If the quality of net art is to be measured by the number of pop-up windows one produces, i will score very badly indeed.
Why do all these artists use a pop up window? To liberate their art from the burden of browsers. To make it ‘autonomous’ on the screen. Do they succeed by using a pop-up? Hardly: one ‘window’ is replaced by another ‘window’, and a worse one because it’s an aggressive one, purposely and quite efficiently blocked by most browsers these days. And it rips the work they present right out of the context it was put into. Makes you kinda wonder why it was put there in the first place, no?
Why do all these artists make art on the web? To manifest their artistic message in the realm of browsers, to get hold of the incredible potential audience out there. Because it’s the cool thing to do. Whenever they get hold of one individual from that audience they start beating her to kingdom come with pop-ups that almost literally state that you’re so stupid trying to use a browser. Not very logical, is it?
It has gotten so bad with pop-up nart, that i suspect real net art lovers will discard my site at first glance because i don’t start my program by putting a scream in your face. i’m too bleeding polite. Ok. so to promote myself i should say :i hate you all? you smell of commerce? you’re unclean and you’re ugly? Now go ’n have a look at my site will you, please?
Things that don’t work, because you don’t have your reasons thought through. I did it all the time, and do it still, making mistakes like that. These are interesting times, the Chinese way. But at least i try to learn and avoid.
I see two reasons to put my work on the web.
One is to make my texts available in the best readable way. Not very much for my own sake but because i respect my texts: they were and are living processes for me. They are better than me in most aspects. I’m just the guy who happened to write them (down) but in fact they are the outcome of several other processes involving more than i can even grasp.I put them on the web because some of them have convinced me, as a reader. I put the rest of them that might be utter junk out too because i don’t trust myself completely. Time and you in time or someone else in other time will tell.
I don’t want my texts to be in that one shelf in the old and sleezy bookstore where it says ‘poetry’, badly infected with plagues of late-late-late Romanticism or post-post-post graduatism. Let others put them there if they think it’s any good. But i certainly don’t want them to be seen flying around like circus attractions in no popped-up Quicktime-there’s-a-new-version-out-now-would-you-like-to-upgrade movie either. I want those texts to be read, to live, to fail, to be discarded, to die. To stand on their own (or fall flat on their face). Because i have lived the moment they came into existence, through failures and mishaps, through nonsense and mistakes. I have lived that moment when a line or two suddenly appeared and spoke to me: ‘well, hey there, i’ve been here like for ages, glad you found me, can i go now?’.
The greatest achievement for poetry on the internet should be awarded to the engineers and technicians who are making better screens. The only thing real texts need is readability. Comfortable readability. We’re getting there, very slowly. Going from those green courier typed text on a black screen in the eighties to what you’re reading this from, wasn’t really a giant step forward in that respect. Those horrid little green buggers were in fact better for your eyes than staring at this on an old CRT screen*. Now these new plasma screens, i’m told they are a big improvement. I don’t own one yet, ‘cause i’m a poet. And poets are poor. That part hasn’t changed a bit.
Why are artists mostly poor? Because there’s no economic need for art. Economic processes can do without art very well. Societies too, in the sense that they don’t really miss it when it’s not there. They tend to replace living art with empty frames or flashing screens or old stuff that doesn’t really work anymore. Like old ladies have dogs for children, nothing wrong with that, mind you, but healthy young societies have real art at the very core. That’s why my Song for Europe is a weeping song mostly, i guess.
The second reason i put my work on the web is because it’s the perfect place to experiment with what text as an interactive process can do to images or to moving images or to icons or to sounds or to programming algorithms or vica versa or mixtures of all of these. That kind of text has nothing to do with the other kind, well, almost nothing. It’s about as close to poetry as a news magazine article is. Text that is meant to be responsive to human computer interaction is another kind of text than poetry. The only thing you can really do to help in the readability of poetry on the web is give some extras, like immediate access to translation or notes when it’s needed. Or you could place poetry next to some images when it is written as an extension to that image. I don’t very much believe that it is helpfull to put music or other audio in the environment you want poetry to be read in. What can be useful and give the reader better access to the text, is reading it out loud, so the reader can capture intonations and such so she can link that information to the inner voice that poetry tends to create when you read it. Mostly letting it be read by someone else than the author or by the author in a bad mood is a bad idea too. Some performers are very good at reading poetry and those should be trusted and encouraged to do so, most people, however, make a mess of it.
Authors can also add some special effects to their readings of their own poetry in order to stress some element that might otherwise remain hidden by the context in which it is being read, or you could also use poetry being read as an icon, something saying : ‘this is TS Eliot reading TS Eliot’. I mean you can use and abuse poetry anyway you want but you don’t enlarge the effect of poetry on the web by making it fly or wobble or whatever. You can do all those things to text that is meant to be responsive to user actions, but if you do it to poetry it’s like joggling the projection screen when there’s a Tarkovsky showing. Now that could be your idea of stating something meaningful and valuable and you’re entitled to do so, but it sure is ruining the show.
* the only real reason that i don’t use green text on a black background is that i’m unfashionable enough as it is, i guess