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So what is WORD ART?
This is the question I was asked when I was recently interviewed about my website on Cape Town's Bush Radio. Is it conceptual art? Is it digital poetry? Is it wordplay? Is it just slogans?
is that it doesn't really lend itself to being categorised. In a broader sense
I suppose WORD ART falls into the Poetry category. That is where the major
search engines (Such as Google, Yahoo and the like) have placed it:
ARTS AND LITERATURE > POETRY > CONTEMPORARY POETRY > CONCRETE POETRY > THE WORD PROJECT*
So I might as well say a bit about CONCRETE POETRY.
Although CONCRETE POETRY is listed as a contemporary genre, it has been around for over 80 years and is closely associated to Visual Poetry. Essentially it is a form of poetry that prompts the reader/viewer to SEE the words rather than READ the words. From a very young age we are taught to read and it becomes so ingrained in us that when we are confronted with letters we automatically READ them - we decode and ABSTRACT their SYMBOLIC forms. In so doing we subvert other ways of looking at the words. In fact, we are mostly unaware that other ways of looking at the words even exist. But they do! And that's where the concrete poet comes in. The concrete poet consciously "brackets out" the symbolic forms of the words (UNREADING them as it were) and looks rather at the shapes and patterns that word and letter structures make in themselves – the CONCRETE aspect as opposed to the ABSTRACT. It is, to use Zen parlance, "seeing things as they really are." As the noted Zen scholar R.H. Blyth said: "Zen is the unsymbolization of the world".
The shapes and patterns of words and letters have their own message, an unseen, subverted message that differs from the symbolic message. Let’s call this second message the IMAGE message. It can happen in some instances that the IMAGE message concords with the READ message which gives rise to interesting resonations and tautologies. In other instances the two messages point in different directions and the poet plays with these inner tensions.
WORD ART is a specific term that I've used to describe my own work. It is based on the melding of WORD (the READ message) and ART (the IMAGE message) which I've described above. Where my work differs perhaps from other concrete poets is that I tend to focus more on individual words than the strings of words more commonly associated with poetry. This isolation of words gives the individual letters more significance and much of my work is focused on letters and letter shapes. Letters, especially, are overlooked in the READ mode - only the full word is seen, individual letters appear irrelevant, dissapearing as the "wood does, from the trees". If you've ever participated in one of those "count the F's" type challenges you'll know what I mean.
A groundbreaking feature of present day CONCRETE poetry is the use of digitally manipulated animation. Initially the exclusive privilege of large movie and design studios, the PC revolution levelled the playing fields. Programmes such as Flash and Director have empowered individual concrete poets, creating a whole new genre of digital poetry. The introduction of the dimension of time is revolutionary. No longer are word and letter patterns trapped in static one-dimensional structures - they can now spin, dance, play and mutate. Texts can be given life! Indeed the etymology of the word ANIMATE is significant here, as the ANIMUS is literally the "living spirit". The animator breathes life into their keyboard characters, and they become stage characters, the computer screen a STAGE rather than a PAGE.
Of course the melding of WORD and IMAGE is just a start. With the MULTI-MEDIA platform now available there is no limit to what other forms of media can be welded into the fray. Previously defined boundaries between sight and sound are collapsing around us. Works are now being produced where colours speak and soundwaves can be seen vibrating on the screen.
And then there is the newest dimension – INTERACTIVITY. Bandied about as a buzzword in business for the past decade, it is only recently that the full ramifications of interactivity for Art have been explored. The traditional paradigm of artwork and audience is being challenged and rewritten. No longer is the audience a PASSIVE viewer but in web based art becomes an ACTIVE participant in the artwork. The process of interaction between artwork and audience requires choices to be made by the viewer. The much-dreamed-of aim of an artwork to alter its audience is given a whole new twist with the audience now capable of altering the artwork. The result is an exciting symbiotic-type relationship which is opening up new spaces in art hitherto undreamed of.
All of this is very new and cutting-edge** and it will take a while yet for these artforms to filter into the mainstream. We are now in the pioneer phase and the frontiers are still young. A very exciting place to be...
* Wikipedia has this site listed under Digital Poetry.
** This site was launched in 2001 and some of the pieces were made using 2001 software - so "cutting-edge" needs to be viewed in this light
The Sequel to my book - A Branch of Wisdom - is coming out in early 2012. It's gonna blow you away. Get on the mailing list to be notified when available.
you did read my first book - A Branch of Wisdom - you might be interested
in this article: Human's
Rights Abusing Psychiatrist, Dr Aubrey Levin, exposed.
Here's the latest blog: Dealing with Google, Trend-spotting and other eclectic issues
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