March 26, 2006

E-FEST 1: The Literary and the Arts

by Nick Montfort · , 11:01 pm

I plan to have a few short notes about this year’s E-FEST at Brown, which was a great event. (Update: Note 2, “First I Saw the Surface;” Note 3, “Virtual, Textual Caves.”) You can see some evidence of this in the photos by Brian Kim Stefans and the photos by Scott. I won’t attempt to summarize all the good points made in the panels and all the provocative and compelling e-lit that was shown during two nights of performances, but I do want to recount and rhapsodize upon a few of the many interesting things said and done at this festival.

Brian Kim Stefans – whose short post “What is Electronic Writing?” is well worth checking out – made the case at the fest for electronic literary work in which the computational work serves the text and the literary purposes of the project. Brian is the second-year electronic writing fellow in the MFA program at Brown, and organized the conference. He made some of the points he has expanded upon in ebr essay, “Privileging Language: The Text in Electronic Writing” – an essay I highly recommend.

Interestingly, Aya Karpinska, who has some some extremely good work that impresses visually and poetically, and who will start next year as the MFA fellow in electronic writing at Brown, presented a view, on the same panel, that seemed quite different in many ways. She showed four cases in which words and the literary served to enhance the other arts – visual, musical, plastic, etc. – showing how texts, or references to textuality, can add new dimensions to other works.

Now, I mention this seeming opposition not to try to line up a Karpinska vs. Stefans deathmatch – really, such an agon is not going to happen unless one of them is a narratologist and one a ludologist – but because I think both of these perspectives are valuable. Literary art certainly can be worthwhile part of other artistic ecologies, but whatever the role of the literary in a creative work, electronic writing should not be just an interface project with filler text added in. Both Aya’s discussion (about how writing can work with the other arts) and Brian’s (that there should be some writing-centered projects as well as projects that involve writing) are important for the future of electronic literature and writing on the networked computer.