The Problematic of Form: Transitoire Observable. A Laboratory for Emergent Programmed Art

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E-poetry first focused on a programming approach. But since the end of the 90s, many e-poetry works have focused on video art aspects of multimedia events on screen or have explored “traditional” use of the link in hypermedia. Many others use the electronic medium only as a simple medium and as a support for a classical visual poetic approach or as classical visually illustrated texts. These orientations are encouraged by firms that produce software in which the specifics of the numerical medium are masked by video metaphors. I do not deny that these kinds of poetic projects will change traditional understanding of the text. They also produce different and non-classical manners of expression. But it seems to me, and also to several other poets and artists, that this popular approach does not meet the specific needs of this medium because it does not engage programming. Thus these approaches are unable to propose a situation of communication that is truly new.

This is why, in 2003, on the suggestion of Alexandre Gherban, Alexandre, Tibor Papp and I decided to break with these approaches and to create a new collective that relocates programming at the core of electronic art. We thought that certainly there existed specific forms closed to programming, forms we did not know and had to explore. We wrote a manifesto in which we explained that we consider programming (and not the program) the material of this art, that the multimedia event that appears on screen is only a transient observable state (a “transitoire observable” in French) that occurs while running. We think that forms exist that engage the complexity of the situation of communication created by programmed works. We also think that these forms are close to programming and highly independent of the nature of the transient observable. Programming is a new kind of material that artists can sculpt and model. It is a matter of a formal approach to the algorithms/processes duality. What is pointed out in this approach is the relationship between the algorithmic nature of code and the pragmatics of reading.

So, at this level, e-poetry certainly does not exist but one can gesture towards a general art of programming.

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Jörgen Schäfer