Monday, May 02, 2011

Matthew Hollett Translates bpNichol's "The Complete Works"

As a visual artist who is interested in poetry and experimental literature, bpNichol has long been a source of inspiration. "The Complete Works" from "An H In the Heart" is one of my favourite poems; I love the way it epitomizes bp's playful exploration of combinatorics, meta-literature, typography, and visual systems.

In "The Complete Works (after bpNichol)", I sought to translate bp's poem into the realm of digital imaging; in the same way that bp's poem consists of every character on his keyboard, my image proposes every possible pixel colour. Wanting to echo the aesthetic of bp's typewritten text, I displayed the image as if in an old Mac OS window.

I made "The Complete Works (after bpNichol)" in 2006. At the time I was working on "index of first lines", a digital artwork in which I used PHP code to compile the first line of pixels from thousands of my digital photos. Much of my digital artwork involves mashing systems together, applying the rules or elements of one system to another to see what new systems emerge.


Matthew Hollett is a visual artist, web designer, and art educator. He is currently teaching at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

1 comment:

gary barwin said...


I wonder if the audio "complete works" would be white noise or silence?

In the original bp text, I love how there are two layers of irony. First, that all 'poetic' texts can be created through permutations of the given typewritten signs (cf. 100 monkeys) -- that there is a materiality to creation, poetry is made not of evanescent shadows and mysterious inspiration, but through these tangible and observable signs (and in Courier font, no less). You can, in fact, list the complete materials, as if you were in an Ikea factory and laid out all of parts for all possible Svens, Yvars, and Kiviks. The second irony is revealed in the very limited grid of the typewritten signs: poetry is so much more than text on paper, text in the equal grid of the typewritten page - there is an infinite variety of signs, sighs, vocalizations, localizations, glyphs in the air and mind. It's a 'there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of by your typewriter. And yet, of course, bp and others at the time, were brilliantly playing with and subverting the letter-making machinery of the popular typewriter.

Thanks for posting the complete works. It's nice to see them all there.