Like “Translation” and other works by Cayley, this poem can be described as an installation piece: it is designed to run indefinitely. “Wotclock” uses texts and images from What We Will combined with speaking clock algorithms designed by Cayley in Hypercard since 1995. (For an early visual poem which informs this piece, see “The Speaking Clock.”)
This award-winning long poem by Cayley shifts in and out of intelligibility as it morphs from one stanza to the next, one group of letters at a time. Yet even when the traditional meanings of words are left behind, the generated words gesture towards meaning, especially as the synthesized voices read them aloud. Some of the most mellifluous moments in this poem occur when the voices read nonsense words and sparsely clustered letters.
This mesmerizing work by Cayley (with music by Giles Perring) invites the reader to look at this poem for a long time, searching for something to read, particularly if you cannot read French or German. Those patient enough are rewarded by words, phrases, lines, stanzas, and insight on the transformation of ideas when translated from one language to another, and the transmediation from an image of text into a digital text. Stare at the left column for long enough, and you’ll realize how much OCR (optical character recognition) we do when we read. Stare at the right, and you’ll realize how much we desire recognizing words, more than finding constellations in the stars.
Like the night sky, there is no end to this work. It ends with the reader’s aporia (that’s-it-I’m-done!) or epiphany (aha!)— which Espen Aarseth describes as “the dialectic between searching and finding” (91-2). If you become impatient, press Shift-E for about 5 seconds and the English translation will emerge. But don’t rush to understanding, or you might miss the point…
Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.