“we can’t all be poets but we have literary value…” ~ Alex Saum, The Democratic Value of Art Making from Fake Art Histories & The Inscription of the Digital Self
Welcome to my thesis blog~ Don’t mind the nonsense
or the anxiety–it’s part of the process ^.^
So, my jam is searching for traces
neo-neo-Dadaism is new digital media. For the folks at home, that means I’m looking for traces of an older art movement’s ideals–like absurdism, nihilism, anarchism, amoralism, automatism, de-contextualization–in new, emergent forms of digital creation like memes, and gifs, and Elit–Eliterature–not ebooks (check it). Specifically, I’m interested in making connections between new digital media and art so as to, maybe, better understand the implications and the purposes behind some of these emergent forms. Art and what it represents is a way to understand deeper and more profound truths about ourselves and our society. Ultimately, I hope my work can be applied to our understanding of emerging, digital genres and the users behind them as well as expanded by others to help contextualize future, digital works.
While my research and findings on this subject could certainly be represented through traditional means of presenting theses, it is my desire, as not just a researcher but an artist too, to incorporate some kind of installation or exhibit to accompany my work. In order to get a better grasp of some of the avenues I could take to accomplish this feat, I researched some contemporary digital artists and elit-authors/creators and their projects and wow. There is a lot of cool stuff going on in the field! Experimental and kind of confusing but, oh so inspiring and insightful and creative. I’m so excited to share some of the exciting work going on out there in the digital humanities and arts fields ^.^ I hope you find some of their work exciting too!
Maybe it’s my background in and my lifelong love (so far) for poetry, but I found myself heavily drawn towards some of the more poetic works of digital art and creation. More, I think I just love the idea of incorporating text–something so traditional–with the digital. SO many projects right now are dealing with de-contextualization, as well, and a new kind of digital automatism–which are both fascinating concepts in the analog sense but are given new life by new technology.
Alex Saum‘s #SelfiePoetry project is one such work that sticks out. The series, composed of two volumes–Fake Art Histories & The Inscription of the Digital Self, explore, “the intertwining of two ideas: the untruth behind artistic or literary histories, and our (il) legitimacy to intervene them to create narratives that make teleological [def. relating to or involving the explanation of phenomena in terms of the purpose they serve] sense”. The collection consists of 8 poems that challenge the notion of “the self” against “a somewhat vague, and rather unorthodox, selection of literary movements in Spanish and English”. Essentially, the human is contrasted against the literary, truth notwithstanding.
The poems exists as videos in which Alex Saum recites her poetry over a collage of selfies and other compelling/contrasting images. The first volume exists as a playlist here.
This is my fave from the collection:
I think this poem, in particular, embodies the aesthetic and the tone I am looking to embody in my own work.
Another digital poet who’s work captures that aesthetic and tone I appreciate is Ian Hatcher. I was a little hesitant when I first looked him up since it seemed like audio and sound were his jam (fyi for new readers, sound and audio are not my jam; in fact, they intimidate me quite a lot). Still, I decided to look into his work (due to a stellar recommendation) and I am so glad I did. His poetic style and voice are absolutely captivating and compelling.
Here’s one of my fave works:
It is so cool and I can imagine an audio file like this accompanying an installation work. Hatcher’s poetry reminds me of, again, the de-contexualized valued my many Dada (and Futurist, tbh) artists and writers.
In addition to Hatcher’s audio works, I also found his poetry app , Abra, to be quite interesting.
It seems to be another study in de-contextualization but also in absurdism and trying to make meaning from seeming nonsense. If not an installation proper, I think creating an app of some sort to accompany my thesis work may also be an idea worth exploring. An app would put my work in the hands of and before the eyes of a wide ranging audience, perhaps enhancing the impact of my work. The affordances of an app also bring into question the exact nature of the message I want to promote. What is the role of the viewer in interacting with new forms of digital media? And, how can I make neo-Dadaism in new digital media mean something to my audience?
*Highly recommend you check out the app and play around with it for yourself!
Jason Nelson is another elit artist and poet I admire and whose work truly inspires me to think about the possibilities of my own work. In fact, I would say Nelson’s This is how you will die inspired this thesis! It first made me aware of the possibility of there being Dadaism in new forms of digital creation.
While searching through his website, I came across a poetic work of Elit titled Evidence of Everything Exploding. I didn’t read/play through the whole piece but its initial set-up and aesthetic appeals to me.
I also like the idea of combining poetry with an underlying, possibly historical, plot. Elit certainly allows for such seemingly dichotomies to exist and be meaningful. It might be fun to explore incorporating some poetry, perhaps from myself or classic Dada artists, over classic memes or gifs or something?? Perhaps with audio of me reading another poem over-top?? That might be over-the-top but it could be compelling.
I see Nelson’s work being seminal to my own research; I just keep coming back to it and finding something new in it every time to appreciate and engage with, emotionally and intellectually. The way Nelson articulates absurdity and nonsense but also deep meaning is both impressive and inspiring (sorry if I’m fangirling but god
non-denominational do I love his work).
Re-conceptualizing the Self
Another theme I found myself drawn towards in my research of digital artists was that of the self and of self-representation in the digital age. What does it mean to be yourself in the digital world? What does it matter?
Emilio Vavarella‘s Digital Skin Series is one of the first digital art projects that really drew me in when I began my research. I was absolutely, morbidly fascinated by the project and a little bit disturbed? It’s great. I mean, look at it:
It’s so f*cking cool
On Vavarella’s website, he says of this project:
The Digital Skin Series is composed of self-portraits in which I pose “under the digital skin” of strangers I’ve crossed paths with in the past. To create this series, I first used a 3D scanner to obtain an accurate tridimensional model of my face. Then I used a camera-prototype to acquire HD portraits of strangers. Finally, I applied their portraits to my digital skull as if they were simply an additional layer. The result is a series of photographs where bidimensionality and tridimensionality collide in an intimate and unpredictable way.
In the past, myths about skin were common across cultures and related to radical biological metamorphoses. For example, in the Navajo tradition – which considered the skin a mask – if you were to lock your eyes with those of the skinwalkers, they could project themselves into your body and transform into you. In today’s network society, bodies have left that organic condition and are characterized by transient statuses: individuals have become di-viduals, data aggregates, samples, signals. The last boundary between us and the world, our skin, has become a transient membrane that changes along with the trans- and meta- human forms under it. The space that was occupied by the skinwalkers of the past has been taken over by infinite reconfigurations and mediations. What remains the same is that to be human still means to constantly shift through generative metamorphosis, corruptions, and de-generations that escape any clear categorization.
It’s such a fascinating idea and I think it’s realization conveys its conceptual underpinning very well. Also, I like the introduction an remixing of the mythological in this project. I think that background adds a whole other layer of understanding and meaning to the work. It would be cool if I could incorporate a sense like that in my project, a recognition and re-realization of the old in the new.
Another artist (and epoet) who explores the idea of self-realization in this new media landscape is María Mencía. In her digital project Transient Self-Portait, an interactive work based on two important Spanish sonnets–one which references the passage of time and the other which invokes the idea of the unavoidable death, “the transient nature of the digital/data self” is explored. As the two sonnets appear and disintegrate across the screen, a self-portrait is constructed from the text. The two works become an illustration of the sonnets.
“the project is a response to some of the concepts that emerge from these sonnets: ephemerality of life, transient entities, fragility, which are also relevant to our age and the electronic world we inhabit. It questions the experience of reading; the use of digital grammars (interacting and engaging with the work); while exploring the concepts evoked in the sonnets.”
Participants are invited into the work, encouraged to use their own voices to control the direction of the piece and create a self-portrait from the text. User input is integral to the work. So, as you read the work and run your mouse over the text, you create in a very visceral way. “The creative process is that of producing, reflecting, programming and testing the medium to explore these notions in an electronic media society of dialogues with self-images, engaging the participant in a reading experience of ‘in’ and ‘out’ of language, via webcams and interactive aesthetics and poetics.”
I appreciate how, like Vavarella’s work, Mencia’s work realizes its conceptual under-layer. It articulates a point about the flesh and blood self through creative, digital interfacing. Also, it’s a recipricol exchange. I would love it if my own project could incorporate a level of reciprocity. I want my readers to feel not just like they got something from my work but that they also gave something back to it.
The New in the Old
In addition to looking at the work of digital artists and elit-creators, I also looked fro inspiration from work still being made more traditionally or in conjunction with traditional means. Amaranth Borsuk’s Moon Signs project, made in conjunction with artist Carrie Bodle, in once such combination work I found to be compelling and interesting. Borsuk’s project was inspired by Bodle’s wavesigns project (which is a sound and video installation where “a six-channel video installation layers five dimensions of oceanographic data on large semi-transparent textile screens, while a five-channel sonification engages viewers/listeners with references to underlying systems of data” which is really f*cking cool too) and consisted of two, participatory sound poetry events in which participants were invited to use “a lunar calendar as a poetic compass to navigate the night sky and build a word ladder to the orb that exerts such force over our lives and our language”. Borsuk describes the project as thus:
“we designed a volvelle [a wheel chart] whose apertures reveal a word ladder composed of 31 words. The gradually changing poem waxes and wanes along with the lunar phases, shown on the opposing side of the dial. In the center of the volvelle, apertures reveal constellations of words from a cento printed below. This patchwork poem culls lines from dozens of poems that feature the moon: reflecting a range of time periods, styles, identities and themes. They range from poems responding directly to the lunar landing to poems in which the moon acts as lover or muse for the projective poetic imagination.”
This work, again, seems to reference the de-contextualization of text as a way for creating new meaning and story. I like that participants are invited to create and construct lexia in a collaborative way, too. Even if the work generated in seeming nonsense, there can be meaning in the act of participation itself.
Lisa Park‘s installations are also incredibly compelling and inspirational. Though differently from Elit, her art makes use of new digital technology to create new meaning and to explore the complexity of living in this day and age. One installation of hers I found particularly interesting was Rhythm. The project “is an interactive installation that translates the user’s heart beats into abstract visualization in real-time. A participatory work of time-based art, it allows participants to make rhythmic gestures of their heart beats. The detected heart beats modulate the thickness of each brush marks, which creates a recreation of one’s physical and emotional states.” Park states that the brush’s movements are inspired by Pollock and many of the color palettes are inspired by those of other famous works of trad art like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Totally my jam. I love that integration of the new and the old. More, I really love art that references itself.
Park states, “The aim of this work is to create an enjoyable and playful experience for the visitors to create their own unique piece that captures their personality, emotion, and moments”. I like the idea of giving participants something that is uniquely their own, as well. Again, this kind if work, to me, makes use of reciprocity. You get what you give the work.
You can foll @project_rhythm on Twitter to see some more cool works~
One last artist whose work I really enjoyed and that resonated with me was Judy Malloy and her work its name was Penelope. The installation is an interesting mix of elit and analog technology. Essentially, the work consists of a large, hypertextual painting and a computer, running Malloy’s book version of the text. Again, it’s another interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new, of what it means to create something by hand. If I could, I would love to create a work that makes a, perhaps, hidden juxtaposition more accessible.
So…. I have a lot of ideas. A lot of inspiration. Not so much direction. I know I would like to create an installation that captures some of that neo-Dada I see in new digital media and that communicates what that means to participants or that invites participants to engage in their own kind of meaning-making. More, I would like to create a space for meaning-making to occur.
In my head, I’m envisioning this kind of immersive installation that surrounds the participants and their senses. But, maybe that’s not the best way to convey my purpose? Or, introduce my audience to my topic? I think I need to do more research on installation work but also on digital/elit artists and how they set-up their exhibitions. More, I think I need to get an idea of what would be possible to do with the resources I have at my disposal at my university.
So….yeah, I’m not really sure where that leaves me but I’m sure we can discuss it more at length on Thursday though~
*If you haven’t had enough of me already, you can check me out on the Twitter ^.^ Sometimes I’m witty????
~Till next time~