Lines and Curves is an interactive online Flash project by Patrick Burgaud from France. It is a kind of writerly exploration in that, usually, the lines and curves involve the alphabet. It’s a lettristic excursion into Actionscript code to generate lines and curves.
There are 26 Flash pieces in Lines and Curves; one for each letter in the alphabet. These are not specific to a particular language, i.e, there are few words involved. Some of the Flash pieces don’t even involve the alphabet, are more involved in abstract generative lines and curves.
But there’s a Preface of about a thousand words available in English and French. We read here that Burgaud is not a programmer; he uses Actionscripts created by others.
“I know nothing of mathematics, I do not understand the code lines I get from the Internet or books. I take them, break, mix, and modify them until I agree what I get on the screen. This involves numerous testing moments. The choice criteria we can argue about comprises what I as a reader discover, feel and imagine during the testing phases. I do not use programmation in the aesthetic context. These are the fundamental building blocks. I am looking for semiotic pleasure.”
So the pleasure of Lines and Curves is not of a Flash master but of a poet “looking for semiotic pleasure”. Decoupling the alphabet from words and exploring it as an inspiration of generative lines and curves. We explore the interactive work but we are always conscious that we are not so much generating ‘our own’ version of the work as exploring what Burgaud has explored in his search for semiotic pleasure in code of kinetic lines and curves. So we are mainly looking at what that pleasure consists of, for Burgaud. As well as for ourselves, of course. But it may consist of something different for ourselves than for Burgaud. This needn’t stop us from appreciating Burgaud’s, however. For instance, even if we are aware of much more sophisticated generative work, we can still appreciate Lines and Curves as something that is not only about the visual, kinetic work but also about a non-programmer poet’s encounter with the alphabet and Actionscript.
We’re able to view the Actionscript in the piece. This is important to being able to see it in the above way, perhaps.
Alexander Galloway described the modus operandi of using the code of others as a kind of folk art approach. In folk art, the ‘template’ is usually prominent; there is little emphasis on originality. Instead, it’s a sort of evolutionary approach: minor variation on the ‘tried and true’. Or using the old work more or less unchanged but in a new context. Of course, it’s possible for work to be ‘folkish’ along one axis and not another; folkish in its approach to programming but not to poetry, or vice-versa, for instance. Burgaud’s piece is folkish concerning its approach to programming but not to poetry. He has been a poet for many years.
Burgaud mentions Transitoire Observable. This term is associated with a group of mainly French “numerical artists” such as Burgaud, Alexandre Gherban, Philippe Bootz, Jean-Pierre Balpe, Philippe Castellin, Antoine Schmitt, and others.
“Transitoire Observable is a grouping of numerical artists. The group was created on February 6, 2003 by three numerical poets : Philippe Bootz, Alexandre Gherban and Tibor Papp. It has been joined by several other numerical artists. Each artist of the grouping has already known personal poetics. These artists are focusing on the globality of systems which are using computers and not only on the forms of surface which can be observed on-screen.”
(from the Transitoire Observable web site)
Patrick Burgaud and Philippe Bootz were the main organizers of the successful 2007 e-poetry conference in Paris.