Exploring the intersection of the Arts & Sciences

tdw e TXT : new texts for a new media

From the Editor      

Ted Warnell      

artist and writer      
specializing in content      
for new media      

What are the textures of today's digital poetries?

Virtual Skin:
Visual-Kinetic Poetries in Context
by William Marsh

Artist, writer, publisher
William Marsh
opens with a brief look at recent poetics history.

His work examines new developments in Web poetries in relation to the international Visual-Concrete poetry movement of the 1950's and 60's.

Why are sentences from an elementary school primer being displayed in this way?
Words in Space
by David Knoebel

Artist and writer
David Knoebel
explores the simultaneity and discontinuity of text.

His work demonstrates possibilities for composing words in spaces real and cyber.

As      an      example,
        consider        the
        following       sentences:
        "See    Spot    run.
        Run,    Spot,   run!"
        Since   these   are
        familiar        sentences,
        we      can     concentrate
        on      the     effect  of
        various formal  strategies.

Raisin Bread?

The Meeting of Image and Text
by Christy Sheffield Sanford

Artist and writer
Christy Sheffield Sanford
examines use of image and text in the new media.

Her work looks at how the two complement and balance each other; how they can co-exist and maintain integrity without reducing to illustration or exposition.


    Ted Warnell
    <ted@warnell.com> http://warnell.com
    is an artist and writer specializing in content for new media. His visual and literary works are found in real and cyberspace art galleries, and in print, digital, and Web publications. Ted lives and works in Canada.

Virtual Skin:
A Brief Look at Visual-Kinetic Poetries in Context
William Marsh

        What are the textures of today's digital poetries? Or to put it another way, how do we define the material conditions of screen space? Until recently, poetry as a literary art has been a page art, meaning its textures (its feel and appearances, its arrangements) have been strictly aligned with the physical surfaces on which it has appeared – namely, for most Western readers at least, the printed page and the paper book. "Screen space" implies a quasi-new location for the activity of poetry. What qualifies recent innovations in digital-based poetry, however, are its allegiances (implicit and explicit) to the page or ink-based poetries from which it has evolved. Digital poetry exists at the intersection – historically, aesthetically – of page and screen. A closer look at the nature of this intersection might help contextualize recent efforts.

...one of the exciting attributes of poetry today is that page work and screen work not only fail to exclude each other but in fact inform each other's developing gestures.

            But first it should be made clear that the space of the screen (in this case the computer screen) is also a time of performance. One appeal of composing electronically is the opportunity it presents to write dynamically – and to create a dynamic writing. Even the lexicon of recent scripting languages suggests a relationship between "objects" (words and images) and the "events" and "behaviors" by which static objects become dynamic. Things happen on the screen that quite simply do not happen on the page. It also helps, therefore, to consider how a seemingly static object such as page text stands in relation to the potentially kinetic surfaces of screen text. Generally speaking, all readings are kinetic in the sense that a reader must move through a text in time, but the time of this reading serves metaphorically in traditional poetry to recall or anticipate the time of recitation. Screen eventuality invites a new kind of interaction with text by which "space is not just a notation, at best a stand-in for time" but rather a "structural unit" of composition (Higgins 33). Similarly, time and its emissaries – motion, event, behavior – enter in as structural devices in the new screen writing.

            As Kurt Brereton writes, "the poem has shifted from bricolage to morphosis," in other words from a flat constructed surface to a "a virtual field unfolding in time." Of course, a comprehensive aesthetics allows for both instances, and one of the exciting attributes of poetry today is that page work and screen work not only fail to exclude each other but in fact inform each other's developing gestures. The bricoleur and the morpher work together in either or both domains, and the tendency toward performative movement that we see in electronic poetry implies more generally an aesthetic motility by which the potential or capability for movement is always present, in page or screen endeavors.i 

        Nonetheless, it is precisely the "plasticity of form" (Brereton) that often distinguishes a digital poetry. As Michael Joyce phrases it, "[p]rint stays itself; electronic text replaces itself. If with the book we are always printing – always opening another text unreasonably composed of the same gestures – with electronic text we are always painting, each screen unreasonably washing away what was and replacing it with itself" (186). The appeal to "painting" as the analogue for screen composition in my opinion marks one of the chief difficulties of writing about this subject – particularly, that such analogies don't hold in relation to an art form so strictly aligned with the hard and soft technologies it employs. At best we get the "feel" for digital space as reminiscent of the physical (atomic) spaces our bodies inhabit – but this reminiscence only begins to define (and perhaps distracts from a clearer sense of) the material conditions of digital poetry. Joyce seems aware of this apparent deferral: "The eye never rests upon it [e-text], though we are apt to feel the finger can touch it. The feel for electronic text is constant and plastic, the transubstantiated smear that, like Silly Putty, gives way to liquid or, like a painter's acrylics, forms into still encapsulated light" (186).

        As an intermedial art, digital poetry cannot specifically delineate its borders or its modi operandi without risking closure, so problems in defining its textures and material effects on a reader/viewer are therefore unavoidable and even essential to its project. Nonetheless, it might help to define current experiments in digital poetry in relation to earlier movements in poetry and visual art – particularly, for the purpose of this brief overview, in relation to the international Visual-Concrete poetry movement of the 1950's and 60's. In the statements and manifestos of these writers we find a discourse often strikingly similar to that currently underway among the practitioners of digital or Web-based poetics. Working with the space of the page as a visual medium for word sculpture, several of these writers set out in the "static" domain of print to affect "kinetic" patternings serving in many ways as prototypes for current digital installations.

            The Brazilian Noigandres group [c. 1950-60], for example, which included Dιcio Pignatari and Haroldo and Augusto de Campos, practiced in their concrete texts what they termed a "space-time isomorphism, which creates movement" (in Solt, 13). On the page they found a "tension of things-words in space-time," a "[d]ynamic structure," and a "multiplicity of concomitant movements" (in Solt, 72). In Europe, French poet Pierre Garnier defined poetry as "transmitted energy," turning "from art to action, from recitation to constellation, from phrase to structure, from song to the center of energy" (in Solt, 34/79).ii In both form and function, Emmett Williams' flip-book "SWEETHEARTS" anticipates contemporary uses of digital animation, in that its sections "can be animated by flipping the pages fast enough to achieve a primitive cinematic effect[;]… the words and the kinetic visual metaphors work hand in hand to express what the poem is all about" (in Solt 51). Miekal And's animated, Web-based poem "after emmett" [http://net22.com/qazingulaza/joglars/afteremmett/bonvoyage.html] alludes overtly both to the legacy of Visual-Concrete poetry in today's digital word arts and to the "flip-book" structure of computer-based GIF animation. Each screen of And's installation yields nine cells (in a 3x3 square) with each cell housing a letter cycling frenetically through a series of font variations. The hand-operated flip-book is thus transported to the automatic realm of digitized image animation.
        Williams' flip-book (and by extension Miekal And's animation) offers an example of what Mary Ellen Solt has characterized as the third type (in addition to "visual" and "sound") of concrete poetry, i.e., "kinetic (moving in a visual succession)" (7). The term 'kinetic' enjoys a long history in relation to the artsiii, particularly and most recently as it was used in the heyday of the Kinetic Art movement of the 50's and 60's. As Frank Popper explains in Origins and Development of Kinetic Art (1968), kinetic art "covers all two or three-dimensional works in actual movement, including machines, mobiles and projections, whether controlled or uncontrolled; it also covers works in virtual movement, that is to say, in which the spectator's eye responds quite clearly to the physical stimuli" (95).

            Some early examples of Visual-Concrete poetry demonstrate the second, "virtual" movement described above. While there is no literal movement on the page, Valoch's "Homage to Ladislav Novαk" clearly attempts to "stimulate" the spectator's eye in its careful arrangement of letters – in this case, the letter 'l' – to affect a more fluid visual experience (Figure 1).

Figure 1                                                 Figure 2

            Pierre and Ilse Garnier's "Text for a Building" (Figure 2) playfully alludes to its cinematic borrowings while variantly placed letters of the word "cinema" create a streaming or cascading effect on the page.
        In computer space, the potential for "actual" movement increases, as evidenced in Miekal And's GIF-animated "after emmett" as well as several viewable Web installations using Javascript, dynamic HTML, streaming video, Shockwave and Shockwave Flash, and many other tools for generating movement on the screen. Kenneth Goldsmith and Clem Paulson's "fidget," [http://stadiumweb.com/fidget/] for example, uses Java applet coding (as well as sound files) to create an extraordinary blend of text and "liquid" morphing, with user-guided mouse clicks and drags teasing subtle changes in the direction and saturation of screen objects.

Visual-Kinetic poetries in the space-time of digital codification convey both a continuation and an acceleration of traditional activities

            Visual-Kinetic poetries in the space-time of digital codification convey both a continuation and an acceleration of traditional activities – most notably the Visual-Concrete poetry and Kinetic Art movements of the 1950's and 60's.iv In defining its current parameters, it helps to regard these early models as both guideposts and launch pads for future experimentation. If poetry operates in adhesion to and in violation of these histories, then part of understanding it lies in careful examination of the kinds of materials (pages and screens) used by poets then and poets now. The textures of today's digital poetries therefore lie in the cross-weaves of virtual page movement and actual screen kinetics.

    Works Cited

    Brereton, Kurt. CyberPoetics of Typography (http://www.jacket.zip.com/au/jacket01/cyberpoetics.html) (22 February, 1999).

    Higgins, Dick, Horizons: The Poetics and Theory of The Intermedia. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984.

    Joyce, Michael. Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1995.

    Olson, Charles. Selected Writings. Ed. Robert Creeley. New York: New Directions, 1966.

    Popper, Frank. Origins and development of Kinetic Art. Trans. Stephen Bann. New York: New York Graphic Society, 1968.

    Solt, Mary Ellen, ed. Concrete Poetry: A World View. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968.


      i I discuss "motility" in relation to page and screen poetics more thoroughly in "Exposing the Nerve: Notes on Memory, Hypertext & Poetry" (Witz 5.2). A hypertext version of this essay can be accessed at (http://bmarsh.dtai.com/Works/essays/hypertext/expos/exposing.html)

      ii American poet Charles Olson, in his pivotal "Projective Verse" essay of 1950, employed a similar terminology in defining the poem as a "high-energy construct" and a "high-energy discharge" (Olson, 47). In positing the "kinetics of the thing" in relation to energy and speed, Olson's method of "open field" composition could be said to foreground contemporary practices for which animation, streaming video and dynamic or cascading objects offer real-time instantiations of the high-energy construct.

      iii For a longer discussion of this history, see Chapter 5 of Frank Popper's Origins and Development of Kinetic Art.

      iv Note should also be made of VisKin poetry's several other informants – film, broadcast and performance art in particular, but also the video and holographic poetry experiments of Brazilian poet Eduardo Kac. See the latter's "Key Concepts of Holopoetry" [online at http://www.altx.com/ebr/ebr5/kac.htm] in which Kac outlines a poetics of holographic poetry, the key terms of which are widely applicable to more recent computer arts. While here I have chosen to stress VisKin's origins in Visual-Concrete poetry, its debts to these other art forms are clearly worth further investigation.

    William Marsh
    <wmarsh@nunic.nu.edu> http://bmarsh.dtai.com
    is a member of the Associate Faculty, Department of Writing and Communications, School of Arts and Sciences, National University, San Diego. He is editor and publisher of PaperBrainPress, specializing in poetry chapbooks and limited-edition micropress titles.

Words in Space
David Knoebel

0. Words in space

We live among words.
They appear, for the most part, on a continuous surface, such as a sheet of paper or the screen of a computer. These words are meant to be read sequentially and in a predetermined order. Other words, however, appear all around us. They inhabit billboards and flashy sneakers. They litter the bottoms of oceans, and they hover above our heads during summer days at the beach. We experience these words as part of the jumble of everyday events that are both simultaneous and discontinuous. They seem unlikely to yield anything that is useful or beautiful. Serious writing, we think, must be done on the page. We overlook the possibility of composing with words in space.

1. Words that stay in front of us

1.1 Ink on paper

Text    remains fixed   on      the     page.   We      move    our     hands   and
        our     eyes    to      read.   This    movement        is      articulated
        in      several ways.   We      move    through a       book    by      hand,
        turning pages   repeatedly.     Pages   are     hinged  at      the     spine
        of      a       book.   The     hinged  page    is      a       plane   that
        rotates through space.  As      the     page    approaches      a       right
        angle   with    respect to      our     field   of      vision, the     text
        becomes foreshortened.  We      hardly  notice  these   events, but     they
        keep    us      connected,      if      only    subliminally,   to      the
        world   around  us.

In      the     West,   we      begin   reading at      the     upper   left    of
        the     page.   We      move    our     eyes    to      the     right   across
        a       line    of      text,   then    back    and     down    to      the
        beginning       of      the     next    line.   This    repetition      continues
        down    the     page    to      the     bottom, when    the     eyes    shift
        up      and     begin   again   at      the     top     of      the     next
        page.   Within  each    line    of      text,   we      discover        the
        detail  of      the     work:   the     words,  their   sounds, and     their
        patterns        of      syllable        stress.

There   are     other   ways    to      read.   Words   are     continuously    present
        on      the     page.   We      can     choose  where   to      start   and
        how     to      proceed.        We      can     go      back    over    the
        words.  We      can     read    them    in      any     order.  We      can
        read    clusters        of      words.  Advertisements  and     poetry  often
        present unusual arrangements    of      words   that    invite  us      to
        explore different       ways    of      reading.
1.2 Phosphor under glass
Text    may     also    be      fixed   on      a       computer        screen. In
        such    a       case,   the     screen  is      roughly equivalent      to
        the     page,   and     the     reader  proceeds        through the     work
        by      moving  from    screen  to      screen. Hypertext       offers  the
        choice  of      branching       off     through links   embedded        within
        each    screen  of      text.   While   the     reader  can     move    at
        will    through the     text,   the     movement        is      initiated
        by      pressing        a       key     or      a       mouse   button. New
        text    replaces        old     text    upon    the     plane   of      the
        screen. The     experience      of      turning a       page,   of      rotating
        a       hinged  plane   through space,  is      lost.

Text    on      a       screen  is      more    commonly        read    by      scrolling.
        The     screen  becomes an      opening through which   we      see     a
        part    of      the     text    flowing by,     much    as      we      see
        only    a       part    of      the     road    before  us      when    we
        drive.  Its     beginning       and     end     are     out     of      sight.
        We      rely    on      some    representation  of      the     text    or
        the     highway,        i.e.,   a       progress        bar     or      a
        road    map,    to      keep    track   of      where   we      are     in
        relation        to      the     whole.  With    a       book,   it's    a
        simple  matter  of      noting  where   the     bookmark        stands  in
        relation        to      the     front   and     back    covers.

Still   another way     of      reading involves        individual      words,  or
        clusters        of      words,  which   appear  at      intervals       at
        the     same    place   on      a       screen. In      contrast        to
        the     previous        examples,       almost  no      movement        is
        required        to      read    when    text    is      presented       this
        way.    The     reader  simply  gazes   at      one     spot    on      the
        screen  as      the     words   flash   by.     Used    frequently      in
        television      commercials,    this    technique       complements     the
        general passivity       induced by      television      programming.
2. Words that pass us by
The     words   discussed       so      far     have    at      least   one     thing
        in      common: they    remain  in      front   of      us      as      we
        read.   In      contrast,       when    we      drive   down    the     street,
        we      are     surrounded      by      words   that    pass    us      by.
        Driving home,   we      encounter       the     same    signs   we      saw
        on      the     way     to      work,   in      reverse order.  Trips   around
        town,   to      the     gas     station,        the     supermarket,    or
        the     post    office, reveal  additional      orderings       of      the
        same    set     of      signs.  The     words   become  part    of      other
        events  in      our     field   of      vision. They    are     no      longer
        bound   to      a       single  continuous      surface or      to      a
        preordained     sequence.

However,        the     words   are     rarely  part    of      an      overall composition.
        One     exception       is      directional     signage such    as      that
        found   on      interstate      highways        and     at      airports.
        Although        there   are     no      physical        connections     among
        them,   the     signs   comprise        a       network whose   overall design
        determines      each    individual      sign's  wording,        format, and
        placement.      Structure       is      implied,        and     the     traveler
        proceeds        with    the     expectation     that    similar signs   will
        be      found   where   they're needed.

The     sequential      Burma   Shave   verses  also    constitute      such    a
        network.        Spread  out     along   several hundred yards   of      roadside,
        the     series  is      conceived       as      a       whole.  Each    sign
        is      similar to      the     others  in      size,   placement,      and
        lettering.      The     signs   are     roughly equidistant.    Unlike  directional
        signs,  however,        the     entire  set     of      Burma   Shave   signs
        is      meant   to      be      remembered.     Unable  to      see     all
        the     words   at      once,   the     reader  collects        them    in
        memory  and     reconstructs    the     piece   later.  While   these   signs
        have    a       primary commercial      intent, they    have    made    a
        cultural        impression      that    goes    beyond  their   original
        purpose.        They    raise   the     possibility     of      other,  perhaps
        artistic,       intents.

As      an      example,        consider        the     following       sentences:
        "See    Spot    run.    Run,    Spot,   run!"   Since   these   are     familiar
        sentences,      we      can     concentrate     on      the     effect  of
        various formal  strategies.     Imagine the     words   printed singly  on
        a       series  of      billboards      along   a       highway.        On
        seeing  the     first   sign,   we      might   experience      puzzlement
        about   its     seeming lack    of      commercial      intent. Having  seen
        the     remaining       signs,  we      may     still   be      puzzled,
        and,    in      addition,       feel    an      odd     sense   of      dislocation.
        Why     are     sentences       from    an      elementary      school  primer
        being   displayed       in      this    way?    The     words   have    been
        enlarged,       but     we      expect  this    on      billboards.     The
        sentences,      however,        have    become  several hundred yards   long,
        though  each    consists        of      only    three   words.  Our     experience
        of      such    a       sentence        is      considerably    different
        from    that    of      the     same    sentence        printed in      a
	book	that	can	be	held	in	the	hand.

The     integrity       of      the     sentence        has     been    challenged.
        It      no      longer  exists  on      a       continuous      plane.  Other
        events  occur   within  its     boundaries      as      we      read.   By
        opening the     sentence        in      this    way,    we      allow   those
        events  to      alter   its     meaning.        Seen    separately,     each
        word    takes   on      more    importance.     How     do      we      maintain
        the     coherence       of      the     work?   See.    Spot.   Run.    What
        will    keep    the     piece   from    falling apart   and     disappearing
        into    its     environment?    We      can     take    a       cue     from
        directional     signage and     the     Burma   Shave   verses. Visual  consistency
        is      the     key.    Even    nonsyntactic    work    will    cohere  in
        the     landscape       if      it      is      consistent      in      its
        use     of      visual  elements        such    as      color,  size,   and
        font    style.

A       further difficulty      becomes apparent        when    we      consider
        the     development     of      these   pieces. How     do      we      duplicate
        the     cycles  of      inspiration     and     revision        that    are
        so      important       in      making  art?    This    is      a       common
        problem faced   by      installation    artists who     work    on      a
	large	scale.

One     solution        is      to      model   interactions    of      text    and
        multidimensional        space   on      a       computer.       We      can
        complete        cycles  of      revision        that    are     impossible
        even    with    scale   models. In      fact,   these   computer        models
        can     become  ends    in      themselves.     Virtual Reality Modeling
        Language,       or      VRML,   enables us      to      create  deep    pages
        that    reveal  different       relationships   among   words   from    different
        points  of      view.   We      can     probe   clusters        of      text
        arrayed like    galaxies        in      the     cosmos, and     we      can
        program other   events  to      occur   among   the     words   we      choose.
3. Conclusion

We have seen that words
can be composed in space as well as on the printed page or computer screen. These words can achieve coherence across great distances through consistent use of graphic elements. Our readings may be altered by other events occurring among the words. The act of reading combines with the sensation of movement. Gaps of time and space between words become significant. They give artists an opportunity to examine the experience of discontinuous simultaneity that has become an important part of our lives.

4. End

    David Knoebel
    <clkpoet@ptd.net> http://home.ptd.net/~clkpoet
    is an artist and writer. He has shown his incandescent light installations at galleries in the United States and Europe. His current projects include Web, video, and billboard poetry.

The Meeting of Image and Text
Christy Sheffield Sanford

      For the most part, I create my experimental Web work, as probably many others do, in a state of divine naivetι. I don't think of threatening the future of literature or of usurping the cognitive role of text. Only recently when visited by a literary pundit, who reported back, "I prefer more text," did I realize the piece he had viewed contained little text. Yet, it was, to my mind, a visual poem.

I received early exposure and training in fine arts and graphics from my parents who were painters and commercial artists. My minor in college was art. When I began to seriously write, I gave up visual art, except for mail art to friends. Over time, visual art crept into my fiction and poetry. "Raisin Bread" was a turning point. This fictional work features Xeroxed pieces of raisin bread and manipulated images containing text. I have always regarded text as graphically interesting and language as something to be visually enjoyed. Typography and spatial interplay with figure ground seem fundamental. I see both language and imagery as rooted in efforts to communicate.

" R a i s i n   B r e a d "

      In his essay, "Disturbing History: New Technologies in Context," Karl Young states: "The main course of writing in western civilization has been towards ease of assimilation. … The largest transition was from signs with intrinsic pictorial and symbolic value to characters that recorded speech. There are expressive potentials in the graphic and etymological components of written Chinese that simply don't exist in the Roman alphabet." Some of the loss in pictorial quality has perhaps been re-registered in colorful sayings, slang and oral mnemonics.

      In my Web work, I take pride in not illustrating; yet a recent meditation in my Light-Water series features a photo of a palm frond referred to in the text. The frond image is as much a statement on calligraphy as it is on the metaphoric association described in the text. For example, I mention hair and the image looks hair-like. I love images that proclaim multiple lines of connection with the text – subordinate from one perspective but from another, superior. The frond image forces attention into the realm of hidden messages, the writing on the wall, or in this case, the writing on the sidewalk. The cursive quality of the blades is like someone writing an overwrought and passionate love letter.

      Young notes, "The pre-Columbian writing systems of central Mexico. ... (as distinct from the Mayan systems to the south) were iconographic – that is, they were based on common icons instead of spoken languages, so that people who spoke different languages could read them." Just as with film, in which we developed a cinematic shorthand – close up, quick cut and fade – now on the Web, we are accumulating a common set of icons. The icon blankets every desktop, every piece of software. Much of that sense of the iconic, I find, permeates my Web work.

      Richard Lanham wrote that "electronic writing brings with it a complete renegotiation of the alphabet/icon ratio upon which print-based thought is built." Pictures and sounds are resuming a higher importance in cognition. In ekphrasis, one describes in writing the characteristics of something visual. Some argue, that increasingly in the computer medium, images explain text. Thus the logic goes that this causes a crisis in rhetoric, because traditionally words have been the locus of control.

      Visual poetry has been kept out of mainstream education and the canon. The rigid compartmentalization of genres is a relatively recent 20th century phenomenon. Visual poetry has largely been treated as a novelty, a charming aberration. Apollinaire's visual experiments might inspire an exercise but not a career. For one intimate with this form, combining image and text is not shocking.

      Some visual poets dive into the Web, others find it lacking. Joel Lipman has a riveting performance. He reads one of his poems that has been stamped onto a page from a very old book. Then he crumbles it before the audience's eyes. This dramatizes the fragility of the book and the temporal experience of seeing-hearing a poem. The ephemeral nature of a poem's reading, its essence, has crumbled to dust before your eyes. If you don't remember it, too bad. On the Web, something can vanish, be erased, but it can't have that tactile quality of paper in hand.

      Recently in creating a piece called "Gender and the Web: Couched in Ideas," I used hidden layers. In this dynamic HTML work, the viewer touches an image and an enormous rollover appears. This is a flamingo pink, clearly worded paragraph. I consider this text as image. By the same token, I think an image can be quite literary. Here I do not refer to illustration but rather to calligraphic markings, iconic scratches, messages left in a pre-literate society. This is not to say primitive. I think vision can be quite sophisticated and certainly less hampered by intermediary censors.

      The appearance of the hidden layer has another characteristic that is at once maddening and fascinating. This type of rollover oscillates. It reminds me of Katherine Hayles' discussion of fluctuating reality: "Information technologies create what I will call flickering signifiers, characterized by their tendency toward unexpected metamorphoses, attenuations, and dispersions. Flickering signifiers signal an important shift in the plate tectonics of language." And in this seismic event, one can, with DHTML, see subconscious revelations, alternative viewpoints and glossed realities.

      With dynamic HTML, page choreography does not depend on linking. I am interested in expressing the deeper emotions and also in creating mood and setting. How these can succeed on the Web is one of my problems. The link has, I believe, been over-emphasized. I feel "Red Mona," my first Web piece, which has no links, was more conceptually hypertextual than many heavily linked pieces. Nothing I have read suggests a link should lead to another HTML page or be accompanied by a sense of jumping. Unfortunately, this is how hypertext has been reduced. Ideally hypertext points out lines of connection, options, inclusions that enlarge the work at hand.

      In Olia Lialina's highly witty "Agatha Appears," cut out figures converse with strips of dialogue that appear as the viewer approaches the characters with the cursor. The bodies and clothes are splashed with text – digital lingo discourse. This use of image and text turns the whole notion of visual ascendancy upside down. How could that be, one might ask, if the imprint of the medium is so deep. The image has been penetrated, mind is all over the body. The excitement, the energy, is indeed in the hands of those combining image and text. This is the mountain to climb.

      In working on a series of Light-Water meditations, I have again perused one of my favorite books, Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, a 16th century illuminated manuscript. In an introductory essay, Lee Hendrix describes a pitched battle for supremacy between two disciplines. Hoefnagel, the illuminator, refused to imitate the narrative passages so eloquently laid out some fifteen years earlier by Bocskay. Indeed, Hoefnagel invaded the calligraphy and imitated the words with his plant and animal imagery. Something I like much better is Hendrix's description of a "response" by the illuminator. It is that interplay, that sense of responsiveness of one art form to another, that I find essential, aesthetically satisfying, and advanced.


    Works Cited

    Georg Bocskay and Joris Hoefnagel, Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, (Copy of a 16th century manuscript), J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, CA, 1992.

    N. Katherine Hayles. "Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers" which appeared in October Magazine and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, October 66, Boston, MA, Fall, 1993. (http://englishwww.humnet.ucla.edu/Individuals/Hayles/Flick.HTML)

    Richard Lanham. "Digital Rhetoric and the Digital Arts" Essay in The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1993.

    Olia Lialina. "Agatha Appears" (http://www.c3.hu/collection/agatha/)

    Karl Young. "Disturbing History: New Technologies in Context," Raven 32, Freedom Press, 1996. Also at "Light and Dust" archive of contemporary poetry, fiction, and criticism (http://www.thing.net/~grist/l&d/lighthom.htm)

      Christy Sheffield Sanford
      <christys@gnv.fdt.net> http://gnv.fdt.net/~christys
      is a Web-specific artist and writer. In 1998, her work "NoPink" was awarded The Well's prize for the Best Hyperlinked Work on the Web. Christy was recently selected as Trent-Nottingham University's trAce Virtual Writer-in-Residence.

YLEM  n e w s l e t t e r  Vol.19 No.6  May/June 1999
© 1999 by the authors