E-Poetry 2005 London


Birkbeck, University of London hosted the third International E-Poetry 2005 London Conference and Festival 28 September – 1 October 2005 with support from LCACE, the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Enterprise and also in collaboration with LCACE partner, Royal Holloway University of London.  The Conference performances put British poets at the forefront of innovative artistic expression and positions the UK on the E-poetry map.  Major innovators, academics and creative artists working in this rapidly developing area attended the four day conference and contributed to the range of performances and academic lectures.


Professor Loss Pequeño Glazier stunned the audience of the first evening with his performance ‘Baila’.  Loss’s haunting voice drew metaphorical pictures as the projected computer screen randomly selected colourful images sparking off a dance routine for three professional dancers who were in harmony with the poetic message.


A diverse audience continued to experience the blossoming of new art forms enabled by cutting edge computers, software and other technology. Just as inexpensive video cameras and editing facilities gave birth to video art, we were able to see IT gestating  a major movement in literature, which permits a synthesis of words, music, graphics, fine art, video, animation and performance art; something new under the sun.


The conference gave an effective overview of what can happen when artists from many different disciplines use computers to extend and develop their practice.


For example - John Sparrow (Royal Holloway University of London curated an amazing collection of performances from rising British artists on the final day including Elizabeth-Jane Burnett’s performance ‘For the next twelve days I will be placing a rose”’.  She combined video art, site specific poetry, and performance art with audience participation. Her highly theatrical piece explored the familiar topic of love in an original way which audience members found extremely moving and emotionally provocative.


This technology also facilitates cooperative work between artists.  Poet Lawrence Upton teamed up with musician and sound improviser John Drever to create a collage of graphic images based on the alphabet with sounds initiated verbally by Lawrence which Mr. Drever then extrapolated on, using a large range of electronic sound techniques.


During the four days of the conference, a plethora of unusual projects appeared, sparking off ideas and bringing together arts practitioners who will create yet more ideas and projects.  Birkbeck’s PhD students presented ‘London Under Construction’ (Martìn Gubbíns, Piers Hugill, Doug Jones, Aodhán McCardle, Stephen Mooney, Chris Paul) combining their writing with a series of partial negotiations with each other, the city, and with the reception of the work by the audience.


Gavin Stewart of ‘Trace’ and Suzi Pritchard of ‘The Pleasure Dome’, both e-learning organisations met during the conference and decided to go into partnership to create a theatre/photography/music/poetry performance.  This could only happen because they met in an atmosphere of creative ferment and cooperation and were exposed to new ways of working.


Kate Pullinger is major novelist and playwright. In a segment of her new work, ‘The Breathing Wall’,   we saw what could happen when an innovative art project is properly financed and supported, in this case by an Arts Council grant. The story of a man wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of his lover is told through his dreams, both waking and sleeping in video and dialogue; an extraordinary twist, is that the pace of the sleeping dreams are regulated using recently developed software, by the breathing of a watcher, which can be any viewer.


In all there were more than 30 fascinating projects and talks at this festival and conference. Almost all were on the edge of the cutting edge, like Goldsmith College Professor Janis Jefferies’, lecture on ‘Electronic Cloth' or Jim Rosenberg’s complex ‘from Diagrams Series Six’ and Maria Damon’s lecture on cult figure ‘Alan Sondheim Internet Diaspora’


This conference was unique because information came from so many different directions; technology, science, academic research, visual arts, film, music, performance, sound, video, and dance. Previously, artists tended to work in a single genre, making bread or cheese or ice cream, painting, a song, a drama. Now they can put together all these ingredients together with the help of advanced electronics to create a brand new dish. And, as the technology is still in development, we have no way of knowing how far reaching the results of this integrated arts movement will be.


It was a privilege and pleasure to be present at E-Poetry 2005 London, at the birth of an art form,  like living in the 1920s and working in the new-fangled ‘movies’,  knowing that you are part of something  which has the potential to affect all of humanity or at least that section that loves the arts.


The computer will be to modern artists what pencil and paper were to the ancients when they moved from a reed and clay tablet to paper and pen, opening up a universe of possibilities.  LCACE has been a prime mover and expediter of this artistic magic in the UK and we hope to continue this role in the future.


e-journalism article by

Suzi Pritchard and

Marjorie Hoek

04 October 2005