Trac|tExt|ract

Creative Work
Year: 
2011
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Author Statement: For a number of years I have been experimenting with a form of digital textual display which is posited on the idea that writing, rather than being a generative process of accruing new and original texts, might be largely a practice of revealing the already-written in a variety of new ways.

These experimental works are based on layers of pre-existing text which are uncovered by various performative methods. Up until now the principal method has been to use the mouse or trackpad to control a cursor which, by moving across the computer screen, gives the impression of ‘erasing’ or  ‘scratching away’ layers of text. This places writing within the context of what might be described as ‘performative archaeology’ (not to be confused with an archaeology of performance as proposed by Mike Pearson, Michael Shanks, et al.).

The first versions of this form of textual display were developed in Java and located within an applet. The mode of performance (mouse- or trackpad-driven) has been the one constant in the various versions I have developed. However, in collaboration with programmers Steven Booth and Al Parker, we have developed new versions using Processing instead of Java, and it has now become possible to extend the performativity of the piece to include a multi-touch screen or ‘reactable’ such that there can be a more immediate link between the gesture of the hand or fingers and the erasure of layers of text.

In addition, whereas previous versions of the display could only be manipulated by one ‘performer’, the newer versions will permit multiple performers writing/reading (or ‘wreading’) simultaneously. This necessarily involves a negotiation between the performers as to how the ‘wreading’ might function – as collaboration or conflict? A group performance or a struggle for control of the text?

The text that has been developed for this piece is a reflection on the aphoristic quotation above from Meister Eckhart, the 14th century theologian and mystic. The text is a mix of found text and composed text.

(Source: author's abstract for Officina di Letteratura Elettronica/Workshop of Electronic Literature)

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Scott Rettberg