Writing the Ephemeral […] and Re-Enchanting the Remnants: The Lability of the Digital Device in Literary Practice

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Whenever the program of a work is run by a computer, the digital device necessarily plays a role in its updating process: because of the operating systems, the software and the ever changing speed of computers, it may sometimes affect the author’s artistic project, or even make it unreadable on screen. Thus, authors lose control over the evolution of their work and the many updates it undergoes. Thus, the artist is given four options when dealing with the lability of the electronic device: (1) she demands the ‘right’context of reception for his work – a requirement which, over time, will be confronted with the impossibility to preserve obsolete machines, software and operating systems; (2) she ‘re-enchants’ the lability of the electronic device and ascribes a ‘technological sublime’ to it; (3) she simply ignores the lability of the digital device and creates at once, as if the digital framework was immutable; (4) she is fully aware of the instable environment in which his digital creation will be updated; he even considers the ephemeral and uncontrollable nature of his work as its fundamental aesthetic principle. This most radical approach would then consist in letting the work slowly decompose, as well as in accepting his changing forms and updates and in taking up the possibility of incidents and unexpected events. In Tramway, one of my experimental poetic works that I present and analyse in this article, the instability of the device is metaphorized on the surface of the screen; it is thematized in the relationship between the figures of ‘manipulation’ and the manipulable textual context; it is also theorized in a critical paratext which is based, for example, on the actual presentation of the work in this journal issue. A second work, Pond, is located on the border between the aesthetics of the ephemeral, in which the author accepts the slow decay of his/her work, and the aesthetics of re-enchantment, in which the author ascribes the digital device with a hope of survival, with a spectral characteristic linked to the materiality of the programmed matter and which remains despite the changes it undergoes on the electronic device.

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Patricia Tomaszek