v i r a l p o e t i c s

Creative Work
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Some writers and theorists postulate that the most important literary art in the future will be translation. I believe that this translation is not simply between different global languages, for example, but between different manifestations of all expressive form, with a redefinition of what the expressive and the aesthetic fundamentally is. Translations: data into the verbal, the verbal into the visual, the visual into the audible, the audible into the tactile.

The theory and practice of poetry, concerning itself with such fundamental questions as what poetry is, what it does, and how it should be composed and "written," is known as poetics. Here I am concerned with the poetics of the computer-how form is transmutable, how tasks are multiple and fluid, and how to create with a machine that was intended primarily to number crunch. To this end, I am creating a virus which will explore a workstations architecture and will create a poetics of the computer as its own autonomous object, with guest data from users such as you or me.

First I am creating a virus that filters through all available material on a specified workstation and places it in an alternate context, such as a text file collage or a visual, spatialized world. Next I am taking that visible world and assigning audio elements and descriptors to the visuals. Finally, I am taking this world to a sensory environment of touch.

With this performance/installation project, I am examining the architecture of the computer as a space for examining digital cultural creation and the structures behind the myths of personal productivity. The installation is based on the spatial metaphors associated with the use of the computer hardware and software, and ultimately established a poetics of, for, and by the computer workstation. We should turn now to the machine's parts. Actual hardware and software components and functions are areas almost completely overlooked by scholars and theorists because the actual workings of computational machines is strategically mystified and misunderstood. The "space" of the hard drive is parceled out in divisions, sectors and can be mapped, imagined, and filled. What happens when the user types a text document or creates a graphic and saves it? The operating system chooses areas of the hard drive on which to write the data. Unlike the typical 3D game experience, the maneuverings inside the "world" of the hard drive are supposed to be entirely masked to the user. Yet the operation is very place-specific. This installation will ultimately allow users to feel and literally manipulate the data and come to an understanding that the workings of the computer are documentable and tangible, much like human's digestion of our lunch.

This seemingly non-systematic activity-to manipulate the space of the machine-relies upon a range of potential truths relating to data and the manner in which the data is presented. It exposes the computer as our virtual palimpsest, the place where the residues and actions of our lives are kept, erased, partly recorded.

(Source: DAC 1999 Author's abstract)

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Scott Rettberg