Friday, February 19, 2010

In(ter)ventions part II

Taking the afternoon off to get caught up on werk. i enjoyed the panels this morning, though i do have some criticism (again) about the lack of female writers & writers of colour involved on the panels. Serious gaps in the program, wonder which of the panelists were invited, which sent proposals, and how the imbalance in representation can be addressed.

Notes from this morning (or, in which i end my literary career before it even begins):

Panel 1
-Christian Bök, Larissa Lai, and Nick Montfort on a panel moderated by Maria Damon discussed the questions "What is literature today" and "what is writing."
--i was very glad to have Larissa on the panel as a counterpoint to Nick and Christian. Nick Montfort was displaying his ppg256, an open source perl code that generates poetry. Christian was talking about his Xenotext Experiment, a poem encoded on the DNA of Deinococcus radiodurans, a bacterium that can survive the most extreme conditions imaginable. Larissa wrote a polyvocalic essay about writing, about the struggle to write from outsider and/or minority positions. The juxtaposition with the other work was fascinating, because she was the only one to address issues of class, race, and gender. Digital poetry, and genetic poetry are class issues: they require access to technology that not everyone shares. Larissa's work provided a subtext to the discussion, and I feel that the panel, while interested, avoided a discussion of ethics that would have been very beneficial.
--Not to say that i don't enjoy what Nick and Christian are doing. Nick's work in particular examines the interface between reader, writer, and computer, and i really dig the spirit of open-source creative projects. It just seemed to me that these two poets are working from a position of privilege that avoids addressing difference. The Xenotext Experiment, especially, fails to address the ideas that culture is not monolithic, that it perhaps cannot and should not be encapsulated for posterity, and makes assumptions about future & distant sentience (namely, that it will decode the poetry because it thinks in a way similar enough to current humanity to understand that what it sees is a cultural artifact, or that it will give a damn that there once was a culture that added poetry to the genetic structures of bacteria).

Panel 2
-Kenneth Goldsmith, Stephen Osborne, and Steve Tomasula, on a panel moderated by Al Filreis. Under discussion: what is reading today.
--Kenneth Goldsmith's reading was very cool. The radio/tv announcements from four American disasters: The assassination of JFK, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and the assassination of John Lennon. Historic events forever encoded in the reactions of the reporters who were on air at the time. All I could think of through the first two readings was Clone High (at the 1:00 minute mark of the video):

--Steve Tomasula made some really interesting remarks about the reading experience, and the gaze the reader brings to a work of literature. Had a picture of a contemporary artist who took the Emily Dickinson poem [I took my power in my hand] and imposed the text on blue on a woman of colour's body; wish I caught the name of the artist/piece. Notes every reading is a mis-reading.
--Stephen Osborne notes that creative writing students today are afraid of plagiarism, and so avoid imitation. Also points out the divide between reading & writing in most English departments.
--Great audience questions about power structures. Kenneth Goldsmith is trying to keep ubuweb underground and off google. i have obviously embraced the google beast, seeing as i'm on blogger and use a gmail account, and wave, and buzz, and reader, and oh god the overlords have found me i've said too much send help


  1. Thanks for this Claire, both the blog on the conference for those of us who couldn't make it and for your statements about privelege around our supposed digital utopia. I feel like not enough people are talking about privelege and power structure when they talk about digital poetics and social media.

  2. Thanks so much, Nikki. One audience questioner in the second panel (I think her name was Kye) did bring up the digital divide, and I was glad the panelists addressed her question--Stephen Osborne said that publishers are less concerned with making a text accessible than landing it into the hands of an audience.