[ISEA96] Paper: Roberta Lord – Holiness and Dread: Poetics in Electronic Art


Long Paper

Thus paper discusses the structure and aim of poetry, and suggests that the electronic arts are uniquely suited to duplicate the poetic experience. It reviews an argument that our species developed the computer as a new frontier to be colonized by the expanding human brain. It discusses specific electronic art works that, by generating new forms of poetic experience, reinforce this view of new media as virgin space into which human imagination is growing. It
mourns the schism between science and art, and between the mind and the soul, and entreats artists working with electronic media to work toward mending, rather than expanding the rift.

This paper has two aims:

1) to present a brief representative history of electronic artists’ direct use of poetic constructions, and

2) to investigate my premise that electronic media has engendered a new form of non-verbal poetry, that is, a means by which intellectual and emotional (appeal to spirit, memory, collective consciousness) sensibilities are poetically stimulated by the physical phenomenon of image transmission.

This paper presents an intuitive (vs. empirical) argument that just as traditional poetry, presented in oral or written form, comes to the receiver in a bombardment of discrete units (words, vocal rhythms, pauses), so do the pixelated transmissions of electronic media. The impact of both is a steady impingement on the consciousness that stimulates the receiver’s visceral awareness, that is we respond as though physically touched. The paper draws upon an eclectic range of examples, including the reach-out-and-touch-someone techniques pioneered by American evangelist Oral Roberts in his early television crusades, pop-physicist Robert Jastrow’s theories about our species’ “colonizing” of computers in order to provide more space for expansion of the human brain, and artist Michael Rees’ belief that we are in the midst of a complex paradigm shift wherein computer-generated image is reasserting itself as critical to the communication process as language, while, paradoxically, in order for that image to exist, it must first be described by language.

  • Roberta Lord, USA, writer

Full text p.46-49