Shari Margolin, Words in Flight, English Thesis (published online), 15 December 1999, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. Advisor: Michael Joyce.


(Dissertation excerpt)

Eduardo Kac has been experimenting in visual poetries since the early 1980s. He is probably most famous for what he entitles holopoetry, a kind of poetry that comes out at and towards the reader like a hologram would. Kac also creates digital poetry, in which the visible area changes by the "bending" of the screen. This type of viewing emphasizes perspective, and a reassurance of the reader's place as a mass, within a body. I believe a more appropriate name for this type of digital poetry is remote (control) poetry. The reader has to use a control bar in order to move the poem in certain ways so that she can read it. One example of such poetry is "Secret."

Kac's most recent work is "Uirapuru," a recreated Amazon forest in which a legendary bird, "Uirapuru" lives. According to the Intercommunication Center in Tokyo, where the work exists, "Visitors communicate with the Uirapuru through a Web interface and via sensors placed inside the artificial forest. Through interaction with the Uirapuru, which is at the same time both a fantasy and a real avian creature, visitors can explore both the virtual and the real aspects of telepresence." ( [Accessed 28 October 1999].)

In Kac's "Uirapuru," the fabled Amazonian bird is no longer a bird, but a flying fish. It is animal, and yet digitized, able to survive outside an acceptable living environment. It emphasizes the mechanical in the flying, the only aspect retained of the bird, in relation to commands given by visitors to the gallery and / or web site.

There are birds, "pingbirds" whose sole job it is to sing in a manner related to traffic to the site (i.e., sing more when there's more traffic). These birds also emphasize the machine, and lead to the questions, why do we use the bodily and representations of the alive to clothe the machine, why not build digital lamps or pencils that fly by visitor commands?

""Uirapuru" explores the interconnectedness of two parallel worlds, physical and virtual" (email announcement from Julia Friedman, [3 November 1999].). It merges telepresence with virtual reality on the Internet, it transforms machine into virtual reality, machine to bodily simulation.

This artwork shows life given to non-living objects that represent the living through machine-transformed actions of the living. Inanimate creations, or machines, the Uirapuru bird / fish and the ping birds, perform tasks such as flying and singing, actions real fish and birds perform. They do this both in a virtual and a real environment. People travel the net, people go to this exhibit through the internet, a machine. By mechanical means, a message is sent to the birds representing the amount of people on the net at that moment. In relation / response, the birds come alive for a moment, but mechanically, singing and flying, simulating the body, which is possible through technology.

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