Last Friday we opened No Legacy || Literatura Electrónica (NL||LE), an exhibit curated by me and Élika Ortega now on display at the Bernice Layne Brown Gallery in Doe Library (right in the center of the University of California, Berkeley).
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[ES] Tengo el gusto de compartir con vosotros un artículo que acabo de publicar en un especial sobre literatura electrónica en español en Letras Hispanas, “Paperless Text: Digital Storytelling in Latin America and Spain (1976-2016)”, bajo la edición de Osvlado Cleger y Phillip Penix-Tadsen.
Mi texto, “Alternativas a la (ciencia) ficción en España: dos ejemplos de literatura electrónica en formato impreso” busca delinear el origen digital de la literatura impresa, explorando dos manifestaciones de prácticas computacionales y literatura electrónica en formato impreso publicadas en España: las novelas de ciencia ficción Alba Cromm (2010) de Vicente Luis Mora y Cero absoluto (2005) de Javier Fernández. La primera parte del ensayo conceptualiza estas novelas como encarnaciones materiales de ficción digital, redefiniendo el concepto de “literatura electrónica” como uno independiente de la plataforma desde la que se consume—más allá de la producción born digital—incluyendo, por tanto, instancias de texto impreso. La segunda parte contextualiza estas prácticas narrativas dentro de su entorno español inmediato, proponiédolas como rechazo del canon literario de la post-transición.
Aquí podéis descargar el artículo completo.
[EN] I am happy to share with you my article “Alternative (Science) Fictions: Two Examples of Printed Electronic Literature in Spain”, published in the special issue “Paperless Text: Digital Storytelling in Latin America and Spain (1976-2016)” of Letras Hispanas, edited by Osvlado Cleger and Phillip Penix-Tadsen.
My article, written in Spanish (but that I will gladly share in English upon request) delineates the digital core of contemporary print literature, exploring two similar manifestations of computational practices and electronic literature in print from Spain: the science fiction novels Alba Cromm (2010) by Vicente Luis Mora and Cero absoluto (2005) by Javier Fernández. The first part of this essay conceptualizes these two Spanish novels as material embodiments of digital fiction, redefining the concept of “electronic literature” as independent from the platform from which it is consumed—rather than a “born digital” performance—including instances of printed text. The second part of the essay contextualizes these new material writing practices within their immediate Spanish context, proposing them as a rejection of the prevalent literary canon in Spain.
Full text here (in Spanish).
To celebrate the opening of the e-lit exhibit No Legacy || Literatura electrónica at UC Berkeley’s Doe Library, please join us in two round tables discussing critical approaches to electronic literature (at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science). In the afternoon, at 5:30 (at the Morrison Library), we’ll have an artist spotlight where two digital poets will offer readings of their work, followed by an opening tour of the exhibition space (Brown Gallery, Doe Library).
The two round tables will discuss the two main argumentative lines behind the curatorship of No Legacy: (1) material considerations about electronic literature (literary histories as compared to literary archeologies) with Dene Grigar, Élika Ortega and Roberto Cruz Arzabal, and (2) transatlantic and translinguistic perspectives in the study of global literature with Leonardo Flores, Sandy Baldwin, and myself. Invited artists, include U.S. poet Amaranth Borsuk, and Peruvian-Venezuelan writer Doménico Chiappe.
Please visit nolegacy.berkeley.edu in March for further details and speaker’s bios.
To watch the symposium live, please visit BIDS YouTube channel [streaming begins at 10am PST]
I decided to migrate my blog La condición to this space hoping to streamline my work. Things should be easier this way; all my stuff in one place. I won’t delete the older site for a while, but I will not be updating anything there ever again. If you want to learn about what I am up to, please visit this site (or twitter, obviously). Thanks for reading!
He dedidido migrar mi blog La condición a esta web para aglutinar todo mi trabajo en un mismo lugar. Creo que así será todo un poquito más sencillo. No voy a eliminar el blog antiguo de momento pero ya no actualizaré su contenido. Si quieren saber en qué ando, hagan el favor de visitar este sitio (o twitter, claro). ¡Gracias por su lectura!
**please view and listen to poems through a desktop computer, they won’t work on mobile devices**
“#SELFIEPOETRY: Fake Art Histories & the Inscription of the Digital Self” is an on going series of e-poems that I’ve recently started to write (although write might not be the right word to use), using the online platform NewHive–which I was basically testing to see if it would be a good teaching tool for my e-lit course next year.** However, I got hooked, and I began working on a series of poems that combines a few of my current intellectual interests: the (un)truth behind artistic or literary histories and our (il)legitimacy to intervene and organize events to create narratives that “make sense,” vs. the interpretative role of the recipient of said narratives. I’m also pretty intrigued by the roles assigned to the producer of art and its consumers, roles that have been traditionally separate and that have begun to blend and blur indistinguishable thanks to their performance on digital media. Consumers subjectivity and representation has turned into a very particular way of individual signaling, turning the subject into an object of massive amateur (some have called it “democratizing”) representation and distribution. The self (and the photographic image of the self) keeps reappearing in different digital platforms, inscribing itself through the space and time of the Web. In other words, we are obsessed with our faces (and this obsession goes well beyond taking photos in the bathroom).
My #SELFIEPOETRY series looks thus at some ways in which the inscription of the self (in today’s paradigmatic digital manifestation, i.e.: the selfie) can be reinterpreted against a very vague and unorthodox selection of artistic and literary trends. As of today, there are 8 poems, each constituting an intervention in a different movement. They also touch upon some very personal matters, since I am intrigued by the many ways in which people today share their personal lives online.
Dreamtigers tigers tigers is the first poem I wrote, as an obvious homage to Jorge Luis Borges. Taking into consideration the latest and controversial conceptualist interventions in and around his work, I felt the urge to explore it myself. The poem consists on a recording of my reading of Borges’s “Dreamtigers” (as it was included in the collection with the same title–El hacedor in Spanish). I didn’t change anything in the text, I simply copied and pasted the English version (the original, btw), and then read it twice, first in English and then in Spanish. The voice recording loops endlessly going back and forth between both languages, and it’s interrupted by a documentary video on the last wild tigers on Earth. Footage of real tigers interrupts the imaginary summoning of Borges’s tiger (although this YouTube video is zone restricted and it is only viewable in the United States and some other English speaking countries. Very pertinently, Copyright policies ban its reproduction in Spain or Mexico, for instance, making this poem about intertextuality and appropriationism even more relevant to my purposes). My sound recording includes some repetitions and some strange, Spanish inflected pronunciation, as a means to highlight the struggles of vocalizing in a (not so) foreign language. Finally, in order to mesh the critical discourse on digital originality with the role of the so-called pronsumer, I incorporated about 8 copies of the same selfie image showing my face partially hidden by a shot of a tiger running.
I like to think of Futurismo as a funny (and eerie) commentary on all things avant-garde. Futurism, both as an artistic and a literary movement, is one of those very dated expressions, easy to identify at a first glance, and quickly associated to ideas like “speed,” “machines,” “progress,” “war,” and “industrialism”. It takes us back to a concrete moment in Western history, characterized by revolutions (political and mechanic) and artistic manifestos.
I was reading Digital Memory and the Archive by Wolfgang Ernst at the time of writing this poem, and I was struck by his figure of the “cold gaze” of the machine that explains how, while human subjectivity and historical circumstances change (turning human memory into a matter of representation) agency in a machine is not pure abstraction any more, but becomes an (algorithmic-based) unchangeable reading of the past. According to Ernst, technical media then records time and acts as a time-machine between times and the past (literally, he talks about a media-archaeological short-circuit between otherwise historically clearly separated times). I am fascinated by the idea of machines short-circuiting history, and about the poetic capacity of digital performativity to bring the past to the same reproductive reality of the present. Periodization is underscored as the human invention that it is, in the same way that other artificial constructs are. The personal dimension of this poem engages with the idea of monogamy and “the one and only true love,” suggested to be a social convention that can perhaps be periodized (or dated) in the same way as a futurist manifesto.
The poem includes my selfie next to a photo of a handwritten poem, superimposed over images of metallic engine parts and gears. The poem breaks into an animated spiral, and my voice reads the poem 10 times, partially muffled by machine sounds. The poem itself goes on for about 10 hours.
This is a poem about immigration in the United States. Or about my migration to the United States. It is also a piece about one of the most important poets in the country, our friend of Leaves of Grass and “America,” Walt Whitman, and about his portraying of American identity and sexuality. To write it I made my computer Fred read Whitman’s entry on Wikipedia while I drew some doodles on the screen (basically, I write the word America and draw little blue and red stars and dots over the Wikipedia page, I also underscore the words “sexuality,” “sexual,” and “politics,” and draw a red circle around “race”). As Fred reads about the life of this 19th century (trascendental-realist) poet, me and my American husband read his “Poem of Women.” After I read each stanza, his male voice repeats my words. However, things are hard to hear, since everything becomes muffled by a loud white noise. Finally, the photographs I used for my visa application multiply and rotate on the screen. No makeup, no hair products, no glasses, no smile.
I am not going to interpret this poem.
Since the series is about selfies, the background image of this poem is a repurposed Instagram photo. On a beach, looking into a vague horizon (we’ve all seen/taken photos with this pose). Two sentences cross over the screen, moving from left to right (not perfectly however). Some meditation Tibetan chimes play in the background. Although the words that run across the screen in Spanish are self animated, the poem requires interaction. I’ve included some play buttons (and some redundant and spam-like “Click!” signs) that allow the user to play my voice reading the sentences in English. The user can push the buttons as she likes, making me repeat the words as many times as she wants. She can also bring the voices back to life by pressing the red play button that produces a heartbeat.
This poem was made in less than half hour. I didn’t pay for anything, yet I used plenty of resources. I’m not going to read more into it either.
The Measure of All Things
Here is an anonymous translation of the sonnet I found in John A. Crow’s anthology of Spanish Poetry (it’s not the best, but it’s free):
That Nature’s law might keep its ordered flow.
No Weekend Wi-Fi, un cuadro costumbrista (US of A)
A costumbrismo snap shot of a coffee shop scene in the San Francisco Bay Area, November 15, 2015. Believe it or not, this breakfast place had no wi-fi available on Sundays.
In reality, No Weekend Wi-Fi is nothing else but a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the current trend I’ve observed in contemporary poetry (and music, and film) that presents completely banal and unimportant things as if they were, actually, of trascendental relevance to all of us. By making this poem (and incorporating the texts that my husband and I wrote in basically the 10 minutes we were in this café) I am reclaiming my right to participate in this useless trend.
Animated photo GIFs over a pixelated copy of Hopper’s Nighthawks, plus written text and two playable audio files.
This little poem engages with the culture of boleros (although I’m not completely sure about the status of this slow-tempo music in art history).
I recuperated an old poem I wrote about love, passports, ex-boyfriends, the city of Angels and Mexico, and I incorporated a beautiful GIF by Canek Zapata, and a video in 8 mm of my right eye as a biological sun in this digital beach. Seagulls and my humming over Lila Downs’s “Perfume de Gardenias” are part of the score. Music and water as transatlantic shared imaginaries in the Spanish speaking world.
I actually did incorporate credits for this one:
Background psychedelic GIF: Canek Zapata.
Text: Alex Saum, but with stolen bits
from popular songs.
Crab: from the beaches of the interwebs.
Music: Lila Downs is singing “Perfume de
gardenias” in the background, sort of.
Oh, and there is a series of copyrighted
sounds and ads may pop up.
“Pupila Romántica” reinterprets the famous “Rima XXI” by Spain’s last romantic poet, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, to make it about myself. I photographed my right pupil through the glass and through the screen four times, then animated the image to produce an artificial, mechanic, blinking.
My glasses have a special anti-reflective coating that is supposed to protect my eyes from the toxic lights of my computer. It’s said to be blue. I cannot see it, yet I believe it’s there, like a ray of moonlight. What can be more romantic than that?
I’ll be making more poems. I’ll be writing shorter blog posts. I might translate this post. Or make a video in Spanish. Stay tuned.
Update on April 4, 2016: I’ve started a new #selfiepoetry series (totally and necessarily incomplete) with the ridiculous name of “Women & Capitalism”–under the equally ridiculous name of Selflex. Check it out!
Last week I attended the international symposium “Reading Wide, Writing Wide in the Digital Age: Perspectives on Transliteratures” organized by the LEETHI group from the Complutense University of Madrid. It was a fantastic event where I had the opportunity to listen to very interesting work engaging electronic literature from very different perspectives, such as Vilashini Cooppan’s reading of e-lit as world literature, or Germán Sierra’s selection of digital objects that show how digital technologies have reshaped our conceptualization of reality [Here is a link to the complete program].
In my talk, “If the Future Is Digital, Why Print a Book?” I looked at how, while e-lit is a global phenomenon, in Spain it takes on additional importance as it allows writers to bypass the hierarchies that characterize Spanish cultural institutions. These institutions have been heavily supported by the State, and along with it have suffered a loss of legitimacy that is a consequence of 21st century financial crises. My talk explored several manifestations of computational writing practices emerging at the intersection of digital media technologies, electronic literature and traditional print. As I proposed, the digital-inspired work done by Jordi Carrión, Vicente Mora or Javier Fernández could, at a first glance, be framed as a rejection to the contemporary cultural canon, participating within some free culture movement ideas that manifest as digital remix or mashed-up creative practices. However, their paradoxical return-to-the-book, creating what I call “printed technotexts” (i.e. paper e-lit) highlights both the desire to escape the institutionalized canon, but also the necessity of being recognized by it and its “bookish” forms of authorship and power. In opposition to these, I proposed we look at born-digital works (e.g. Doménico Chiappe’s Hotel Minotauro) that have remained electronic and are accessed online. I wonder if these type of texts should be read as a form of liberation from the Author as creative agent, the book as platform, the current literary canon, and the Spanish publishing industry altogether. It seems, although I am still scared to affirm, that only born-digital literature will finally escape Spain’s literary paradigm (beyond the market) that has been in force for the past four decades.
Here are the slides for the talk (in Spanish)
And the works cited:
Becerra Mayor, David. La novela de la no-ideología: Introducción a la producción literaria del capitalismo avanzado en España. Madrid: Tierradenadie Ediciones, 2013.
Bunz, Mercedes. The Silent Revolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
Castells, Manuel. Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet age. Cambridge: Polity, 2012.
Carrión, Jordi. Crónica de viaje. Córdoba: Aristas Martínez, 2014.
Chiappe, Doménico. Hotel Minotauro. 2013. Web. 16 Jul.2015.
Cramer, Florian. Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts. Rotterdam: nai010 publishers, 2013.
Drucker, Johanna. The Century of Artists’ Books. New York: Granary Books, 1994.
Emerson, Lori. Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
Ernst, Wolfgang. Digital Memory and the Archive. Minneápolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013
Hayles, N. Katherine. “Electronic Literature: What is it?” Electronic Literature Organization. 1.2 (2007): n.p. Web 15 Nov. 2013.
________Writing Machines. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.
Fernández, Javier. Cero absoluto. Córdoba: Berenice, 2005
Martínez, Guillem. “El concepto CT,” CT o la cultura de la transición: Crítica a 35 años de cultura española. Ed. Guillem Martínez. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Mondadori, 2012.
Minchinela, Raúl. “La CT y la cultura digital: cómo dar la espalda a internet,” CT o la cultura de la transición: Crítica a 35 años de cultura española. Ed. Guillem Martínez. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Mondadori, 2012.
Mora, Vicente Luis. Alba Cromm. Barcelona: Seix Barral, 2010.
Vázquez Montalbán, Manuel. La literatura en la construcción de la ciudad democrática. Barcelona: Grijalbo-Mondadori, 1998.
UC Berkeley students, beware! This Spring 16 I will be teaching two new courses:
1. A groundbreaking upper-division undergraduate course on e-lit that epitomizes digital humanities – literary analysis alongside basic programming skills and DH tools and methods
[Find out more about this e-lit undergraduate course here]
2. An exciting graduate seminar on the culture of the Spanish transition to democracy
[Más información aquí]
JOIN US THIS FALL (as in, NOW) >>>
|Macintosh Color Classic (one of the machines we will be working with)|
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