ZX Spectrum scene poetry

Critical Writing
Publication Type: 
Public Domain
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Abstract (in English): 

For the month of August, the Media Archaeology Lab has been honored indeed to host Professor Piotr Marecki (from the the Institute of Culture at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and lecturer at the Film School in Łódź, Poland) and Yerzmyey, a lo-fi artist, demoscener, musician, graphic artist, photographer, and writer also from Krakow, Poland.

To celebrate their visit, they will present a 90-minute demoshow of their work in the MAL on original ZX Spectrum Machines as well as local clones such as Timex, Speccy 2010, Zx-Uno, and the ZX Vega console.

More information below – again, please come and/or spread the word!

When: 4:30pm Thursday August 18th
Where: Media Archaeology Lab, 1320 Grandview Avenue, lower level
What: ZX Spectrum Scene Poetry Collection

This project is demoscene and ZX Spectrum oriented. What is the demoscene? This phenomenon is apparent to those with advanced understanding of digital media. In the book Freax. The Brief History of Computer Demoscene it is stated that “almost all modern art genres have an underground stream that can not be found anywhere, or bought in shops, and only insiders know of its existence.” Adjectives such as illegal, grassroots, independent and DIY aesthetics are often related with this field and practice. The term itself is derived from the word “demonstration” and refers to the demonstration of the capabilities of a platform and the skills of a programmer. A basic understanding of the demoscene will treat it as “a subculture in the computer underground culture universe, dealing with the creative and constructive side of technology” (Demoscene FAQ). The demoscene, as a phenomenon developed from the 80s mainly in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe, was created as a response to the lack of legal access to hardware and software. The demoscene is composed of demosceners, that is – as they define themselves ironically – “a bunch of boozing computer nerds, programming weird, useless multimedia stuff” (Demoscene FAQ). This phenomenon comes directly from the “cracker” community, namely traders and distributors of illegal software, who by copying games and other programs left behind their signature on them (in effect, a satisfied customer had to go back for more merchandise). In the field of digital media demosceners have unique knowledge of the platform, as well as the languages of the program. During organized parties by sceners, demosceners (by using nicknames) are always affiliated with a platform, for example ZX Spectrum, C-64, Commodore Amiga and PC (just as some academics are affiliated with various institutions in which they work and with which they identify). In the world of digital media this is the only such community in which the platform fills such an important role in terms of identification. The demoscene is in other words art generated in real time. The genres created by demosceners are demos and intros, or pieces of music and graphics that have no purpose other than to amaze the audience (usually also well versed in a given platform or programing language). It is worth to emphisazie that demoscene gathers programmes involed wit programming for fun. Our project focuses on one particular demoscene platform, the ZX Spectrum, which was popular mainly in Europe (despite attempts, the platform was never popularized in the United States). The aim of the research project is to put in context the phenomenon of ZX Spectrum scene poetry. Demosceners themself don’t call themself artists, they mostly treat their creative activity as a hobby. Many demos are treated as a kind of video clip, hence the demoscene was usually contextualized as a phenomenon from the field of digital media and audiovisual art. There exist several demos of which an integral part is constituted by text and poetry, and we want to distinguish those demos which we can call scene poetry. During our reasearch project such a collection of ZX Spectrum demos will be built. This project takes into account and affirms the local perspective, different from the dominant one (ZX Spectrum as platform and demoscene as form of activity are very local). So our collection consists of creative works not only in English, but also in Russian, Polish and Czech. This is also a project built at the intersection between a few fields in creative computing (eg. electronic literature, electronic music, demoscene).

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Piotr Marecki