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Digital Dan’s Search for a Warm Body

Digital Dan in this case is Dan Waber, a “projected poet.” Not sure what a projected poet is? I wasn’t either so I went to see his show a couple of weeks ago and I must say, I enjoyed it. I could describe his work as computer-generated poetry, but it’s not computer-generated. It’s Dan Waber-generated poetry using a computer. He plays with his computer, but not in the way you play solitaire or D&D . This is total creator-side playing. He cuts up words and letters and animates them or creates new shapes with them. They swirl, fade, change, and exchange. Come here, go there.

His installation, five by five, is a good example. It’s a cube with projections of seemingly random words. As the cube twists or turns, the words float around changing direction and creating new phrases. It seems like a simple idea and not particularly unusual but the words are not random. He’s created provocative noun/verb/adjective patterns that evolve as the cube rotates and twists. For me, the best way to experience the idea is to watch a two word phrase as it moves around. For instance in the “sun blinks” selection, I watched the two words “open” and “arms.” I like the phrase “open arms” and wanted to see what would happen to it. I watched it move in and out, up and down, around, back, forth. It almost got lost at one point but it found its way out eventually. As other words fell in between the two or floated around them, all kinds of new images and ideas flowed through my mind. New phrases were created subliminally while the piece seethed. It’s a fun exercise if you invest the time. It’s a new form of poetry: interactive, user-inspired.

More of his user-inspired play can be found at http://logolalia.com. My personal favorite is “a as in dog” a minimalist demonstration using letters as pictures with slight animation added. Click on a letter and you’ll see how “dog” and “a” are related. Look closely, it’s subtle. I also enjoyed the “cantoos” section at logolalia.

Funny thing is his live show is mostly a walk-through of his web presentation. Silly? Maybe, except for one thing. Waber includes a chapbook in his live presentation and on the final page he states:

“Thank you for coming out on this February evening to experience in the company of a group of others what could have been experienced just as easily—if not easier—in the privacy of your own homes. To me, this is when the digital is at its best, when it serves to bring people together in the real world.

Now that’s interesting. Waber’s art can probably find an audience over the Internet easier than anywhere else. It’s digital, easily served up.  With a simple click I and all the other Dan Waber followers can go and view his creations. But that’s not enough. Waber needs confirmation that a warm body is getting his message. His art must have a warm body.

In other words, only warm bodies can validate art. You can put anything on the Internet. You can see anything on the Internet. But you can’t buy love there. You need a warm body for love. Let’s hear it for the warm bodies.

Sue Lange

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