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Crapshoot – Live at ZKM

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Mark Amerika’s new work of Net art and electronic writing, Crapshoot, is now live at the website of the ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art.

Crapshoot is a generative remix that mimics the form of Stéphane Mallarmé’s famous 1897 poem Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard (A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance).

In the construction of the poem, Mallarmé’s inventive use of spatial composition and innovative typography was a precursor to 20th century experiments in experimental poetry, language art, hypertext, and graphic design. Mallarmé’s specific instructions challenged the readers of his (and now our) time to rethink the way they engage with a text. In the case of Un Coup de Dés, he spread the poem over twenty pages inviting the reader to view each pair of consecutive facing pages as a continuous panel where the text moves across the entire plane of the open book. Various type sizes as well as use of bold and italic print keep the reader’s eyes dancing across the surface of the pages inviting the reader to participate in a more interactive reading style. One could say that Mallarmé’s visually pronounced interface plants a seed for what will, over a hundred years later, become the screen-based “apps” found on present-day tablet computers like the iPad. It is for this reason that Crapshoot, an artistic web application developed especially for electronic tablets, is conceived as a work of text-based Net art and electronic literature. By presenting an interface that requires swiping the screen instead of rolling the dice, the work invites the reader to trigger spontaneous “versions” of the work in what is commonly referred to as landscape mode but that in Crapshoot becomes an interactive poetics.

The words and phrases that populate Crapshoot were constructed over eighteen months. As an instantaneously triggered field of poetic expression, the various texts that appear and then disappear with each swipe of the finger (or, in the case of laptop use, each hit of the arrow key) remix many philosophical and artistic theories associated with chance operations, psychic automatism, Freud’s Mystic Writing Pad, as well as the artist’s unconscious desire to manipulate language in a highly charged rhetorical field of distribution. The work also attempts to engage in a more subtle, critical and theoretical dialogue with recent high-profile philosophical works that address Mallarmé’s famous work, particularly Quentin Meillassoux’s The Number and the Siren: A Decipherment of Mallarmé’s Coup de Des and Jacques Ranciere’s Mallarmé: The Politics of the Siren.

The artist wishes to thank to Will Luers for his collaboration on the code and design as well as many conversations about the project at the best coffee shops in Portland.

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