William Poundstone and the Aesthetics of Digital Literature

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This paper will discuss the work of Los Angeles-based writer and digital artist William Poundstone. Poundstone, who makes his living writing books for a popular audience on subjects such as cryptography, philosophical and mathematical conundrums, economics and even a biography of Carl Sagan, has a growing, but still quite small, reputation as one of the most intellectually challenging, playful, and artistically distinctive web artists. His ““New Digital Emblems”” is probably his most ambitious work, and operates somewhere between a documentary about the history of visual and ludic writing——ranging across centuries and focusing most profoundly on the Renaissance emblem books——and an original artistic creation, as it includes several of his own ““digital emblems.”” Other works, such as ““Project for Tachistoscope,”” challenge our ways of reading as this narrative is presented as a mix of basic ““Wing Dings””-style iconography and text, presented in synch one image/word combination at a time. Smaller works, such as ““3 Proposals for Bottle Imps,”” suggest most strongly Poundstone’’s relationship to the Los Angeles text artist community——he’’s had a few modest showings of his provocative digital photography in the city——Ed Rusche and Barbara Kruger most specifically. My paper will attempt to describe Poundstone as he exists at the nexus of these various communities, citing his work as both a profound extension and critique of digital writing aesthetics and digital culture in general (his provocative dealings with sexuality and public image in our age of Photoshopped realities, for example), and an important bridge between digital art and the Los Angeles visual arts community.

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Audun Andreassen