some commercial CD-ROMs, ranging from K on-Tiki Interactive to the Resident's Freak Show. Besides that, I also looked at interactive video like David Balcom's HypercafŽ. So in general, the whole notion of narrativism moved out from straight text and more into hypermedia, even though I am still primarily a devotee of straight text.

Finally, the last addition is a new discussion of the notion of legal jurisdiction in the chapter on the politics of Hypertext. What do you do in electronic space when there suddenly is not really a "there" there? I used the examples of people being arrested in one place for putting something on a computer bulletin board at a different location. For me, this is essentially an extension of vulnerability and not protection. My theory is that it actually is not about moral outrage, but that it is a jockeying not so much for political as economic power. Because if you can arrest someone for moral things you can also claim sales and other taxes and control money. This is something more of a factor in the United States which has separate jurisdictions in the individual states. But with the European Union, Europe is going to face something very similar to the American States. A second example would be gambling, because gambling is done off shore in the World Wide Web. And then, I raised the whole issue that you find in the works of Gibson and Stephenson about what will happen to the national state, when countries are unable to control the flow of money.

Those are roughly the changes in the book which make it about 50% longer. There are also some sections I threw out, like the stuff on Intermedia, and some critical theory that turned out to be not as helpful or as relevant as I thought. On the other hand, some feminist theory and Deleuze and Guattari became more important to me.

How far has the World Wide Web influenced or changed your views on Hypertext?

The web actually hasn't changed my views on Hypertext at all. It's just that on the one hand it has completely fulfilled the expectations of a Nelsonian docuverse with its gigantic amount of interlinked material, and all the advantages and disadvantages that come with it. On the other hand, because HTML is much more limited than it should be, I spent a great deal of time trying to explain how you can create Web documents that are as rich as Hypertext documents in other systems. It is not only a matter of bandwidth. It is a matter of the lack of one-to-many linking and the lack of multiple windows. Those two features are really important. Another issue would be orientation devices like the Intermedia Web View. I think we are going to get technically advanced things that will help us create much more elaborate and interesting things. But at the moment, that is future talk; there is not enough bandwidth to make these things work.

But would you still consider the World Wide Web to be a Hypertext?

I think it is a form of Hypertext, but compared to things like Intermedia, Storyspace, Microcosm, or the German SEPIA (Structured Elicitation and Processing of Ideas for Authoring), or Hyper-G in Austria, it really is a flat version. On the other hand, the World Wide Web is to networked Hypertext what HyperCard was to stand-alone Hypertext. Despite the fact that it is so flat and limited, it is probably going to have much more influence than better systems because most people perceive it as free, and it is very easy to get into in the beginning. If you want to do something really ambitious, however, you end up throwing years of your life into it. It is much harder to author than other programs like Storyspace or Intermedia. Nonetheless, the fact that it looks glitzy and you can get it out there, and you know that if you write an essay on some area and you are going to find someone who wanted contribute, that's fine. It is not just resenting or looking down upon the World Wide Web, it is just that it is a little disappointing. I hope it will do for Hypertext on a large scale what Hypercard did on a smaller scale. That is, get a lot of people interested and drive the development of better things, since, once people get into it, they see what they want. One example of how it's really fulfilling some of these things: I have people all the time sending in things for the three large websites that I run (Cyberspace, Victorian, Postcolonial). A student from the University of Southern Colorado, Gabriel A. Martinez, who is doing work on Kipling for his class asked the teacher if he could hand in his work to the Victorian Web and the teacher said that's fine. I find this really fascinating, all the business about sharing resources, unimportance of location, and distant learning. I welcome the Web to act as a lab to test a lot of ideas about hypertext, digital writing, multi-headed authorship, and the like.

So is the Web for you rather an information storage technology than a literary environment?

That seems to be true for the most part, but some people are showing that it can be artistic. I think it is harder to be artistic and creative on the web than scholarly or educational. Because of the Web's limited and flawed nature you have to create artificial structures, which is fine for informational Hypertext, but it really gets in the way of literary work.

What role does Virtual Reality, Multimedia, RealVideo etc. play in relation to Hypertext? How, if at all, does it influence the development of Hypertext?

One of the definitions people use is that the difference between Hypermedia and Multimedia is that Multimedia is what commercial developers do when they want put in a lot of glitz, and Hypermedia is a real interlinked document or information technology that has lots of different media (sound, media etc.). I think that there has to be a much larger visual element in Hypertext than in print text. When it's well used, sound can be very effective, but I have my doubts about the Real Time stuff.

John B. Smith, a computer scientist who's one of the developers of Storyspace and gave the opening talk on Hypertext '97, told me that he now teaches his classes on programming entirely on the web. He found that putting papers and assignments on the web and interlinking them, discussion groups, and e-mail work beautifully. The only thing that really disappoints him are chatrooms. Why? Because the great advantage of text is that it enforces reflection. Most people cannot come up with something brilliant off the top of their head. That is why most of the stuff in chat rooms is rather pathetic. I gave this talk to students in a dozen or so European countries via a TV hook-up from Brown that was organized by Espen Aarseth fron Bergen, Norway. Later students could call in, and the questions were all rather dumb compared to the written questions I get on other occasions when I've taken part in other distant learning activities using listservs, which produced much more thoughtful and intelligent inquiries.

That is one of the reasons why I think that e-mail is much more interesting than telephone conversations. Obviously, there are certain things that you would rather do on the phone, like talking to your wife etc. where you want to hear someone's voice and you want them to hear yours. But for creative text you don't really need that. In fact, a lot of the emphasis on see-you see me technology, like all forms of telepresence, is, as Derrida points out about so much of Western culture, riddled with the problem of presence -- namely, that it elevates presence above everything else. Telepresence can be interesting, but a lot of the real-time stuff has the same problems as Western metaphysics in that it is afflicted with the idea that speech and the immediate presence of something is better than reflection and writing and thought.

Virtual Reality is something else. It is a form of asynchronous writing which is disguising itself as presence, very much like photorealism in painting and photography. You should never believe that Virtual Reality is another reality, since it always is someone else's ideology and abstraction that presents itself as real. There are some things for which Virtual Reality is dazzling. For anything that is dangerous or expensive, Virtual Reality as a simulation is wonderful. I would love to see a new art form coming out of it, but most of the stuff I have seen is so banal, that I'd rather read or see a film.

One of the problems seems to be that people tend to forget the relation between the real and the virtual world. They don't see the latter as being only an extension of the real rather than an alternative to it. Thus they try to impose things onto the virtual world that don't quite work there.

I agree, and besides that, every artist is trying to give us a Virtual Reality that they think to be better or more interesting. It is like Virginia Woolf said: Why reproduce nature when one of the damn things is enough? If all works of art are some sort of Virtual Reality, how little of it is successful? How many films are made that use the best writers and actors and get all the money they need, but that still don't work in the end. The same will happen with Virtual Reality in Hypertext. Of course, 90% of everything is crap, and so you can't rely on negative examples, failures, particularly in the early stages of any technology or art form.

Do you think your work can be relevant for the World Wide Web?

I certainly do. Working with a fancier Hypertext system tells you what you need and what you don't need. Some aspects of Intermedia like the link marker, for example, are unnecessary, but others are crucial. Why, for example, doesn't the World Wide Web have link indicators that you can turn on and off like the ones in Storyspace? That is the kind of thing WWW developers can learn from non-WWW systems since these earler forms of hypertext have worked as laboratories for the web -- and one hopes that WWW developers won't keep trying to reinvent the wheel but build on earlier work.

The other thing is that I really think you have to theorize. You have to have some sort of intellectual understanding of Hypermedia and Hypertext. Since the World Wide Web is driven so much by amateurs or commercial interest, a lot of these people have no interest whatsoever in Hypertext. So they blindly stumble on redoing things that people did ten years ago that didn't work. In some cases they rediscover stuff, which is good. But why can't you have both the experience of those who used Hypertext and apply it to the Web, but also find out how to theorize that and find out what the implications are and work with them.

A good example is this: It's disastrous to have have settled on the term, "homepage," which makes one think in terms of paper-based information technology when all hypertext is essentially virtual and physical. To stick with the idea that WWW is just another form of the book when it doesn't have the strengths of a book is also pathetic. That is the kind of thinking that I hope my work might help correct. Finally, the idea of developing some kind of rhetoric and stylistics of writing in electronic space is very important in order to protect the medium against skeptics who say that you get lost in Cyberspace. Like Mark Bernstein of Eastgate and many others, I believe that the whole "Lost in Hyperspace" issue is a non-issue: Bad systems and bad writing disorient, but bad writing always has. People have to learn how to write in the medium, in the same way people have to learn how to write a book or to give presentations, public speeches, etc.

Do you think that the Web can make critical theory more accessible?

Lots of people have told me that it has. At least, it has it to me. I suddenly saw how good a lot of material, particularly by Derrida, was that I had not at first believed relevant or interesting. Many of my students who took my Hypertext class have told me the same thing: they found the theory more accessible than in the context of other classes. The theory and the medium are on the same wavelength; that is, there is a real convergence, even if it is not a total mapping of all theory to all technology. But hypermedia certainly is very useful in embodying the theory just like the theory is very useful in intellectualizing and explaining the space.

There are applied grammatologists out there who don't know about it.

Absolutely. Applied grammatology is what all the good hypertext is, really. Greg Ulmer's concept really fits in that respect.

Let's talk about literary writing again. A lot of literary Hypertext is very self-referential. Do you think that this will always be a crucial characteristic of Hypertext or do you think that it is just a passing phase?

I don't know if that's because we are at an early stage or if it really is a natural part of the medium. Freak Show, for example, is not very self referential, whereas Patchwork Girl is. Afternoon is self referential to some extent, whereas some of the Hypertext poetry is not. I am thinking of Forward Anywhere by Cathy Marshall and Judy Malloy. That is why it is really hard to make any claims at this moment about what the future of literary Hypertext is going to be.

But do you generally see Hypertext as being two-sided, one side being literary, and the other one being informational? Or wouldn't you make that distinction?

I see that distinction, but it really depends on use. We have seen but so much blurring. People who start out writing informational Hypertext sometimes end up with something literary and the other way round. It also depends on how the user defines and works with it.

But you might have to take another direction as well. Remember there is lots of interesting digital stuff on the web which is not particularly hypertextual. I am thinking of something like Christy Sanford's work on Safara, Safara in the Beginning. It really is sequential, but it uses things like animation and other things you could not do in a book. It is very elegant, but it is digital fiction that is not particularly hypertextual. There is another element, and then there is Virtual Reality stuff. So I think that there is the distinction you made, but there also other distinctions that come into play.

What kind of connection do you see between Hypertext and Cyberspace? That is, what role does the spatial metaphor play in Hypertext?

Spatial metaphors are about the best thing we got, and I have seen some recent systems that make even more out of them. At the same time I am a little suspicious of these metaphors, because you don't orient yourself or travel in quite the same way as you do in real space because the element of time is very much changed. Certain things just collapse or pop up in Cyberspace, so you have to think about time and space in slightly different ways.

At Hypertext '97, very impressive UNIX-based systems called Pad and Pad++ were demonstrated by Noah Wardrip-Fruin from NYU. His team produced a work of art on it, called Gray Matters and it is based on Gray's anatomy. As you sweep into it, suddenly a poem appears or a drawing that is disturbing or erotic. You just swoop through it. That brings me back to the question of Virtual Reality. Maybe Virtual Reality is more useful as an information navigating tool. I have seen some impressive virtual worlds that make impressive use of space as an orienting device. I don't know, however, if these things are going to work on a large site. The main question that is always asked is "Does it scale up?" Something that works for 100 documents does not necessarily work with 300 documents or 300, 000.

Back to what you said in the beginning about law: What is your take about the question of context in Hypertext? Does the context change notions of intellectual property and, ultimately, copyright?

It's got to change. As I argue in the book, copyright is really a matter of the print world. It was originally devised so printers and publishers and booksellers who were often the same person wouldn't go broke. The fact of the matter is now that a great deal of intellectual property is not protected by copyright. It is protected by secrecy, or it is capitalized on by getting to the market first. All you have to do is to think about something like Coca Cola whose makers won't tell their formula, or cigarette manufacturers don't tell what is really in their cigarettes. There are certain commercial developments that are worth billions of dollars that are not protected by copyright.

Another thing that people often claim is that copyright protects the individual creator. But most of the time the money simply does not go to the individual creator. One of the most bizarre things about copyright is defined as that little bit you add to public knowledge, that makes it "copyrightable."

But let me give you one example from James Boyle's wonderful new book -- Shamans, Software, and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society: The problem is you could have a tribe or group of people in the third world that develops a medicine or a seed that is resistant to some sort of fungus. A Western scientist comes along, and his company which our laws, bizarrely enough, define as an individual can copyright something that originally belonged to the group. Because, according to western copyright, the public cannot copyright anything. Therefore, you have examples of how copyright is used to abuse and to take over other people's property, and it is not necessarily used to help.

So, having said all that, what can we do? One solution would be Ted Nelson's idea: minuscule amounts of money for using anybody's stuff. Anybody should be allowed to use anything from any place.

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