Poetic Databases

This one was a struggle. Amongst the scientific mumbo-jumbo and seemingly made-up words (Integrationalism? Come on now) I was able to find a few parts that were relevant and informative for me.

Even the name is confusing and wordy: ‘Recombinant Poetics And Related Database Aesthetics’ by Bill Seaman.

It starts by (I think) describing how even apparently very technological and digital actions are still, at their basics, human activities, emphasising the “physicality of experience”. Database, which is described in detail in the other reading for this week, is derived through human activities such as shooting and editing footage, sculpting virtual objects, compositions, writing, and even something as simple as naming files.

The process of writing computer code is related to something like poetry, as Richard Hamilton and Ecke Bonk state:

The poetic of computers lies in the genius of individual programmers to express the beauty of their thought using such an inexorable medium.

At their roots, computing and digital activities are still very human.

As Seaman states, interpretation in these new forms of technology is open, ongoing, and constantly changing, and I particularly liked this quote from Umberto Eco:

A work of art is a complete and closed form in its uniqueness as a balanced organic whole, while at the same time constituting an open product on account of its susceptibility to countless different interpretations which do not impinge on unadulterable specificity. Hence every reception of a work of art is an interpretation and a performance of it, because in every reception the work takes on a fresh perspective for itself”

The other part of the reading that stood out for me was the discussion of Dada Poems, ones that are constructed from putting seemingly random parts together in a seemingly random sequence.

These poems can be created through cutting up a newspaper article, separating each words, placing them in a bag, shaking it all up, then taking each word out one at a time. If you then write these words down in the order that they are drawn, you will create a poem that will “resemble you and you will find yourself to be an infinitely original writer with a charming sensitivity”.

This details how from complete randomness can emerge complete meaning, even if it’s meaning specific to the individual, it will be re-interpreted by whoever’s reading it.

Here is an example of one of these Dada Poems:

This quote from Lewis Carroll sums it these ‘random poems’ brilliantly:

First learn to be spasmodic
A very simple rule.
For first you write a sentence,
And then you chop it small;
Then mix the bits and sort them out
Just as they chance to fall;
The order of the phrases makes
No difference at all.

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