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Working the Screen 1999

An other writing

Teri Hoskin looks at new writing online

Teri Hoskin is an artist and editor for the Electronic Writing Research Ensemble. She is project coordinator for VERVE: The Other Writing, a visual arts project for Telstra Adelaide Festival 2000. The project is a collaboration between the Festival, the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, ANAT and EWRE.

verve Fr, from L, verva, the head of a ram sculptured then something whimsical or capricious; poetical or artistic rapture or enthusiasm; great spirit; energy; rapture.

As I read and write I am thinking about the convergence of visual, aural and verbal literacy. Gregory Ulmer’s word/concept (puncept) for this is ‘electracy.’ He writes, “electracy is to the digital as literacy is to print technologies.” (Gregory L Ulmer, Choragraphy (a map) An electrate language would be one that works in–between oral and literate cultures. He proposes that literate thinking organised itself around shapes and forms that evolved into conceptual classification systems. Alongside literacy, electrate thinking is coming into existence via felt moods or atmospheres. Felt moods or atmospheres are the space of non-closure, generative spaces that allow a reader to write with a text, that allow an other writing.

Helene Cixous’ textual practice of écriture féminine comes into play here too. This way of writing has no exchange or market value, it falls outside of the economy of use. It suggests a writing that comes from the relationship of the body to the social world, its practice is an undoing of the limits of logic. This is a feminine that moves around, between and amongst genders and genres.

In her generous introduction in the preview brochure for the Telstra Adelaide Festival 2000 Robyn Archer notes, “In 2000 there will also be a lot of flaming rhetoric surrounding ‘new’ this and ‘new’ that.…we also need to question the new. What exactly is new? Is there any such thing as a new idea? Would we recognise it if we saw it?” This is a salient questioning that Robyn has backed up with her commitment to a consideration of writing that does not usually fall into the domain of the book. VERVE :The Other Writing, a celebration of online writing as part of the Adelaide Festival, will be an opportunity to consider the places where writing and the visual arts intersect. This writing finds its place in net art, CD-ROMs, video, film, comics, performance and music.

Derrida has asserted that writing comes before speech. Artists, musicians, performers, filmmakers, thinkers have known this for some time. What constitutes writing? In 1967 he wrote, “…we say ‘writing’ for all that gives rise to an inscription in general, whether it is literal or not and even if what it distributes in space is alien to the order of the voice: cinematography, choreography, of course, but also pictorial, musical, sculptural ‘writing’ (Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, 1974).

The space and place of electronic writing is highly speculative. Many things are being played out: changes to the ways we read and write—meaning how one makes thinking. The conceptual apparatus that draws discernible lines between content, meaning and style as yet lacks the light touch necessary for a critical engagement of hyperscreen works/writing. We are participants in the process of inventing a new critical faculty for reading and writing the art of new technologies. Perhaps a digital age offers possibilities for reclaiming and inventing forms of communication that have been eroded or are not possible via systems of alphabetic logic.

A few different shapes:
Electronic writing as poetics

Poetics leaves from the middle, it writes fragments and seeks to rupture the stability of syntax, sentence and narrative. Writing in this way is like constructing an object; it is like making something sing. Current marketing strategies in book publishing do not welcome shorter formats or writing perceived as ‘difficult’ (ie neither narrative nor poem). The web has provided an opportunity to circulate poetic practices and opened up new networks of exchange. The work may exist on a single screen, the movement and associative/poetic logic happening within the writing itself. One can leave, return, print out the work and hold it close. Linda Marie Walker is preparing a piece called The Sadness Prayer. She talks about “writing as composing, in the way of making a score for musical instruments or an opera. That is with many parts, threads. It is a spatial architecture, working from the ‘inside’ out, constructing a mobility at home, an inner home.”
Electronic poetry

Adelaide writer geniwate, co-winner of the recent trAce/alt-x hypertext competition, is currently working on lost/found, a series of poems that will draw on her recent travels. Stick Figures is a component of lost/found based on childhood nightmares. In a recent email geni wrote, “As an aspect of lost/found, this would be the panic session! It would overtly draw on some part of my experiences of Asia but I’m not clear about that yet. Obviously it’s not really about Asia at all, but being a late 20th century western beast in a complex world.” In an interesting twist on ‘anthology’, components of lost/found will be published simultaneously at different sites. geniwate is good at this writing. She manages to resist the overly literal visual trickery that is fairly prevalent in other e poetry (as in jump jumps). Economic use of Shockwave files ensures a fast download ensuring the interface works well with the intent of the poems.

Cinematic engagement

Michael Atavar’s **** (four stars) has written many a long horizontal scroll. In this UK site links lead away mapping a topography of the body via its movements and practices. A possible identity is created via an inventory of objects and possessions: a ‘narrative’ emerges from a process of repetition and list making. This narrative is not closed, it has no beginning and no end. This indirect writing has the effect of creating an incredible intimacy. The text is minimal, via gaps narrative seeds are sown. (

cipher is a work in progress by ‘collaborators’ Josephine Wilson and Linda Carroli. Email conversations are the anchor for this engagement with a rhetoric that queries the value and the a/effects (now and/or eventual) of desire in the realm of electronic communication(s). There’s a bit of detective work going on. Reading here is a process of constant folding, unfurling of the text. The writing manages to be both playful and deadly serious. Read the story of M (cipher/letterM.html) for a musing on the violent beginnings of alphabetic rule in the classroom.

Mayan hieroglyphics from a codex dated at 998AD are the source for The Plagiarist Codex by Miekal And. Utilising a playful logic, curious cartoon-like hieroglyphs are coupled with an English ‘translation’ eg “real meaning involves another’s thoughts.”

The Artist as Programmer

Australian Melinda Rackham is constructing a site around a theme of some currency. carrier is about viral symbiosis, a play between the organic and machinic. In an email Melinda wrote, “I’ve tried to create an intimacy in the language with an infectious agent applet at the bottom of the screen. This is the intelligence of the site and calls its self “sHe” and addresses you by the name you choose, questioning the user almost seductively as to their preferences, which then guide them through a specific and unique site pathway, dependent upon these answers.” The graphics and sound are mesmerising and I look forward to spending more time with this one on a machine faster than mine.

Linda Marie Walker, The Sadness Prayer and geniwate, stick figures, will be published at the electronic writing ensemble site early September, where Josephine Wilson and Linda Carroli, cipher, can now be viewed in-process. See page 11. Miekal And, The Plagiarist’s Codex on Gravitational Intrigue, an anthology of emergent hypermedia, CD-ROM, The Little Magazine, Albany, NY. [expired]. Melinda Rackam’s Carrier is now in preview release. See page 9.

Teri Hoskin is an artist and editor for the Electronic Writing Research Ensemble. She is project coordinator for VERVE: The Other Writing, a visual arts project for Telstra Adelaide Festival 2000. The project is a collaboration between the Festival, the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, ANAT and EWRE.

RealTime issue #32 Aug-Sept 1999 pg. 12

© Teri Hoskin; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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