Author Archive: asobol

Manifesto for Selfies with the Moon

Monday, May 5th, 2014 by asobol

First: I want to thank everyone in class. It was great. I have so many new ideas to mull over now.

Second: I’m going to continue to work on Selfies with the Moon — I will continue to write poems for the project, and I invite those of you who have Instagram to follow along (@selfieswiththemoon). And I want to take back that thing I said about how I wouldn’t have prints made of these poems — they should exist in whatever format the reader wants them to. I want to encourage every possible reading experience, open it up for manipulation, dissemination, etc.

Third: Following the Futurists, I wrote a manifesto for the project (though it quickly became less a declaration and more of a dialectic constantly contradicting itself). Read it here: Manifesto for Selfies with the Moon

Fourth: here’s a handful of the poems I’ve uploaded to Instagram…

IMG_20140407_133759 IMG_20140411_154540 IMG_20140414_213335 IMG_20140405_115313 IMG_20140403_093201 IMG_20140411_134637

IMG_20140402_112105 IMG_20140402_115856 IMG_20140402_130451 IMG_20140407_125638

Selfies with the Moon

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by asobol

Selfies with the Moon was born out of a level of friction I encountered with poetry in the digital age. The fatigue I felt reading a poem on a digital screen made me want to find a way to produce a poem that worked online. For me, it’s not enough to overlay the text of a poem on an image. Image macro poems feel disingenuous, heavy handed, limited, and forced. There’s a way the text is always independent of the image and vice versa. By inverting it, by taking a photo of the text, it mitigates the discrepancy between poem and image.

I began investigating what the selfie was, both on an aesthetic and communicative level. It’s a photograph that has a kind of craft and engages in specific tropes (the arm outstretched, the angle of the camera generally hanging from above its subject) and attempts to convey a level of immediacy, even authenticity.

The way I’ve been shooting the poems still sitting in the typewriter is both a nod to the photographer’s arm and to foreground the method of the production. The selfie-taker’s arm suggests that subject and producer are one in the same. The only thing absent is the camera. Here, the typewriter, the page, any scratched out pen marks, all try to point to the medium as producer and subject in one.


Moreover, I think of a selfie as a kind of status update, a quick burst of information with little room for nuance. It affords humor and parody, but doesn’t necessarily beg for a close reading. Given that and the limitations of the size of an Instagram photo (more on that later), the poems themselves have to be short, punchy, and to the point. They have to be disposable.


As a medium, Instagram isn’t meant to function narratively. Its limited mobile (and browser) interface keeps one from getting enchanted by an image. Instagram photos, despite the fact that a user’s profile page acts as an archive, are ephemeral. They show up in your feed, you like them, you comment, and then they may as well disappear, pushed down and replaced by new images from other users. I was thinking a lot of about Crary and constant consumption when I considered how these poems should look.

The language has to be economical. People scroll past images without a second thought. If you want anyone to read the work, it has to provide a temporary burst of pleasure. People do post long and difficult poems on Instagram—but the longer they get, the smaller the typeface, the harder it is to read. I don’t have the patience or willingness to process them, especially in an image macro. SWTM’s poems are designed for the aid of readability and for the benefit of the attention economy.


As for why the typewriter—I could have easily just taken screenshots from a word processing program—it came out of my experiments with them in the lab and at home. The inability to hide corrections (any I’ve made are present in the photos), made whatever I typed feel immediate. There was no tinkering, no hovering over the backspace key. What happened on the page was the poem. No going back. 

I haven’t finished a critical apparatus around the project yet, but it will probably throw in bits of Benjamin, Crary, the Dickinson, and Writing Surfaces

Reproduction and Aura in the Digital

Monday, April 14th, 2014 by asobol

I want to reconsider Walter Benjamin’s idea of the aura and reproduction, especially in the context of internet, where so often the concept of the original or even the creator are null and void.

My final project involves typewritten work and digital photographs of said work. In short, I’ve been writing poems on the typewriter and Instagramming them. The strange thing I found while producing is the sense that the manuscript page (MP) has little or no value for me. If you were to look at the MP, you’d find it a mess of scraps of lines, misspellings, odd formatting errors, revisions. In an attempt to save paper, I’ve used a single page multiple times. Now, looking at the photos of a particular poem, you’re unlikely to realize this.

It gets dicey here, because the notion of “original” is muddied. Is, for instance, the MP the original, because that’s where the language found its place on the page? Or is it the original photograph? Or, more frustratingly, is it the image with a filter laid over it? I could say that whatever image actually remains in the final project is the actual poem, the original art object. The other stuff, the MP, the unfiltered image, is just like an underpainting or a preliminary sketch that gets painted over.

The aura, if there is any, surrounds the filtered image, which is the weird thing about Instagram—it presents us with the illusion of time and place. It’s nothing new to say, but what we’re calling “instant” is hardly true; it takes a few seconds for that photo to upload. (Not to mention the weeds you get into with #latergram.) Then the addition of retro filters adds a subsequent illusion—one of artistic quality. The subtext being that one must manipulate an image for it become art, for it to gain a semblance of an aura. It’s a thin line between self-portrait and selfie.

Regardless, it’s the reproducible thing (the digital image of a poem) that holds value, because it’s the thing I’m calling the art object. But I wouldn’t call it authentic, necessarily, because of all the levels of mediation. And in age of digital content, can there even be such a thing as authenticity? There’s no “original” art object to point to, not even a negative. Again, is the original the photo on my phone? But what if it were saved simultaneously to two different folders? Which of those is the original?  Is it the one hosted on the website? If we all pull up my Instagram on our devices and look at the photos, aren’t those all reproductions?

Why Keep the Ephemeral?

Sunday, April 6th, 2014 by asobol

Here’s an idea: The Gorgeous Nothings completely undermines the spirit of Emily Dickinson’s envelope poems.

So let me back up. I recently discovered the PBS YouTube show Idea Channel. I’ve since become obsessed. The basic premise is that host [name here] talks hectically through some question: What is fiction? Is math real? When do memes stop being funny? Though the episodes (generally only 4 to 12 minutes in length) only skim the topic at hand, they get me thinking—more than I can say about most YouTube videos.

This week I found two of their episodes that consider ideas we’ve been exploring (though several of them glance at things we’ve talked about, these two specifically were on topic). One was about glitch art, and the other raised the question of whether or not the internet is an archive, and the ramifications if it is/is not an archive.

Near the start of the video, Mike Rugnetta brings up an implicit judgment that can be made in archival work—that material things have more value than what’s on the internet, which may be seen as pure ephemera. Things that have dimension and weight, he seems to say, display their worth physically. This got me thinking about The Gorgeous Nothings.

Dickinson’s envelope poems could rightly be qualified (materially) as ephemera, I think. I mean, even the title of this collection supports the claim. Though that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile or worth keeping. And if we take that implicit judgment of weight = worth, then we’re at an interesting place. The poems exist on scraps—they could easily disappear. But in this book, we have them and will continue to have them even if the original scraps degrade.

My access to the envelope poems is pure visual. The high-res photos offer a sense of texture, but the materiality is not in the scraps—it’s in the giant text itself. This book, The Gorgeous Nothings, has heft, bulk. The pages of the book are thick and sometimes difficult to turn. The physical book is the exact opposite of what Dickinson’s poems are.

I see a comparison with this text and the Geocities or ghostsites Idea Channel was talking about. Sure this book exists, allowing more people to encounter this work, but it isn’t in the same spirit of the original. Ephemeral it isn’t. I’m not saying what this book did was not valuable—I’m grateful that it exists and that I now own a copy. But maybe a truer method would have been to make reproductions of the scraps, so the reader could hold them in their hands, turn them, bend them, tear them, lose them.

And as much as I tried to read the poems in Dickinson’s script, my eyes returned over and over to the transcription. As artifacts, I can ogle them. I want to read the poems as language, not as handwriting, and that mediation may also be a problem. Maybe Dickinson’s poems shouldn’t be viewed as solely language. They have to be considered with regard to the material, the handwriting, the odd marks and scratches between words. Maybe all of that is as integral to the poem as the words themselves.

Variety Theater as the (Anti-)Archive

Monday, March 17th, 2014 by asobol

Is the Variety Theater an (anti-)archive? I had this thought reading over Marinetti’s manifesto. I can’t quite put my finger on either side of this divide—in some ways it feels archival, and in many ways it seems to try to destroy some of the ideas behind an archive. At the very least, in doing both, it gets to be a little Dada. So there’s that.

“Futurism,” Marinetti claims, “wants to transform the variety theater into a theater of amazement, record-setting, and body-madness.” Record-setting suggest that his variety theater is trying to make sense of something. For all its claims for disposing the original logic of the theater—perhaps introducing a new logic is a better way to put it—there is a desire to retain the old works, albeit in new ways: “Systematically prostitute all of classic art on the stage, performing for example all the Greek, French, and Italian tragedies, condensed and comically mixed up.”

In this hypothetical performance, the classic (western!) tragedies would be juxtaposed, remixed, interrupted by one another. They wouldn’t, I assume, be played chronologically. The effects of this would be to show the similarities and differences between these works. They’d be performing a kind of archaeology on stage. It wouldn’t be a narrative of progress—Greek tragedies influencing the Italian then influencing the French. Having them played simultaneously condenses time and space into one room, changing the audience’s experience of history and tradition.

The manifesto’s second goal, “Prevent a set of traditions from establishing itself in the Variety Theater,” is an attempt to escape a prevailing ideology. It wants to create a new logic out of cultural mainstays. I find it curious that Marinetti wants to disrupt, but is always using terms like “system” and “logic” and “type.” His method is not random, not entirely. (And what is a manifesto if not a declaration of an ideology?)

In the aforementioned hypothetical performance, the archive would be made up of western tragedies. We have parameters to work with. We have selected works to think about. No matter how random it may appear to the audience, someone must direct it.  But eventually we hit the problem of the Futurist’s tinkering: at what point does reconfiguring and restructuring these plays create a new piece of art? When does the archive stop collecting and start creating? Is it an archive of the moment? These are performances, after all, so they would only exist for one night. No matter how closely the next night’s performance came, it would be a new experience for the audience, for the actors. It’s couldn’t be a permanent archive. Can such a thing exist?

If we take the claim that the archive is actually interested in us, what do we make of all the pranks played on the audience? It’s a little on the nose, but the audience becomes part of the performance, part of the archive. The variety theater isn’t so much concerned with what’s happening on stage, but with how it challenges, prods, pokes, scratches, and frustrates its audience.

At the very least, the variety theater presents one view of what an archive could accomplish, if it were allowed complete freedom over its subjects. It may not be academically productive, but it opens up new avenues for consideration.

Disrupt the Medium, Disrupt the Message

Monday, March 10th, 2014 by asobol

Going through the McLuhan and considering the ideas of medium as message, and that content of a medium is always another medium, I couldn’t help but think about Writing Surfaces. Our conversation from last week always circled back on how do we “read” this book. Can it be read? Is it just visual art that we misinterpret as literature?

I felt like we had no conclusions in our discussion, only further possibilities. That opening of possibilities feels like a moment of disruption. Part of the resistance we felt to that text was that it came packaged as a book. Its perfect-bound, glossy cover, its pages, all provide an expectation of how we should treat this object. We read books, right? But what happens when that book can’t be read in a traditional sense. The sense of disappointment some of us experienced when we cracked open Between Page and Screen also creates this disruption.

If, for instance, the pieces in Writing Surfaces appeared on canvases, on walls in a gallery, we’d be less resistant, I think. We’d experience collage, not fail to experience literature. I wonder if Writing Surfaces were designed less like a collection, and more like an art textbook with the pieces interrupted by glosses and interpretations, maybe even histories, if we’d be more open to it. The division between text and image would become far more apparent. It would keep us from feeling that resistance. We’d look to the text and say, “Yes, text. This is conveying something through language.” Then we’d look at its images and say, “Yes, visual art. This is conveying something through its use of line, motion, space, etc.” What we couldn’t reconcile ourselves could very well be explained by the gloss written by the author, the editor, the critic, etc. In other words: a less interesting book.

By presenting this work as a book1, we face these questions and fail to come to easy conclusions. The medium is no longer in control—or at least not as fully as before. The end result may be that the message, such as it is, is no longer coherent or transcribable. We can’t summarize everything in Writing Surfaces partly because we can’t determine how we should. What terms should we use?

If the medium is the message, then part of understanding that message is by understanding the medium. But if the medium gets used incorrectly or in some counterintuitive way, the whole system breaks down and we’re left poking in the dark for some resolution.

This, I’m pretty sure, accounts for my students’ frustration with poetry, especially contemporary work. They expect language to function in a very specific, clear, and coherent way. When it refuses to do that, I hear complaints about poetry being “nonsense” and “meaningless.” Those claims can be refuted, and I attempt to do so multiple times a semester. I keep saying that the confusion is good. The disruption of expectations frees us, even if only for the length of a fourteen line poem.

Curiously, as I was writing this, I popped over to Facebook for a second where someone had posted this Bataille quote, which neatly summarizes everything: “What we have been waiting for all our lives is this disordering of the order that suffocates us.”


1. The Kindle version does present a challenge to this, as the essential “bookness” is gone, and it obscures some of the text’s readability with poor resolution, making the reader more of an observer.

Henri Chopin Soundtracks My Nightmares

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 by asobol

This semester I’ve been working on trying to remix the poem, to take the audio of a poem and manipulate it somehow, either by cutting it up or by mashing it up with other pieces of audio. I want to sample and create, to retool a phrase. So finding Henri Chopin’s work has become a revelation. One, because he seems to employ similar methods that I’ve been trying in audio manipulation. Admittedly, I’ve never heard of Chopin before this, but that we’ve come to the same conclusions gives me hope. I may be on the right track. Then again, is this a kind of artistic variantology I’ve stumbled into?

Listening to Chopin’s pieces, I can get a sense of this question of “Message or noise?” that Ernst likes to return to. And I’m co-opting it a little here, I think, in how I’m using it (but he took it from Foucault, so there’s precedent). These pieces begin with language that echoes and replicates itself until it collapses into walls of sound and bleeps and atmospheric static. We’re supposed to become aware of the sound of the words, not necessarily the meaning of language, with this work. It’s why I believe the language falls away in the audiopoems. Language is a tool to get us to dig deeper. The word is the surface layer and we have to go below to get the sound underneath and while that becomes incomprehensible in any kind of symbolic or linguistic way, it does offer an emotional resonance. It helps that these audiopoems are in French and I can only pick out a few words, but the results are the same. I’m aware of how the sound is affecting me, not the language.

These pieces are terrifying. They sound like how my nightmares should. Don’t lock me in a dark room with them playing, please. But they also point to a distinction that I’d posted on in my first blog on noise. If we can’t clearly decipher something or analyze it, does it become noise? Can noise have a message? Yes, and especially yes when that noise is the result of manipulation. It’s been crafted.

The ability to manipulate our media complicates some of Ernst’s thinking. The machine that records sound may be somewhat impartial, as Ernst suggests. It picks up every stray bit of audio, not simply what’s intended, but this seems like an idealistic view. Depending on the microphone, you’re only picking up certain frequencies, so things do get lost. Depending on the room, some sounds can be stifled or muted before they even make it to the recording device. The material can degrade over time. It can be cut, edited, changed. As logical as our machines may be, ultimately, I don’t think they can be genuinely impartial, especially once we begin considering the social conditions under which they were created.

SWALLOWS & Control

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by asobol

After reading Angie’s post on “SWALLOWS” I wanted to experience camel wisdom for myself. And having gone through “SWALLOWS” what I walked away with was this terrifying sense that there is no escape. No escape from notions of time and/or control. I’m afraid that this may come off sounding dire, so I want to preface all this by saying that “SWALLOWS” was quite enjoyable, even if it did make me question my sense of freedom, whether with regard to a machine or something more abstract.

Class already has me thinking about how much control/freedom we have when using a machine. How much influence does it have on us, and how much can we manipulate it, really. So when “SWALLOWS” presents the concept of the puppeteer, I’m immediately asking if this puppeteer is supposed to be me (vaguely controlling the program), Zelevansky (who designed the possible choices provided), the people who made the machine I’m watching “SWALLOWS” on, or some clockmaker deity who set all of us into motion, or the universe itself. Depending on how wide you want your perspective to be, you could conceive an argument that every possibility can play puppeteer.

The shifts between one puppeteer to another are frustrating and ambiguous. At one point, the text tells someone to drink a glass of milk, and at the end it’s the puppeteer who drinks milk and goes to sleep. But was that first imperative directed at me or someone else? Was it directed at the puppeteer? If so, who has the authority to tell the puppeteer what to do?

Control keeps slipping away. I feel in control of the camel menu, but I am also aware this is a false notion. My choices are limited and eventually leave me with only one direction: to move forward. But “SWALLOWS” wants to undermine that idea constantly. The story repeats itself in different ways throughout each chapter, suggesting there’s no true forward movement. There are only cycles here.

Moreover, “SWALLOWS” constant insistence on time and “TIME PASSES” screens, makes you aware of how much time you’re spending while experiencing this story. Patience becomes a necessity. One screen literally ticks away, mimicking the sounds of a clock as it counts up. It’s these screen that suggest that I have no control whatsoever. Wait for the program to continue, wait for time to pass. All you can do is watch images float across and sometimes turn the page. Waiting for the story to continue and then realizing it doesn’t really progress but swirls, I get frustrated and wonder what it’s getting at, what’s its endgame. But “SWALLOWS” prefigures that too, eventually quoting a rabbi who says that it’s the experience that matters, not necessarily finishing or comprehending everything (as best as I can remember the sense of the quote, anyway). Even my frustration is taken away from me. It’s also part of the program.


Between Page and First Screening

Monday, February 17th, 2014 by asobol

Reading—perhaps experiencing is the better term—bpNichol’s First Screening felt familiar. It was strangely similar to the experience I had when “reading” Between Page and Screen. These two texts feel very much in conversation. They both seem to be finding some exuberance by creating language in this digital space, of making language move. Both texts create poems that are more clever than moving, though. It’s the visual pun that is more the form of both texts over, say, the traditional poem.

bpNichol must have known this, or at least seen the discrepancy between a poem on the page and this mixture of the concrete and kinetic, because he calls the works of First Screening “computer poems.” The term suggests that the medium (the computer in this case) is very much in control of the work. You’re not supposed to read them like traditional, human poems.

There are, of course, limitations to what bpNichol could do in 1984 when programming his poetry, especially when compared to Between Page and Screen (though that text’s limitations will probably begin to appear, too, in the next ten years). But if I’m going to honest, I find bpNichol’s work to be more charming. It could be the simplicity, maybe its retro allure.

Maybe it’s the clarity of the verbal play. FS doesn’t feel academic at all. I can’t say the same thing for BP&S, though I’m hesitant to call one better over the other. I don’t want to privilege the straight-forward poem (if there is such a thing) over the experimental poem1.

While some of their poems in both texts share similar shticks—First Screening’s has a poem where the word “MOUTH” transforms into several words, much like BP&S’s “SHEER” poem where that word changes—I wouldn’t call bpNichol’s poem less suggestive. Sure, “Island” doesn’t offer much more than the visual pun of “WAVE ROCK WAVE” unless you start thinking about how the words, when they’re in motion on the screen, start to slip into a weird space between signifier and signified. They becomes waves. They become rocks. (And why did bpNichol choose the word “rock” over “land” or “island”? The questions keep coming, so, no, maybe I’m wrong about it being just a visual pun.) On an immediate, gut reaction-level, I get more out the repeated phrase “THE BOTTOM LINE IS WHERE THE CHANGE IS” than almost anything in BP&S. Yes, it’s a visual pun, too, with the actual bottom line of the poem flashing, but the poem has shades of the political.

If both texts are gimmicky, it could be the inability of poets to see beyond the medium they’re using. You still the echoes of the page in these works, as if the authors saw the computer screen as a space where motion could be added to language. And it is that but it could be more.

Ultimately, what is that we want in a digital poem? Is it to recreate the experience of a poem (reading it, hearing it, living it) in a virtual space? Is it to make language do things it can’t on the page? Maybe the true digital poem would be one that eschews language for something else. Visuals, audio, interaction. I’ve heard certain alternative games get compared to poems—games like Journey. Could be that digital poets might have to find a new way to communicate.

1. Of course bpNichol’s text is experimental. It is very much pushing boundaries in form. Maybe not so much in how the language gets deployed, though I’m sure if you got me talking, I could convince myself otherwise.

Smith-Corona. Find Your Beach.

Monday, February 10th, 2014 by asobol


An old poetry professor of mine once asked my class, “Where do you write? How do you write your poems? On a computer or by hand?” If we change the tools we use to write, he said, we can refresh our imaginations and find new connections that we wouldn’t come across otherwise. His assignment that day was to go write a poem by an unfamiliar method. If you wrote by hand, try typing it. If you always use a computer, go write a poem on a chalkboard. Find a typewriter.

The assignment, at least for me, proved him right. Writing a poem on a chalkboard produced strange poetry. Changing the medium changed the way I was thinking as wrote. It actually made it mentally strenuous.

I tell this story as a roundabout way of thinking about writing on typewriters. For me, sitting at a typewriter, punching keys, trying to produce something has always forced me to be more patient, more present. It’s a complete change to my writing tempo. On a computer (as I write this blog now), I can be swift, agile. Writing almost directly with my interior monologue. I feel like a stenographer.

The typewriter, on the other hand, halts me at every turn.

I’m very much aware of the mechanism of the typewriter. The keys have weight. The sound of it. The ding, the clank. The computer (when it is operating smoothly) seems to try make itself invisible. I don’t think about the keys I’m pressing. It’s incredibly quiet. Everything feels seamless—my thoughts and the language seem interconnected. But this is a myth, no? Just because I’m not thinking about the mechanism doesn’t mean it isn’t there. And just because I can write faster, racing right behind my thoughts, doesn’t mean my writing is any better, any closer to me. I’m not necessarily thinking through everything I have to say—I’m just spewing thoughts on that first draft.

On the Smith-Corona, if I have a sentence I want to write, I peck at it, letter by letter. By the time I get it on the page, it has somehow changed, evolved. It’s no longer the sentence I had in my head. Either I’ve forgotten the initial wording or halfway through I’ve doubted myself and changed it even before ink meets the paper.

There’s a finality, a weight to the typewritten manuscript. Part this must be with the pressure involved in punching a key down. Even though I can make changes in post, so to speak, I’m aware of the effort involved in retyping. As a sometime-perfectionist, it can be both liberating and infuriating knowing that what’s on the page is stuck on that page. But having the text there, unable to erase and tweak it at will, provides relief. That page becomes a record of your successes and failures. My typewriter poems all have lines I regret. My computer poems have no back catalogue of bad lines. They’re erased or in stuck in the data somewhere.

Drafts are inevitable with the typewriter. To fix it, I have to rewrite the poem. In Word, I save no drafts. Everything is at its most recent stage. What’s lost is lost.

So you must be patient and must think through your decisions on a typewriter. As a line comes to me, I have to question it. Is it the line? Should it be recorded or can it be lost in my memory? You type, thinking you have it right, and a letter locks up. You have to physically reach in and pull the key back up to continue.

But when I come to the end of a poem, it feels done. I can walk away, relax. On the computer I’m faced with the possibility of infinite changes. The work is never quite complete.

Here’s the poem I wrote on the typewriter today, regretful lines and all.



Stray thought: Would the internet contain as much vitriol if people had to use typewriters? Would they desist when presented with the effort and time involved? Or would we simply have vitriol that’s more patient and thought-through?

Attempting Glitch Art

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 by asobol

After reading through the pieces on glitch art, I was taken in. Change an image file to a .txt file and play? Let’s do this.

Unfortunately, what had occurred was an hour of frustration and friction with technology. Converting an image to a .txt file and the playing with glyphs and data ended up corrupting files beyond recognition. I thought, at first, I was deleting too much and there was no image left to display. I tried deleting only a single glyph and the same thing occurred. I copied portions of the code and still this terribly frustrating error message appeared: the file appears to be damaged, too large, or is corrupted.

Several attempts forced me to research an answer. The first site I found gave me the exact same process I had been attempting. Change .jpg to .txt, play, save, return to .jpg. This wasn’t working. Eventually I discovered that those were Mac instructions. Windows computers, for no clear reason, would not glitch jpeg files. They preferred .bmp or .tiff files. And one has to use the program WordPad—not Notepad (the difference between programs is entirely a mystery to me)—to edit the data.

I found a few .bmp images and, hey, the process worked. (One can expedite the process by right clicking on the image and opening it with Wordpad instead of changing file extensions.  This allows you to preview your image alongside the data, so as you delete data you can file the image change immediately once you save.) This is my first successful attempt.1 It involved copying some portions over and over and over again. There was some deleting, too.

lena - Copy (2)

Unfortunately, this was the only image that remained this clear. Every other one basically turned to static no matter what I did. This was one of the orca is the only other one that retained some of the initial image.

orca_seaworld-380 - Copy

The next few looked more or less like this:

plums (1) - Copy

It’s half-disappointing, because this originally was just a picture of plums. I didn’t delete any data. Instead, I entered the text of that infamous William Carlos Williams’ poem. If you convert the image to text, you will find “This is Just to Say” within the data. The interplay between image and poem would be more effective, I think, if you could tell the above was plums. It could probably be done. Maybe it would require a different image. Probably a lot of trial and error.

It leads me to this idea of a digital glitch chapbook (probably not entirely a new idea). A series of glitched images with poems written into the data. The reader becomes a scavenger, looking for the hidden messages, the hidden passageways. This is what happens, the images would say, when poetry gets embedded into the background. From there, one could manipulate the image on their own, manipulate (glitching?) the poem2 itself into something else.

On a more macro level, having played with this, I don’t consider glitch art as an interruption of our technology-mediated lifestyles. If I look at glitch art, I think about how the image or the video or the audio must have been manipulated to achieve that result. It’s only when something malfunctions on its own or when I’m causing it to malfunction that I’m forced to consider the relationships between me and the image. It seems more likely that creating glitch art is what creates the awareness our relationship with technology.


1. WordPress doesn’t allow .bmp file, so I had to convert the image to a jpeg, which I did by renaming the file to “.jpg.” Again, the whole process is semi-mysterious, though it does make think about what files we are allowed to disseminate. What if the conversion from .bmp to .jpeg didn’t work? I wouldn’t be able to show off this little image.

2. Poetry (hell, all writing) is an interactive medium. I think back to Homer, back to the oral tradition. When people added, changed, or forgot pieces of the poem. It’s a kind of interaction, a kind of manipulation, a kind of glitch.

Constant Consumption

Monday, January 27th, 2014 by asobol

I found many of Crary’s claims dubious, hyperbolic. All this doom and gloom about the possibility of the sleepless consumer, née sleepless soldier. Can one even be a consumer all day long? I tried it for a day to see how my body handled it. I tried being a conscious consumer of everything, which meant physically buying things at a store as well as subjecting myself to the internet and various media intake. I tried to limit sleep (more accurately: to put it off as long as my body could handle it) and see what would occur over the course the day. Running around stores became exhausting and annoying and eventually I could no longer remember any potential desires I may have had coming in. Why am in this store to begin with? The longer I spend in the store, the more I begin to resent it, the less I want to spend money there. 

When I returned home, I propped all my devices around me. Laptop on lap. Phone on the left, Kindle on the right. Television on. As this continued, numbness came over me. I could only provide attention to one thing at a time. The TV would eventually get lost to my browsing. The browsing interrupted at times by TV. At a certain point the night, TV became mostly infomercials, prompting me to ask why I even had it on anymore. My attempts to continue to consume on the internet was a wash once I ran out of ideas. I have a limited set of interests and while I can look scan Amazon and eBay for a long time, I eventually exhaust them. Boredom was constantly resurfacing. Even shorts bursts onto Twitter or Facebook left me with nothing to chew on. The later it became, the less interested I was in the things I was searching for. What remained was this zombie-like clicking through. It ended when I realized I was searching Amazon for pillows and linens — a cue from the unconscious to go to bed, perhaps? The next morning, perhaps coincidentally, I woke with a nasty cold, which with its migraine-like sinus pain, made looking at screens a painful chore, making me into a terrible consumer.

My roundabout point being that the attention span is finite. And even if we didn’t have to sleep, how long could things really keep us invested, especially 24/7. There’s only so much stimuli before we need to reset. I can only stare so long at a screen before my eyes begin to sting. I can only buy so many consumable objects before I have my fill. In the abstract, sure, capitalism may be insatiable but people (body and mind) are not.


Stray question: Anyone else feel Crary is guilty of Tyler Durdenisms? I mean, the entire last paragraph of chapter two feels like (with the exception of a certain charm or charisma) it would fit straight into Brad Pitt’s mouth:

Even in the absence of any direct compulsion, we choose to do what we are told to do, we allow the management of our bodies, our ideas, our entertainment, and all our imaginary needs to be externally imposed. We buy productions that have been recommended to us through the monitoring of our electronic lives, and then we voluntarily leave feedback for others about what we have purchased. We are the compliant subject who submits to all manner of biometric and surveillance intrusion, and who ingests toxic food and water and lives near nuclear reactors without complaint. The absolute abdication of responsibility for living is indicated by the titles of the many bestselling guides that tell us, with a grim fatality, the 1,000 movies to see before we die, the 100 tourist destinations to visit before we die, the 500 books to read before we die.

Yikes. (I don’t think I’m entirely off-base comparing the two, especially given that Durden was born out of a character’s lack of sleep.)