Hypertext Artists

Hypertext writing is becoming a fairly common means for writers to enter into the sphere of digital art. The First International Hypertext Competition took place in 1998 and pointed to a growth of webzines and online journals which promote the exploration of hypertexts. While hypertext writing utilizes the most fundamental of processes (links) as the tricks of the trade, the results are as varied as you could expect.

Alan Sondheim, a veteran poet and pioneer of the hypertext aesthetic, allows a program he has written to generate his poems. As the editor-at-large for Frame this Fall, Sondheim is at the helm of the online, hypertext cultural engine. Sondheim explains his method, “...the program is the matrix/catalyst/chora for subsequent processing. Once the program is transformed, I run it, enter sentences, bypassing the natural language of the questions. Run over and over again, texts emerge. The texts are then modified, sutured, eliminating program artefacts. The program itself undergoes continuous rewrite in relation to the texts. The program and the texts merge, diverge. I work towards the unimaginable representations of the imaginary. I pull emanants out from me, as if the body were wounded, as if ectoplasm were ASCII.”

Teri Hoskin, one of the winners at the First International Hypertext Competition, is the chief weaver in a project entitled, “Noon Quilt” (http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/quilt/index.html) which is an assemblage of patches submitted by writers from around the world. Together they form a fabric of noon-time impressions. The quilts were stitched over a period of approximately five months during 1998-1999. This survey offers one of the most various and lucid experiences of online writing in a hypertext environment.

Ame Chan (http://www.part1.org/amechan/) combines the diary, with the hypertext format to generate a unique brand of meta-fiction. The site presents the diary of an Australian born Japanese woman who visits her mother in Japan and decides to stay. Yet, in reality the author is an Australian woman living in Japan. The journal is updated weekly with photographs which help us place the character in a constructed reality. The work rests between fiction, the virtual space and our wired world because as a visitor you can send an email to the actual artist, addressed to Ame Chan, and you will soon find your comments effecting the life of the character. Ame Chan is an enchanting, morphing and mutable online interactive meta-fiction.

Hypertext writers have yet to be absorbed by the academy. Thankfully, the works evade objective judgment since every visitor reads a different version. Yet, the practice has quickly become a network of linked independent artists and writers. What's impelling is the way that collaborations come so naturally and often necessarily. For a community of artists(writers) which holds more workshops than any other, it is inspiring to see these interactions which would have never have happened otherwise. “More precisely it is how web-work blurs the boundaries between many traditionally discrete areas. I enter into fleshless interaction. Transformed and elsewhere, though not transported. We have not left the scene because this happens before our eyes...”(Talan Memmot)

©Scott Weiland 2000
Scott Weiland is a freelance editor, writer, and curator. He is an associate Interaction Designer at R/GA Digital Studios and is currently developing an editorial project for the journal, New Observations, entitled, "New Observations in New Media Art".
He is co-founder of Digital Art Source (http://www.digitalartsource.com).
All images credited to “Noon Quilt”, Teri Hoskin (http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/quilt/index.html)