Wednesday, 8 November 2006

e and eye: art and poetry between the electronic and the visual

'e and eye' is an interesting short series of free presentations / discussions taking place at Tate Modern, London, peripatetic within the permanent-collection galleries after they close to the public on Monday evenings. They are intended to explore and discuss 'the relationship between the visual, the poetic and the electronic in art', with particular reference to those aspects of digital or new-media art that might fall within some definition of 'electronic poetry', but reflecting also some of the specific art movements and work represented in the Tate's current new re-hang. In practice, a wide range of digital and multimedia art has been shown and talked about. An extensive blog-site gives details of all participants, includes texts or summaries of some of their presentations, and also includes new commissioned essays by several 'virtual theorists', together with the opportunity for anyone to add comments or start an independent discussion.
I took part in last week's session (30 October). The evening began in the room for Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism, with Tim Mathews (professor of French at University College, London) talking about the Calligrammes of Apollinaire, with reference to A's involvement in the contemporary visual arts we could see around us. Tim proposed a crucial question about visual literature: Is it (can it be) a truly critical form? or is it confined usually to the impressionistic?
I gave brief presentations of work by the venerable e-poet Jim Rosenberg (US), who explores interactive, diagrammatic layouts (also varieties of 'simultaneity')
and by the digital-artist and/or 'code-poet' Ted Warnell (Canada), who produces astonishing images, often referencing modern art (including e.g. analytical cubism), purely through the means of writing code for an internet browser. My rubric was: 'How far can you go? boundaries of the visual in (e)poetry'. An extract of what I said about Ted's work is on his blog, mo'po.
We then moved to another part of the gallery, where Sharon Morris (London-based poet & artist), without discursive preamble, gave an accomplished and atmospheric staging to a sequence of her own poetry on the city (specifically London), performed off the page and accompanied by photography and film (taken digitally and intended for web distribution). It was also a cleverly site-specific presentation, both physically and thematically, relating to the 'City Symphonies' installation of several experimental art films in the gallery. Demonstrating that one response to doubts about the visual word's limitations is to work in compound visual and verbal modes, potentially deepening rather than diluting the potentialities of both.
Work by the 'virtual practitioners' for the evening was then projected to full advantage inside the small dark screening room. Talan Memmott's Self-Portrait(s) [as Other(S)] is a comically apt recombinant montage, visual and textual, of famous artist self-portraits and art-historical tropes of artist biography, whose accessibility perhaps belied its technical virtuosity: Talan has long been acknowledged as a major figure in digital art/poetry.
Maria Mencia's 'Cityscapes' offers a rich and highly interactive, Flash based 'Make your own' montage, using a plethora of imagery and texts from city streets: advertising, road signs, graffiti etc. etc. (which Mencia calls 'new calligrams'), and also sounds (collected from vocalisations in many languages).
This piece demonstrates the potential for electronic arts to make social, public engagements, and is most attractive and optimistic; and as a bonus since Maria is based in London, she was able to be present and talk about it too.
The cross-currents and questions raised by the session as a whole were to ponder, as are those emerging from the whole series. The last session is next Monday, 13 November, 18:30-20:00, Tate Modern. (Free.)

Thursday, 2 November 2006

*Bad typewriter book

I hereby condemn C.A. Forget's Margin Release (NY: 3x5 Books, c1976). It consists of a bunch of 5x3 cards printed with, I'm now inclined to feel, really quite dull typewriter 'mats'. But the unforgiveable thing is that this collection was packaged (presumably as issued) in an unpleasant plastic wallet; and just now as I stood on a stool putting away Lotto by Kaia Sand, on the top shelf where the tiny books go, I discovered that this wallet had adhered itself tightly to the next book along -- the precious Ideas on the Culture Dreamed Of by Allen Fisher (Spanner, 1982) (also typewriter-typeset, and miniaturised). As I started gently to peel the two apart, fibre from the Fisher's yellow cover card, and ink from its author-designed motifs (which are matched on red end-papers), adhered to the plastic. I proceeded above a boiling kettle (possibly it would have been wiser to heat an oven ring) and managed to preserve the total design of the cover (the front, alas, as Fi precedes Fo), but most of the images are greyed, and the whole surface is now rough, and vulnerable to dirt, & more damage.