[iDC] Report on ePoetry 2007, Paris.

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Fri May 25 03:39:44 EDT 2007

Hi John

Thanks for your thoughtful reponse to my report.

Firstly, I quite enjoyed ePoetry 2007. Yes, there were some boring academic
papers seeking to theorise art and poetry, but there were also some exciting
academic papers (I mentioned Simanwoski's). There were some mediocre
performances and other artworks to complement this, but there were also
exciting works (Rosenberg, Kapinska and Tisselli I mentioned).

Compared to most such events I have attended (whether concerning digital
poetry, interactive art, digital art, video art, whatever) this one was just
fine. Certainly, there was a sense of a very focused event (many of these
events are sprawling in their thematics) and the people in attendance had
real reason to be meeting up to share their work and discuss future
possibilities. They are a real community of artists and academics. In this
respect the event was most successful

Did I get an erection or cry? Not that I remember...but then I haven't had
either of these in a response to an artwork for decades...these are not
responses I would have to art as I do not engage with it in that manner. For
me art can often be cathartic, but I do not expect it to be that. Nor do I
look to it for desublimation or as a proxy for sex and emotional engagement.
I get enough of that from people. So, although I appreciate your preference
for a type of work that does engage these modalities, and whilst I also
appreciate such work myself, I would have to say that the type of work I
prefer is rather different. Perhaps a more intellectual and dispassionate
type of practice.

It's just a matter of taste really.

But I wouldn't put forward any argument that wishes to establish that one
approach to making art or poetry is superior to another. I don't like to
have too many expectations of what is going to be good work. I like to
engage with practices I haven't previously encountered as well. I certainly
do not want to get misty eyed about work I have seen before. I continue to
see new works that surprise, engage, stimulate, enrage and give cause for
thought. That only a minority of work manages to do this has always been the
case. I do not think we have left a golden age.

As for Messa di Voci, I agree with your analysis of it...and in this respect
Piringer's work was more to my taste. It was more visceral and emotionally
driven, more engaged with the rhythms of the performers body and breath,
more fun (there, I am contradicting my earlier comments). Piringer broke a
sweat, let's say. The point of my comparison was not to deride Piringer's
efforts but to put them in a larger international context of relevant
practice. His work does look low tech and clumsy compared to Messa di
Voci...but then Messa di Voci can come across as a slick entertainment that
robs some very good performers of much of their power, just as you observe.
Nevetheless, it is a work that has a sense of magic, and that is worth



On 25/5/07 05:20, "john sobol" <john at johnsobol.com> wrote:

> Thank you Simon for your thoughtful and exhaustive report on the
> ePoetry conference, which I for one did not attend. In point of fact,
> having read your report, I think it would have driven me insane to have
> been there as my tolerance for poet-academics discussing academic
> poetry is very, very low. There may be, I admit, a few legitimate poets
> who are also professors, but they are so few as to be negligible, and
> it is a certainty, in my opinion, that at a conference such as the one
> you describe, the vast majority of the discussions were derivative and
> banal, as the vast majority of academic discussions related to poetry,
> e or otherwise, invariably are. Certainly it didn't sound to me that at
> any time during this event you or anyone else in the event got an
> erection, or laughed, or cried, or broke a law, or a jaw, or saw stars,
> or scars, or a self (or many selves) truly transformed.
> But I do think you raise a few points worth riffing on...
> You refer to Messa di Voce (not part of ePoetry 2007) as more or less
> having set the standard for a certain direction in interactive
> e-poetry. Now I haven't seen the piece live, but I've watched the
> videos online many times and as much fun as the work is to look at, and
> as much fun as it would surely be to play with in person, and as cool a
> bit of programming as it is, I don't think that it enhances the poetic
> power of Jaap Blonk and/or Joan LaBarbera, who are really just goofing
> around in that piece as compared to the poetic intensity of their
> 'real' work. Which is not to dis Messa di Voce in  any way, and
> certainly not to dis Blonk or LaBarbera. On the contrary. I love the
> piece and I love them, but it puts the voice at the service of the
> image and that's always bad for the poem as word, just as music
> inevitably turns poetry into lyrics, which is at once both poetically
> empowering and disempowering in different ways.
> You do address this problem in your essay:
>> Specifically, and of particular relevance to ePoetry, text is under
>> threat from the multicultural visual pidgin we are now all familiar
>> with
>> from television, advertising, airports and environments where diverse
>> peoples come together. This is a pidgin that is largely pictographic
>> and
>> iso-semiotic in its sign structure. A new hermeneutics thus arises
>> where
>> this pictographic pidgin supplants text, evolving towards a reductive,
>> isomorphic, non-abstract and semiotically debilitated language field.
> tk
> lol
> g2g
> yeah the semioitically debilitated language field is a concern for sure
> but there is an upside to the disruption of textopia
> and that is precisely the dismissing of hyper-rationalist poetic
> discourse, thanatos-theory and poetry embedded in linear literature
> the end of peer-reviewed poetry papers
> a return to poetry as process, as purposeful poiesis
> as doing and making and sharing and shit-disturbing and magic-making
> it's in the neo-orality of the eworld that the real potential lies
> see:
> http://www.horizonzero.ca/textsite/remix.php?is=8&file=8&tlang=0
> but where the hell do you find real chinstubblebristling poetry in the
> ePoetry universe?
> where would housman be hunting?
> i know that in the non e poetry world, that is to say in the material
> world, i look to performance poets who push themselves really, really
> hard
> i look to mentors like paul dutton and john giorno and guillermo
> goméz-peña and jayne cortez
> to the last poets, to hiphop and dub, first nations poets like
> jeannette armstrong
> and to the technicians of the sacred
> as jrothenberg one of the few real poet profs called traditionalist
> poets in oral cultures
> but in the eworld?
> it's still never happened for me
> i've never found a poem that is a better poem
> or a poet that is a better poet
> by virtue of the introduction of an interactive digital element
> except for sampling maybe - which has reshaped the aural universe
> where would we be without Chuck D?
> these days we all love mashups that create new from old
> what about FinalScratch? Is that ePoetry?
> is Kid Koala the great ePoet of our age?
> i like what erik belgum, for one, does with digital cutups of stories
> a decade ago my poet-trio AWOL Love Vibe released a CD of poems made
> only of our own sampled, looped and spoken voices
> like this one: Internet Jet Set, entirely improvised:
> www.johnsobol.com/internetjetset.html
> not that this hadn't been done before or since but it may count as
> ePoetry in some way
> and i had great fun with a little word-spraying app called nozzle some
> years back too
> actually, come to think of it, that's one interactive app that took
> poems and made something more of them
> even though it was basically just an organic tool for creating concrete
> poetry
> (samples of my nozzle poems here: www.johnsobol.com/nozzle.html)
> nifty and fun but hardly a revolution
> anyone know who created it? I never was able to find it again after I
> downloaded it.
> but, given what I presume to be the goal of ePoetry 2007 - to identify
> and celebrate and nurture poetry's efflorescence in the digital sphere
> ­ the question is: what can we expect? More techno-baby steps? More
> conference badges? Or will there be a great poetry hope in the neo-oral
> ePoetry sphere sometime soon? Something special that will grab us by
> the short hairs and make us squeal with fear, desire and insight? Will
> it be an app or a language or a collective or a performer or a cult or
> a show or a band or a networked gasp or tragic machine code or a
> building that preaches or a singing canoe created by an Inuit, a child,
> an octogenarian, a walrus avatar? Surely we are dreaming ePoetry dreams
> beyond the peer-reviewed universe?
> js

Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk
AIM: simonbiggsuk

Research Professor in Art, Edinburgh College of Art
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

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