La Plissure du Texte

This panel will undertake a close scrutiny of La Plissure du Texte, taking into account both its creation in 1983 and its re-creation in 2010, discussing the work in its role as a landmark of New Media Art History as well as an art work which has shown the capability of regenerating itself as an entirely novel manifestation based upon the concepts of distributed authorship, textual mobility, emergent semiosis, multiple identity, and participatory poesis.
Dates: 
Saturday, 17 September, 2011 - 13:00 - 14:30
Chair Person: 
Elif Ayiter
Presenters: 
Roy Ascott
Presenters: 
Jan Baetens
Presenters: 
Elif Ayiter
Presenters: 
Max Moswitzer
Presenters: 
Selavy Oh
La Plissure du Texte 2, avatars
La Plissure du Texte 2, avatars
La Plissure du Texte 2, avatars
La Plissure du Texte 2, avatars
La Plissure du Texte 2, avatars

Chair: Elif Ayiter

Roy Ascott’s groundbreaking new media art work La Plissure du Texte (“The Pleating of the Text”) was created in 1983 and shown in Paris at the Musée de l’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris during that same year. The title of the project, “La Plissure du Texte: A Planetary Fairy Tale,” alludes to Roland Barthes’s book “Le Plaisir du Texte”, a famous discourse on authorship, semantic layering, and the creative role of the reader as the writer of the text.

In 2010, La Plissure du Texte re-incarnated as a three dimensional, interactive architecture created in the metaverse and was projected into Real Life in Seoul, Korea during the INDAF new media art festival held at Tomorrow City, Songdo, Incheon, throughout September 2010. Following Ascott’s original premise of distributed authorship, the fairy tale is now being told by a text driven architecture within which a population of robotic avatars tells the tale through endlessly generated conversations which are harvested from the Online Gutenberg Project. Additionally, visitors to the exhibit in the physical realm may also contribute to the generated text flow through SMS messages or via Twitter. Thus all pleated text - the generated, the contributed, and the stored - is simultaneously visible as a massive, ever evolving literary conglomeration.

This panel will undertake a close scrutiny of La Plissure du Texte, taking into account both its creation in 1983 and its re-creation in 2010, discussing the work in its role as a landmark of New Media Art History as well as an art work which has shown the capability of regenerating itself as an entirely novel manifestation based upon the concepts of distributed authorship, textual mobility, emergent semiosis, multiple identity, and participatory poesis.

Paper Abstracts

Distance Makes the Art Grow Further: Distributed Authorship and Telematic Textuality in La Plissure du Texte

by Prof. Roy Ascott

Roland Barthes’ canonical statement contains an understanding of textuality that lies at the center of this chapter and indeed informed the project it sets out to describe. The term telematics has its origins in the 1978 report to the French president by Alain Minc and Simon Nora concerning the con­vergence of telecommunications and computers, particularly in business and administration.

Distributed authorship is the term I coined to describe the remote interactive authoring process for the project La Plissure du Texte: A Planetary Fairytale, which is the principal subject of this text. My purpose here is to explore the genealogy of the project, how the concept of mind­at-a-distance developed in my thinking, and how the overarching appeal of the telematic medium replaced the plastic arts to which I had been com­mitted as an exhibiting artist for more than two decades.

The project arose in response to an invitation in 1982 from Frank Popper to participate in his exhibition Electra: Electricity and Electronics in the Art of the XXth Century at the Musèe Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in the fall of 1983. Popper had written previously on my work, and I was confident that his invitation offered a perfect opportunity to create a large-scale telematic event that would incorporate ideas and attitudes I had formed over the previous twenty or more years.

La Plissure du Texte: A Planetary Fairytale (LPDT) sought to set in motion a process by which an open-ended, nonlinear narrative might be constructed from an authoring “mind” whose distributed nodes were interacting asyn­chronically over great distances—on a planetary scale, in fact. As I examine it in retrospect, I see how a complexity of ideas can create a context for a work whose apparent simplicity masks a generative process that can bifurcate into many modes of expression and creation. It is the bifurcations of ideas speci.c to the context of LPDT—their branching and converging pathways—that I shall initially address in this chapter. The content itself is transparent, in­sofar as the text in its unfolding is its own witness.

Reading La Plissure du Texte "backwards"

by Prof. Jan Baetens

In the history of new media art and digital writing, Roy Ascott's La Plissure du Texte (Electra, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, 1983), a work using telematics to create in real-time a world-wide, collective narrative (more specifically, a collaborative, multi-player fairy tale), has proven a watershed moment (Plissure, n.d.). Basic concepts and issues of authorship, text, invention, and linearity, among others, have been dramatically redefined as well as implemented in a concrete practice (as much a process in itself as a model for further development) of distributed authorship, text as "work" (instead of "product"), users' participation, and multimedia connectivity, that it is no longer possible to study the art and technology field without taking into account this major achievement.

Putting the stakes of Ascott's involvement with collaborative world-making even higher, the recent upgrade and reconceptualization of this seminal work in the metaverse of Second Life, LPDT2, proves that the creative potential of La Plissure du Text is still intact, to say the least (LPDT2, 2010). Yet by creating a distance between the "old" and the "new", i.e.  by making the (once) "new" now (supposedly) "old", LPDT2 gives also the opportunity to come back on an aspect that may have been overlooked in the euphoric reception of the truly utopian first version of the work, namely the question of its "reading". So strong has been the emphasis on the shift towards the new paradigm of participation and connectivity, that the very question of the work's reading did no longer seem relevant. Reading instead of "doing", "performing", "cocreating" La Plissure du texte seemed an example of McLuhan's "rear-view mirror" approach of the future: (1967: 74-75).  The neglect of reading, however, is not fully motivated here. First because reading is much more than just decoding the words of a text, it has also to do with the various stances and attitudes one takes towards a work (in this sense, reading has to do with global cognitive and cultural issues of "perception"). Second because Ascott's key innovation has not been made from scratch. La Plissure du texte is indebted to all kind of textual ancestors (texts, models, authors). The revolution it brings about is not a tabula rasa, yet one new (big) leap in the history of art as connectivity, and it is plausible to argue that the relationship with this cultural and literary context, and hence the reading of it, is part of the work itself, so that participation can only be complete if one takes also into account the work's background.

LPDT2

by Elif Ayiter, co-authored with Max Moswitzer and Selavy Oh

LPDT2 is the metaverse incarnation of Roy Ascott’s groundbreaking new media art work La Plissure du Texte (“The Pleating of the Text”), created in 1983 and shown in Paris at the Musée de l’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris during that same year.

The title of the project, “La Plissure du Texte: A Planetary Fairy Tale,” alludes to Roland Barthes’s book “Le Plaisir du Texte”, a famous discourse on authorship, semantic layering, and the creative role of the reader as the writer of the text. As was also the case in its first incarnation “distributed authorship”, a term coined by Ascott has been the primary subject of investigation of LPDT2.
Whereas in 1983 the text was pleated by a number of human storytellers positioned around the globe; in the three dimensionally embodied metaverse the storytellers show novel and unexpected attributes: An emergent textual architecture/geography, as well as a population of autonomous “robot” avatars which dwell inside this bizarre, literary landscape are pleating the text by acting as communication nodes between the narrators of this new version of the tale: The primary persistent distributed authorship is now accomplished by many writers throughout the ages:

A text generator telling a non-linear, multi-faceted, often times poetic, story harvested from the famous online Gutenberg Project is now distributing its output amongst architecture and its inhabitants, generating dialogues and iterations taking their trajectories from masterworks of classical literature. The pleating resembles musical sampling, the connection between the sentences fades, text becomes noise, from which the audience generates meaning.

The structure on the simulator adds yet another layer of pleating by visually mixing the different sources of text, while yet another layer of textual input will be provided through a contribution by i-DAT.org from the University of Plymouth, UK, by means of which Real Life visitors will be able to contact the LPDT2 by sending SMS messages. Thus all pleated text - the generated, the contributed, and the stored - is simultaneously visible as a massive, ever evolving literary conglomeration.

Bios of the Participants

Roy Ascott

Roy Ascott is a British artist and theorist, who works with cybernetics and telematics, born in Bath, England. From 1955-59 he studied Fine Art at King’s College, University of Durham under Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton. On graduation he was appointed Studio Demonstrator (1959–61). He then moved to London, where he established the radical Groundcourse at Ealing Art College, which he subsequently established at Ipswich Civic College, in Suffolk. He was a visiting lecturer at other London art schools throughout the 1960s. Then he briefly was President of Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, before moving to California as Vice-President and Dean of San Francisco Art Institute, during the 1970s. He was Professor for Communications Theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna during the 1980s, and Professor of Technoetic Arts at the University of Wales, Newport in the 1990s. Ascott is also the founding president of the Planetary Collegium, an advanced research center which he set up in 2003 at the University of Plymouth, UK, where he is Professor of Technoetic Arts.

In 1964 Ascott published “Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision”. In 1968, he was elected Associate Member of the Institution of Computer Science, London (proposed by Gordon Pask). In 1972, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. His first telematic art project was La Plissure du Texte (1983), an online work of “distributed authorship” involving artists around the world. The second was his “gesamtdatenwerk” Aspects of Gaia: Digital Pathways across the Whole Earth (1989),an installation for the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, discussed by Matthew Wilson Smith in The Total Work of Art: from Bayreuth to Cyberspace, New York: Routledge, 2007.

Jan Baetens

Jan Baetens is professor of cultural studies at the University of Leuven (KUL). His reserach topics range from French poetry (which he also practices as a published poet) and word and image iteractions in so-called minor genres (graphic novel, photonovel, novellisation). He has written and edited various books, among which recently: "Pour le roman-photo" (Brussels, Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2010), and "Constrained Writing", a double special of Poetics Today, co-geustedited with JJ Poucel (vol. 30-4, 2009 and 31-1, 2010).

Elif Ayiter

Elif Ayiter is a designer and a researcher, teaching at Sabanci University, Istanbul. Her texts have been published at academic journals such as the Journal of Consciousness Studies and Technoetic Arts. She has presented creative as well as research output at conferences including Siggraph, Creativity and Cognition, Computational Aesthetics and Cyberworlds. She is also the chief editor of the journal Metaverse Creativity with Intellect Journals, UK and is currently studying for a doctoral degree at the Planetary Collegium, CAiiA hub, at the University of Plymouth with Roy Ascott.