Saturday, July 26, 2008

futurist photodynamism, anton giulio bragaglia

1st july 1913

To begin with, Photodynamism cannot be interpreted as an innovation applicable to photography in the way that chronophotography was. Photodynamism is a creation that aims to achieve ideals that are quite contrary to the objectives of all the representational means of today. If it can be associated at all with photography, cinematography and chronophotography, this is only by virtue of the fact that, like them, it has its origins in the wide field of photographic science, the technical means forming common ground. All are based on the physical properties of the camera.

We are certainly not concerned with the aims and characteristics of cinematography and chronophotography. We are not interested in the precise reconstruction of movement, which has already been broken up and analysed. We are involved only in the area of movement which produces sensation, the memory of which still palpitates in our awareness.

We despise the precise, mechanical, glacial reproduction of reality, and take the utmost care to avoid it. For us this is a harmful and negative element, whereas for cinematography and chronophotography it is the very essence. They in their turn overlook the trajectory, which for us is the essential value.

The question of cinematography in relation to us is absolutely idiotic, and can only be raised by a superficial and imbecilic mentality motivated by the most crass ignorance of our argument.

Cinematography does not trace the shape of movement. It subdivides it, without rules, with mechanical arbitrariness, disintegrating and shattering it without any kind of aesthetic concern for rhythm. It is not within its coldly mechanical power to satisfy such concerns.

Besides which, cinematography never analyses movement. It shatters it in the frames of the film strip, quite unlike the action of Photodynamism, which analyses movement precisely in its details. And cinematography never synthesises movement, either. It merely reconstructs fragments of reality, already coldly broken up, in the same way as the hand of a chronometer deals with time even though this flows in a continuous and constant stream.

Photography too is a quite distinct area; useful in the perfect anatomical reproduction of reality; necessary and precious therefore for aims that are absolutely contrary to ours, which are artistic in themselves, scientific in their researches, but nevertheless always directed towards art.

And so both photography and Photodynamism possess their own singular qualities, clearly divided, and are very different in their importance, their usefulness and their aims.

Marey's chronophotography, too, being a form of cinematography carried out on a single plate or on a continuous strip of film, even if it does not use frames to divide movement which is already scanned and broken up into instantaneous shots, still shatters the action. The instantaneous images are even further apart, fewer and more autonomous than those of cinematography, so that this too cannot be called analysis.

In actual fact, Marey's system is used, for example, in the teaching of gymnastics. And out of the hundred images that trace a man's jump the few that are registered are just sufficient to describe and to teach to the young the principal stages of a jump.

But although this may be all very well for the old Marey system, for gymnastics and other such applications, it is not enough for us. With about five extremely rigid instantaneous shots we cannot obtain even the reconstruction of movement, let alone the sensation. Given that chronophotography certainly does not reconstruct movement, or give the sensation of it, any further discussion of the subject would be idle, except that the point is worth stressing, as there are those who, with a certain degree of elegant malice, would identify Photodynamism with chronophotography, just as others insisted on confusing it with cinematography.

Marey's system, then, seizes and freezes the action in its principal stages, those which best serve its purpose. It thus describes a theory that could be equally deduced from a series of instantaneous photographs. They could similarly be said to belong to different subjects, since, if a fraction of a stage is removed, no link unites and unifies the various images. They are photographic, contemporaneous, and appear to belong to more than one subject. To put it crudely, chronophotography could be compared with a clock on the face of which only the quarter-hours are marked, cinematography to one on which the minutes too are indicated, and Photodynamism to a third on which are marked not only the seconds, but also the intermovemental fractions existing in the passages between seconds. This becomes an almost infinitesimal calculation of movement.

In fact it is only through our researches that it is possible to obtain a vision that is proportionate, in terms of the strength of the images, to the very tempo of their existence, and to the speed with which they have lived in a space and in us.

The greater the speed of an action, the less intense and broad win be its trace when registered with Photodynamism. It follows that the slower it moves, the less it will be dematerialised and distorted. The more the image is distorted, the less real it will be. It will be more ideal and lyrical, further extracted from its personality and closer to type, with the same evolutionary effect of distortion as was followed by the Greeks in their search for their type of beauty.

There is an obvious difference between the photographic mechanicality of chronophotography -embryonic and rudimentary cinematography - and the tendency of Photodynamism to move away from that mechanicality, following its own ideal, and completely opposed to the aims of all that went before (although we do propose to undertake our own scientific researches into movement).

Photodynamism, then, analyses and synthesises movement at will, and to great effect. This is because it does not have to resort to disintegration for observation, but possesses the power to record the continuity of an action in space, to trace in a face, for instance, not only the expression of passing states of mind, as photography and cinematography have never been able to, but also the immediate shifting of volumes that results in the immediate transformation of expression.

A shout, a tragical pause, a gesture of terror, the entire scene, the complete external unfolding of the intimate drama, can be expressed in one single work. And this applies not only to the point of departure or that of arrival - nor merely to the intermediary stage, as in chronophotography - but continuously, from beginning to end, because in this way, as we have already said, the intermovemental stages of a movement can also be invoked.

In fact, where scientific research into the evolution and modelling of movement are concerned, we declare Photodynarnism to be exhaustive and essential, given that no precise means of analysing a movement exists (we have already partly examined the rudimentary work of chronophotography).

And so - just as the study of anatomy has always been essential for an artist - now a knowledge of the paths traced by bodies in action and of their transformation in motion will be indispensable for the painter of movement.

In the composition of a painting, the optical effects observed by the artist are not enough. A precise analytical knowledge of the essential properties of the effect, and of its causes, are essential. The artist may know how to synthesise such analyses, but within such a synthesis the skeleton, the precise and almost invisible analytical elements, must exist. These can only be rendered visible by the scientific aspects of Photodynamism.

In fact, every vibration is the rhythm of infinite minor vibrations, since every rhythm is built up of an infinite quantity of vibrations. In so far as human knowledge has hitherto conceived and considered movement in its general rhythm, it has fabricated, so to speak, an algebra of movement. This has been considered simple and finite (cf. Spencer: First Principles - The Rhythm of Motion). But Photodynamism has revealed and represented it as complex, raising it to the level of an infinitesimal calculation of movement (see our latest works, e.g. The Carpenter, The Bow, Changing Positions).

Indeed, we represent the movement of a pendulum, for example, by relating its speed and its tempo to two orthogonal axes.

We will obtain a continuous and infinite sinusoidal curve.

But this applies to a theoretical pendulum, an immaterial one. The representation we will obtain from a material pendulum will differ from the theoretical one in that, after a longer or shorter (but always finite) period, it will stop.

It should be clear that in both cases the lines representing such movement are continuous, and do not portray the reality of the phenomenon. In reality, these lines should be composed of an infinite number of minor vibrations, introduced by the resistance of the point of union. This does not move with smooth continuity but in a jerky way caused by infinite coefficients. Now, a synthetic representation is more effective, even when its essence envelops an analytically divisionist value, than a synthetic impressionist one (meaning divisionism and impressionism in the philosophical sense). In the same way the representation of realistic movement will be much more effective in synthesis - containing in its essence an analytical divisionist value (e.g. The Carpenter, The Bow, etc.), than in analysis of a superficial nature, that is, when it is not minutely interstatic but expresses itself only in successive static states (e.g. The Typist).

Therefore, just as in Seurat's painting the essential question of chromatic divisionism (synthesis of effect and analysis of means) had been suggested by the scientific enquiries of Rood, so today the need for movemental divisionism, that is, synthesis of effect and analysis of means in the painting of movement, is indicated by Photodynamism. But - and this should be carefully noted - this analysis is infinite, profound and sensitive, rather than immediately perceptible.

This question has already been raised by demonstrating that, just as anatomy is essential in static reproduction, so the anatomy of an action - intimate analysis - is indispensable in the representation of movement. This will not resort to thirty images of the same object to represent an object in movement, but will render it infinitely multiplied and extended, whilst the figure present will appear diminished.

Photodynamism, then, can establish results from positive data in the construction of moving reality, just as photography obtains its own positive results in the sphere of static reality.

The artist, in search of the forms and combinations that characterise whatever state of reality interests him, can, by means of Photodynamism, establish a foundation of experience that will facilitate his researches and his intuition when it comes to the dynamic representation of reality. After all, the steady and essential relationships which link the development of any real action with artistic conception are indisputable, and are affirmed independently of formal analogies with reality.

Once this essential affinity has been established, not only between artistic conception and the representation of reality, but also between artistic conception and application, it is easy to realise how much information dynamic representation can offer to the artist who is engaged in a profound search for it.

In this way fight and movement in general, light acting as movement, and hence the movement of light, are revealed in Photodynamism. Given the transcendental nature of the phenomenon of movement, it is only by means of Photodynamism that the painter can know what happens in the intermovemental states, and become acquainted with the volumes of individual motions. He will be able to analyse these in minute detail, and will come to know the increase in aesthetic value of a flying figure, or its diminution, relative to light and to the dematerialization consequent upon motion. Only with Photodynamism can the artist be in possession of the elements necessary for the construction of a work of art embodying the desired-for synthesis.

With reference to this the sculptor Roberto Melli wrote to me explaining that, in his opinion, Photodynamism 'must, in the course of these new researches into movement which are beginning to make a lively impression on the artist's consciousness, take the place which has until now been occupied by drawing, a physical and mechanical phenomenon very different from the physical transcendentalism of Photodynamism. Photodynamism is to drawing what the new aesthetic currents are to the art of the past.' . . .

Now, with cinematography and Marey's equivalent system the viewer moves abruptly from one state to another, and thus is limited to the states that compose the movement, without concern for the intermovemental states of the action; and with photography he sees only one state. But with Photodynamism, remembering what took place between one stage and another, a work is presented that transcends the human condition, becoming a transcendental photograph of movement. For this end we have also envisaged a machine which will render actions visible, more effectively than is now today possible with actions traced from one point, but at the same time keeping them related to the time in which they were made. They will remain idealised by the distortion and by the destruction imposed by the motion and light which translate themselves into trajectories.

So it follows that when you tell us that the images contained in our Photodynamic works are unsure and difficult to distinguish, you are merely noting a pure characteristic of Photodynamism. For Photodynamism, it is desirable and correct to record the images in a distorted state, since images themselves are inevitably transformed in movement. Besides this, our aim is to make a determined move away from reality, since cinematography, photography and chronophotography already exist to deal with mechanically precise and cold reproduction.

We seek the interior essence of things: pure movement; and we prefer to see everything in motion, since as things are dematerialised in motion they become idealised, while still retaining, deep down, a strong skeleton of truth.

This is our aim, and it is by these means that we are attempting to raise photography to the heights which today it strives impotently to attain, being deprived of the elements essential for such an elevation because of the criteria of order that make it conform with the precise reproduction of reality. And then, of course, it is also dominated by that ridiculous and brutal negative element, the instantaneous exposure, which has been presented as a great scientific strength when in fact it is a laughable absurdity.

But where the scientific analysis of movement is concerned - that is, in the multiplication of reality for the study of its deformation in motion - we possess not merely one but a whole scale of values applied to an action. We repeat the idea, we insist, we impose and return to it without hesitation and untiringly, until we can affirm it absolutely with the obsessive demonstration of exterior and internal quality which is essential for us.

And it is beyond doubt that by way of such multiplication of entities we will achieve a multiplication of values, capable of enriching any fact with a more imposing personality.

In this way, if we repeat the principal states of the action, the figure of a dancer - moving a foot, in mid-air, pirouetting - will even when not possessing its own trajectory or offering a dynamic sensation, be much more like a dancer, and much more like dancing, than would a single figure frozen in just one of the states that build up a movement.

The picture therefore can be invaded and pervaded by the essence of the subject. It can be obsessed by the subject to the extent that it energetically invades and obsesses the public with its own values. It will not exist as a passive object over which an unconcerned public can take control for its own enjoyment. It will be an active thing that imposes its own extremely free essence on the public, though this will not be graspable with the insipid facility common to all images that are too faithful to ordinary reality.

To further this study of reality multiplied in its volumes, and the multiplication of the lyrical plastic sensation of these, we have conceived a method of research, highly original in its mechanical means, which we have already made known to some of our friends.

But in any case, at the moment we are studying the trajectory, the synthesis of action, that which exerts a fascination over our senses, the vertiginous lyrical expression of life, the lively invoker of the magnificent dynamic feeling with which the universe incessantly vibrates.

We will endeavour to extract not only the aesthetic expression of the motives, but also the inner, sensorial, cerebral and psychic emotions that we feel when an action leaves its superb, unbroken trace.

This is in order to offer to others the necessary factors for the reproduction of the desired feeling.

And it is on our current researches into the interior of an action that all the emotive artistic values existing in Photodynamism are based.

To those who believe that there is no need for such researches to be conducted with photographic means, given that painting exists, we would point out that, although avoiding competing with painting, and working in totally different fields, the means of photographic science are so swift, so fertile, and so powerful in asserting themselves as much more forward looking and much more in sympathy with the evolution of life than all other old means of representation.

above copied from:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Digital poetics or On the evolution of experimental media poetry, Friedrich W. Block

(Online version without notes and references. Print version is forthcoming in Eduardo Kac (ed.): New Media Poetry)

I. Introduction or From technological leveling off to poetological positioning

The academic and literature critical discussion on new media poetry or about digital texts swings to and fro, in method and conception between two poles: one is the 'work immanent' approach of structure description and classification, and the other the deduction of abstract media esthetics. At a tangent to this the communication on media, culture and media art has been more or less committed to the priority of technological reasoning since the nineties at the latest.

The concern with technology remains a dilemma: Technology has to be taken into account when dealing with concrete structure analyses of works of digital poetry, but some traps lie in wait. Is the knowledge accounted for here really sufficient? I would say that few of those taking part in the discussion who do not actually work in the specific area artistically are capable of programming digital texts (the same may be said of some artists). Another problem is something I have casually termed a new techno-ontology: a ‘cold fascination’ for technological being (also of texts), which flares up briefly with each innovation pressing for the market in the respective field. This includes the far-reaching absence of any ideology criticism of things technical -- mainly in the nineties, where the area of media art as well as digital poetry expanded. In fact the opposite was the case: A 'new' avant-garde consciousness, igniting with current technical achievements and with the connected artistic experiments, is undeniable in the digital poetry discussion: along with the new media, newness according to modern progress and as a value of economic exchange returns with a vengeance. If, however, you take ‘technical’ to mean more than the purely instrumental - the tools of hard and software independent of their cognitive, physical or communicative use - if it is interpreted dynamically as a process and symbolically according to the ancient world’s notion of ‘techne’ (techne as creative workings or as art) then it is clear that the explanation of literature, digital literature indeed, cannot be reduced to technology. In addition questions of perception, communication, social and cultural orders arise. In this case literature must be a multi-dimensional system to which belong, in addition to the works, technical procedures and the corresponding media as well as protagonists with respective cognitive areas, action roles, groupings, institutions, communications and symbolic orders, e.g. such as genre knowledge or programs of poetics. Each dimension is subject to certain coordinated dynamics and historical development.

Bearing this in mind, my contribution will refer to the "program" area. Programs consist of certain strategies, principles, values, work attitudes, questions and objectives which single artistic events and manifestations orient and control with pre or post interventions according to poetics. Programs occur in various planes of complexity which may cross each other. They develop intrinsic values and the specifics of these have to be indicated - usually with type or genre titles or, if required, with group or movement names.

Some examples of programs and partial programs in order of abstraction: Futurism, Zaum, language of stars/Viennese group, literary cabaret, dialect poem / digital poetry, New Media Poetry, L.A.I.R.E., poème à lecture unique. Of course it is not necessarily the norm to interlock more comprehensive programs with partial programs or concretions - since the seventies poetry has, if at all, favored smaller programs: Strategies of individual artists without a clear 'superstructure'. In this respect labels such as 'digital poetry', 'net literature' or "New Media Poetry" may be the cause for surprise these days.

The arbitrarily chosen series (Futurism to digital literature) has been developed here in such a way as to allow for a further generic program term, a term admittedly not so reliable as, say, experimental literature. From this viewpoint, position determination must be to ask how digital poetry should be assessed as a program: idiosyncratic and unique or more as a partial program. The avant-garde consciousness mentioned previously seems to speak for uniqueness, as does the tendency within the discourse to make a clear break with, say, all literature of book and print as well as the cultural history thereof.

The assessment as a partial program, however, is supported by the observation that standing definitions of digital poetry have a large proximity to strategies of existing and historically grown programs - including the mentioned avant-garde consciousness. At the least we can say that they overlap. If this is so, and I assume it is, then there are a number of advantages for the description of digital poetry: Certain strategies and abstract concepts for digital poetry can be enriched semantically and questioned at an 'added value'. This applies to declarations about the performance and function of digital poetry, as well as to the assessment of the quality of single works. Finally, it becomes possible to regard programmatic parallels as well as more general developments in a slightly different light.

As a test of this generic objective, let us dwell on the concept of experimental literature. Since the fifties and increasingly so since the late sixties, the developments have produced a variety of polished procedures and strategies thanks to a strong bias on theory, which are also well-thought-through according to poetics as in no other area of literature. There isn't another literary field in which the concern has been so intensively with new media technologies and with things technical - not simply thematically, regarding content, but primarily in the formal structures themselves. Briefly, once again, before I outline this program with some key strategies here is a compilation of all those qualities the discourse ascribes to digital poetry.

II. Slogans or Popular definitions of digital media poetry

Within the discourse digital poetry is ascribed an identity so long as it specifically deals with the conditions which computer, Internet (computer networks), and certain software programs and programming languages have to offer. This means that digital poetry is defined by the fact that it may be produced, spread, saved, and received only under these conditions, and not in any other way. In the main the following possibilities have been derived from this or are named repeatedly as criteria:

- the mechanical, algorithmic generation of texts (supporting or complete)

- electronic linkage (in the computer, on Intranet or Internet) of fragments and files of the same or also different media types, derived from this the

- multi- or non-linearity of both text structure and individual reading matter and if required

- multimediality and animation of texts in the broadest sense

- interactivity as a 'dialog' between machine (hard and software) and user as a - dependent on the programming -- reversible or irreversible intervention into the display or data base text, as a telematic communication between different protagonists on the computer network; derived from this

- the shift or even de-differentiation of traditional action roles such as author, reader, editor.

These criteria are specific enough to delimit digital literature from other literature. They have but one flaw: they say nothing about the esthetic or artistic state of digital texts. Online shops, route planners, library catalogs, multimedia encyclopedia, scientific mailing lists or newsforums, erotic chats, search machines or even the homepage of one John Smith or Lieschen Müller might just as well be included here. Once again, when technological conceptualization levels off, the old question of poeticism rears its head. At first the answers which were given here were informatively and esthetically aimed at predictability (Birkhoff); later on they were aimed both cognitively and communicatively at semantic framing (convention of esthetics, coding of the art system). But with this the various criteria could only receive some prefix or other (e.g. artistic or literary interactivity) and little else was gained. Only when we proceed semantically according to art specific conditions do we move on from here. This can be tried via single work analyses, or also with contextualization in reference to existing more concrete programs. If, in addition to technological criteria others such as 'reflection', 'production', 'presentation', 'exemplification' of, or 'experiment' with the technological and media possibilities are considered -- then we have already reached the program of experimental poetry.

III. Affiliation or The birth of digital poetry in the spirit of poetic experiment

The idea of the poetic experiment has circulated internationally amongst literary figures and academic observers since the fifties, although it has a far more ancient history. It marks an historical break, following the global catastrophe of World War and Holocaust, when a new generation, 20 to 30 years old at the time, started to seek out up-to-date and more advanced possibilities of poetry writing. Following the experience of a total abuse of language, media and art, the demand, especially in Central Europe, was for a more radical approach than to simply support a 'realistic' representation function of language. The long-forgotten approaches of the avant-garde in the first decades of the century were rediscovered, and similar interests in approximately the same age group where discovered in various regions of the world. Under the label of concrete poetry jointly launched by the Brazilian Noigandres group and Eugen Gomringer in 1955, artists from Europe (also Eastern Europe), North and South America as well as Asia were soon communicating with each other. Often they cooperated in groups and soon started to meet up in international exhibitions, anthologies, editions, journals. When, by the end of the sixties concrete poetry (primarily the Gomringer variety) was found to be too restricted, numerous partial programs appeared on the scene, such as: visual, sound, and action poetry - increasingly overlapping with general genre programs such as Fluxus, pop art, concept art, mail art or copy art.

Especially around 1967/68 an intellectual climate was noted - at least in Europe - within the context of social, political and cultural movements, which today bears fruit for the discourse on digital poetry and media art: along with this transitional period, the family likeness between experimental poetics developed since the fifties and the philosophical reflection on linguistic turn (e.g. Derrida’s "Grammatology, 1967), the medial revolution (e.g. McLuhan‘s "Gutenberg-Galaxy" 1962, in German 1968) as well as science (Hein von Foerster’s and John von Neumann’s Cybernetics) leaps to the eye.

From the beginning experiment as a program concept was intended not so much to aid the classification of certain texts, but rather to help orient in a certain poetic setting repeatedly said to have the following common criteria:

- the interest in a work being with rather than in the language, i.e. the concentration on its semantics and material aspects as well as its use in connection with other sign systems

- the experiment with new perception and communication media

- to make the processes of producing and understanding esthetic forms a central theme

* linkage and integration and therefore also extension of media and procedures used in more traditional forms of art

* the connection of literature with other arts - particularly with contemporary developments in the fine arts and music - and also with science and politics, the reflection on the limits of literature

- the very rational and cognitively oriented attitude of the producers

- their cooperation in groups and their international integration.

The opening out and diffusion of concrete poetry into a variety of different programs - dependent to a large extent on individual artist personalities - is accompanied by the volatile development in the field of technical media. Language artists experimented as early as the sixties with photography (Jochen Gerz), film and TV (Gerhard Rühm, Timm Ulrichs and Klaus-Peter Dencker) with video (Ernesto de Melo e Castro), later on with neon writings (Mauricio Nannuci, Timm Ulrichs) photocopy (Jürgen Olbrich, Emmett Williams), holography (Eduardo Kac, Richard Kostelanetz). In sound poetry the voice is reinforced and distorted using the electronic possibilities of microphone amplification and alienation (François Dufrêne, Henri Chopin). The new radio play established experiences with stereophonic sound systems, cut and original soundtrack (Friederike Mayröcker, Bill Fontana Also the typewriter possibilities were played through: This was the leading medium of concrete poetry mainly because of its flexible typography which could be treated independently from the typesetter. Complementarily there are experiments with handwriting - psychograms for the 'technology of self' (Gerhard Rühm, Carlfriedrich Claus, Valeri Scherstjanoi). Of course the book - the absolute criterion of differentiation according to the digital poetry discourse - was tested for possibilities of extension and deconstruction, for example via kinetic transformation (Raymond Queneau), collage transformation(Jiri Kolar, Franz Mon) or sculptural and architectural transformation (Juan Brossa, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Timm Ulrichs).

The beginnings of computer-based literature did not happen in a vacuum, nor - as is often believed - do they lie in American hyper fiction in the late eighties. They originated much earlier within the catchment area of experimental and concrete poetry, and can be described with a far greater continuity than the digital revolution propaganda with its historical break would have us believe:

First 'stochastic' or 'artificial' texts were produced in 1959 by Theo Lutz within the Stuttgart group surrounding Max Bense, with the help of a program run on the large computer Zuse Z 22. Parallel to this experiments and first exhibitions with pictures created digitally were taking place. Jean Baudot (1964 in Montreal) and Gerhard Stickel (1966 in Darmstadt) produced 'automatic texts'. During these experiments it was not so important to interpret the results, not even the concrete processes in the machine. The main question was how the machine should be interpreted with regard to its esthetic function e.g. in relation to the creativity of the human author. These early approaches were accompanied in particular by subtly differentiated poetology which received its impulses from cybernetics, the information theory and semiotics. As early as 1950 - the year of Allan Turing's pioneering essay "Can a machine think?" - the synthesis of man and machine was explained with an ontological bent by Max Bense in "Literaturmetaphysik". The essays of Oswald Wieners, a member and mentor of the Viennese group, are particularly relevant from a poetics point of view. In them the "Turing Machine" is propagated for as a model of understanding and of esthetic processes. In the book "die verbesserung von mitteleuropa, roman" 1969 (the improvement of Central Europe, novel) his "bio-adapter" concept ironically anticipates the move into cyberspace.

In the USA Aaron Marcus has been exploring virtual and interactive text space in his "Cybernetic Landscapes" since the end of the sixties, and has developed a poetics program of interactivity, simulation and movement. In France, too, the poetic analyses of computers has been continuous since the early seventies. Background for this were the statements of the "workshop for potential literature" (OULIPO) whose members Paul Fournel, Italo Calvino and Jacques Roubaud were concerned with different procedures of "computer-aided creation processes". The roots of net literature can also be traced back to the early eighties in France: in the specific sense of literature within computer network systems (videotext projects such as "A.C.S.O.O." or " L' Objet Perdu").

Of course there arealso individual artist personalities whose experiments have gradually led them to be occupied with the hypermedia: This can be said of the French mentioned above, it applies to Reinhard Döhl as a member of the Stuttgart Group, and to Augusto de Campos, one of the fathers of concrete poetry. It is valid for pioneers like Ernesto de Melo e Castro or Richard Kostelanetz, or for one of the leading hypertext poets: Jim Rosenberg, and it also applies to younger representatives such as André Vallias who started out in visual poetry.

Following on from this affiliation of digital poetry, it seems obvious to ask whether certain key strategies of experimental poetry can be used to esthetically enrich technological criteria such as 'programming and source codes', 'animation and processuality', 'interactivity' or 'hypermedia'.

IV. Retroperspective or Digital poetics with strategies of the experimental program

When poetological examples are listed here, then this is not in order to assert the continued existence of a certain movement - e.g. concrete poetry - or even to assert the assumption that digital poetry is epigonal. It is precisely this development of concrete poetry as form or movement which - as said - must be considered to have been complete since the late sixties. The selected examples do, however, stand for the experimental program since the fifties as a whole, as well as for the 'intellectual climate' mentioned earlier. They are only intended to illustrate the importance of poetological ideas and strategies for the development of contemporary media poetry in addition to their realization in individual artworks.

1. ‘Concrete material’ and digital medium

"Concrete poem communicates its own structure: structure-content. Its material: word (sound, visual form, semantical charge). Its problem: a problem of functions-relations of this material. Concrete poem, by using the phonetical system (digits) and analogical syntax, creates a specific linguistical area – "verbivocovisual", which shares the advantage of nonverbal communication, without giving up the word’s virtualities. Chronomicro-metering of hazard. Control. Cybernetics. The poem as a mechanism regulating itself: feed-back."

With the notion of 'concrete' or 'material' a fundamental change of reference and function in literary language usage is called for within the program of experimental poetry - exemplary here, the "Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry" by the Brazilian Noigandres group in 1958: The esthetic interest focuses primarily on the language as a sign system, as a cognition and communication medium, and as the artistic means of creation. It is language itself which is valid in all its qualities – the perceived qualities in particular - as the material which it is necessary to reflect upon and to form – similar to the material of colors, lines, areas in art ("Art concret" by Theo van Doesburg 1930) or in music where tones and sounds are the material ("Musique concrète" Pierre Schaeffer 1948).

As a complement of form, the concept ‘material’ replaces the old pre-modernist definition of substance (German: "Stoff" - which aimed at spirit, meaning, theme, contents, fable etc.) - initially with a tendency to emphasize strongly the 'material', i.e. perceivable side of the signs. Most recently with concept art (and experimental as conceptual poetry) it has become clear that intellectuality, ideas, semantics, codes, can also function as material in the artistic game.

In the meantime, a more neutral idea on offer is the esthetically current idea 'medium', this being the transformation of ‘material’ in terms of a logic of difference - an abstract and highly integrative media concept as Niklas Luhmann has suggested. With this, experimental poetry would have always been media poetry.

From a semiotic point of view, the program outlined in the "Pilotplan" and other poetics manifestos is concerned with the following: that all esthetic word processing be subject to the priority of 'self reference' or 'exemplification' by language or sign complexes. Or, going with system-theory: one always orientates on a level of second order observation which potentially treats all structure and use possibilities of language - as observation medium - according to form aspects.

The poetological statements repeatedly mention the text being ‘reduced’ to the language material which is clear from a design point of view - often only a word or word fragment on the page, concentration on perceptible graphic or phonetic forms - but which, on the contrary, must be seen theoretically as an increase in complexity in possible meanings. Above all else 'reduction' like 'material' and 'concrete' should be seen as an indicator for the move to a higher self-referential observation level.

In practice this indicates a calculated or method-conducted intervention into the language or non-language codes, e.g. by procedures of isolation, contamination, fusion, permutation. In the "Pilot Plan" this is conveyed by the idea "verbivocovisual", or in the deliberately unusual design of the phonetic system (digital, i.e. isolating and distinguishing single sounds) and syntax (analogue in the sense of area syntax as in visual poetry).

Digital poetry gains the following from these principles: If digital poetry requires a corresponding type or genre name according to poetics, then this should exemplify its specific digital or hypermedia structures and processes, its specific type of media. This means it creates events and situations to observe language-usage within the hypermedia. Of course the material is no longer only the word, nor is it, speaking generally, the medium, the character, the media-codes and notations but, of course, their specific manifestations in computers and computer networks. According to 'material' thought, the procedures which stage source codes, programming and interfaces self-referentially are the most important here. Such exemplification is present - also visibly - e.g. in desired clarity when the difference between HTML code and browser interpretation is produced, as in the Japanese group Exonemo's "Discoder" (the "Jodi" group is another classic), or when different symbol formats are contaminated as in the ASCII-Art-Ensemble, which experiments with the "American Standard Code for Information Interchange" or when Perl scripts are used to compose, as in the case of Alan Sondheim (each poem a small program - also demonstrated with historical affiliation on Florian Cramer's "Permutations" web site). Of course all the other demonstrations of computer-based features need to be included here, such as hypermedia networking, animation, interactivity - this will be looked at in more detail - or simply the discrepancy between hard and software e.g. in Frank Fietzek's "Bodybuilding" installation which uses a prime mover as interface for text production and reception.

With the demand to design the concrete poem like a self-regulating mechanism according to cybernetic, algorithmic methods the "Pilotplan" of 1958 offers the option to exemplify these principals with the Turing Machine - as mentioned this was occurring in Stuttgart practically, at the time of this manifesto’s publication.

2. "movens": animation and information process

The "Pilot Plan" already has something further to offer: the exhibition of the moment of movement by using a so called time-space-isomorphism: "In a first moment of concrete poetry pragmatics, isomorphism tends to physiognomy – that is a movement imitating natural appearance (motion); organic form and phenomenology of composition prevail. In a more advanced stage, isomorphism tends to resolve itself into pure structural movement (movement properly said); at this phase, geometric form and mathematics of composition (sensible rationalism) prevail".

I think that this phase model can be applied to the present development of digital poetry as far as the question of movement is concerned, namely in the distinction between movement as a perception event on the screen on the one hand (animation) and as a structural movement of the calculations or symbolizing processes and action processes on the other (information processing). The current trend shows a tendency towards the second phase.

In addition to the short note in the Noigandres group manifesto there is another stage important for the establishment of the movement strategy within the program of experimental art and literature: A volume appeared in 1960 containing "documents and analyses for literature, fine arts, music, architecture", entitled "movens" and published by Franz Mon in cooperation with Walter Höllerer and Manfred de la Motte. The literary perspective of this enterprise was aimed at formulating experimental poetics in such a way as to embrace the complete arts with the main theme of movement. Essentially it was all about the esthetic production and processing of sign processes. Umberto Eco's book "the open artwork" appeared two years later with a corresponding opinion: The open artwork is produced most consistently when the activity of awareness and interpretation of those who produce and receive the work can be conceptually expected, and it becomes an "artwork in movement".

Procedurally "movens" is a 'retroperspective' (a concept termed by Cathérine David for the "documenta X") when artists like Hans Arp, Alberto Giacometti, Kurt Schwitters or Gertrude Stein are integrated with the past - from the immediate to the avant-garde. These important figures stand for the process character of art. The same is true for the contemporary examples which among others originate from experimental poetry, light and kinetic sculpture, dynamic theater, electronic music or a 'labyrinthian' architecture. The attention is directed towards the dynamic 'material' (once again!) in the broadest sense of language or symbolic processes.

So you see "movens" too makes the connection of kinetics and process orientation within the idea of movement and thereby supports the poetics base for digitally poetic criteria of animation and information processing. Interesting approaches in the area of digital poetry build entirely on this connection - supported technologically. The French e.g. concerned themselves early on with time in digital texts (since the eighties in the groups ALAMO and LAIRE), namely with the temporal relationship of movement on the screen or text animations on the one hand, and perception possibilities, as well as interactive direct access possibilities within this course of motion on the other. The concern is also to explore the tension between the time units of programmed text, perceived text and read text (e.g. Philippe Bootz). Following on from this understanding of time and movement one is today particularly interested in the staging of information processes (in the computer: e.g. the conversion of text into pictures as in the previously mentioned "Verbarium" by Sommerer & Mignonneau, on the net: e.g. "23:40" by Guido Grigat or "mi_ga's" spam mail art or, as in the recent works of Eduardo Kac, also in the tension between artificial and 'natural' data processing).

3. Audience activity and interactivity

The interest in the process has brought about the fact that not only the activity of producers is conceptualized, but also that of the audience. This has also led to interactivity.

In the fifties the art concept was extended to include open structures and processes. This has led generally to an esthetic attention to symbolic, cognitive and communicative processes and also particularly to the direct incorporation of audience or recipient. This applies to intermedia art, action art, happening art, Fluxus and concept art, and it also applies to experimental poetry developing in close contact with these approaches. In detail, the concern here is with the psychophysical conditions in the formulation process -- with a rare concentration and differentiation e.g. in Carlfriedrich Claus' 'Exerzitien'. And at the same time, while the author function is relativized, these are also projected onto a 'new' active recipient who comprehends and completes the creation process. The 'new reader' has become an ideal figure for open and self-reflexive perception, interpretation and comprehension processes. The program of experimental poetry can no longer do without this personal projection.

The interactivity of digital poetry refines this program in the respect that now the ideal becomes technically clear or is 'empirisized': On the one hand, the activity of the user is often programmed - self-referential in the best cases (as a switch, form or input function e.g. in Philippe Bootz' "poème à lecture unique" or in "Assoziationsblaster" by Alvar Freude and Dragan Espenschied) or it is symbolized (e.g. by hyper-textual role play in Luc Courchesne’s "Portrait One"). On the other hand the user appears embodied in the game with the machine or already as its part- e.g. when producing text by means of a bicycle (Shaw’s famous "Legible City") or a prime mover (Fietzek's "Bodybuilding"). At all events interactivity lives off the analogy and the dialog between user and computer, which conceives both as data processing systems with hard and software components which are made to intersect. Even the first text generators were inspired by this analogy - more or less de-constructively.

4 Intermediality and hypermediality

A further strategy in the discourse of digital poetry is hypermediality. This is regarded as an extension of hypertext, only that not only text files, but also audio files, picture files and video files are inter-switched with each other and issued as a "Gesamtdatenwerk" (a ‘complete data work’, an expression termed by Roy Ascott). According to Roberto Simanowski here we are dealing with "the at present [i.e.:1999] perhaps most relevant type of digital literature", which takes the hypertextual inheritance of its predecessor into multimedia. This understanding of hypermediality is, however, reduced to the multimedia surface of the output devices, and insufficiently fulfills the specific requirements of the computer and corresponding artistic works. The digital media hype here is not what is produced with effective publicity at more or less cunning ’verbiaudiovisions’, but rather the fact that each perception medium is coded digitally, i.e. alphanumerically (in the end with '1' and '0'): The interesting poetic works build upon this in accordance with the experimental program and the conceptualization of concrete ‘material' (see IV.1): Moving pictures, indeed whole films are published as a writing process in ASCII (ASCII Art Ensemble); text input is converted into picture structures ("Verbarium"); with user interventions in the HTML source text, the whole text picture generated by the browser for display output becomes deconstructed ("Discoder").

With these procedures concepts like 'multimedia' or ’Gesamtdatenwerk' lead the wrong way (in the direction of mass-media spectacle and back to Richard Wagner's totalitarian 'Gesamtkunstwerk’). The strategies of visual or also sound or concrete poetry are fundamentally more informative when they haven't simply concentrated on linking disparate media but rather on the intermedial exemplification thereof.

The conceptualization of intermediality according to poetics is helpful here as carried out by Dick Higgins in the middle of the sixties in the catchment area of intermedia art and experimental poetry. For Higgins it is all about a 'conceptual fusion' of medial conditioned horizons (i.e. media concepts realized culturally and individually). "Conceptual fusion" refers to the fact that we are not dealing with a mixture of media (this is why the counter-concept 'mixed media' is used in analogy to today's multimedia) but rather with an artificial artistic production of the gap or the break between traditional forms (or coding) of media. This means that those media (writing, pictures, sound etc.) which are accessed, are presented self-referentially as symbolic forms. Conceptually they therefore dissolve themselves - a second order observation - in an imaginary meta medium.

The extension of visual or sound or intermedial poetry with digital or hypermedial literature as in the examples mentioned above consists in the following: The conceptual or also ideational semantics of the thought of fusion (also described as strategy of a diffuse 'meta medium') is conveyed in strategies of technical or syntactic wording in computer symbol languages. Or to use spatial imagery: the horizontal axis of perceptible inter-media (e.g. a "Schriftzeichnung" [written drawing] by Gerhard Rühm) is extended by a vertical axis of programming (e.g. via self-referential interventions in the HTML or Perl script code). This also corresponds to the 'empirisation' - as illustrated on interactivity - of existing strategies of experimental poetry.

V. Résumé or "Texts in the spaces in between"

The attempt to prevent the poetic occupation with digital media from restingon a description which relies on the wordings of the 'consciousness industry' (only today does Ardorno's invective seem charged correctly), this attempt leads to an intermediary discourse which must interweave evolved conceptualizations of poetics and technology.

We hereby avoid an additional accessing of the old dualism of two worlds (C.P. Snow) in which one might simply switch more or usually less competently to the technical side. Opposed to this, literature appears within the program of experiment as a part of the technically and medially coined world which is at the same time recursively observed from a literary angle. This procedure has been the only way to locate the site of digital literature within the net of literatures, i.e. in the system of literary communication. The first reference point of technically oriented or digital poetry is the specific context of - art and literature: its protagonists, works, discourses, programs!

With the allocation of digital poetry to the program of experimental media poetry, its performance and function also brighten (at the same time both externally as a scientific observation and internally as a demand of poetics): If poetry is symbol art and if 'digital' means the technology of universal symbolization (or description), then we are here dealing with the perception and experience of symbolical symbolization -- at the end a 'dia-bolical' venture which literally throws aside the mechanics or the conditions and possibilities of symbolizing. If literature is art or poetry in the word-sense of 'creating and producing' (poiesis) and if 'digital' means technical in the same sense, then things technical - dynamic material and material process at the same time - also appear to be self-referential here. Digital poetry reveals the possibilities of present media cultural practice, i.e. current ways of our world making.

In other words: here we are dealing with the one place in literature in which, as nowhere else, the function of literature in the technical age is made clear, but with a thoroughly critical, yes evil (diabolical) look into the interior dynamics of technical ways of thinking and action patterns. This also implies a continuous ideology criticism of things technical which has yet to be formulated with such clarity elsewhere. From this angle, digital poetry intensifies and illuminates the function which the experimental program has generally fulfilled excellently since the fifties - excellent in so far as the question of technology is treated not only thematically but mainly 'technically' here with all available means. It is this function of the poetical experiment in general which becomes clear through digital poetry and the present discourse, also looking back historically.

Strategy, (inter-) medium or material, movement, activity - under these poetological circumstances, digital texts as experimental poetry always lie somewhere 'in between'. Literally, they are 'media poetry', open texts aimed at complex medial, communicative and cognitive processes. In keeping with Franz Mon (1961) these are "Texte in den Zwischenräumen" - texts in the spaces in between.


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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Laurie Anderson "Life on a String"

Rolling Stone Album review of Life on a String

Don't let the deadpan voice, arch phrasing and avant-garde haircut fool you. Despite her forbidding performance-art reputation, Laurie Anderson is a singer-songwriter of crushing poignance - a minimalist painter of melancholy moods who addresses universal themes in the vernacular of the commonplace. She's at her best on Life on a String, her first studio album in seven years. Horns dance like Mardi Gras revelers through "The Island Where I Come From," and Van Dyke Parks' daring string arrangement imbues "Dark Angel" with impish humor. But the overall tone is sparse, haunted, intimate. Vertigo-inducing violins and luminous bass tones speak Anderson's language - a poetry of loneliness that peaks through "Pieces and Parts" and the brief instrumental "Here With You"; towers majestically on the deathbed meditation "Slip Away"; then walks away with the album on the impossibly fragile, beautifully realized title track.
(RS 876 - August 30, 2001)

above copiede from: albums/album/111744/review/5941827/life_on_a_string

Monday, July 21, 2008

manifesto for a new poetry visual and phonic, Pierre Garnier


Once we lived safely beneath our stratum of air. Now we are waves spouting in the cosmos. How can we expect our words to remain wrapped up in the atmosphere of the sentence?

Let them be reunited, like ourselves, to cosmic space--word constellations on the white page.

Every word is an abstract picture.

A surface. A volume.

A surface on the page. A volume when spoken.

Gamier emphasized the necessity for a break with the old rhythms:

The rhythms of poetry have succeeded in deadening the reader's mind.

We listen to the purring of Racine but do not understand it. In poetry we become aware of the universe--for it to be based upon the enumeration of feet is an absurdity.

It makes no difference whether FER or AVION have one or two syllables. What counts is their meaning, the space which the words themselves occupy upon the printed page,

the vibrations they set up in fact the volume which they enclose-immense and horizontal in the case of FER, infinite but with a note of disquiet for AVION

The structure of the sentence would also have to go:

The structure of the sentence has caused the same damage as the rhythms of poetry. What a difference there is between: "The tiger is coming to drink at the river bank" and the single name: TIGER!

The poet is left with words stripped of all worn out structural trappings:

Words are as hard and as scintillating as diamonds.

The word is an element.

The word is a material.

The word is an object.

For those who know how to look at them, some words possess a remarkable topography.

TRANSATLANTIQUE, for instance, rocks and seas, peaks and abysses--why, even the moon cannot be any richer in craters and parched valleys, in rhythms and beauties.

Words are the visible aspects of ideas just as the trunk and the foliage are the visible aspects of a tree.

Underneath are the roots, the ideas.

We must grind our well-worn language to dust--in other words, make the individual words scintillate.

We must do away with imprecise terms, adjectives, for example--or again use them as nouns, as substance, that is to say, as material.

But the word cannot be set on the page unless it is in harmony with the atmosphere of the poem.

What is more, the value of each word is modified by the fact that the poem belongs no longer to a flux but to a static system.

above copied from: