The reason that the marked text idea is interesting to me right now, is that it has made me look at the works of several digital artists in a slightly different way.
The work of jUStin!katKO, in particular Reading Palm, uses a simplistic but effective method of filming and obstructing parts of signs and writing around the city. Situated in the everyday, with the contexts of the signs intact, KatKO’s work creates a sort of abjection through the creation of errant messages through erasure. It’s also pretty funny, with some impressive on-the-fly obstruction:
It’s entertaining and thought-provoking to see what can be made from such subversion of use value-centric objects such as commercial signs. It’s is perhaps fitting, then, that Reading Palm ends with the owner of a filmed dot-matrix specials board at a café blocking the text with his own hand, containing a wad of cash.
katKO’s work is an example of the sign in situ, retaining its contextual identity whilst having its use value subverted, turned potentially into a number of alternative social values – smut (humour), pun, a message construable as a political statement, etc.
I recently took a look at some of the work from the DVD of the Ars Electronica festival 2003, and one of the installations, Listening Post, “[culled] text fragments in real time from thousands of unrestricted Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards and other public forums. The texts [were] read (or sung) by a voice synthesizer, and simultaneously displayed across a suspended grid of more than two hundred small electronic screens.”
The readouts from these screens are marked texts in the respect that the original aesthetic (itself an uncertainty, since the chat room texts each come from different computers, with presumably differing operating systems, borwsers, browser settings, chat room aesthetic settings, etc.) has been removed and has been replaced with the green LED-style format of the scrolling electronic text, which presumably the hardware has dictated. However, this new style stems from the aesthetic flattening of the source texts, bringing them into an even arena where emotive, historical, social biases such as gender, age, emotional state etc. (sometimes indicated by an avatar and personal formatting settings) are not an issue, save for what might be in the actual content of the posting. Furthermore, this flattened formatting forces the text to be received as a whole, with the voice reading text readouts (admittedly and perhaps problematically a distinctly male – if distinctly artificial – voice) also being constant. There seems to be a deliberate turning away from individual identity, in favour instead of the excess created by one voice and many similar-looking texts constantly referring “I”. It is at times overwhelming, at others amusing, and I don’t think it would have worked had the aesthetic settings of each post been preserved, or an effort made to distinguish through variant voices the postings. The result instead is similar to reading Ron Silliman’s Sunset Debris – a repetition of sentence structure which plays with being absorbed into the text, only suddenly to snap out of it, with multiple “I”’s interrupting any sense of prolonged narrative flow.
Anyway, I think that’s really it from me and back to Charlie! I hope this was at least something to read in Charlie’s absence. If anyone is interested in my blog you can find it at http://itchaway.blogspot.com and my website is at http://www.textosterone.co.uk (it has a bit of my work on it).
Thanks for making me feel welcome and Charlie – thanks for trusting me with your famed blog – I don’t think I broke it.