Between 1994 and 2005, we witnessed the emergence of a form of digital poetry marked by the hypertext capabilities of the new devices and also, by the use of programs like Flash or VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language). Poetry could then make reality one of the old dreams of the avant-garde poetry: to free itself from the pages. It was around 1995 when a group of poets began to perform a series of linguistic experiments involving the World Wide Web, whose use began to spread.
Many experiments with digital media had roots in avant-garde strategies such as randomness, restrictions, interaction, multiple enunciations, empowered now by the use of new media. These poets were in many cases heirs of Dada, the Situationists, Fluxus, conceptual art. They also continued the steps of others who during the 70s and 80s were developing their work in media such as fax or videotex or even, since the 60s, the phone (as for example John Giorno and its system of poems "on demand") or mail art as a networked art form.
Writing technologies in those years allowed for the first time not only access to previously unsuspected experiments with randomness and interactivity but also to confront questions like the ones posed by Mallarme or Apollinaire, Cummings, Pound or the concrete poets. The signs spacialized recovering their forms, becoming liquid and caligramatic. They raided in the soughed Joycean "verbivocovisualidad".
Regarding the historical and technological context, the use of the Internet was just starting to popularize due to the fact that it was only in 1993 that the network entered the public domain. We were, of course, still in the presence of Web 1.0 and many of the possibilities of the medium that flourished since 2004 were, in many cases, unthinkable. Social media did not exist as we understand them today. While there were mailing lists, these networks were quite static and the users were not too much involved. The computers were slow and supported a very limited amount of data which often had to be stored in floppy disks and later on in CDs. People didn´t have means to edit or even digitize their videos at home. Of course there was no Youtube. Wikipedia did not exist either, nor Facebook or Twitter. It was only by 2004 that the term Web 2.0 began to be heard, together with social networking, blogs, wikis, of folksonomies, Web applications.
The poets who began using electronic means in the mid-90s were aware of the profound changes that the digital media entailed for writing and they were able to see the possibilities it introduced. With the works produced in those years, they made the way for new forms of writing involving the freedom from the printed page and the sealed compartment of the book, the escape from the linearity of writing and other conventions that had dominated the literature field for centuries. Deconstructing the traditional linguistic representation, opening the linguistic sign to other semiotic dimensions (visual, sound), to movement, to the unprecedented spatialization involved in the possibility of linking different screens, these first electronic poets questioned and defied the traditional act of reading as well as the conventional ways to understand the signs at a time in which the ways of writing and reading poetry were changing forever.
"Palabras, ciberjuguetes e IP-bots (Memorias de una poetisa en el ciberespacio)"
(Words, Cybertoys and IP-bots (Memoires from a poetess in the Cyberspace)
Belén Gache´s testimony published in Revista Errata #3 – Bogotá, Colombia - July, 2011.
[ text in spanish]
The Printed Room - Poems 1990–2001
SALTS Gallery (Birsfelden, Switzerland), in the context of Art Basel
Featuring Digital Poetry by Eduardo Kac, Deena Larsen, Belén Gache, Ana Maria Uribe, Tiia Johannson, Erik Loyer, Hazel Smith, Jennifer Ley, Stephanie Strickland, Carolyn Guertin, Mendi and Keith Obadike, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Caterina Davinio, amongst others. Curated by Harry Burke.
[+ info at the gallery´s web]
[+ info at the Poetry Foundation web]
Fin del mundo
Pioneer in addressing the relationship between art and the Internet and produce works of Net.art this site was active from 1995 to 2009, in Buenos Aires. Fin del Mundo (Doomsday) included works by artists from different disciplines, including its own directors Gustavo Romano (visual arts), Jorge Haro (music), Carlos Trilnick (video) and Belén Gache (poetry).
[ view site ]