DIGITAL LITERATURE: Combing through YouTube, Vimeo, and the Sea of Viral Videos
Digital poetry stands as a vehicle through which we are able to reach a more dynamic learning—it is a means for us to associate the words of works with images and sounds—that is depicted through another artist’s eyes, ears, and mind. In watching online videos of poets and artists, there are so many clips that we skip over because we don’t find them appealing from our subjective standpoint. When our subjective taste aligns with that of another artist, we are introduced to an entirely new means of thinking, as we are taught through digital poetics to align the words as a means to think in images.
I began research for this project by looking at the University of Buffalo’s E-poetry page to seek out featured artists that could most likely be found on other pages of the web. Occurring next month, the International Digital Language, Media, & Arts Festival is an artistic gathering within artists from around the world can share their most recent project concerning literature, media, and the arts. In looking at the featured artists that will be present at this year’s conference, I have chosen the following to share because they’re each unique in expressionism, yet, each can be categorized as educational in some way, shape, or form. Creativity within the digital space is omnipresent and stretches across continental boundaries, proving that technology is an outlet of expressionism that the future will certainly gain from. The following artists, each of different backgrounds, have participated in recent digital poetry conferences and their works will be presented in Buffalo this coming May:
Jhave, or David Jhave, is a is a polyartist/web-poet from Montreal that creates graphic designs and multimedia videos that depict the different uses of the word and how it interacts with the digital form. His videos border on surreal as they feature both organic and inorganic materials through which poetry can be expressed on the digital palette. His site stands as a virtual portfolio of projects ranging from puns on popular culture to experimental forms of photography and video mutations of nature and humans, allowing for the imagination to take hold and witness what lies beneath a simple still image. I would argue that Jhave’s work has immeasurable cultural significance, as it re-situates what we regard as “normalcy” and demands that we look at the alternate ways of reading a text/image. Not only do we gain a better understanding of our place in global culture, but learn something new and are essentially inspired to take art one step further. His work truly proves that art is everywhere around us, and that art really can be composed of about anything. Jhave is featured on Teletaxi, an international site responsive media art exhibition featured in Montreal taxicabs; you can find the video here, and, though it has no verbal narration, features how digital art can be viewed everywhere, even while functioning in the streets of reality.
Joan La Barbara is a conceptual artist, composer/performer/sound-artist who explores the human voice as a multi-faceted instrument expanding traditional boundaries, creating works for multiple voices, chamber ensembles, music theater, orchestra and interactive technology, developing a unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques. La Barbara can be seen in live performances of traditional literature such as a recent show of Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, where she is accompanied by a symphonic orchestra whose sound is catered to her own. Her work, like Jhave’s, toys breaks down the way in which we define sounds, causing us to think of how they are built from beginning to end note in a conceptual manner. Below you can find her work on a video that you probably watched at a young age– something that at the time of viewing, we never thought was considered to be “digital poetics”. I would argue that her work with phonetic sounds such as those within the below alphabet video could be categorized within digital poetics, as the phonetic sounds of the letters have an asymmetrical rhythm to them. Her video presentation is a spin-off of our traditional alphabet “song”, thus causing us to question our personal understanding of letters (both visually and audibly).
La Barbara’s work is extremely similar to musician Imogen Heap, as she uses a similar recording technique to play back the sounds she recorded just seconds prior. With technology, performing music no longer require extensive equipment and a massive entourage– one can record, play back, and record again, to create the utmost unbelievable sounds.
Judd Morrissey is a writer and code artist of works such as “The Precession,” “The Jew’s Daughter,” and “My Name is Captain, Captain.” He is a founding member of the Goat Island collective and artists in residence at the Hyde Park Center in Chicago. Morrissey’s work includes electronic literature, data poetics, and performances and installation, presenting to viewers a new medium through which the written word can be read interactively. In his work “The Jew’s Daughter” readers are given a puzzle through which a text can be read one page at a time, challenging them to rethink the way that a traditional book is formatted. In his current project “The Precession”, Morrissey plays with familiar images from internet pop-culture, as his ‘about’ page states the following quite eloquently: “I hope that you will pardon me for this unusual posture of sitting down during the presentation of what I have to say, but it makes it easier for me not to have to carry about 10 pounds of steel around the bottom of my legs... The Precession (2009 -) is a data-poetical new work-in-progress that mixes original writing, real-time twitter feed interruptions, and algorithmic composition in an evolving ecology.” The fascinating part to The Precession is the fact that he uses real-time feed interruptions, thus stating that his encoding has hacked into the present and allows for our everyday conversation to become a part of his art installation. The below video is a preview of The Precession in action.
Alan Sondheim is a poet, critic, musician, video-maker, and theorist of cyberspace. His work The Internet Text is a continuous philosophical and artistic meditation on cyberspace, posted online since 1995. His critical work includes Being Online: Net Subjectivity and his most recent work of poetry is Deep Language. Sondheim’s page, when opened, looks like an outdated READ.ME file that when opened will spill open pages upon pages of HTML codex. However, this is not the case. Upon clicking each link, one sees poetry, a precursor message, an extremely digitally-structured video of contorted bodies moving at unbelievably quick rates in grotesque positions, or digitally contrived photos that your ordinary person would instantly associate with the Internet being part of outer-space and cyberspace. In reading the poetry that is hidden in this labyrinth, one has to understand what each file is by knowing the format in which photos (.jpeg), text (.docx or .txt) and videos (mp4) are saved. If one is unfamiliar with technological terminology such as this, their blind navigation through the site will most likely teach them to read this, however, we can assume that Sondheim expects his readers to be current on such linguistics. When searching YouTube for Sondheim, one can see that he is highly involved in “Second Life”, a virtual video game; one can assume that much of his inspiration for artwork is derived from Second Life graphics, as his art closely follow that of the game.
In commencing this project, I initially started at the Poetry Foundation’s YouTube profile page and found the channel of the Canadian small press, Poetry Is Dead Magazine. Though this page is relatively small, I thought the findings were interesting enough to share. Poetry Is Dead follows the Poetry Foundation Channel on YouTube, is friends with the Poetry Foundation on Facebook (PiD alone has 1,000 followers), and has a fan base of almost 2,000 followers on Twitter. On their Facebook, the profile states the following: “Poetry Is Dead Magazine is a semi-annual publication devoted to poetry and the lack thereof. We publish any form of poem that is intriguing, hilarious, ridiculous, inspiring, timely, unfortunate or provocative.” Simply put.
On PiD’s YouTube channel I found a series of interesting Bill Bissett interviews as well as a two-part documentary on the Canadian experimental poet that PiD had uploaded from a user by the name of Centralianwings who appears to be a large Bissett fan. Prior to this research, I was unfamiliar with Bissett’s work and after watching him speak, feel as if his poetry is that much more realistic. The film depicts his poetic style through visual shots of Bissett in the city, as well as a verbal soliloquy, of the poet himself, discussing existentialism and his role as a poet amongst the beatniks. One could argue that the videos display the zeitgeist surrounding Bissett’s work and life, as he was educated and lived in downtown Vancouver after moving from his homeland of Nova Scotia. Effective videos of digital poetry, such as this, allow the reader or viewer to engage in the subject’s life and get that much closer to understanding how the poet worked in their surroundings.