May 27, 2007

E-poetry 2007 Paris Cellfone Video Documentary Extravaganza

by Scott Rettberg · , 7:13 am

First of all, let me point in brief to networked_performance for Simon Biggs’ very good report on the E-poetry 2007 Festival in Paris. I agreed with him that Robert Simanowski’s close reading of “Listening Post” was one of the best of the academic papers presented during the conference. I was also a fan of Jim Carpenter’s presentation, in which he talked in a clear and pragmatic way about best practices for writing good code for e-poetry, including distributing source code so that others can learn from it. Carpenter recently released a new version of his poetry engine, which will write some pretty good poems for you. There were many other papers and panel discussions as well, though this festival was primarily about the poetry. For four nights in a row, there were three to four hours of poetry readings. The E-Poetry scene is much more performance-oriented than other venues for electronic writing, and some of the performances were much more video art or performance (for example one work allegedly about the objectification of women included the performer disrobing on stage — providing the Festival with an early controversy, which all such gatherings require) than they were electronic writing as it is usually understood. That was fine with me. Overall, I appreciated my first experience of this very vibrant scene that exists between visual, conceptual, performance, computer, and writing. I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet many writers I have worked with and communicated with extensively online in person, in addition to spending time with old friends in one of the world’s great cities. Rather than a more formal report, I offer you this cellphone video extravaganza — short clips of 30 seconds to a minute of many readings from the festival. Forgive the quality — it was my phone used in dark crowded rooms filled with poets drinking in the poetry, after all.

Jeorg Piringer Performing at Divan Du Monde on the first night of the E-Poetry 2007 Festival in Paris.

A Brazilian epoet setting fire to her poems onstage, a la Jimi Hendrix.

Loss Glazier‘s poem, performed with dancers.

Chris Funkhouser reading from under a sheet, a work that featured dariens durians, stinky fruit.

Jim Rosenberg reading “Braided Vortex” during the second night of the Festival.

Aya Karpinska‘s reading, one of the best performances at E-Poetry.

Stephanie Strickland & Cynthia Lawson Jarmillo demonstrating “Slipping Glimpse.”

The Grand Text Auto Paris interview of John Cayley and Talan Memmott.

I broke away from the conference for a few hours to catch the Samuel Beckett exhibition at the Pompidou. Here’s a bit of “Not I.”

John Cayley’s Imposition was a work that enlisted the audience to download and play one of about 20 files, creating a whispering cacophony in the auditorium.

Maria Mencia demonstrating her cool interactive collage program “Cityscapes.”

Annie Abrahams’ “Girl Band” — a bilingual poem for 12 voices based on internet postings about fear.

Anick Bergeron performing her French translation/remediation of Nick Montfort’s “Ream.”

Talan Memmott‘s “Twittering,” an installation/experimental novel/performance.

Luc Dall’armellina‘s “See Venice and Die” was the closing piece of the E-poetry 2007 festival.

A view of Paris from the Pompidou escalator. Au revoir!

6 Responses to “E-poetry 2007 Paris Cellfone Video Documentary Extravaganza”

  1. andrew Says:

    très cool! merci for all that video shooting.

  2. Bootz Says:

    Hi Scott and everybody

    SeeVeniceandDie is a piece by Luc Dall’armelina. Mine was The “plane poet”
    Thanks for these videos

  3. scott Says:

    Thanks, Phillipe, and thanks for a great festival!

  4. andrew Says:

    Jim Carpenter’s report (his work blogged on GTxA here) suggests he felt he didn’t fit in too well there. Scott, glad to hear you liked his presentation, maybe he was better received than he realizes.

  5. Roberto Simanowski Says:

    Thanks for the good grade for my paper at the e-poetry festival. I have read your and Simon Bigg’s reviews of the festival with great interest and want to respond to the issue of avant-garde Simon raised. This was one of the main questions at the festival and Simon is right that it lacked the critical reflection that avant-garde can only exist in relation to a largely homogenous society. Reading Simon’s report I was thinking about the possibility of avant-garde in our time and came up with the following consideration.

    An important question concerning digital literature and digital art is: Is it Avant-garde? With respect to digital media this claim has been made using both Clement Greenberg’s formalistic as well as Peter Bürger’s political understanding of Avant-garde. Within the perspective of formalism it is quite easy to point to digital art concerned with its own material and mediality. This is not limited to the politically charged art browser such as Jodi’s “Webstalker” that Brett Stalbaum for example notes as Avant-garde. Any technical effects for effect’s sake is implicitly a formalistic investigation of the characteristic of the medium. The less an animation conveys content the more it draws attention to its form. The less it represents meaning the more it presents itself. The technical effect for effect’s sake celebrates the code that it is based on. Similar to the „pure visual“ in abstract painting or the „pure body“ in performance art one may speak in this case of the „pure code“. Of course, thus Avant-garde comes close to ornament. But this inherent relationship is not new; the point has been made before (Adorno) that abstract painting works well as tapestry.

    With Bürger’s perspective of Avant-garde as revolt against the art system and ruling aesthetics it is more difficult to make the claim for digital art. Not that digital art would not blur the lines between art and life as it was constitutive for the classical avant-garde such as Dada or Futurism. The nature of the medium actually calls for such blurring. The Internet constantly links the most divergent sites (and systems) together. The binarity – as mutual denominator of all data distributed in digital media – allows to present real life information in any form be it sound, visual object or diagram. An example is “They Rule” by Josh On & Futuremore which creates maps of the interlocking directories of the most influential American corporations from data found online. Another example is “Making Visible the Invisible” by George Legrady and his collaborators, an installation of large LCD screens behind the information desk of Seattle’s Public Library, visualizing statistical analyses of the circulation of books and media.

    There is no better way to confuse art with technology than using software to turn data into another form and present it as art. Those who call it mere applied technology or social studies enhanced by technology may miss the point that blurring the border between art and life was the intention of the classical avant-garde when they included oilcloth, clock parts or tickets in their collages, suggested to cut up poems out of newspapers, and carried ready-made objects into the museum. Those who call it art could argue that central to the avant-garde concept of the ready-made is the undecidability between the mere repetition of everyday life objects and their polemic revelation.

    This undecidability represents the shift of ambiguity from the center of the art work to its borders. As many theorist of aesthetic have pointed out, the specific nature of the aesthetic experience is the uncertainty of the meaning of its object. This distinguishes art from other forms of communication (such as philosophical or political discourse, journalism, and social studies) – that it plays with meaning, that it offers meaning and at the same time deconstructs this meaning, that it undermines the process of signification and leaves the audience puzzled. The ethic pay off of this maneuver of art is a general skepticism concerning signification, which is considered essential for life especially in the context of multiculturalism and the postmodern philosophy of relativism.

    This uncertainty (the question: What does it mean?) has now – or rather since the first ready-mades – moved towards the edge of the work and reads as: What is it? Or rather: Is it really art? The answer of art to the question “Is it art?” turns out to be this very question itself. As long as one has to ask this question and cannot give a certain answer the object causing it can make the claim to be art. And since this question was first introduced by the classical avant-garde, it may also claim to be avant-garde.

    Here is were Simon Bigg’s argument comes in: “avant-garde can only exist in relation to a largely homogenous society … Contemporary heterogeneous social environments do not offer the easy target of a mainstream or bourgeoisie against which an avant-garde can differentiate itself. As we have seen on the streets, Paris is a truly multicultural environment. There is no mainstream. It is only within the bubble occupied by a certain cultural elite that the notion of the avant-garde seems to be sustainable.”

    Simon is certainly right pointing out that avant-garde misses its opposition and therefore is doomed to vanish. The point has been made before by Richard Chase who for the same reason announced the death of avant-garde as early as 1957 (The Fate of the Avant-Garde), by Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s and Renato Poggioli who have pointed out the impossibility of avant-garde in light of the flexibility of the art system (Die Aporien der Avantgarde, 1962; The Theory of the Avant-garde, 1962), by Bürger who speaks of post-avantgarde (Theorie der Avantgarde, 1974) and by Achille Bonito Oliva who coined the terminus Trans-Avantgarde (La transavanguardia italiana, 1980). And indeed, since the undermining of what art means has long become mainstream in the art business such undermining can, on Bürger’s terms, hardly be considered avant-garde anymore.

    With such a list it seems to be hard to argue differently, though Hal Foster does (Whose afraid of the Neo-Avantgarde, 1996) stressing that classical avant-garde has anticipated neo-avantgarde and is brought to new life by the latter. I am not sure about it but I want to raise the question about the mainstream Simon is missing. How do we define mainstream? What is Hollywood and what are all the various forms of entertainment? Does there diversity (channels for soap, action movie, reality TV, melodrama, western, talk shows, comedy, animals) really make mainstream disappear? Or are these just different forms of the same entertainment all opposed to that kind of work that rather than entertains alienates through its experimental nature? Isn’t there, in this „society of the spectacle“, still a division between art (or how ever you want to call it) that irritates and products that just can be consumed with no risk? I am not saying that these irritating products need to be called avant-garde since irritation is the nature of art (especially modern art) in general. However, I hold that there is still an opposition to the mainstream (of entertainment) and I am wondering to what extent in our time this opposition could be considered as the inheritor of avant-garde.

  6. scott Says:

    More high-quality videos of the epoetry performances have been posted by Luc Dall’Armellina.

Powered by WordPress