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Algorithmic Translations

In Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995, C.T. Funkhouser remarks that the growing numbers of digital poets—and poetry readers—reflects a burgeoning interest in the expressive capabilities of computers, and the dynamic programs these computers utilize. For many poets, the expressive capabilities of computers and computer programs now play an integral role in the composition of poetry. Within contemporary visual poetics, these digital mediums now help artists create a thoroughfare for new nonlinear levels of textual exploration and fabrication and that could not otherwise exist without these mechanized vessels—vessels whose functionalities lie solely within the language of mathematics.


We tend to overlook that mathematics, much like any system of communication based on semantics, is, in fact, a language; and it is a language that has largely been ignored as a vehicle for textual translation. Algorithmic Translations attempt to acknowledge this vehicular disregard by utilizing the mathematical functionality found in graphic imaging software. This utilization adds an element of dimensionality to a textual work by mutating a text into a kind of graphic, nonlinear entity. Through a series of algorithmic calculations, the computer program expels an abstract image based upon the original topographical placement of the type on the space of the page. This algorithm transforms each letter, each mark of punctuation, into dendrites that extrude into the continuum of the page. Each image is inimitable; the image can never be recreated in the same way twice due to the program’s mathematical functionality during the algorithmic transformation (theoretically, this translational process could yield one hundred million works of visual poetry that are all aesthetically different, that are all derived from one original source, and that are all created with the touch of a button). This act of visual creation through mathematical computation serves to challenge the reader’s notion of comprehension, perceptibility, and language, through visual poetics.

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