Executable Landscapes: Speculative Platforms for Ecological E-Literature

Abstract (in English): 

The contemporary digital environment is made possible through a matrix of behemoth infrastructures that traverse the orbital, atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial domains. These infrastructures manifest not only in the narrowly technical sense, but encompass the manufacturing chains, regulatory interfaces, and geopolitical contexts that enable (or forestall) the development, deployment, and maintenance of digital systems at a global scale.

Underpinning all these aspects are the flows of energy and materials constituting the liveable Earthly ecology. The latter comprises the ultimate baseline ‘platform’ on which specific digital platforms, as more commonly expressed, are enabled—but which, being so defined, can obscure these far larger structures and processes in which they are embedded.

Coming out of all this, we can note that the global scale of digital infrastructure is now foundational to the charting and modelling of a rapidly deteriorating planetary ecology, but this comes with the recognition that the former is both the product, and a critical facilitator, of economic processes that are driving the very pollution, wastage, and largely unhindered exploitation behind our present environmental calamities.

It is in these contexts that we are encouraged to evaluate how works of digital art and electronic literature are responding to this uncomfortable paradox. We might recall here how early digital art sought to demonstrate (with admittedly varying success) different possibilities for computing beyond militarised technoscience, and the creative and critical challenge today is to rework and reframe digital platforms so they might perform and inspire substantive ecological critique and expression, rather than be relegated only as perpetuators of extractive, accelerationist, technocentric paradigms. Contemporary electronic literature, in its very particular fusions of data, writing, and the algorithmic, affords rich experimental pathways for just this kind of work—as deftly illustrated by the recent outputs of artists such as J.R. Carpenter and Eugenio Tisselli.

This paper will contextualise and document the author’s latest experiments with creating electronic literary works that bring together a diverse, unconventional assemblage of platforms as a key aspect of their creation and expression. Cameras, satellites, drones, canvas graphics, esoteric code, and printed outputs are combined to establish elaborate, contingent exchanges, with the ‘work’ itself being enacted across these different platforms—each contributing to an always provisional outcome—and drawing its creative and critical force as much by examining and reflecting on these aspects and processes, as the varied marks they leave behind. In particular, the author will discuss his newly emerging work, “Landform”, in which satellite and drone image data of terrestrial landscapes are parsed into esoteric visual algorithms, that, once interpreted, are compiled into code poems that draw on a vocabulary derived from scientific, scholarly, and poetic texts discussing present ecological concerns. The aim is to actualise a set of speculative, experimental relations between the platforms, materials, and concepts involved, investigating their potential for enacting novel modes of environmental computational practice, and, thus, suggest another vector for articulating the entanglements and contingencies that are driving the present situation.

Critical writing referenced:

Titlesort descending Author Year
Digital Poetry Jeneen Naji 2021

ELO 2021: Spatiality & environments, May 26 2021

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Record posted by: 
Milosz Waskiewicz