9 | Contributors
Joe Amato was born in Syracuse, NY, and spent a number of years working as an engineer for the brewing and pharmaceutical industries. His books include the poetry collection Sipping Coffee @ Carmela’s (Lit Fest Press, 2016); the novel Samuel Taylor’s Last Night (Dalkey Archive Press, 2014); the memoir Once an Engineer: A Song of the Salt City (Excelsior Editions/SUNY Press, 2009); and the critical work Industrial Poetics: Demo Tracks for a Mobile Culture (University of Iowa Press, 2006).
"Tango" is an excerpt from a book-length poem, Under Virga, twenty-six sections of which take the code words of the ICAO spelling alphabet as their titles. The general idea is that public and private experience in the early 21st century is heavily codified, in particular, by a militarized global sphere.
While we might predicate of poetry, as with all the arts, that it takes at least two, the emphasis placed on the expressive and representational properties of the poem too often obscures how language prefigures experience. Seen in this light, poetry becomes a means not only of entertaining worldly facticities or human conundrums, but also of investigating poetic license. Of what does the experience of the poem consist?
In "Tango," the quotidian failures—of memory, of collegiality, of "cash flow"—often visited upon the (middle-aged) professional classes are set against the backdrop of collective trauma. There's more than a hint here that the author's "old man"—one of "those two"—belonged to the World War II generation, an apparent personal datum that works to highlight the geopolitical turmoil characteristic of our own times. We find the author's surname used in comic counterpoint to the sobriety of high theory, which serves also as a nod to authorship and its vagaries, while the material conditions of the text and the tacit representational logic of more instrumental writing are brought to the fore by reference to "90 brightness," even as paper is rendered a trope for the "recycled" sky. There is as well a studied confusion of pronouns throughout, perhaps to flag those deformations of identity, "expiration / date suddenly 07/09," wrought by conflict and loss, and the great American songbook is employed to wrench a painful chuckle or two out of said loss. If "defunct hard drives" will obscure a proper appreciation of the "patulous" present, the volatility of such data provokes consideration of what it means to "live in the past," a consideration punctuated by the prospect of "going back / for the funeral," which prospect is evidently to be preempted by national urgencies. "And your / little dog, too": it would seem that the ultimate target is "Ameri- / ca" in all of its idiomatic splendor, "paparazzied" farce, and hyphenated disarray, but it remains decidedly unclear, at least by this section's end, whether the pot at the end of the rainbow is half full or half empty.
David Antin is a poet and critic of both poetry and art, and is especially known for his talk-poems, quasi-spontaneous prose poems that he performs live and without rehearsal. His books include Talking at the Boundaries, What It Means to Be Avant-Garde, and Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature, 1966 to 2005. The importance of his work has been recognized both by those within and outside the poetry establishment, having received honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, and the NEA, among others, while the Poetry Foundation cites him as a pioneer of “hybrid texts of conceptual writing.”
If someone walks up to you and starts talking, how do you know whether or not he’s telling you a poem: thus begins one of David Antin’s talk poems, a genre of performance poetry that he invented by “thinking out loud,” as he once put it. His talk poems are often inspired by the specific place or audience for which they are given, but are usually a blend of narratives from his own life, seen through the lens of philosophical speculation on how meaning comes into being. “I remember giving a reading at SUNY Binghamton,” he says, on the genesis of his talk poems, “I was there to read these ‘process poems.’ And I was very committed to the process of composing, working at poems, putting things together and taking them apart like some kind of experimental filmmaker. But when I got to the reading all the work was done, and I was reduced to being an actor in an experimental play that I’d already written. And I didn’t want to be an actor. I didn’t want to illustrate the way I had worked. I wanted to work. At being a poet. In the present. So at this reading I started revising poems while I was reading them. Changing poems that were already written. It was a disaster. I tried to invent a poem, my kind of poem — an interrogation of a sort. I started thinking out loud and that was somewhat better. I was committed to a poetry of thinking — not of thought but of thinking. And now it seemed possible. But my way of thinking is very particular and concrete. It doesn’t follow a continuous path. When I come up against an obstacle, some kind of resistance, I often find myself looking for some concrete example — a story that could throw light on it or interfere with it, kick it into a different space. So I found myself telling stories or, to use my term, constructing narratives, as part of my thinking. I had resorted to narrative before, my kind of fragmented narrative — in my comically titled autobiography back in 1967, which was probably closer to the “Aztec Definitions” that Jerome and I published in some/thing back in 1965 than to conventional stories. So the two notions — of improvisation, of doing it there, thinking while talking, and thinking by any means I could, which meant thinking by telling — stories — came to me at pretty much the same time.” [from A Conversation with David Antin, David Antin and Charles Bernstein. https://www.granarybooks.com/pages/books/GB_90/david-antin-charles-bernstein/a-conversation-with-david-antin?soldItem=true]
John Ashbery is the author of some 25 books of poetry. A recipient of a National Humanities Medal, he is widely considered one of the greatest American poets of the 20th and nascent 21st century. Originally associated with the New York school of poetry, he has been awarded every major American award for poetry, beginning with the Yale Younger Poets Prize, and including the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize, and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant among others.
Perhaps the best description of “Business Personals” was made by Ashbery in the Times Literary Supplement where he characterized his poetry as floating in “the immanence of revelation not yet produced.” The Times goes on to say: “many people’s initial reaction is of perplexity and annoyance at its declining to resolve into sense. It seems to gesture towards some definite line of thought which never can show itself as we follow the poet’s divagations through a welter of ideas and impressions. ‘The song makes no mention of directions,’ of a place to conclude. Ashbery’ sparkling poetic intelligence does not seek to affirm anything as a fixed proposition; rather, it captures the experience of trying to keep in mind and reconcile the assorted demands that modernity places on the unsettled free-floating individual consciousness. Across long far-reaching lines, the poetry evinces…” [www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/private/business-personals]
Susan Bee is a painter, editor, and book artist, living in Brooklyn. Her artist's books include collaborations with Susan Howe, Johanna Drucker, Charles Bernstein, Regis Bonvicino, Jerome McGann, Rachel Levitsky, and Jerome Rothenberg. Bee is the coeditor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online. She is represented by Southfirst Gallery and A.I.R. Gallery, NYC. Bee won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014. She teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/bee/
Bed Hangings with poems by Susan Howe and my pictures and settings, was published by Granary Books in 2001. Working with Susan was a challenge and a pleasure. Her work has a lot of historical references so I went to the library to find images of canopied beds and other specific materials to use for this book. Susan Howe also found images that I included. I tried to match the spareness and abstraction of many of the poems, as well as their surprising and mystical qualities. The book was published in black and white and each page includes one of her poems from this series. The drawings were done in ink with collage elements added and I chose the typeface and design and set all the type for the book myself.
Caroline Bergvall is an artist, writer and performer who works across art forms, media and languages. The recipient of many awards and commissions, her work frequently develops through exploring material traces, literary documents and linguistic detail, language and literary history, sites and histories, hidden or forgotten knowledges. Her sparse textual, spatial and audio works often expose hidden or difficult historical/political events. www.carolinebergvall.com/about-new.php
Say Parsley is a sound and language installation created by writer Caroline Bergvall and composer Ciarán Maher between 2001-2009. The audience is invited to navigate a sparse spatial environment of seemingly simple combinations of linguistic and sonic pieces. Once spoken the shibboleth acts, yet criminally rather than contractually, on both the speaker and listener.
The installation tells a story about language, especially the shibboleth: a word or letter used to expose the identity of its speaker by how its pronounced. The background to the title refers to a historic shibboleth. The massacre of tens of thousands of Creole Haitians on the border of the Dominican Republic in 1937, for not being able to “correctly” pronounce the word “perejil” (Spanish for parsley) with a rolling ‘r’.
Kate Bernheimer has been called “one of the living masters of the fairy tale” (Tin House). She is the author of a novel trilogy and the story collections Horse, Flower, Bird and How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales, and the editor of four anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award winning and bestselling My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales and xo Orpheus: 50 New Myths. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where she teaches fairy tales and creative writing. https://english.arizona.edu/people/kate-bernheimer.
“Children’s books were the first books I encountered as a reader, the first stories I fell in love with, and they influenced my form. As Andre Breton says, we’re all “former children.” I think that’s a very serious way to think about reading.
I have been interested greatly in how old fairy tales emphasize radical modes of survival, via omission. In a fairy tale you might need to cut off your finger to use as a key, but there is no pain, likely no blood. The grammar of mythic violence is less abstract, but equally stark. As a kid, myths scared me more than fairy tales; fairy tales always consoled me. Still, I kept both Edith Hamilton and Andrew Lang on my night table. And I count on reading all of these stories to keep me solid on a day-to-day basis.” [from The Brooklyn Rail. http://brooklynrail.org/2014/12/books/a-way-i-could-be-kate-bernheimer-in-conversation-with-matt-bell]
Charles Bernstein is the author of Pitch of Poetry, essays, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2016. His most recent book of poems is Topsy-Turvy (Chicago, 2021). In 2010, Farrar, Straus & Giroux published All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems. Bernstein is Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is co-director of PennSound.
I am a Jewish man trapped in the body of a Jewish man. Poetry doesn’t exist to be understood or to solicit accolades or dismissals: It does what it does, what it can do. When it comes it comes, when it goes it goes. (This is the secret of rhythm.) For what leaves one person high and dry is for another as necessary as water. And can you have that necessity for one without at the same time sacrificing the availability to another? (And those two points of accessibility/inaccessibility may also occur for the same person at different times or even different parts of any of one us, odd as that may sound). Poetry's power (some poetry's power) may be that its appeal is not universal but specific (not popular but partisan); we don't all agree. If everything is translatable, then nothing is. Poetry’s not about what it says but what it does. So in the end what is comes down to is: Can the truth handle the truth?
Sometimes at night when I can’t sleep I take down one of the volumes of my vast Yellow Pages collection. Too much light. So I go to “Draperies, shutters, and blinds.” But which one?: Draperies, shutters, or blinds?
R. M. Berry is author of the novels Frank (2006), an "unwriting" of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Leonardo’s Horse (1998), a New York Times “notable book.” His first collection of short fiction, Plane Geometry and Other Affairs of the Heart, was chosen by Robert Coover as the winner of the 1985 Fiction Collective Prize, and a second collection, Dictionary of Modern Anguish (2000), was described by the Buffalo News as "a collection of widely disparate narratives inspired...by the spirit of Ludwig Wittgenstein." He edited the fiction anthology Forms at War:FC2 1999-2009 and, with Jeffrey DiLeo, the critical anthology Fiction’s Present: Situating Contemporary Narrative Innovation (2007). His essays on experimental fiction, Wittgenstein, and modernism have appeared in such journals as New Literary History, Philosophy and Literature, Symploké, and Narrative, and in such volumes as the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature (2009). He is professor and former chair of English at Florida State University and the former publisher of FC2. He currently lives with his wife, Ruth Fleming, in Atlanta, Georgia.
What makes stories so problematic, reproducing in their telling the problem that gives rise to them, is always something we would prefer not to know, would like to avoid knowing, but that we cannot fail to know if we are to tell the story. This is a version of Freud’s great therapeutic discovery, the psychological mechanism he called transference. Although the subject matter of narrative is action, narrating is also an action itself, and this doubling of action, of the subject matter in its expression, multiplies the potential for conflict. Is the way the story is told, its form or manner or tone, consistent with what it says, i.e., the conclusion reached, the plot’s resolution or irresolution, its meaning? All of my fiction attempts to raise and answer this question. However, because my effort to tell what happens is mirrored in the reader’s effort to tell what happens, neither question nor answer is immune to transference, to the original problem’s return. Anyone can avoid acknowledging, even to him or herself, what no one in his or her right mind could fail to know. This includes the author, of course.
One of my aims in Frank is to make palpable for readers the complex interdependence of the narrated action and the act of narrating. Sometimes this interdependence can be felt in a single line, as when Frank Stein tells the young novelist to whom he is dictating the words we read, “Your writing means all the world to me.” However, it is more likely to be sensed in ways that I want to call structural. Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, my novel Frank uses the ancient form of a story-within-a-story, but this form becomes implicated in the conflict as soon as Frank Stein imagines his life being foretold. The idea that the words I have inherited, that come down to me from the past, function in my life like a fate, limiting my power of action and distorting what I see, runs as deep in modern culture as modernity. Anytime that, reading a novel, I think I can recognize myself, I know I am not my own invention. And yet, if forced to tell, amid continuing bigotry and misogyny and violence, what my own life or actions mean, no words but mine will count. How does anyone know, confronting a blank page, why the same old story recurs again and again? Freedom means acknowledging, even as I read and write, what happens here and now.
Alan Bigelow's work, installations, and conversations concerning digital fiction and poetry have appeared in Turbulence.org, Rhizome.org, SFMOMA, The National Art Center (Tokyo), the Library of Congress (USA), Los Angeles Center for Digital Arts, MLA, FAD, VAD, FreeWaves.org, The Museum of New Art (MONA, Detroit), Art Tech Media, FILE, Blackbird, Drunken Boat, IDEAS, New River Journal, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, and many other place worldwide. You can see Alan Bigelow's work at www.webyarns.com.
"Last Words, "Silence," and "My Life in Three Parts" are all attempts at reducing a narrative to its basic elements and having those elements complement each other in unique ways.
"Last Words" (2012) is a narrative of eight individuals, their brief archetypal histories, and their last words spoken at the moment of death. This work attempts a new approach toward narrative by having the video and text obliquely play off each other, while the images (with their accompanying definitions and first person narrative lines) add an extra visual and metaphorical dimension. The piece is a narrative montage and is navigated either linearly or through the viewer's random engagement with the interactive menu.
"Silence" (2013) uses the P22 Foundry "Cage Silence" font, which is inspired by John Cage's famous work 4'33". This font does not appear on screen or print. There is no vector or bit map information other than the period character. All of the information is searchable, but it is not visible unless you look at the source code. The source code to the text is included in the piece, but it is in binary code and not immediately decipherable (it can be translated off-site using a binary code-to-text translator). The text of the piece is a quote from John Cage's book Silence: "I have nothing to say, and I am saying it." The audio file that accompanies the piece is exactly 4'33" long and absent of any sound.
"My Life in Three Parts" (2013), an autobiography of sorts, reduces a story to its basic narrative form through the use of archetypal images, mathematical equations, video, and text.
Christian Bök is the author not only of Crystallography, a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, but also of Eunoia, a bestselling work of experimental literature, which has won the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. His conceptual artworks (which include books built out of Rubik’s cubes and Lego bricks) have appeared at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York as part of the exhibit Poetry Plastique. The Utne Reader has recently included Bök in its list of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.” Bök teaches English at the University of Calgary.
The Xenotext strives to engineer a bacterium so that it becomes not only a durable archive for storing a poem, but also an operant machine for writing a poem—one that might outlast the extinction of our species. Since the publication of my proposal for this work of conceptual literature, I have succeeded in creating a gene called XP13-4c (a poetic cipher that, when implanted into the genome of E. coli, causes the microbe to write, in response, its own poem, encoded in a chain of amino acids). I am now the first person in history to design a cell that can write a meaningful text in response to an enciphered gene—but the point of the exercise is to get this construct to work in D. radiodurans, an extremophile capable of surviving in a variety of hostile environments. I have been collaborating with a lab at the University of Wyoming during the final phase of this experiment—but so far no assay has yet hit all of my benchmarks for success, so I am continuing to work on the project, refining these experiments so that I can achieve a definitive, biological result.
Kylie Boltin is an American-born, Australian filmmaker, screenwriter, and author of Eastern European and South Indian descent. She is the recipient of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Award for screenwriting (joint-winner) for her script, Missing, and is part of the team that won the 2014 Walkley for Multimedia Storytelling for Cronulla Riots: The Day that Shocked the Nation. For that program, Kylie commissioned and directed/produced 200+ pieces of content. Kylie has been nominated for a further five Walkley Awards across multiple categories. Kylie holds a PhD in Creative Media (Film and TV) and Master of Arts in Creative Writing. She is currently writing a novel based on a true story, set in India, Australia, the USA as well as developing a number of other project. She was the collaborator with Matt Huynh and producer of the adaptation of Nam Le's short story "The Boat" which appears in this anthology. http://kylieboltin.com/
Amaranth Borsuk is a poet, scholar, and book artist interested in textual materiality across media. Her book of poems Pomegranate Eater (Kore, 2016). Abra (1913 Press, 2016), is an intermedia collaboration with Kate Durbin and Ian Hatcher. It received an NEA-funded Expanded Artists’ Books grant and was recently issued as a limited edition hand-made book and free iPhone and iPad app. Borsuk’s previous books include Between Page and Screen (SpringGun, 2016; Slope, 2012), with Brad Bouse; As We Know (Subito, 2014), with Andy Fitch; and Handiwork (Slope, 2012). She is an Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Bothell.
Between Page and Screen (Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse) arose out of our interest in the place of books in an era of increasingly screen-based reading. Our backgrounds as a poet/scholar/book artist and a programmer interested in intuitive interfaces led us to consider how page and screen might coexist while foregrounding the centrality of the reader, in whom any text’s meaning takes shape and for whom it exists.
The book itself contains no poems, only stark black-and-white geometric shapes and the instructions “to find the words, visit: betweenpageandscreen.com.” At the website, the reader encounters her mirror image and follows instructions to display the book on her webcam. Our software detects the square markers in the book and projects corresponding poems above them, mapped to the surface of the page, much like a digital pop-up book. These poems, a series of letters between P and S, two lovers struggling to define their relationship, draw on the etymologies of “page” and “screen” to explore their intersections and divergences. Between the epistles, a series of animated and concrete poems play with key words from the text, nodding to the history of poets and artists animating the surface of the page. These words do not exist on either platform, but in the augmented space between them bridged by the reader.
Jenny Boully is a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow in General Nonfiction. Her books include Betwixt-and-Between (Coffee House Press), not merely because of the unknown that was stalking towards them (Tarpaulin Sky Press), The Book of Beginnings and Endings (Sarabande Books), [one love affair]* (Tarpaulin Sky Press), The Body: An Essay (Essay Press), and of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon: a book of failures (Coconut Books). She has studied at Hollins University, the University of Notre Dame, and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She teaches at Bennington College. www.jennyboully.com
I’ve always believed that the most magical of things can occur in the smallest of spaces. My constraint in writing The Book of Beginnings and Endings was a “book page,” specifically, the first and last pages of hypothetical books. I think that withholding of any kind can make for a seduction. Naturally, there is something true about wanting what we cannot have, and this wanting can be applied to the reader’s desire for plot and narrative. Because more is withheld than given in my book, I hope that the reader might pay more attention to each word and each move in an attempt to decode, search for clues, translate metaphors, or find meanings. The book doesn’t rely on narrative in a traditional sense and it certainly isn’t force-feeding the reader a story, but I do think there’s a bit of a narrative in there and a story as well—once the reader realizes what it might be, then the very withholdings can become very meaningful when read alongside the fragments and omissions, or the mere beginnings and endings, as it were. When the reader is left to wonder, the book becomes, in a certain sense, written by the reader, owned by the reader. I have always been attracted to that strange proposition in life called possibility—what could happen, what might have happened, what might happen. I like allowing possibility to live out in all its forms, with a dash of fatalism and the inevitable, those elements that make life tragic when contrasted against possibility. For the reader, I think it might make for a sometimes frustrated experience, especially if the reader wants a clear progression of narrative. I have never been able to ask or answer, “What is that book or movie about?” I know I have misread everything I’ve come into contact with, and I love my misreadings. I think that when a book refuses to give all, it increases the probability of opening a great space in which to wonder and misread, to have a very private moment that no other reader can enter or experience. In writing this work, I tried to think about the experience of being in terms of a series beginnings and endings that seem to sprout from an obsessive pondering contrasted with omissions, unknowns, fragments, and an ever-present void that seems to be filled with something.
Brad Bouse is a product designer and software developer whose work focuses on the intersection of art and technology. More information can be found at http://bradbouse.com. (See Borsuk for statement on Page to Screen)
Mez Breeze crafts experimental storytelling, Virtual Reality Literature, VR sculptures + paintings, XR experiences, games, and other genre-defying output. In 1994, Mez first started using the World Wide Web to author digital works and she hasn’t slowed since. Current and past tinkerings include musing about the rise of Augmented Reality at The Next Web, exhibiting with the Third Faction Collective at World of Warcraft: Emergent Media Phenomenon and crafting the Inanimate Alice Virtual Reality Adventure Perpetual Nomads.
In May 2020, two Virtual Reality works authored by Mez made the shortlists of the Fiction and Poetry Categories of the 2020 Woollahra Digital Literary Award, with Perpetual Nomads being awarded the inaugural 2020 Readers’ Choice Prize. In November 2019, Mez’s Virtual Reality Microstories Series V[R]ignettes – previously titled A Million and Two – won the Queensland University of Technology’s Digital Literature Award. In July 2019, Mez won the 2019 Marjorie C. Luesebrink Career Achievement Award which: “…honors a visionary artist and/or scholar who has brought excellence to the field of electronic literature and has inspired others to help create and build the field.” In January 2019, her VR Literature experience A Place Called Ormalcy was shortlisted for the 2018 If:book New Media Writing Prize.
Mez’s projects are taught worldwide. Her works reside in Collections as diverse as The World Bank, Cornell’s Rose Goldsen Archive and the National Library of Australia. She is also in the process of developing a career archive with Duke University’s Curator Collection team: this archive is to be housed at the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. http://mezbreezedesign.com/
What is a V[R]erse?
A V[R]erse is a microstory. Each story consists of a storybox that can be experienced in 3D via a WebXR enabled mobile device, desktop PC and in Virtual Reality. While in each a V[R]erse, a reader may experience poetically dense language [with letters bracketed in words – requiring multiple reads – that are designed to expand and enhance meaning potentials] and various visual, textual and mechanical elements that require direct audience input.
David Buuck lives in Oakland, CA. He is the co-founder and editor of Tripwire, a journal of poetics, and founder of BARGE, the Bay Area Research Group in Enviro-aesthetics. Recent publications include Noise in the Face of (Roof Books, 2016), SITE CITE CITY (Futurepoem, 2015) and An Army of Lovers, co-written with Juliana Spahr (City Lights, 2013). http://davidbuuck.com
This play-script has its source in the transcription of the black box recorder from Flight 93, the hijacked plane ‘taken down’ on 9/11. While this particular flight resides in the American historical memory in particular ways, it is part of a larger book of such “plays”, each appropriated from black box transcriptions from (mostly) fatal airplane crashes (most of which are decidedly unfamous and ‘anonymous’). While the texts belong to the public domain (they are after all produced and released by the FAA), they of course reveal uncomfortable moments of personal fear and panic, putting readers in the voyeuristic position of listening to literal ‘last words’. Likewise, I am interested in the theatrical possibilities (and related ethical questions) of recasting these texts as plays within the documentary theater tradition, which might force us to think through the aesthetics of reenactment, spectacle, and death alongside the American fascination with disaster and destruction.
Blake Butler is the author of seven book-length works, including Alice Knott (Riverhead), 300,000,000 (Harper Perennial), Sky Saw (Tyrant Books), There is No Year (Harper Perennial), Scorch Atlas (Featherproof Books), and Ever (Calamari Press), as well as the nonfictional Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia (Harper Perennial). His short fiction, interviews, reviews, and essays have appeared widely, including in The Believer, The New York Times, Bomb, Bookforum, and as an ongoing column at Vice. He is a founding editor of HTMLGIANT
“The fourteen stories that are the scorched atlas work together and individually,” writes PANK Magazine. “The stories feel the same and yet different. They are stories of physicality and human frailty and bodies and worlds given over to decay and blight. The ways in which the people and places in these stories are rendered are a grotesquerie but in the very grotesque there is beauty largely because of the strength of Butler’s prose and the depths of his imagination. There is a relentless obsession with the body, with fluids, with oozing, with homes and mothers and sons, with things that are bent or broken. Butler writes with a heavy hand in these stories. Every single word suffocates you both thematically and stylistically. The writing is tactile. It deliberately, profoundly engages the senses and more than that, it engages the mind, often in challenging ways.
“Some might call the world(s) of Scorch Atlas apocalyptic but I would say the world(s) are dystopic because they don’t destroy life. Even amidst the bleak carnage, the rot, the melancholy and darkness, the world(s) of Scorch Atlas sustain.” [http://pankmagazine.com/2009/09/10/scorch-atlas]
Douglas Cape is the Director of Photography at z360.com which makes interactive photography for websites. Z360 was featured on MacWorld CD in 1998, in Apple VR Showcase 1999 and made panoramas for the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Movie in 2004. Since then z360.com has received over 5 millions hits, filmed HD panoramic videos and made tours for Tate Modern and the BBC among many others. Recently Z360 took over 100 Panoramas in Borneo for the Cultured Rainforest Project and launched the world's first iPad friendly panorama website. Exhibitions include Live Projections at Serpentine Gallery, I.C.A., Platform Gallery, Modern Art Oxford, The Klinker, The Phoenix, and Salisbury Arts Centre. (See John Cayley for statement on What We Will.)
J. R. Carpenter is a Canadian-born UK-based artist, writer and practice-led researcher working across print, performance, and digital media. Her web-based work The Gathering Cloud won the New Media Writing Prize 2016. A print book by the same name was published by Uniformbooks in 2017. Her pint poetry collection An Ocean of Static (Penned in the Margins) was highly commended for the Forward Prizes 2018. Her most recent collection is This is a Picture of Wind (Longbarrow Press 2020). http://luckysoap.com.
The Gathering Cloud is a hybrid print-and web-based work by J. R. Carpenter commissioned by NEoN Digital Art Festival in 2016. This work which aims to address the environmental impact of so-called ‘cloud’ computing through the oblique strategy of calling attention to the materiality of the clouds in the sky. Both are commonly perceived to be infinite resources, at once vast and immaterial; both, decidedly, are not. Fragments from British meteorologist Luke Howard’s classic essay “On the Modifications of Clouds” (1803) as well as more recent online articles and books on media and the environment are pared down into hyptertextual hendecasyllabic verses. These are situated within surreal animated gif collages composed of images materially appropriated from publicly accessible cloud storage services. The cognitive dissonance between the cultural fantasy of cloud storage and the hard facts of its environmental impact is bridged, in part, through the constant evocation of animals: A cumulus cloud weighs one hundred elephants. A USB fish swims through a cloud of cables. Four million cute cat pics are shared each day. A small print iteration of The Gathering Cloud shared through gift, trade, mail art, and small press economies further confuses boundaries between physical and digital, scarcity and waste. In 2017 Uniformbooks published a print book by the same, featuring a foreword by Jussi Parikka, a poetic afterword by Lisa Robertson, and an essay on the media history of clouds and The Cloud by J. R. Carpenter.
John Cayley writes digital media, particularly in the domain of poetry and poetics. Recent and ongoing projects include The Readers Project with Daniel C. Howe, imposition with Giles Perring, and riverIsland... Information on these and other works may be consulted at http://programmatology.shadoof.net. Cayley is a Professor at Brown University, Literary Arts Program, where he teaches writing digital media, including a course on writing within immersive three-dimensional artificial environments.
What we we have of what we are ... something past, its full title, was described as a broadband interactive drama when it first came out in 2000 and it still bears this designation. Its writing collaborator, John Cayley, prefers to think of it as ‘a navigable dramatic circumstance.’
Developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, What we will utilized the potential of QuickTime interactive movie formats, particularly scriptable photographic panoramas. The photographer Douglas Cape is still an internationally acknowledged expert in this technology. Cape’s hand-crafted panoramas were combined, in the navigable movies, with live-recorded and composed soundscapes designed by Giles Perring, who initiated the collaborative phase of the project. The circumstance of What we will’s composition was based on Perring’s binaural ‘vision’ of generative whispers emanating from the famous gallery in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Structuring the piece, there are further layers of dramatic, textual and literal art elements. John Cayley gave this particular piece in the whisperers’ imaginary its final form, melding What we will’s 24-hour circumstance with the vignettes of a romantic triangle, its dialogue scripted in constrained sentences with forward-and-backward referring past-and-future (im)perfect tenses and intensions. Unnaturally, this can be read in terms of a relatively familiar exploration of dramatic potentialities: human characters, fragmentary personal histories, memories and secrets — an emotional structure in a non-linear narrative. We may experience the 24-hour circumstance of these characters’ day (or days) without being certain as to whether any particular moment follows or proceeds what we will have seen or heard ‘before.’
In terms of further conceptual basis for the piece, Giles Perring was particularly interested in the potential of audio loops to restructure temporal experiences. The photographic panoramas and the scripted dramatic ‘circumstance’ reflected What we will’s virtual audio reality, the trompe d’oreilles of an experientially linear timeline that is, paradoxically, constructed entirely of loops. Correspondingly, the panoramic photographs offer, as a frozen moments, visual representations of ‘times’ that ‘will seem to have been’ experienced by characters inhabiting non-linear sequences of interactions, situations and dialogic exchanges. In a sense, the whole piece locks its characters — and its viewer/readers — into constrained, nested, ever-repeating capsules of virtual time that are, nonetheless, uncannily, aesthetically familiar.
By 2003, What we will had been reconfigured and redesigned for presentation using standard browser technologies over the web. The current web version, hosted and linked for this publication, establishes and maintains this version of the project. In the mid 2000s, on rapidly proliferating broadband links, What we will provided user-viewers with a groundbreaking (and, arguably, still not superseded) composition of interactive photographic panoramas and topographically associated, textual, aural and musical soundscapes in binaural stereo. Apart from navigation around the panoramas — around locations of the city associated with the characters — linked hotspots, then and now, give access to related panoramas and secret, choral ‘whispers.’ The literal and synaesthetic ‘whispering’ graffiti of the locations and their panoramic surrounds generate a rich affective structure of image, music and text.
Z360 announces a major revision of What We Will, a fully-realised drama created specifically for broadband internet publication.
Produced as a collaboration between writers, musicians and performers, What We Will breaks new artistic and technical ground in its combination of narrative, sound, text and image.
"Z360 has been working with interactive panoramic photographs since the technology became available in 1995," said Douglas Cape, Director of Photography. "What We Will began as an exploration of other ways of using these techniques besides the usual run of commercial applications."
"It quickly became apparent that we were opening up a completely new way of combining character-based story telling with user-controlled interactive capabilities", added Cape. "With the finished result we believe we are finally using internet and computer technology to create a new form of drama which is neither video, radio, text nor a game, but uses the best elements of each to create a new synthesis: broadband interactive drama."
The piece consists of linked dramatic scenes in which three characters, Richard, Chris and Helen, find themselves during the 24-hour cycle of their day in the city of London. But as we experience this day with them, we are always uncertain as to whether any particular moment follows or, rather, precedes what we have seen before. The viewer can either follow the day sequentially or explore the events of each hour at random.
The drama is based on a series of loops. Panoramas, soundscapes and the story itself are looping events which allow for non time-based exploration. Some events will auto play to aid or direct your journey, but the viewer can still pause and retain control if desired. To view each panorama and associated whispers will take at least an hour, so with your headphones on, sit back, relax and discover.
"What We Will utilizes the potential of QuickTime interactive movie formats, particularly its photographic panoramas. This is combined with binaural recording in the field and composed soundscapes which are embedded in the navigable movies. There is also a more familiar exploration of dramatic potential through human characters, fragmentary personal histories, memories and secrets, all helping to construct a non-linear narrative and emotional structure.
David Clark is an artist who works in many different mediums, including the Internet, film, and installation. Since 2002 he has gravitated towards working on the Internet since the Internet allows him to explore his interest in non-linear narrative and access an audience beyond the art world or the film world. Themes and ideas in this work have been part of the films and installations he has been making for 20 years. He continues to work on installation and film projects but has focused his work on complex “feature-length” net.art works like 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein.
88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (to be played with the Left Hand) is an interactive artwork by David Clark. The piece is a sprawling, non-linear contemplation of the life and work of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein consisting of 88 interactive flash animations each corresponding with one of the 88 constellations in the night sky. The viewer is invited to navigate through a maze of interconnecting narratives – moving from association to association – in a way that brings Wittgenstein’s work into conversation with our contemporary digital culture. As a nod to Wittgenstein’s concert pianist brother Paul who lost his right arm in World War One but continued to perform work for the left hand, the piece invites the viewer to ‘play’ with the collages using the left hand on the computer keyboard.
At the center of piece is the number 88. It is both the number of keys on the conventional piano and the number of constellations in the night sky (as determined by contemporary science). Music and the night sky both seem to me to stir up the limits of our understanding of existence. The constellations also provided me with a structure. The work is like a ‘connect the dots’ portrait of Ludwig Wittgenstein. I have drawn the facts of his life together and numbered them but it is up to you to connect the dots.
Robert Coover is the recipient of the William Faulkner Foundation Award, for his novel The Origin of the Brunists, and the Rea Award for the Short Story. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Conjunctions, Playboy, and other publications. He has published 14 novels, the latest of which, The Brunist Day of Wrath. [www.britannica.com/biography/Robert-Coover]
“The Return of the Dark Children,” writes Peter Jurmu, “corkscrews its approach to a new falling darkness, same as the old but more terrible: the German villagers whose plague of rats was lifted by the Pied Piper and whose children were led away by same, don’t want or seek out the darkness (or their children, anymore—they’ve had new ones). Another infestation begins, of rats and material-or-imaginary devils that used to be their children—the darkness that’s come will never be absolute, nor will it depart. The legend of the Piper contains several cautions for children and adults, and is creepy in its own right, but “Return” is an elegy for parents. I don’t even know where “House” comes from except a myth of storytelling Coover wishes to depart, but can’t quite: “The game of naming things becomes the game of filling old names with all the things we see.” And the names from old stories, and what those stories supposedly always and ought to impart, from however long ago, rarely, if ever, vanish from memory.”
Roderick Coover is the creator or co-creator of works of digital, interactive and emergent cinema and digital arts such as Hearts and Minds: The Interrogations Project, Toxi•City: A Climate Change Narrative, Currency, The Unknown Territories Project and Cultures In Webs: Working In Hypermedia With The Documentary Image as well as co-editor of the book Switching Codes: Thinking Through Technology In The Humanities And Arts (University of Chicago). He is Professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University, Philadelphia, Founding Director of Temple's duel MFA-PHD Program in Documentary Arts & Visual Research, and Founding Co-Director of its M.A. in mediaXarts:Cinema for New Technologies and Environments. He is the recipient of LEF, Whiting, Mellon and Fulbright awards, among others. (See Scott Rettberg for statement on Hearts and Minds.) http://unknownterritories.org/
Lucy Corin is the author of the novel The Swank Hotel, as well as the story collections One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses and The Entire Predicament, and the novel Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls. Her work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Conjunctions, Harper’s Magazine, Ploughshares, Bomb, Tin House Magazine, and the New American Stories anthology from Vintage Contemporaries. She is the recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Rome Prize and a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches at the University of California at Davis and lives in Berkeley. www.lucycorin.com
“Some Machines” is the first half of a series of small stories about machines (the complete series is in my collection). A friend of mine had left town to be with her family while her grandfather was dying. I had been reading a lot of Lydia Davis, who works in miniature and is also interested in the relationship between fiction and diary. I asked my friend what I could do for her while she was away and she said just to write her emails about what was going on with me every day, so every day I made a very small story about what was going on with me, any little thing I noticed about the world we shared that might remind her of the life she had outside the very difficult things she was experiencing. I liked some of these electronic letters and started asking myself what the difference was between what I wrote to this friend, and what I would call a “story.” I then gave myself the task of writing a little story-letter every day about a machine; I’d just go through my day looking at the machines I encountered. I’m trying to remember why machines, and I think it started with an awareness of writing on the computer while my friend’s grandfather was dying. The longing in the letters I was writing was some kind of conflation of ideas about the body of a dying person and the body of a computer, my body writing at the computer, and the inherent longing in letter writing most succinctly expressed in the form of a love letter. In writing there is always a tension between the physicality of the form—the material aspect of text, paper, books, and the various machines we write and read on—and the metaphysical aspect, this desire to reach another human from the isolated space of writing, or thinking. Anyhow, once I had these one-way love letters about machines I threaded them along perhaps the simplest of all possible narrative arcs: you’re gone, I miss you, I’m going to see you, you’re here.