“A Dialogue Between Two Eyeballs” by Braxton Soderman

Screen capture from "A Dialogue Between Two Eyeballs" by Braxton Soderman. Black backgorund with stripes of white. text: "B: Well, I don't know how to tell / two things apart, in the / silence of sheer indecision / in the impossibility of / the infinitesiaml, where / the absence of motion / sheds a still nightmare". "
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This kinetic poem is takes the ancient rhetorical and poetic device of the dialogue to investigate the virtual, conceptual, and perceptual spaces of programmable media. Inspired by theoretical writings by John Cayley and Jean-François Lyotard, this poem explores binaries between past and present, old and new, letter and word, simple and complex writing surfaces, and the right and left eye— each of which has a distinct voice and perspective on the topic.

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“Cloud #1” by Braxton Soderman

Screen capture from “Cloud #1” by Braxton Soderman. White text on a light blue background. Text: "on this quiet and open morning I sit before the worn window. the sky is  intoxicated but sorrowful. things progress on their eternal way. although it is all changing, it is silent and strange and overcome by monstrous  permanence. I want to see colorful leaves, but the trees are dead and still.  my clothed and guarded thoughts are slowly dismantled. time has become cloudy  and opaque. this jealous and lonely partner, perfect sadness for all that is spiritless, smooth, little, and harsh. my soft ideas are lifted from early  slumbers, at the brief moment when it remains dynamic and flawless, not tinted  by learned old age. dark, ringing, absolutely. my eyes cannot help but be moving, watching what the vague sky lifts above the hard ground, the artless earth. the unfixed clouds harbor what is unthinkable, imaginary islands, clothed in irate and informed dreams, each imperfect shift causes a salvo of short  recognition before it falls oblivious. it is all destroyed. it is all obvious.  for one agonizing moment, I am absent and nothing will make me afraid."
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This mutable poem explores a simple concept, word substitution, using sophisticated tools. The data set is WordNet, which clusters words conceptually so substitutions are governed by synonymy, metonymy, and semantics which should allow the prose poem to retain some coherence. But does it? Here’s the poem after running for minute or so: image

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“The Defacement of Desire” by Braxton Soderman and Roxanne Carter

Screen shot from “The Defacement of Desire” by Braxton Soderman and Roxanne Carter. An empty room with pictures of women as walls and, also, as the floor. In the middle there is a rectangle with a distorted text that is not very readable.
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This collaborative poem is designed as an installation at Brown University’s CAVE, a cube-shaped room equipped with projection in all six directions, surround sound, and multiple input devices, such as 3D goggles, gloves, and head tracking. Soderman and Carter use this last input significantly in this work as described in their artists’ statement:

Surrounded by four giant close-ups of cinematic starlets gazing down upon you, there is no choice but to look (or look away). Using the built-in “headtracking” feature of the Cave, a portion of the starlet’s face in your line of sight fades away, thus interrupting the (masculine) desire to possess through the gaze: you cannot help but see through what you desire to possess.

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“Snowblind” by Braxton Soderman and Roxanne Carter

Screen capture from “Snowblind” by Braxton Soderman and Roxanne Carter. Black backround with white computer symbols like money symbols, numbers,numeric symbol, percentage asterisks, etc. Text “Nothing left to abstract/ an aggregate”.
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This collaborative poem was written for the CAVE at Brown University and is a relatively simple yet compelling argument for this kind of writing, initiated by Robert Coover in 2002. Other CAVE works reviewed in this blog have published video documentation of a performance, which is a far cry from the real deal, but considering it takes time and money to travel to Brown University to use their CAVE (and a prohibitive amount of money to build one), this will do. Soderman and Carter have gone a step further by providing access to the Cave Text Editor and the source files for readers to explore the work and run a preview of it.

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“Larvatus Prodeo” by Braxton Soderman and Roxanne Carter

"Larvatus Prodeo" by Braxton Soderman and Roxanne Carter. Text on white background. Text: "LARVATUS PRODEO / She went out at five o'clock, her crocodile skin handbag nestled under one arm, / her hands busy, rubbing salt between her fingertips. / From the door of the house she emerged in her grey tailored suit / A door soaked in blood, a door at once familiar and mysterious. / The birds in the trees called out, repeating like sirens. / down onto the sidewalk with an air of certainty and stability, / Walking forward she fixed her pillbox hat's netted veil in place, / How could she continue? / as if hooked to the bobby pins in her hair. / The birds in the trees called out, repeating like sirens. / It's not clear why this is happening. / She hurried along as long as anything could happen. / distracted by doll shoes, teeth-marked pencils, bottle caps and acorns. / She agonized over all of this. She bent down to retrieve a penny and, / The birds in the trees called out, repeating like sirens."
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This collaborative poem in three parts makes virtuoso use of the marquee tag, which along with the ever-annoying blink tag, has been disavowed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which imperils its existence in future browsers. Each of its parts uses this tag as a central device for shaping its text in a different way to play with Barthes’ notion of how the past is reduced and turned into “a slim and pure logos” through narrative as well as with Descartes’ use of the latin phrase larvatus prodeo (I come forth, masked).

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“Visual Sonnet #1” by Braxton Soderman

Screen capture from "Visual Sonnet #1" by Braxton Soderman. Images are stacking on top of other images. Some have text written on them while others have eyes  of people on them. Text: "Creative Bookbinding" "m n o or r" "Le Hasard" The rest of the text is too small to read.
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This generative sonnet is inspired by Raymond Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes but takes a highly visual approach by using images of poets, book spines, and other images. The images are cropped into strips, much like the line-pages in Queneau’s book, an ideal proportion for book spines (see a similar treatment by Jody Zellen) and the photographed eyes of iconic poets. The lines respond to mouseovers, allowing you to change the work as needed.

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“Toward a Circulation of the Page” by Braxton Soderman

Screen capture from "Toward a Circulation of the Page" by Braxton Soderman. Beige background with two eyes spread broadly apart in the image. Many lines of overlapping text written in black, red and blue. Text "encompassing limitations that post- / structuralism fought against) - but they / engender a page-space that vibrates with / malleable potential, a space that can be / reused - and not just can be, but should be!"
“Toward a Circulation of the Page” by Braxton Soderman

This kinetic collage poem is built out of text by Soderman and quotes from eight pieces written by theorists and writers whose work reflects upon the nature of writing in spaces other than the printed page. Cut into lines and blocks of text, each of these textual portions are anchored or set adrift in a “page_space” designed by Soderman to allow them to move and rearrange themselves into new textual combinations. In addition to encouraging readers to click on texts to get other quotes from the same source, Soderman places several objects into the space that trigger different events, such as a book that stops the textual movement when clicked. The behaviors triggered by each of the objects remind the readers of how configurable the space for digital writing can be by enacting some of the concepts brought forth by the quoted writers.

This creative engagement of the potential Soderman saw for digital environments to radically reconfigure the interface of a page led to his 2005 Page Space experiment.

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