Originally published in Display Holography (Fourth International Symposium - Proc. SPIE 1600), Tung H. Jeong, Editor (Bellingham, WA: SPIE, 1991), pp. 229-236. This paper gives an overview of the development of visual poetry in the twentieth century; it then introduces theoretical issues in holopoetry and discusses new holopoems created between 1989 and 1991.
Holographic poetry is better understood in the context of the multiple
directions that visual poetry took in the twentieth century, and in order
to make clear some theoretical issues of holopoetry which will be discussed
ahead I shall proceed to summarize some of the highlights in the development
of this literary genre.
Drawing from a long tradition of verbal-pictorial synthesis that goes
from ancient Greece to the experiments with white spaces of the French
Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé at the end of the nineteenth
century, several poets in the early decades of the twentieth century moved
beyond the line as the structural unit of poetry. In search for what he
called "wireless imagination", the Italian Futurist Filippo Tomasso
Marinetti launched in 1909 a manifesto that would have profound impact
in modern art and poetry. The Futurists moved beyond the free verse and
developed what they termed le parole in libertá (free words), i.e.,
verbal compositions in which words took on visual properties and were freely
arranged on the page so as to reflect dynamic aspects of modern life. At
the same time, Guillaume Apollinaire sought a Cubist approach to poetry.
In certain poems he employed fragments of sounds and images among words
scattered on the page to convey the perception of a given scene or moment
from a variety of perspectives, paralleling the pictorial strategies of
his friends Picasso and Braque. In other works he created compositions
of concise visual rhythm and rarified semantic density. In the poem reproduced
below, which was originally published in 1914,(1) he develops an appreciation
of the female first name "Linda" (which means "pretty")
through a random sequence of anagrams:
One of the outstanding contributors to the development of visual poetry is Russian Vasili Kamensky, whose work is as important as is little known. Working in an experimental atmosphere that would lead to the birth of Constructivism in the 1920s, Kamensky developed what he called "zhelezobetonny"(2) poems, which he defined as being organized in the space of a single page and whose elements, mostly nouns, were connected by non-syntactical (i.e., visual) associations. In his most innovative book, Tango with Cows, published in 1914, he pushed the limits of typography. The book includes the poem "Telephone", a radical experimentation with multiple fonts(3):
Taking advantage of the code of the typewriter, with its regular spacing
and its vertical and horizontal movements, American poet E. E. Cummings
imploded the linear configuration of words and reinvented the poetic space
with the resulting fragments. His most innovative texts, written in the
'20s and onwards, have rigorous structures, often creating visual rhythms
with left and right margins, punctuation marks and the alternation between
standard upper and lower cases.
In 1944, Italian poet Carlo Belloli published Testi-Poemi Murali ("Wall
Text-Poems") and Parole per la Guerra ("Words for the War"),
two collections of works that were marked by economy of poetic means. These
works consisted of words laid out on the page in complex arrays and patterns
(see example below). The meticulous use of typography was meant to allow
for visualization of the words before they could be read and interpreted.
I have translated one of his pieces from 1943 below. In an introduction
to Testi-Poemi Murali, Futurist P.T. Marinetti wrote(4) that Belloli's
text-poems "anticipate a language of word-signs set in the communicational
network of a mathematical civilization which will be marked by restraint
in the use of dialogue, gestures and feelings". Belloli is still active
today and open to new possibilities for visual poetry. He created in the
early '80s holographic pieces that he refers to as "anticipateurs
After the Second World War, Romanian-born Isidore Isou came to Paris and, taking further the work of Dada pioneers Ball, Hausmann and Schwitters, lead the movement called "Lettrism", which focused on the letter as a new poetic compositional unit. Isou, Lemaître, Dufrêne and the other lettrists aspired to revitalize poetry and painting, initially by replacing the verse with clusters of phonemes freed from semantics and by solving the abstract-figurative dichotomy with the sole presence of visual representations of language within the pictorial space. The Lettrist group is still working in France today.
The God's Diaries (1950), Isidore Isou
Visual poetry acquired world-wide attention in the '50s and '60s, when Concrete poetry was launched as an international movement as a consequence of experiments performed in Switzerland and Brazil. Working in Switzerland in the '40s, Bolivian-born poet Eugen Gomringer was aware of the work of Max Bill and other concrete visual artists, who inherited the name "Concrete Art" and the interest for geometric abstractions from Theo VanDoesburg. In search of new possibilities for poetry akin to the non-representational investigation of the concrete painters, in 1953 Gomringer published his first book of concrete poems, Konstellationen ("Constellations"), in which poems are composed with white spaces and few words -- as in the example reproduced below.
In the same year, Ferreira Gullar finished his book A Luta Corporal ("The Corporeal Struggle"), in which poems are written with fractured words and imploded syntax. Still in 1953, Augusto de Campos wrote Poetamenos ("Poetminus"), a set of poems inspired by the "tone-color melodies" of composer Anton Webern in which several colors are integrated into the non-syntactical structure. The colors gave reading directions and functioned as theme designators.In addition to Gullar's and Augusto de Campos' work, Concrete poetry was developed early in Brazil by Haroldo de Campos, Décio Pignatari, Ronaldo Azeredo and Wlademir Dias-Pino. Dias-Pino's pioneering work (A Ave, 1956), prompting readerly intervention and creating meaning between verbal and non-verbal elements, was also very influential. In 1959, Gullar, Reynaldo Jardim and others launched Neo-Concrete poetry, producing installation-like and interactive three-dimensional poems out of hard materials, like wood and glass, that had to be manipulated by the viewer in order to be read.
Lembra ("Remember"), 1959, neo-concrete poem by Ferreira Gullar
Yet, in 1964, taking Dias-Pino's work into a new direction, Pignatari and Luiz Angelo Pinto developed a kind of poetry to be written without words, which they called Semiotic poetry. It consisted of sequences of intermingled designs, like a black square or a white triangle, for example, to which semantical meanings where attached. If the black square was given the meaning "tomorrow" and the white triangle was given the meaning "yesterday", the image of a black square inside a white triangle would signify something different from, say, two black triangles juxtaposed to a white square. The scope was to expand syntax and signification beyond a linear writing process. In 1968, Dias-Pino launched "Process/Poem", a poetics that dispensed with words altogether, opening the way for a purely visual poetry.
Among the relatively recent, as well the ongoing poetic research with
which holographic poetry could be related in broader terms are the interactive
computer poem "Cybernetic Landscape I"(6) created by the American
Aaron Marcus in 1975 in anticipation of Virtual Reality, the videopoetry
of Ernesto Melo e Castro, from Portugal, which was first created and broadcasted
in 1969 and resumed in the '80s, the holographic pieces German Dieter Jung
produced in collaboration with diverse writers, the interactive text "The
Legible City" by Jeffrey Shaw, who was born in Australia and works
in Amsterdam, the multimedia writing by American Richard Kostelanetz, the
Hyperpoems by American writers Jim Rosenberg and William Dickey, and the
digital-poetic incursions of Brazilian André Vallias.
Theoretical Issues in holopoetry
Twentieth century visual poetry evolved having the printed page as its
basic structuring agent, as a support upon which ink is laid to form the
verbal composition. As a physical surface where the poem is inscribed,
the white on the page gained meaning and in most cases contrasted as silence
with the verbal inscriptions that often resonated as representations of
sounds. Once printed, the verbal sign is fixed on the surface and its signification
is bound by the rigidity of the page, very much like a line drawn on a
canvas. The comparison with painting is not accidental, because both modern
poetry and modern art searched for the specificity of their materials simultaneously,
leading to non-narrative poetry and non-figurative art. As modern painting
moved away from the pictorial becoming abstract, modern poetry moved away
from the linear becoming fragmented. Some poets tried to give a new direction
to the ancient "figurative poem" ( i.e., a poem in the shape
of an object), but this tendency is a minor part of modern and contemporary
literary experiments. Even in Apollinaire's oeuvre, shaped words not always
signify straightforwardly the subjects of the shapes they were molded into,
creating an ideogrammatic tension between the symbolic [verbal] and the
Among the linguistic conventions of the West is the left-to-right orientation
of the reading process, which is an arbitrary representation of the linear
chain of spoken language. This is valid also for the two-dimensional page,
which inherited the norm and is read from left to right and from top to
bottom. In a sense, the reading from top to bottom follows an ordinary
perception of reality, which is regulated by the action of gravity upon
elements. A sequence of pages in a book is conventionally read from left
to right as well, resembling the chain formed by sequences of words in
a sentence. It is impossible not to take into account the limits imposed
upon poetic creation by the physical properties of the visual space the
poet works with. The poets' challenge is exactly to disregard conventions
and to create new codes, moving language beyond the redundant, the verbose
and the ordinary. So modern visual poets distributed words freely on the
page, or created self-referential structures, sometimes with permutational
reading possibilities between the words in the fixed structure. They printed
fragments of words, enhancing their visual nature, or made the word an
image in itself; Always within the perimeter of the immutable page, or
the tangible boundaries of firm and stable three-dimensional materials.
The immutability and stability of two-dimensional and three-dimensional
surfaces conditioned the signifying spectrum of visual poetry thus far.
In a reaction against fixed structures, holographic poetry seeks to
create a space where the linguistic ordering factor of surfaces is disregarded
in favor of an irregular fluctuation of signs that can never be grasped
at once by the reader. This turbulent space, with bifurcations which can
take on an indefinite number of rhythms, allows for the creation of what
will be called here textual instability. By textual instability I mean
precisely that condition according to which a text does not preserve a
single visual structure in time as it is read by the viewer, producing
different and transitory verbal configurations in response to the beholder's
perceptual exploration. I shall make it clear that I still consider the
holographic poem under the general category of text, a verbal composition
that operates within the linguistic code. Its difference in relation to
other kinds of visual poetry is marked by a set of characteristics that
work together to destabilize the text, to plunge it into its specificity
as written [text] as opposed to graphic representation [of speech], to
create a syntax based on fleeting transformations and discrete leaps.
As Derrida has suggested, (7) no text can be fully controlled by its
author, to whom its inherent contradictions and collateral meanings inevitably
escape. The precise positioning of [apparently stable] words on the [innanimate]
surface of the page gives author and reader the illusion of control, of
mastery and command of the text (and often of the exterior reality it refers
to). Holographic poetry tries to exhibit the impossibility of an absolute
textual structure, it attempts to create verbal patterns with disturbances
that magnify small changes in meaning according to the perceptual inquiry
of the reader. That does not mean that one cannot go back to the viewing
zone where any specific word appears; it is possible to see the same word
again but the word seen just before or right after could be different,
or relate to that specific word differently. But the point is not to try
to draw similarities between holopoetry and other forms of experimental
writing. Instead, the specificity of the former is what must be emphasized.
For example: a syntactical structure can be created in which one could
see twenty or more words occupying the same space without overlapping;
a word could also transform itself into another word/shape or vanish momentarily.
Letters can collapse and reconstruct themselves or move to form other words
in a time-reversal transition. These and all other latent expressive possibilities
of holopoetry are unique to its grammar and they are only possible in part
because its space, as I seek to create it, is an oscillatory field of diffracting
light as opposed to the tangible surfaces of pages and objects. The white
on the page which represented silence is removed and what remains is empty
space, an absence of (printing) support which has no primary symbolic value.
The vacuous gaps between words and letters do not represent positively
absence of sound, because the photonic inscriptions don't stand essentially
for its presence. We are in the domain of spatiotemporal writing, four-
dimensional writing, if we wish, where spatial gaps don't point to anything
except for the potential presence of graphemes. The voids are not to be
"seen", unlike the white on the page. They are, to take Derrida's
words literally, an interplay of absence and presence.(8)
Both Peirce and Saussure agreed on the physical nature of what they
called, respectively, sign and signifier. For Saussure, the signifier is
the "sound-image" (the word "arbor", for example) that
carries the signified (the concept "tree"). Both together form
Saussure's sign. For Peirce, the sign is something that is perceivable
by our senses (like photographs, smoke or printed words) and that produces
meaning by referring to something different than itself, like an object
(the word 'apple'), event (the sight of smoke indicating fire) or scene
(landscape photography) in the world. Needless to say, for the written
word AIRPLANE to refer to [to mean] the vehicle that transports people
and objects by air, it must belong to the proper textual and cultural contexts
and its letters must be perceived by our senses in the proper sequence.
The word that results from the sequence of letters must remain visually
constant. In visual poetry, the verbal sign has been subjected to a number
of graphic treatments that contributed to extend the meaning of the words
beyond their conventional associations. But once a printed word is sliced,
fragmented and/or incorporated into a collage, it cannot escape the immutability
of the final composition.
The dissolution of the solidity of the poetic space, which makes the
discontinuous syntax of holopoetry possible, also affects the signifying
units of the poem, i.e., the word and the letter. One of the elements of
holopoetry, which nevertheless does not necessarily appear in all holographic
texts, is what will be called here the fluid sign. It is essentially a
verbal sign that changes its overall visual configuration in time, therefore
escaping the constancy of meaning a printed sign would have as described
above. Fluid signs are time-reversible, which means that the transformations
can flow from pole to pole as the beholder wishes, and they can also become
smaller compositional units in much larger texts, where each fluid sign
will be connected to other fluid signs through discontinuous syntaxes.
Fluid signs create a new kind of verbal unit, in which a sign is not either
one thing or another thing. A fluid sign is perceptually relative. For
two or more viewers reading together from distinct perspectives it can
be different things at one time; for a non-stationary reader it can reverse
itself and change uninterruptedly between as many poles as featured in
Fluid signs can also operate metamorphoses between a word and an abstract
shape, or between a word and a scene or object. When this happens, both
poles reciprocally alter each others' meanings. A transfiguration takes
place and it produces in-between meanings that are dynamic and as important
in holopoetry as the meanings produced momentarily at the poles. The meanings
of in-between configurations can not be substituted by a verbal description,
like the word AIRPLANE can be substituted in the proper context by its
definition [i.e., "the vehicle that transports people and objects
by air"]. Neither can it be replaced by a specific word, as grey suggests
a specific intermediary position or a meaning between black and white.
In holopoetry transient clusters of letters or ephemeral shapes that lay
between a word and an image aim to dynamically stretch the poetic imagination
and suggest meanings, ideas and feelings that are not possible to convey
by traditional means.
While still living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I produced seven holographic
poems, from Holo/Olho (1983) to Quando??(1987/88).(9) These
early pieces were made either in Brazil or in the US. In 1989 I moved to
Chicago, where I have been able to work and experiment on an ongoing basis.
Below I describe briefly the poems I made since my arrival. These descriptions
are meant solely as initial guidelines for the reader of the actual holopoems
and by no means are intended to exhaust their signifying possibilities.
My first piece in Chicago was Phoenix (1989), a poem composed
of only one letter that draws attention to its visual properties instead
of representing a particular sound. Designed with ambiguity, the letter
W might be perceived as a stylized bird with open wings. It floats in front
of the holographic film plane (20 inches away from it) and is transfixed
by a vertical open flame that can be read as the letter I and which moves
randomly according to air currents. The laser transmission letter-image
produces a curious harmony with the actual flame, suggesting perhaps that
we are as fascinated by laser images today as the primeval man was by fire.
Where the laser red meets the blue flame, a hybrid magenta is perceived.
Conceived in collaboration with Richard Kostelanetz, the holopoem Lilith
(1987/89) employs words in French and English to comment upon the legend
that gives it its title. In Jewish popular etymology, Lilith means
"devil of the night". Its understanding as the "female devil"
has Babilonic roots, but Lilith also stands for any myth of "female
devils". In Jewish mystic literature, she is the Queen of the Demons.
According to another legend, still, she was the first wife of Adam. As
opposed to Eve, Lilith was not created from Adam's body and therefore
was totally independent of him. According to this legend, it was only after
Lilith left Adam that Eve was created. In traditional cabalistic
literature -- until recently a male-dominated field -- she is the symbol
of sensuality and sexual temptation. The transformations that take place
in the poem between the words HE, EL (short for "Elohim", or
"God"), ELLE ("she" in French and mirror image of EL)
and HELL are meant to unveil and criticize the bias that surrounds the
myth of Lilith, product of a male dominated culture creating God
in its own (male) image.
Three pieces that followed, Albeit (1989), Shema (1989)
and Eccentric (1990), approach the issue of structuring a text in
discontinuous space in three different ways. Albeit is composed
of five words that are duplicated and fragmented in space by means of fourteen
masters (the counterpart of "negatives", in photography), so
as to produce a dense configuration built upon layers of small color fields
and the empty spaces between them. The words are read almost in stroboscopic
manner from different viewpoints, multiplying meanings and paralleling,
in the process of fragmentation, the contradictory reference to time that
the text signifies. The word "take", for example, can be perceived
as a verb ("take your time") or as a noun ("your take is
over") - a syntactical fluctuation that is instrumental in the textual
instability of holopoetry. The word "time", in another instance,
can be a subject, as in "time take(s) over", when the letter
"s" is read in absentia. But it also can be a direct object,
as in "take your time".
Shema is structured with verbal signifiers floating in three
expanded color fields that interpenetrate each other, creating a sort of
transitional discontinuity between them. The text is in Hebrew and is composed
basically of four words and one big letter. The letter modifies the four
words to create four new words -- depending on the viewer's decisions as
s/he moves in front of the piece. In this sense, the word "maim"
(water) is modified by the letter "shien" (S), to produce "shamaim"
(sky, heaven). The word "mavet" (death) is modified by "shien"
to suggest "Shmvot" (Exodus). The word "mah" (why?,
what?), is modified to form "shamah" (desolation, destruction).
At last, the word "mash" (to trough off, to remove) becomes "shemesh"
(sun). The resulting eight words produce an atmosphere of associations,
suggesting feelings about death and emotional loss. The piece is dedicated
to Perla Przytyk, in memoriam.
As with the words in the two previous texts, the nine words in Eccentric
("shadows", "sounds", "smells", "nos",
"nevers", "nothings", "that", "memories",
"erase") can never be seen simultaneously in space. But this
time, the viewer can not even perceive the words when s/he looks straight
to the holographic space. In order to perceive each word, the reader must
invent his/her own topological code. One must look for the words diagonally
and decide if s/he will read looking up or to the left alternately or successively,
or down and to the right concurrently. The crisscrossing invisible narrow
viewing zones that form the poem allow for a highly turbulent syntax. Adverbs
("nevers", "nos") are found in unusual plural form
to stretch their meanings and nouns in the plural ("sounds",
"smells", "shadows") can be read as verbs in the present
tense of the third person singular. The very configuration of the letters
within each word suggests different interpretations, like the noun "nothings"
implying the phrase "not this sign". In parallel configurations,
the pronoun "that", for example, can become a conjunction ("nos
that shadows erase"), a deitic pronoum ("smell that nevers"),
an adjective ("that shadow(s) that nothings erase"), or a subject
("that sounds memories").
Amalgam (1990) is composed of two sets of two words each ("flower-void"
and "vortex-flow"), and each set blends into the other as the
viewer tries to read the text. The reader can see the visual transition
between the sets as an attempt to produce a semantical transition as well,
so that the in-between shapes indicate in-between meanings. In other words,
when the left eye sees one set and the right eye sees the other set simultaneously
(as opposed to both eyes perceiving slightly different viewpoints of the
same set), the viewer is actually seeing a transitional verbal sign that
possesses transitional meanings. This is what I call binocular reading.
Normally, left and right eyes see, say, the letter A, from their respective
viewpoints. Here, for example, the left eye could see the letter A, but
the right eye sees at the same time the letter B instead. Both eyes try
to force a synthesis that is deterred by the retinal rivalry. Within this
process, a complementary reading strategy can be implemented: nouns can
be interpreted as verbs as in "flow (and) vortex void flower",
or "flower (,) void (and) vortex flow".
The diagram on the left (A) shows two eyes looking at the same object from two different points of view. This is how we usually see the three-dimensional world around us. The diagram on the right (B) illustrates a new situation in which each eye is made to see a completely different image. When this happens, the two images do not fuse into a coherent three-dimensional whole. In holopoetry, when this situation is created, it is called "binocular reading" because each eye reads a completely different letter or word.
As a consequence of my search for a turbulent space that is prone to
mutability, I began experimenting in 1987 with a new kind of text I call
simply computer holopoetry. Because I write computer holopoems in a process
of stereoscopic synthesis, as opposed to the well known method of optical
recording I use for my other holopoems, they allow me to manipulate each
element of the text with more precision. I believe that computer holopoems
will let me write texts in which the viewer, just by looking at words and
letters, dislocates them from their position in a space zone. The unsettling
choreography of my previous texts gains a new motion factor in addition
to the "quantum leaps" and the optical fusions that occurred
before between two or more zones in space. I can now write pieces in which
the reader perceives animated fragmentations and actual metamorphosis within
a single zone, or I can incorporate these and other new possibilities into
hybrid poems that integrate the optical and the digital. With computer
holopoems I hope to extend the solubility of the sign to the verbal particles
of written language, the letters themselves, widening the gamut of rhythms
and significations of the text.
My writing process can be outlined as follows: 1) generation and manipulation
with digital tools of the elements of the text on the simulated space of
the computer "world" by means of a raster or vector-based software
(this step could also be referred to as the modelling stage); 2) study
and previous decomposition of the multiple visual configurations the text
will eventually have; 3) rendering of the letters and words, i.e., assignment
of shades and textures to the surface of the models (texture maps can be
invented at will and shadows can be avoided in situations where they would
necessarily exist if we were dealing with tangible models); 4) interpolation,
i.e., creation of the animated sequences, which are now stored as a single
file on the memory of the computer (this stage could also be referred to
as "motion scripting"); 5) exportation of the file to an animation
software and editing of the sequences (including post-manipulation of the
elements of the text); 6) frame-accurate sequential recording on film of
the individual scenes, which correspond to discrete moments of the text;
7) sequential recording of the individual scenes on a laser hologram and
8) final holographic synthesis achieved by transferring the information
stored on the laser hologram to a second hologram, now viewable in white
The first computer holopoem I created in Chicago was Multiple
(1989), in which the sequence of numbers 3309 is seen floating in space.
As the viewer moves past the numbers, they rotate around a pivot point,
changing to an abstract pattern and then to the word POEM (and vice-versa);
at first the three-dimensional form remains the same as it would if it
were a regular object -- but then it changes. Parallax is responsible for
the production of meaning, which is based on the triple function of the
sign (word-image-number). This piece translates a characteristic of the
Hebrew alphabet (in which letters also stand for numbers) into the Latin
Souvenir D'Andromeda (1990) is composed of a single word, which is also perceived as a set of abstract shapes depending on the beholder's viewpoint. If the viewer reads the word LIMBO at first, as s/he moves, the word rotates (crossing from virtual space to real space and vice-versa) and comes apart (as if it were exploding). As this happens, the fragments of the word, which are not legible anymore, are now perceived as pure forms. This process is reversible.
Souvenir D'Andromeda (1990), Eduardo Kac
If the fragmentation of a sound still produces phonetic resonances,
the fragmentation of a letter produces visual shapes -- a process that
exhibits the graphic nature of written language as opposed to the phonetic
nature of spoken language. The word LIMBO connotes "oblivion",
"suspension" and "nothingness" in several languages
-- meanings which are enhanced by the visual process of fragmentation.
In Omen (10), from 1990, the word EYES floats and spins, emerging
and dissolving in a space defined by luminous smoke. This spinning of the
word happens so as to make the letter E, as seen from a specific viewpoint,
vanish into the smoke before the whole word does, making the reader perceive
the word YES at the edge of legibility and suggesting the word SEE. The
smoke is charged with ambiguity, because it is perceived both as an element
that blocks vision and as a transparent medium. Through this orchestrated
motion, it is my intention to create a metaphor that expresses the hazy
vision of a future occurrence.
In the three pieces mentioned above I explored movement, but did not
work with syntactical discontinuity as I have done in other texts, such
as Abracadabra, Albeit and Eccentric. My interest
in writing motion texts with irregular syntactical links in a heterogeneous
perceptual field lead to three new pieces produced in 1991.
Adrift is composed basically of seven words that dissolve in
space and into each other as the viewer reads them. In one case, the reader
may be invited to start reading from the letter which is further away from
him/her. In another case, the letter closer to the reader could be the
starting point. The reading process occurs back and forth along the Z axis.
This piece is also an attempt to work both with the optical and digital,
trying to make one lend its properties to the other. The letters that make
the words are floating irregularly along several Z axis, except for the
word "breathe", which is somewhere integrated into the overall
light field. This word is blown by an imaginary wind as its letters actually
move away from their original position to dissolve again in the light field.
The movement of the letters in this word disrupts the stability of the
The next holopoem I made in this new series is Zero, in which
words grow or shrink, or turn and break, to express the drama of an identity
crisis in a future world. Rotations, fusions and other actions make the
words emphasize their relations and meanings in space. The multiplicity
of "Selfs" that would be inexorable with the proliferation of
cloning is the ultimate theme of the poem, but for a more attentive reader
the answer for the enigma could be found in words residing in other words.
In Adhuc, the third in the series, as the viewer moves relative
to the poem trying to read it, s/he perceives the manifold choreography
of the basic words of the piece ("whenever", "four years",
"or never", "far eve", "forever", "evening").
All the words refer to time in varying ways, contributing to an overall
vagueness that could resist assessment at first sight. The muddled interference
patterns that blend with the words help to create an atmosphere of uncertainty,
not only concerning the visibility of the words but also about the meanings
The theoretical issues discussed in this paper reflect my quest for
a new poetry capable of expressing the global changes under way in this
fin de si*cle, such as the cultural relativism promoted by post-structuralism
and deconstruction, the new speculative scientific thinking boosted by
digital visualization techniques, the holism of telecommunications networks,
and the interactive cyberspace of emerging Telepresence and Virtual Reality.
Contemporary cultural and scientific studies are breaking away from old
models. In society at large we see a questioning of the fundamental positive-negative
polarities that formed the structuralist approach, and in the so-called
scientific discourse we see the emergence of chaos theory, which destroys
the notion of deterministic predictability and helps to form the new holistic
paradigm in conjunction with Relativity and quantum theory. Because language
shapes our thoughts which in turn shape our world, we can surmise that,
in poetry, syntax is one of the basic issues at stake. I'm interested in
a syntax of disruptive events; in animated language that evades and deflects
interpretation. I'm interested in interactive reading/writing and in propagating
light as its medium. In holopoetry, texts are networks animated by motion
scripting and discontinuous rendering of words.
1. This permutational poem was part of a set entitled "Quelconqueries"
and first appeared in the magazine Lacerba, published by Ardengo Soffici
and Giovanni Papini. See Apollinaire; Oeuvres Poétiques, pp. 656-673
and pp. 1146-1148, &EACUTEditions Gallimard, Paris, 1965.
2. In his book The Look of Russian Literature; Avant-Garde Visual Experiments,
1900-1930 (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1984, p. 123), Gerald
Janecek translates "zhelezobetonny" as "ferroconcrete"
or "reinforced concrete". He explains: "The striking similarity
between the translation "concrete" here and the much more modern
Concrete Poetry movement that began in the late 1950s is an accident of
English homonymy. The latter movement defines "concrete" as "tactile,
material" (as opposed to "spiritual, abstract"), while Kamensky
thinks of "concrete" as something made of hardened cement, as
in a building, sidewalk, or other such structure."
3. I translated this poem in collaboration with Russian artist Sergey
Mavrody and Puerto-Rican designer Raul Silva.
4. Quoted by M.E. Solt in Concrete Poetry: A World View, p. 38, Indiana
University Press, Bloomington, 1970.
5. Personal letter to the author, dated "Basel, 5.7.91".
6. A. Marcus, "Aaron Marcus", Artist and Computer, Ruth Leavitt, ed., pp. 13-15, Harmony Books, New York, 1976.
7. J. Derrida, Of Grammatology, p.58, The John Hopkins University Press, translated by G. C. Spivak, Baltimore and London, 1976. Derrida states that the writer "writes in a language and in a logic whose proper system, laws, and life his discourse by definition cannot dominate absolutely. He uses them only by letting himself, after a fashion and up to a point, be governed by the system. And the reading must always aim at a certain relationship, unperceived by the writer, between what he commands and what he does not command of the patterns of the language that he uses".
8. J. Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences", The Structuralist Controversy; The Languages of Criticism and The Sciences of Man, R. Macksey and E. Donato, ed., p.64, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1982. Derrida: "Freeplay is always an interplay of absence and presence, but if it is to be radically conceived, freeplay must be conceived of before the alternative of presence or absence beginning with the possibility of freeplay and not the other way around."
9. See E. Kac and O. Botelho, "Holopoetry and Fractal Holopoetry: Digital Holography as an Art Medium", Leonardo, Vol.22, No. 3/4, pp. 397-402, 1989.
10. For a more detailed description of "Omen", please see E. Kac and H. Bjelkhagen, "Holopoem blends pulsed and computer holography", Laser News, Vol. XI, No. 1, p. 3, 1991.
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