THREE:three: [via Guest editor Rachel Robinson] / Ana María Uribe: ciberpoesía semiótica’ pt 1

Still from ‘Disciplina’ (2002)

In her anipoemas and tipoemas, which were written with Macromedia Flash, Ana María Uribe (Buenos Aires 1944-2004) playfully strips language down to its basic units, particularly to letters and punctuation. Uribe takes the trajectory of writing visual and concrete poetry from the page to the digital medium, engaging in what María Andrea Giovine calls ‘ciberpoesía semiótica’. The change from the page to the web in Uribe’s works at first seems to adhere to the concretist projection that making the concrete poems digital will continue its invitation to the reader to participate actively. However, her animated poems, instead of creating more space for the reader’s participation, indeed emphasize the author’s role in the process of creation, and that her static poems in contrast bring to the fore the relationship between reader and text. Nonetheless, both the static and animated poems express poetry’s inherent self-assembly.

‘Serenas en cardumen 2’ (Anipoem, 1998)

In this version of the poem, the ‘t’s appear and disappear at quick, interspersed moments into a diamond shape and back onto the screen, as though they were appearing and disappearing in water. In another version in the same series, the mermaids stay in their diamond ‘shoal’ position, changing from black to white as the background flashes the opposite colour (when the ‘t’s are white, the background is black, and vice-versa). The change of background brings to mind a flash of lightning in a storm lighting up the water and revealing the mermaids with light.

‘Centauros en manada 2’ (1998)

In some versions of these poems, the ‘h’s move in groups of three (with an occasional solo ‘h’) from left to right or right to left, depending on which way the letters face, with their ‘heads’ (the serif at the top of the vertical line of the ‘h’) leading the direction in which they move, as though they were centaurs in a moving herd. The letters are different sizes, which adds depth to the scene, which visually imitates a herd of moving centaurs.

Details from ‘Disciplina’ (2002)

In this poem, capital ‘H’s of distinct colours march in unison in place and across the page, moving one ‘leg’ or ‘arm’ up and down to a marching beat while a dictatorial voice yells what seem like commands in gibberish. On the one hand, the ‘H’s seem to have individual identities and spirits. Each ‘H’ is a distinct colour, and by moving on the screen without the help of the reader or any obvious controlling force, the letters seem to be freely ‘alive’, or animate. On the other, as one watches and listens to the poem, one quickly recognizes that the letters are not as ‘free’ as one might think. Firstly, they are all moving in unison, so while they might be animated, their individual ‘spirits’ have been stripped away. In addition, it seems as though they are following the commands of the gibberish voice, as though they were soldiers or prisoners. Through this march in unison, the letters also lose their ‘individuality’ or ‘freedom’ aurally. If it were one ‘H’ on the screen, perhaps you would say the letter ‘hache’ when reading the poem allowed. However, once an ‘h’ is placed on the Saussurean axis of combination, the letter, in Spanish, ceases to be pronounced at all. In other words, the letters placed in this march together become muted; as Uribe herself states, the ‘h’ is ‘a letter which in Spanish is always mute [and is] tyrannized by a dictator’. In other words, their voices cease to be heard. If the ‘H’s are the objects of this discipline, then who (or what) is its subject? Is it the voice commanding in gibberish? Or is it the code that was written for Macromedia Flash? If so, then these ‘H’s only have free spirits insofar as they have been written to move on the screen. What, then, is the role of the author? Does the author control what happens, or does s/he facilitate something that happens on its own? Is s/he like Rimbaud’s concert master who waves his bow and the symphony comes onto the stage of its own accord? The poet is the one who uses Flash to tell the computer to command both the letters and the gibberish sounds to act.