Wordlyphagic Literature: For biopoetry to microbiological A.I

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

I have frequently spoken of word and image as viruses or as acting as viruses, and this is not an allegorical comparison.

William S. Burroughs, Electronic Revolution

As with bacteriophages – viruses that parasitize a bacterium by infecting it and reproducing inside it –, literature is permeated by a series of centripetal and centrifugal movements of rarefaction, in which a sequence of virulent “wordlyphagic” language processes chew, devour, swallow, digest, and regurgitate words (just to swallow them again). Moving away from the printed page, or being even more deeply impregnated in its textures, these viral processes can either offer a truly literal meaning to Burroughs' often-quoted words, “Language is a virus”, or simply emphasize its metaphoric sense, just as they can be simultaneously analyzed in vivo by means of laboratorial practices and/or scrutinized by digital algorithms.

By exposing the ways in which literature gains new possible readings by means of its disruptive interconnections with different fields of knowledge, namely in the use of digital technology, we argue that such a disruption is far from being exclusively digital. Nonetheless, as digital technologies permeate almost every aspect of our lives, there is also evidence of a boom in inter, trans, and, even, antidisciplinary practices that may as well be a result of this ubiquity.

From Eduardo Kac’s innovative biopoems in the 1980s [http://www.ekac.org/biopoetry.html] to the more recent Cesar & Lois’s bioart installations with microbiological A.I.s [http://cesarandlois.org/], this paper proposal aims to reflect on the poetics and aesthetics of text-organisms capable of breaking boundaries between nature and culture while merging social, technological and biological systems. In addition, an autophagic practice will also be included in the menu. Made by Portuguese collective wr3ad1ng d1g1t5 [https://wreading-digits.com], the Palavrofagia series [http://www.wreading-digits.com/site/uk/projects/palavrofagia] consists of a literary installation combining poetry and cromatography, a digital kinetic poem evincing the contours of a textual spiral and an entirely edible book devoured by its own algorithm.

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Cecilie Klingenberg