Ephemeral passages—La Série des U and Passage by Philippe Bootz: A close reading

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The lability of digital works, mainly due to the changes undergone by programs and operating systems, as well as to the increasing speed of computers, has been taken for granted by a certain number of critics over the last years. The artists, therefore, have four options when dealing with the potential instability of the electronic device which will display their work:
- In keeping with “the aesthetics of surface”, the artists simply ignore this instability.
- The “mimetic aesthetics” takes into account the instability of the electronic device, but it also tries to reduce its impact by providing the work with a stable experimentation frame.
- The most radical approach, the “aesthetics of the ephemeral”, consists of letting the work slowly decompose, accepting that, through its changing forms and updates, unexpected mutations may even, sooner or later, lead to the obsolescence of the artistic project.
- The fourth approach, called the “aesthetics of re-enchantment”, mystifies the relationships between the animated words and images, between the sounds and gestures of manipulation in a digital artwork, in order to advocate an “unrepresentable”, something that words can not describe and yet, that one can “feel” by experiencing the work.
The poems La Série des U and Passage by Philippe Bootz seem to perfectly fit in the aesthetics of the ephemeral: the author was among the first ones to theorize both about the lability of the digital device and the eventual obsolescence of digital creation, and also one of the first ones to experiment them in his poetic projects. Yet, in these digital poems, the mimetic aesthetics, the aesthetics of the ephemeral and of re-enchantment alternately intertwine, merge or mutually exclude one another, so that their conflicting relationships allow us to raise a certain number of fundamental questions about digital poetics.

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Patricia Tomaszek