Notes on the Poetics of Erasure

hablemos en blanco
hablemos perdiendo los signos

repitamos el primer y último acto
de ser devueltos
en la cópula mínima
del polvo
en la luz

Hanni Ossott

On a visit to the 2016 Prix Canson show at New York’s Drawing Center, I came across the work of finalist Bethany Collins. She presented two series addressing the obliteration of the written word. The first consisted of practically illegible paragraphs, printed on paper, then torn and shredded except for certain isolated words; the other, a set of loose pages from the Southern Review, in which she had blacked out parts of the text (sometimes all of it) with ink. This confluence of literary and graphic subtraction, framed within a visual art exhibition, led me for the first time to interrogate the operation of erasing as an aesthetics and a poetics.

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About “Respuesta a la Primavera”: a self-reflection on the poetics of database cinema

Respuesta a la Primavera (videopoesía) from ElviraEloisa on Vimeo.

Respuesta a la Primavera is a recent personal piece of video-poetry. It is a meditation on the connection between nature and the individual through the notions of cyclicality, decay, and transgression. Its text, which is extracted from a longer poem, serves as answer and homage to Spring and All by William Carlos Williams, published in 1923.  

Although this is a linear videopoem, and its course is determined by the reading of the poetic text, its formal structure alludes to that of a database: the screen is divided into four sections in which the clips (most shot by me, some royalty-free footage) that make up the database alternate. Visual continuity only emerges as the words of the poem follow each other. The images that are not text –mostly nature, landscape, and movement– don’t have a narrative relationship and shift constantly. Thus, the videopoem seeks to emulate the logic of database cinema by simulating the presence of an algorithm –a series of instructions unknown to the viewer– that intervenes in a database and extracts from it the clips that are presented “randomly” as the poem is being written/read on screen. The result of this structure and aesthetic is an experience of fragmented visualization, perhaps nervous or frantic at times, in which the order of appearance of the phrases and the arrangement of the images generate diverse yet simultaneous readings.

SRAP1New media theorist Lev Manovich argues that, in contraposition to linear perspective as the “symbolic form” of modernity (as proposed by art historian Erwin Panofsky), the  database is the symbolic form of the computer age; it is how we structure a world that seems like “an infinite and unstructured collection of images, texts, and other data records.” According to Manovich, most new media objects can be understood as “the construction of an interface for a database” even if they do not possess a database structure. This is clearly related to the process of audiovisual montage: the function of the editor (the “algorithm” that operates in this case) is to facilitate the viewer’s access to the content of the database by weaving a discourse or a visual narrative.

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