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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

The Active Text Project
Jason E. Lewis, Alex Weyers

The Concrete Poets of the '6os, and their Dada and Futurist forebears, treated the visual appearance of text as a principal participant in the production of meaning.Their interests in such experimentation grew out of a deeply held belief that traditional forms of written communication, with its clean spac ing, rectilinear layout, and sober letterforms, no longer could speak to the cultural schizophrenia of the modern age. Working within the constraints of traditional letterpress, these artists and poets man aged to explore text's visual presence in ways that seem fresh even to the MTV-jaded eyes of today. As concrete poets practicing at the beginning of a new century, we have embarked upon the Active Text Pro ject, an on-going experiment in radical ways of treat ing and interacting with the visual appearance of text in ways which reflect our post-millennial data devotion. Users can set glyphs, words, or entire pas sages in motion, pull them apart, blow them up, infect them with dynamic behaviors and even recon stitute them, in an attempt to deconstruct standard notions of text presentation and reception.

It's Alive!
The first major application of our project is It's Alive! This program allows the user to author dynamic and interactive texts in a fluid environment. Its function ality is best summarized as the mutant offspring of a text editor and Adobe AfterEffects.The user can enter, edit and lay out text as usual. Unlike a text edi tor, however, which requires her to constantly move from text to pull-down menu and back to adjust basic visual characteristics such as font, size and color, It's Alive! gives the user continuously variable con trols which provide continuous feedback.

Equal parts digital graffiti and digital concrete poetry, TextOrgan is the rave cousin of It's Alive! TextOrgan takes the It 's Alive! environment, adds a MIDI key board for quick access to all the functionality, and allows the user to either input text directly or to select among a set of prepared texts that are then streamed onto the screen. She can quickly build up an immensely rich collage of performance-specific poetry and found texts. TextOrgan was developed for use in conjunction with a DJ at musical events. By collaborating beforehand,the DJ and theTextOrgan-ist can choose a selection of texts and discuss what sort of mood or themes they want develop in the set. TheTextOrganist can also extract simple signal infor mation such as pitch and intensity from either the ambient environment or directly from the DJ's decks. This provides a mean of automating some of the text dynamics to be in synch with the beat, or to ebb and swell as the intensity of the music decreases and increases.