by Simon Biggs, 2008


The focus of many of my generative computer based poetic artworks is identity. These works address this focus through the use of interactive systems, where the relationship between the viewer and the artwork is explicit and active. The act of interaction is situated so as to raise questions concerning being and, through the process of communication, the linguistic foundations of identity.

Art is the human activity which can confound basic sense and allow us to see things in a way we might otherwise not have considered. It is in the creation of disjuncture between the thing and its representation that we come to see the thing and its relation to other things (particularly ourselves) anew. In seeking to disturb the manner in which we see things, and thus our accepted notion of self as constructed through seeing, the objective to destabilise our sense of self can be met.

The primary point of differentiation we employ in order to maintain our sense of internal unity and uniqueness is that between self and other. The intent of the art works I make is to evoke a subjective failure of differentiation and a re-positing of self as non-singular, de-centred and distributed.

An issue here is how communication and creativity function in respect of the differentiation of self. This is a subject within the general field of ontology and it could be argued that this might be described as of an onto-poetic nature; the manner in which self is brought into being through semiosis, as meaning arises from the interaction of signifying elements.

When readers engage a text they seek the intent, presence and definition of an author. A key element in establishing the author's presence is novelty; that which can be seen as more or less unique in the author's expression that allows the author to be differentiated relative to both the reader and their knowledge of other authors. It can be argued that a valuable dimension to this dynamic of differentiation is, for the reader, the self-reflective. Readers expect and seek the identification of an author in a text as a means to assist them in their own self-differentiation.

Reading a text can thus be regarded as a psycho-social act, where readers are concerned with their own constitution and differentiation, as social beings, through the treatment of the author as an avatar, or equivalent symbolic deployment, as imagined other. In this respect the function of reading can be regarded as congruent with the instantiation of a text determined through reading (by the reader) with the author fulfilling a role not as an actual other with independent intent, but as an internalised other that the reader employs to establish an internal voice. This process of internalised differentiation can thus be seen as part of a process of individuation and an assumption of responsibility, by the reader, of the bringing into being of the text. This process is self-affirming and functions to enhance a subjective sense of self.

The role of novelty in this is important. Too much novelty closes down the development of an instance of that internal voice that arises in the reader when engaging a text. If everything embodied in a text is so novel, so new, as to be alien to and entirely external to a reader's experience then that text will probably remain opaque and difficult to engage. Readers will be unable to differentiate the author in such manner that they are able to internalise the authorial voice and establish the required internal dynamic where meaning, and differentiation of self, can arise. The reader's search for closure around a significatory territory would fail and thus the reader would not be able to engage satisfactorily with the text.

The auto-linguistic artworks I make map an exploration of the manner in which this dynamic of differentiation through reading/writing can be disturbed and opened up as a conscious process. The primary element in this strategy has been the use of auto-generative texts, where the text appears correctly written and to be concerned with a particular subject but where there has been no authorial role other than the processes of a mechanised writing. The intent here is to create instances of textuality where the text is written of itself. That is to say, the text is generated as a function of language itself. Authorial intent is absent, replaced by a process of auto-generative writing.

Whilst there is a distinction to be made between writing and the production of meaning, when we engage a text we nevertheless expect it to be meaningful and for that to be a function of intent. When this expectation is disturbed semiosis and writing become disassociated. In the absence of a writer or intended meaning the reader only has available the option to contemplate their own act of reading. In auto-poetic artworks the viewer thus observes themselves reading endlessly self-generating texts.

Edinburgh, May 2008