the physics of languishing language

Good things this weekend at the Motion Graphics Festival in Austin. With all the talk about post-screenal interfaces and ubiquitous computing, I felt transported back to my old Georgia Tech classes and labs. Not a bad feeling, but I couldn’t help but think of how far I’ve strayed from notions of the digital. I mean, folk art, poetry and handmade crafts are a far cry from pondering how types of files should ‘feel’ when you touch them. Or maybe not…

Thinking about new media again made me ever more resolute about what a book should (and shouldn’t) aspire to. I thought about Susan Howe’s Souls of the Labadie Tract and it’s always-insistence on pages, page-turning, how text is cut and manipulated, how necessarily the elements of the book are bound together. Could this book not be a book? Could all the words exist digitally and retain its essence? I don’t think so. The book needs to be held like a book. Touched like a book.

But this isn’t really true for a lot of poets today. I could read a great lot of them on one of those digital readers (if I had one). I wouldn’t really need to turn the page or touch the margin. Their books don’t require it. Maybe because many writers write poems, groups of poems, collections of poems. And a poem can be screenal, be digital.

Anyways. it’s of no surprise that the thing at the festival that most reminded me of poetry was one of the more ridiculous performances. Dr. Bleep, a self-proclaimed ‘noisologist,’ performed last night with his bleeping robots. It was quite impressive actually. The robots have a light-sensitive stripe on their ‘faces’ react when in contact with a light-source (which is conveniently attached to the little guy’s head). You can control the pitch and volume with nobs on the front and sides.

I know the clip sounds kind of obnoxious, but when you get ten or fifteen of these things going and you know what you’re doing — it’s brilliant. The term ‘mad scientist’ comes to mind. The term ‘spaceship,’ because of ‘space’ and ‘ship.’ The room was filled with the sound, completely irrational sound, tipping toward the chaotic but batted down again by its own physical conception, it’s own childishness. Seeing what you hear. Touching what you hear. Completely twisted sound attempting extra-humananity, John Cage-ish zen, but evermore entrenched in the everyday ridiculousness of mouth, nose, face. I felt the same feeling of elation as a really good poetry reading. I keep trying to explain to myself — why? Why this messy? Why this cutesy robo-trope? I’ll get back to you if I figure it out.

Bent NYC ’08 – Dr. Bleep from Dr. Bleep on Vimeo.

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