Speaking in Code

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"The future of poetry is with the programmers." - Kenneth Goldsmith

"Does everything that exists, exist to be presented and represented,to be mediated and remediated, to be communicated and translated?" - Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker, McKenzie Wark, Excommunication.

Kenneth Goldsmith's aphoristic tweet has been coming true for a long time: some version of the "future of poetry" has been happening at least since 1959, when Theo Lutz wrote poems using the programming controls of a Zuse Z22 computer.[1] Since then, a small yet sizeable number of poets have ventured into pre-internet computer poems, yielding an even smaller number of specialists who know about their creative pursuits. Not only that, but digital poems take resources to conserve, programmers who know how to do so and, considering that many of these poems pre-date the internet, they are not as accessible as their successors, such as hypertext narrative.

Given the obscurity of these niche endeavors, it is not surprising that Wired published an article claiming that code poetry was invented in 2011, when a group of engineers noticed the similarities between code and language. But this is not necessarily a new idea: the connection between code and language goes back to its earliest inception. Code is language. It seems only natural that code should be, or would become, poetry.

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First Look: Poetry as Practice

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In this online exhibition, six poets approach internet language as a bodily, social, and material process. 

New poetry works will be published every Monday through April 6, 2015. Co-presented by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of the First Look exhibition series; curated by Harry Burke.

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Artist Profile: Emily Jones

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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.


First Water to Tripoli Jupiter Woods London 2014

One recurring motif in your work of late has been your posters, sometimes A4 [letter-sized] but sometimes blown up larger, which usually depict one word or phrases, for example, "earth-cult," "sui iurus, or "we will protect the great river." These are presented in generic, unadorned fonts. Your press releases continue this aesthetic, combining these phrases to form a kind of poetry. Reading the text for your recent show at Jupiter Woods, in South London, we see couplings like "#archive #bank #invest / It is within our human capacity" and "how-to-disappear-in-the-anthropocene / the_love_that_sustains_all_matter.html."

Do these phrases create a taxonomy within your work? Do they give a clue to the way you form relations between different politics, geographies and affects? They have featured in a number of different exhibitions and projects over the last year. Might we say they form the skeleton, or the exoskeleton, of your practice?

The words are anchors or/and buoys in an operating system. When I employ them for the A4 page or a larger poster or banner they gesture towards an attempted isolation which I feel is terrifying for them&us. When words are large and isolated on the page they can be looked at for their surface forms and qualities (the curves and angles of the letters rather than the meaning the word points toward) They are also very poised, like templates, often in complete adherence to the prescriptions of google docs. They have to trust themselves to hold their form despite this uninvited and abrupt isolation. The individual poster is like a shield, armor, or veil. What lies beyond and before language as an orientation system?

 

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'Phillip Seymour Hoffman Died, Are You Over Me?'

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Promotional images for Tex (Penny Ante, 2014)

In my brief appearance in Beau Rice's new book, TEXItell the narrator he lives in a perpetual state of "topping from the bottom." I submit the whole book as further evidence. Compiled from about a year of the writer's digital correspondence, TEX brandishes a kind of authorial whip only the masochist understands. It is an ultimately relational authority, diffused into multiple voices of friends, potential Craiglist sex partners, and mostly "Matt G."

If it was possible to say exactly who Matt G was to "Beau R," the book would lack one of its central joys: tracking the shifting relationship between Beau R (an employee of an alt bookstore in LA) and Matt G (a social worker in Austin, Texas), or Beau R (socially dysfunctional, well read) and Matt G (socially dysfunctional, well read), or Beau R (biting) and Matt G (deadpan), or Beau R (texter) and Matt G (textee), or, finally, Beau (the lover) and Matt G (the loved).

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Index of Rhizome Today for August

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Rhizome Today is an experiment in ephemeral blogging: posts written and published each morning, and unpublished within a day. The latest post can always be found at http://www.rhizome.org/today.

After some discussion about the best way to wrap up each month's posts, we've decided to publish a list of topics and people covered on Today during the preceding month. Here is the index for Rhizome Today in August, 2014. 

Topics

  • Amazon (8-Aug, 11-Aug, 26-Aug)
  • ARE.NA (20-Aug)

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Artist Profile: Heather Phillipson

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have a significant body of work that makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.

Heather Phillipson, immediately and for a short time balloons weapons too-tight clothing worries of all kinds (2014). Image courtesy the artist and Bunker259.

When I saw your recent solo exhibition, immediately and for a short time balloons weapons too-tight clothing worries of all kinds, at Bunker259, I curled up in an inflatable birthing pool to watch a video suspended from an engine hoist. The video depicted a series of domestic, public, and online spaces, with a voiceover from you. At one point, you leaned over the camera and appeared to give me a facial. I broke down in laughter because it suddenly became clear that I had become a participant. When you show Zero-Point Garbage Matte, you use a similar strategy: the viewer climbs up a ladder and looks down on the monitor to view the video, a position that is reflected in its content. Which idea comes first, the video or the physical participation of the viewer?

The video usually precedes its final sculptural form, but not always. With the video suite I'm working on at the moment, for example, I have a really clear idea of what will be going on around it. Regardless, I produce multiple "versions" of each installation, so the video ends up inhabiting quite different physical structures at different times. It's like a built-in contrariness mechanism—the capacity to change the context, and therefore the work, and my mind. But, in general, the one constant is how the viewer is con/figured in relation to the video. So, with immediately and for a short time balloons weapons too-tight clothing worries of all kinds, as you mention, the viewer is recumbent with the video overhead. The video deploys regular POV shots alongside dispassionate observations, and mixes interior monologue with direct address, so there are these shifting perspectives. You're the eye/I of the camera, or its eye is turned on you…positions get conflated. For me, the physical relationship between body and screen is crucial to this formulation, although the rationale might only be revealed sporadically. It's a bastardised literary device, that semblance of inhabitation and activation—one minute you're in first person then second person or third person, then slapped back into first.

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July 2: NYC poetry event with Kev, Bunny Rogers, and Brigid Mason

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Rhizome Presents: Internet as Poetry
+ Book launch for Cunny Poem Vol. 1
Issue Project Room
July 2, 8pm
Free 

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Displacement is the New Translation

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                                                  Syntax, like

          government, can only be obeyed.       It is

                   therefore of no use except when you

                   have something particular to command

          such as:  Go buy me a bunch of carrots.

              — John Cage[i]

Translation is the ultimate humanist gesture. Polite and reasonable, it is an overly cautious bridge builder. Always asking for permission, it begs understanding and friendship. It is optimistic yet provisional, pinning all hopes on a harmonious outcome. In the end, it always fails, for the discourse it sets forth is inevitably off-register; translation is an approximation of discourse — and, in approximating, it produces a new discourse.

Displacement is rude and insistent, an unwashed party crasher — uninvited and poorly behaved — refusing to leave. Displacement revels in disjunction, imposing its meaning, agenda, and mores on whatever situation it encounters. Not wishing to placate, it is uncompromising, knowing full well that through stubborn insistence, it will ultimately prevail. Displacement has all the time in the world. Beyond morals, self-appointed, and taking possession because it must, displacement acts simply—and simply acts.

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Poetry Under a Home Shopping Network Sky

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Photograph: Sean Joseph Patrick Carney.

I saw poet Andrew Durbin read in a light drizzle in the backyard of Essex Flowers, a ground-level flower shop on New York's Lower East Side with an artist-run gallery in its basement. Despite the crappy weather, the patio was packed and I felt lucky to be near the stage with a decent view. 

Next-Level Spleen (which was published last year in online magazine The Destroyer) took about 20 minutes to read aloud. Durbin's voice began with a casual cadence, his pace quickening during certain passages—not because he was rushing, but because the text required urgency. The poem begins as the narrator gets ready for a movie night (code for sex) with a FWB at the unoccupied apartment of the friend's father. The narrative setup suggests a sort of New Sincerity/Tao Lin-esque intoxicated banal hipster casual romance scene, but breaks that promise when the plotline of Clueless, which plays on loop on a television screen in the bedroom, becomes the central focus of the piece. 

(For readers over 40, under 18 or clueless, Clueless (1995) stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher, a rich, popular high school girl in Beverly Hills, California who falls in love with her unfashionable older stepbrother, played by Paul Rudd. Cher's seemingly shallow and materialistic persona is itself proven only superficial as she sees past the importance of designer labels and social status to recognize the inner beauty of Paul Rudd's supposedly average-looking, but caring, character.)

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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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