pro][tean][.lapsing.txts by ][mez][
.......................... pro][tean][.lapsing.txts . .
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Re ____(ad.htm and pro][tean][.lapsing.txts

Both entries are collections of E-Mail messages, or, in the artist's terminology, "wurks"; "Re (ad.htm" was given an honorary mention by the festival jury of read_me 1.2.
In mid- to late 1990s, a subgenre of Net.art emerged in the Internet, particularly on mailing lists, which spoke in strange tongues of English interspersed with network protocol code, IRC slang, snippets of program code, programming and markup syntax, Unix commands, ASCII Art, often sent by pseudonymous entities as artistic spam to net cultural and arts-related mailing lists, and provoking all kinds of interesting questions such as "is this the work of a spam bot?", "was this text processed with algorithmic filters?". In 1997, the mailing list "7-11" became the melting pot of this activity, and the place for the Australian net artist mez to develop her "mezangelle" which systematically copies & pastes syntactical elements of all kinds of software and networking codes into a private language. Her "codework" - to use the genre description coined by Alan Sondheim -, semantically expands through syntactic condensation, using among others square brackets in the style of regular and boolean expressions to denote multiple, often contradictory meanings at once. In his essay "From Hypertext to Codework", critic McKenzie Wark writes: "Rather than link discrete blocs of text, or 'lexias,' to each other, Mez introduces the hypertext principle of multiplicity into the word itself. Rather than produce alternative trajectories through the text on the hypertext principle of 'choice,' here they co-exist within the same textual space." For her writing, mez uses Internet textual sources such as logged IRC conversations, Unix manpages, software output and programmer's diaries to rewrite it into highly subjective, para-essayist reflections on identities, genders and body politics where machines and humans meet and mangle in ever-unresolved twists.
Sure, this topic has been spelled out multiple times in popular culture, media theory and cultural studies alike, but mez succeeds to free it from all clichés and academisms by radically plunging into what has been called "the language of new media". Just as her wurk is "protean", i.e. ever-changing, through the para-algorithmic execution of bracketed expressions expand into multiple combinatory output sequences and meanings, it does not only reflect, but also produce protean identity.
After all, "mez" is only one arbitrary signifier among of a lapsing entity which also appears such under names as "][", "a][nti][nglo.cubic", "app][lick.ation][end.age", "][Buyo][Logical" "][co][De][e][p.rivation", "Cur.][O][va.ture", ".][depth][f.unction" "][die.][so][lution][", ".dirtee, codah.", "dis.[UR]Locate" "][D(NA).fence][", "Flesh, T.rage.dy", "]flewd[", "hu][bris, wo][man" "net.cod][a][e][x][r", "Seizu][o][r][d][e][r][", "self, re:ply.cator" "S.lee][k.ages][purr", "*star[.dot]*star", "St][o][asis" "strip::&::sponge::N.cryptor", "sub.sista", "][s][.Urge.Protect.][or][" ".traumachine."
The compilers "mezangelle" targets are fictitious and fantastic. But in contrast to a merely ornamental code chic and beyond a merely aesthetically pleasing self-reflexivity, this hybrid language serves to read and deconstruct the politics engendered into seemingly "neutral", technical codes. mez' work therefore can be read as a translation of syntax back into semantics. It makes sense from the codes of a technology which postmodern media theories enthusiastically believed to put an end to sense and human subjectivity once and for all. Expressing how precarious subjectivity and identity become in the Internet, mez' wurk nevertheless underlines the persistence of subjectivity, bodies charged with meaning.

by Florian Cramer, posted 06 Jun 2003


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