The Role of the Reader in Performative Digital Poetry

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

The object of digital poetry has been claimed to be the process initiated by the user and therefore dynamic. What is processed and made visible on screen is what Philippe Bootz (2007) calls the “texte-à-voir”, what we are given to see and what is only a selection of the underlying artwork. For digital poetry the processes executed by a programming language is the material the artist uses. Following Burgaud (2006) the user is “reading a process”. With the focus on the processes instead of the “object” the description and analysis of digital poetry is facing the problem that what the reader can see on the screen is not enough to understand the art work. Especially the change from a conceptual verbal art read in front of a computer screen mostly by an individual reader to installation art, caves to performances on stage including text, music, and dance and to performances in virtual environments such as Second Life ask for descriptions that are able to deal with the dynamics of those processes. On the basis of Philippe Bootz’s semiotic model I will analyze those forms of digital poetry that are performed on a stage - either a theatrical event as we have seen in the e-poetry conference in Paris in 2007 or on a virtual stage such as Second Life. Those performances ask for an analysis of the function of the poetic text. Under the title “playable media” Noah Wardrip-Fruin (2007) distinguishes between instrumental texts and textual instruments. Instrumental texts are texts to be played. As Wardrip-Fruin has shown, instrumental texts are performative as they ask the reader to actively engage in processes by which the texts appear on screen, are changed and transformed by the underlying computational processes. They ask the reader to interact with them on a meta-level as they require knowledge of how to engage with them and develop skills to improve these performances. The textual instrument on the other hand are texts that can be used as accompanist in performances in which dance (e.g. the recent work by Loss P. Glazier) is harmonized with the rhythm of the poetic text. Although Wardrip-Fruin did not use this concept to refer to the recent development of digital performative poetry the text functions here as a script that has to be read, interpreted and executed in the artistic performance adequately. What has changed from generative poetry in which the processes had to be executed by the reader to performative poetry in which the performer(s) are representative readers on stage is the role of the reader. Bootz described the dual reading process, which is needed for dealing with digital poetry. How can the new role of the reader in these new performative poetic projects be described? Do they simply turn the reader again into a spectator or do they offer a new specific meta-level? In how far is Bootz's semiotic model applicable for performative poetry?
(author-submitted abstract)

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Eric Dean Rasmussen