Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Crapshoot / Silicon Beach Connection (Part 2)

(Part one of this post can be found here.)

In the spirit of my recent theories focused on the net artist as a digital flux persona who composes pseudo-autobiographical fictions in asynchronous realtime, I came up with the following process document for my new web art-app, Crapshoot, now on exhibit at the ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art as part of their Art on Your Screen series of exhibitions:

How does one create an experimental web app that plays with language, poetry, philosophy and impermanence?

Like most artists, I take notes on my iPad, my iPhone and my laptop. I even write and draw with conventional tools like pens, pencils, and paper.

But these days, when I approach the canvas, it's often not a page or a screen. Rather, the "blank page" I initially write many of my poetic words on is the sandy shoreline on Kailua beach in Hawaii where I have my second studio (my primary studio is in Boulder, Colorado).

I use the beach and the hypnotic sound of the waves, as an outdoor studio to both meditate and generate spontaneous texts that I first write on the sand and then, before the waves come and erase the words, capture the word-as-image with my iPhone camera. Once my daily beach ritual ends, I take the digital images back into my indoor studio where I use the digital words and images as source material for various projects.

Here are some images documenting my sand writing process:

My sand writing is spontaneous and is more physical than taking notes on my iPad or jotting down some ideas on my paper notepad. I love generating text in a variety of ways and then remixing that text into different projects across a wide spectrum of media platforms and formats including literary novels, web apps, live A/V performance, net art, poems, theory books, scripts for my feature-length films, or even fictional comedy albums.

Freud once wrote about an object he terms the Mystic Writing Pad. As Freud describes it, The Mystic Writing Pad is "a small contrivance that promises to perform more than the sheet of paper or the slate. It claims to be nothing more than a writing-tablet from which notes can be erased by an easy movement of the hand." He claimed that this Mystic Writing Pad was actually much more than its basic description would suggest and was, in fact, a "perceptual apparatus" where "writing vanishes" but is actually able to retain "permanent traces of what has been written."

When I was growing up, we had a similar device that was called an Etch-A-Sketch. For my intuitive writing process, the sandy beach of Hawaii is the perfect place to experiment with this etch-a-sketch method.

Longer words are hard to write unless it's very low tide:

Sometimes I like to formally imprint the words I improvise on the beach on to actual paper once I get back to my indoor studio:

When you experience Crapshoot as a web app, the idea is that by swiping the screen, you too can watch the writing simultaneously vanish while instantaneously calling into view a new text for you to see and read.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Crapshoot / Silicon Beach Connection

While documenting the creative process for my new net art / e-lit / web app project, Crapshoot, I did something unusual. Instead of looking back and focusing exclusively on the making of Crapshoot, I decided to look closely at my current project, one that is still very much in development, and see if and how it may have anticipated Crapshoot ... after the fact.

For those who have been reading this blog over the last two months, you know that I am currently on sabbatical creating a few new art and writing projects in my open air studios in Kailua. One of these projects, Silicon Beach, is all about writing improvised poetic thoughts in the sand while walking on the beach - and not just walking and writing (which is actually harder than walking and chewing gum at the same time) - but also using my free left hand to take hold of my iPhone, open up the camera, and capture an image of the sand writing as a condensed field of digital data before the tide washes the word(s) away. It was only after having finished composing the 1.0 version of my swipe-friendly web app, Crapshoot, and had also begun preparing for its exhibition launch, that I realized there was a deep connection between my creative process for both the sand writing in Silicon Beach and what I had been developing while composing the features of the Crapshoot web app. The point of connectivity, for me, came when I recalled reading Jacques Derrida's remixes of both Mallarmé's Un Coup de Des and Freud's article on the Mystic Writing Pad. Although Derrida himself does not create an elaborate connection between these two "texts," for me they are now loosely braided together by the overlapping creative processes I have developed for these seemingly differentiated art projects. That is to say, even though I have been aware of Derrida's texts for decades, and have found them useful in my thinking, it was only after the fact, while thinking through the inventio informing my still in-progress Silicon Beach, that I realized there was also a simpatico genesis behind the making of Crapshoot.

Anyone who has read my collection of artist writings, META/DATA, knows that this shape-shifting relationship to and with time(lessness) is par for the course. These ongoing and playful experiments with unconsciously manipulating my operationalized information behaviors as a remixologist are what make me more of a "temporal" artist than, say, a contemporary artist. I am no longer with or of my time, but am already leaving time behind.

In my next post (Part 2), I will share with you the time-warped process documentation for Crapshoot by way of Silicon Beach.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Crapshoot Launches at ZKM in Germany

My latest work of Net art and electronic writing, Crapshoot, is now live at the website of the ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art as part of their Art on Your Screen series of solo exhibitions.

Crapshoot is a generative remix that follows the form of Stéphane Mallarmé’s famous 1897 poem Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard (A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance).

In the construction of the poem, Mallarmé’s inventive use of spatial composition and innovative typography was a precursor to 20th century experiments in experimental poetry, language art, hypertext, and graphic design. Mallarmé’s specific instructions challenged the readers of his (and now our) time to rethink the way they engage with a text. In the case of Un Coup de Dés, he spread the poem over twenty pages inviting the reader to view each pair of consecutive facing pages as a continuous panel where the text moves across the entire plane of the open book. Various type sizes as well as use of bold and italic print keep the reader’s eyes dancing across the surface of the pages inviting the reader to participate in a more interactive reading style. One could say that Mallarmé’s visually pronounced interface plants a seed for what will, over a hundred years later, become the screen-based “apps” found on present-day tablet computers like the iPad. It is for this reason that Crapshoot, an artistic web application developed especially for electronic tablets, is conceived as a work of text-based Net art and electronic literature. By presenting an interface that requires swiping the screen instead of rolling the dice, the work invites the reader to trigger spontaneous “versions” of the work in what is commonly referred to as landscape mode but that in Crapshoot becomes an interactive poetics.

The words and phrases that populate Crapshoot were constructed over eighteen months. As an instantaneously triggered field of poetic expression, the various texts that appear and then disappear with each swipe of the finger (or, in the case of laptop use, each hit of the arrow key) remix many philosophical and artistic theories associated with chance operations, psychic automatism, Freud’s Mystic Writing Pad, as well as the artist’s unconscious desire to manipulate language in a highly charged rhetorical field of distribution. The work also attempts to engage in a more subtle, critical and theoretical dialogue with recent high-profile philosophical works that address Mallarmé’s famous work, particularly Quentin Meillassoux’s The Number and the Siren: A Decipherment of Mallarmé’s Coup de Des and Jacques Ranciere’s Mallarmé: The Politics of the Siren.

Thanks to Will Luers for his collaboration on the code and design as well as many conversations about the project at the best coffee shops in Portland.

Keywords: Mark Amerika, web app, Crapshoot, ZKM, Art on Your Screen, Mallarmé, Meillassoux, Ranciere, Un Coup de Dés