Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Envisioning the Visionary

This week I will be actively participating in the Electronic Literature Organization's 2008 conference. The theme is "Visionary Landscapes" and is being held in Vancouver, Washington, on the far outskirts of Portland. The hosts (Conference Chairs) are Dene Grigar and John Barber.

Some info on the conference announcement reads:
Producing a work of electronic literature entails not only practice in the literary arts but sometimes also the visual, sonic, and the performative arts; knowledge of computing devices and software programs; and experience in collaboration, interdisciplinarity, and hybridity. In short, electronic literature requires its artists to see beyond traditional approaches and sensibilities into what best can be described as visionary landscapes where, as Mark Amerika puts it, artists “celebrate an interdisciplinary practice from a literary and writerly perspective that allows for other kinds of practice-based art-research and knowledge sharing.”

To forward the thinking about new approaches and sensibilities in the media arts, The Electronic Literature Organization and Washington State University Vancouver’s Digital Technology and Culture program are inviting submissions to the Electronic Literature Organization 2008 Conference to be held from May 29 to June 1, 2008 in Vancouver, Washington.

“Visionary Landscapes: Electronic Literature Organization 2008 Conference” is interested in papers that explore forms of digital media that utilize images, sound, movement, and user interaction as well as––or in lieu of––words and that explore how we read, curate, and critique such works. Topics may include:

• New, non-screen, environments for presenting multimedia writing and/or electronic literature
• Research labs and new media projects
• Strategies for reading electronic literary works
• Curating digital art
• Innovative approaches to critiquing electronic literature
• Emerging technologies for the production of multimedia writing and/or electronic literature
• Building audience for new media literary works and writing
• Digital, literary performances
• Publishing for print or electronic media connecting literature and the arts through common archiving and metatag strategies
• Artistic methods of composition used in intermedia storytelling (improvisation, collaboration, sample and remix, postproduction art, codework, hactivism, etc.)

In conjunction with the three-day conference, there will be a juried Media Arts Show.
In addition to delivering the conference keynote at the end of our Saturday night dinner, I will be leading a workshop on Remix Writing and Postproduction Art. The workshop starts at 9:30 tomorrow morning and is filled to the gills with participants. The agenda for that ninety minute morning session goes something like this:
What is remixology? What is postproduction art (PP Art)?

In this workshop, we will investigate a small selection of experimental literary texts, websites, music videos, and audio tracks that employ different remix strategies to develop new works of art. These remix artworks will trigger a more general discussion on the emergence of hybridized art forms that are growing out of a thriving interdisciplinary media arts scene.

Media art forms that will make their way into the workshop mix include electronic literature, net art, digital video, and live A/V performance.

Given our time limitations, the workshop will be targeted at introducing participants to the way contemporary media artists may turn to remix and/or postproduction methods to create unexpected works of art.


Can you imagine remixing Gertrude Stein's "Tender Buttons" into a philosophical treatise on technicity and the loop and then using the treatise as a script for your spoken word performance in Second Life?

Is it possible to sample from the spam email that finds its way into your inbox every day and use it as source material for a long narrative poem?

Can one improvise a literary "cut-up" as part of a spontaneous creative act without the use of scissors?

How can one create a video mashup of Situationist cinema?

What exactly does a VJ [visual jockey] do and why are they getting paid every time they perform a live narrative remix of their theoretical tendencies?

How can one appropriate and remix a selective set of literary and philosophical texts to create the subtitle track to their own feature-length film?

Is your mobile phone your new writing instrument, one ideally positioned to enable your next live writing performance?

Does excelling at the fine art of remixology enable you to expand your creative and critical research practice into an ongoing performance that manipulates ("remediates," "versions," "postproduces") a wide array of media genres and platforms?
My keynote is entitled "Artists, Personas, Mediums, Instruments: Envisioning the Visionary" and I will post an Extended Remix Version of the address (which samples a lot from this blog) sometime in the next couple of weeks.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Wavy Gravy

Speaking of pony-tailed radicals and their crazy wisdom, Ken Kesey once wrote:
It isn’t by getting out of the world that we become enlightened, but by getting into the world ... by getting so tuned in that we can ride the waves of our existence and never get tossed because we become the waves.
Easier said than done, no doubt, but something an artist in the heat of (chemical) (de)composition must achieve if they hope to attain any sense of flow in the fluidity of their performance. I find that this holds true even when I am actively cutting up pre-existing texts or intentionally creating seemingly impenetrable roadblocks for my creativity to smash into. This was the case when writing my last novel, 29 Inches (Chiasmus Press). Instead of waking up and writing whatever came to mind as I wrote it, or conducting deep research into a subject that would give my novel some social-historical heft, I would instead go to my computer, open up my email, and look for whatever spam messages were waiting for me. Then I would read them all, sampling the bits that resonated with what I felt that day, eventually pasting them into my manuscript and starting the overwriting process. At times it felt like clearing a wide swath of spam brush. At other times it felt like I was meticulously pruning the secretly revealed buds that appeared most potent for whatever use I had for them. Eventually, when I had enough pruned spam fragments situated on the screen, I added my own unconscious connective glue to what at first glance may have seemed to be nothing but data noise destined for the desktop trashcan. But the idea was to break my own flow by turning the media noise into aesthetic signal, by taking what could easily be disregarded as useless material and convert it into totally useful compost for the organic narrative I was recycling (maybe this is what we mean by the term compostproduction?).

But then I wanted to bring it all back to the performative nature of my creative advance into the transmuting aesthetic moments of my ongoing hyperimprovisational drift and to do that I would have to develop a wavelike counterflow that would gradually become something like an ongoing postproduction fluidity, one that would enable me to oscillate between the source material that constrained me and the unconscious (on-the-fly) remix machine I was becoming while performing. In 2006, I referred to this as VJ writing and found it applicable to both composing literary texts and live A/V [audio-visual] performance. The opening section of META/DATA aka Spontaneous Theories elaborates on this kind of VJ poetics.

In some way, this kind of trash-can remix strategy parallels the art practice of Bob Rauschenberg who I blogged in my last entry in reference to his recent passing.

My new writing project, Remixology (The Book), will try and locate useful points of intersection between the unconsciously projected frequencies of the artist-medium who "can ride the waves of our existence and never get tossed because [h]e become[s] the waves" and the compostproducer who turns to the detritus of digital / pop / consumer culture as source material one can remix in on-the-fly versioning of their flux persona.

For me, this is the best way to write autocriticism as biological formalism as fiction.

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