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response to "Authorship of Generative Art"

November 16, 2009

Those that shrink away from Gnoetry (At a Gnoetry demo here in Chicago a young woman sat down to use the software and shot up from her chair and backed away from the resulting poem slowly saying “Oh, no, no, no…” I can only hope she was horrified by the awesome beauty of the poem she and Gnoetry collaborated on) most often invoke tired notions of subjectivity, originality and creativity, as if those ideas are a) pure entities within any given individual human, untainted by something other than an “I” anb b) somehow completely eradicated by the fact that a machine is involved in a creative process. That said, the Olde Author Is Dead idea is equally banal, and in fact Gnoetry does nothing if not *multiply* authorship: end-user+(software/author of code)+source text author(s). The idea that Gnoetry shores up is the true one that *all* art is a collaborative process. To believe in the artist hunkered down, alone with her mad ideas, scribbling incredible things is her notebook is to believe in a social fantasy. The artist collects data and arranges that data in a way that can be deemed–within whatever social/cultural context she lives–as art. At its base, art is collaborative, since there needs to be another person to call it “art” in the first place, and that small audience has to get his ideas about art from somewhere…

In any case, Gnoetry shows that there is something of the random and the statistical in the creative process. To say this is *not* to reduce art to mere numbers and mechanics (I was accused of being a “used car salesman” at a reading in Iowa City during which I recited some Gnoetry) but to show that the human mind is a beautiful machine that can be artfully mimicked by a prosthetic device like Gnoetry.

Those against a machine involved in writing should look closely at their own use of word processors, or even consider dismissing out of hand all poetry written with a typewriter. The latter is a machine with its own rules (QWERTY, to say the least) and is not a transparent medium through which the human mind ‘translates’ its thoughts.

Gnoetry is a machine that helps us focus on the medium of language. That is, Gnoetry is a human machine that helps us focus on what it means to be poets.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. erogk7 permalink
    November 20, 2009 12:34 am

    Right on, Eric E. Oh, and since you are such a famous used car salesman, I'd really like to hear more about that Hybrid Ferrari Hummer Pinto Economy All-Terrain Sportsmobile you're selling. That's sounds like the car for me!

    Seriously, though, I think Gnoetry is a fantastic tool for giving writers a new way of engaging with language, and its GUI is user-friendly enough to make the processes behind it not nearly as important as the (limited, like a game is) writing process it makes possible and accessible.

    People who are "afraid" or uncomfortable with Gnoetry are probably also uncomfortable with many of the ideas and practices of the avant-garde in general, such as poetry that includes appropriation, citation, or even non-linearity and lack of subversion of the personal-subjective narrative. The poetry that comes out of collaborations Gnoetry unavoidably decenter the author and, if one is not simply enthralled with the adventures and misadventures of language and statistically-derived juxtaposition, this may initially be jarring for writers who began their writing experiences in a writing culture (Laureate Poetry, Official Verse Culture, School of Quietude, etc.) that may as well be alien to such practices and concepts. It took me a while to get over that baggage myself, and some of it still lingers for better or worse.

    I'm posting a quote from a Marjorie Perloff essay on the main page, just to put this in a more well-constructed poetical framework.

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