Text creeps and flutters across screens and projections

In the Berlin Kulturforum at the exhibition "p0es1s" digital poetry can be seen

At least since the "Matrix"-The fact that computer code is at work underneath the digital images and programs that surround us has also penetrated the popular cultural consciousness through the use of film. And that it can develop its own aesthetics. The ASCII letters trickling down from above in Monitor-Grun – repeated in all three parts – have become a pop icon.

Text Rain" by Romy Achituv and Camille Utterback

In the exhibition p0es1s , which has been on view for a few days at the Kunstforum am Potsdamer Platz, the letters also trickle down from above. Vowels, consonants, and sometimes even whole syllables seem to fall down in the installation "Text Rain" to fall from the sky by Romy Achituv and Camille Utterback. In this soup of letters the viewer finds himself again by means of a jerk projection. When a letter hits his virtual image, it bounces off as if it had hit a physical obstacle. If a participant collects enough letters on his outstretched arm, he can sometimes even catch whole words or a complete sentence. Because the letters all come from lines of poetry that deal with the body and language.

With works like this "p0es1s" show how artists and authors deal with literature and poetry under the conditions of digitalization. And not only at "Text Rain" the letters are loose. Text creeps and flutters at "p0es1s" The screen and projections can be rotated and navigated, flickers or rewrites itself over and over again. Since the words have been lifted from the printed pages and moved to the monitor, they have taken on a violent life of their own.

The "parole in liberta", the liberated language once dreamed of by futurist Marinetti has at least become a technical possibility. Whereas with the language experimenters at the beginning of the last century, such as Guillaume Appollinaire or the poets of concrete poetry in the 1950s, the words and sentences only spread freely over the page or arranged themselves into patterns and linguistic images on the page of the book, the text has now become mobile. It can be traversed as hypertext by clicking and scrolling like a room. Computer programs can generate their own texts at random or according to well-defined specifications.

The curator Friedrich Block from Kassel has been working under the brand name of "Digital Poetry" "p0es1s" since the early 1990s with digital poetry. The very name of the exhibition, organized by the Berlin Literature Workshop, is a mixture of literary genre (poesis, Latin for the art of poetry) and the zeros and ones that ultimately make up all computer programs. The zeros and ones also permeate the exhibition architecture of "p0es1s", where Block, together with Benjamin Meyer-Krahmer, wanted to give an overview of the various methods authors and artists have used to try their hand at digital poetry via the computer and the Internet.

The fact that this is rarely done in the context of exhibitions is due – as with net art – to the problems of mediation that computer-based works pose for traditional museum presentations. Even with "p0es1s" a good part of the presentation consists of computers that have been installed in a darkened room reminiscent of the final scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s "2001 Odyssey in Space" reminds. On style mobs are computers where you can click through digital texts. In this way, the exhibition escapes the office atmosphere that often surrounds the presentation of digital art. But the works, some of which are quite difficult to access, take time and often enough want to be read like a book with longer "Familiarization phases" to be explored.

text crawls and flutters across screens and projections

"Bodybuilding" by Frank Fietzeck

For those who don’t want to get involved, there are a number of installations, some of which allow a much more physical approach to digital poetry. Frank Fietzeck’s "Bodybuilding" consists, for example, of an exercise machine on which, as in a gym, one must flex one’s muscles in order to "Dialog fragments of erotic content" appear on a screen. At work "Souvenir" by Heiko Idensen and Stefan Schemat, the visitor has to put on a backpack from which voices and sounds flutter into his ears via headphones while walking around the museum.

The "Analog-digital mirror" by Andreas Muller-Pohle decomposes a photograph of the exhibition space into digital code as the visitor moves back and forth in front of his own image. A work by Italian programmer Jaromil is only available as a T-shirt: a tiny piece of code that, when entered into a Unix computer, would cause it to crash immediately. The Brazilian artist Giselle Beiguelman has covered rough electronic display panels in Sao Paolo with cryptic special characters and also sends her text images by SMS to cell phones. And "GeneralNews" by Daniela Alina Plewe replaces individual words in texts from English and German news websites with alternative terms.

Those who want to find access to the exhibition are probably partly dependent on the short guide, because the exhibits lack any explanations. Or one simply enjoys without ulterior motives the often enough cryptic text material. For example, at the combination of autobiographical texts and computer code that make up the contribution by Australian Mez: "[dreamt of ur curling geo_edges city last nite. very peculiar]. [(k)nots in MyBook [read: do.(A)cumen.t]. [i fall + heart.wound easily, sporadically, ma.jest[er]ically 4 all things simulcra].ur blather is my concept meat.undulatingly."

p0es1s, up to 4. April 2004 at the Kulturforum am Potsdamer Platz. The 330-page catalog costs EUR 25.

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