To Program a Prose Machine

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Nanni Balestrini, Tristano, copy #10750 (Verso, 2014).

In order to program a poetry machine, one would first have to repeat the entire Universe from the beginning—or at least a good piece of it.

— Stanislaw Lem [1]

"All directions are of equal importance." This is the second sentence in the second paragraph on page 88 of my copy of Nanni Balestrini's 1966 novel Tristano, #10750. You cannot read this novel, unless I lend it to you, as each of the 10,000 copies Verso publish this month contain different iterations of the same text.

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Artist Profile: Steve Roggenbuck

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

 

Steve Roggenbuck.

LD: You recently posted AN INTERNET BARD AT LAST!!! (ARS POETICA) on YouTube about your vision of poetry on the internet. You talk about the importance of poets harnessing social media as a powerful way to change the life of someone else, anywhere in the world. Why is it so important for you to share this message at this time?

SR: the importance of sharing this message now is that our whole society is currently struggling to determine the role of these social platforms. corporations are trying to learn how to make money from them, families are trying to learn how to stay connected through them, everyone is asking "what value can there be in a 6-second video?" and it's all moving so fast, Vine blew up to 40 million users in its first 7 months. but the poetry world has largely been ignoring social media, mainly just using twitter and facebook to post links to standard, plain-text poems. my message is this: if our job is to move people with our language, these platforms give us endless and powerful new ways to do that. the tools to make our language visual and auditory have been democratized; the ability to maintain actual relationships with hundreds of our closest readers across the world is now a reality. i have no publisher, i've only been working at this for ~3 years, and my poems reach thousands of people each. i think social media represents the biggest set of new opportunities for poetry since the printing press.

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A Book is Technology: An Interview with Tan Lin

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Over the past 15 years, poet, novelist, and filmmaker Tan Lin has been at work creating an "ambient" mode of literature that engages a set of practices including sampling, communal production, and social networks, addressing issues such as relaxed copyright, boredom, plagiarism, and the commodification of attention.

He has written 10 books, most recently Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking; Insomnia and the Aunt; and HEATH COURSE PAK. His video work has screened at the Yale Art Museum, Artists Space, the Drawing Center, and the Ontological Hysterical Theatre. He is currently finishing work on a novel, OUR FEELINGS WERE MADE BY HAND. He teaches creative writing at New Jersey City University.

We talked by Skype, G-chat, email, phone, and used Google Drive in real-time to talk about the many different uses of technology in his work and what its implications are for the future of literature:


In your books, especially HEATH (plagiarism/outsource) and Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking, you introduced people to a new idea of what a book of literature can be. For these books, in their various versions and associated events, you incorporated everything from email to Twitter, programming languages to RSS feeds, Google Translate to Post-it notes. What led you to use so many different forms of technology in the creation and publication of a book? How would you define a book?

People forget that a book or codex is a technology. My interest with HEATH and 7CV was to treat the book as a distinct medial platform through which a lot of ancillary information passes, much like a broadcast medium like TV or a narrow-cast medium like Twitter or Tumblr. Reading is information control, just as a metadata tag is a bibliographic control. So I wanted to highlight the book’s medial and time-based underpinnings.

How would you prepare someone who has never read a Tan Lin book to read one of your books?

It’s a little hard to say. I think a book is something consumed slowly over many years—it’s a little like watching a plant reproduce. What are HEATH and 7CV? I’m not sure, but maybe a delayed reading experience that involves Course Paks, marketing departments of publishing houses, seminars at the University of Pennsylvania, RSS feeds, and Post-it notes. And, of course, other books—with 7CV, The Joy of Cooking—and with plagiarism/outsource, blogs that chronicled Heath Ledger’s death. Why insert The Joy of Cooking into the title of 7CV? Because it was the cookbook my family used to become American and because I thought the title would increase Google hits. I consider Google a mode of (loose) autobiography. A book in Google Books, like someone’s search history, isn’t really a book; it’s data connected to other data, and it’s searchable. Reading, like autobiography, is a subset of a search function...

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Making Word: Ryan Trecartin as Poet

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All images: Screen captures from KCorea-INC.K

Is Ryan Trecartin a video artist? A “video-installation” artist? Reviewing “Any Ever,” the exhibition now on view at MoMA PS1, Roberta Smith grasped for precedent, naming Paul McCarthy, Matthew Barney and Pipilotti Rist. But, she admitted, the comparisons fell short. To find another artist who engages a plurality of art forms with simultaneous, equal intensity—all while rethinking what art is and how it touches its audience—you’d have to go back to Wagner. Video is an outcome of his process, but watching is not the only or best way to understand it. Trecartin says he starts each work by writing a script. Language—the primal, biological system of symbols—is the model and vehicle for art and commerce and every other manifestation of social activity. And the forms of all the aspects of Trecartin’s work—the camerawork, the editing, the music, the makeup, and the costumes, as well as Lizzie Fitch’s sets for the videos and “sets” for their viewing in “Any Ever”—are prefigured in the way he works with words.

To study Trecartin’s language, I read the script for K-CoreaINC.K (Section A), which is freely available thanks to ubuweb’s “Publishing the Unpublishable” series. Like any script, it starts with dramatis personae: Argentinian Korea, Hungary Korea, French Adaptation Korea, and so on. The litany of locales recalls the lyrics of a club hit (“Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza”: so sings J-Lo in “On the Floor”) or the “Paris, Milan, Moscow, Tokyo” you see on the front of designer boutiques. But only remotely. Countries aren’t named to evoke the exotic, but because geographic names, unlike human names, are tied to place and awkward in reuse. Slapped together, they don’t merge nicely. One plus one is two ones and the ozone emitted by their collision. Combos like these are a favorite device of Trecartin’s. So is the willful disregard for parts of speech. A character’s “first name” can be a noun or an adjective or one of each. Grammatical difference meets geographical difference as both are jettisoned. No setting is indicated—the list of characters is enough to locate the action in an unanchored imaginary.

 

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Notes From Adam Shecter's Speculative Future

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Images from Adam Shecter's Last Men video installation at Eleven Rivington (2011)

Drawing inspiration from four classic sci-fi novels, Adam Shecter recently created a dense sci-fi paperback of his own titled Last Men. Filled with images, drawings, photographs, and intermittent text, the book is an expanded companion piece to an animation titled Last Men, also by Shecter, exhibited recently at Eleven Rivington. The book opens with an image of a book with the words erased, a photo of blades of grass, and blurry hands clasped amidst an even blurrier background. Without page numbers, you're left to browse Shecter's imaginary, post-apocalyptic world using your own instincts. Browsing beyond a few sequential pages of TV static reveals a sea of black and white pages, a pastiche of coded, grainy, and macro images interrupted by drifting, melancholic poems and a few zoomed in clips from books. The contributions from 2-UP's Matthea Harvey, Christian Hawkey, and Cathy Park Hong add threads of a human presence that balance out the pages of monochrome, galactic noise.

Stopping somewhere near the end of the book to read Hong's Aubade Using Bradbury's Lines, I was reminded of Chris Marker's 1962 experimental sci-fi film La Jetée. And as I continued turning the pages, Hong's poem stayed with me narrating the incomplete diagrams and deep-black night shots of stars. In the end Shecter succeeds in creating a vision of a distant future where humankind reflects on a past we have yet to write.

Oh yes, we knew, we understood. And, looking into each other's faces for confirmation of what we felt, it was there—the future.

- excerpt from The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 by Doris Lessing

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