Text in Visual Art: Material, Time-based and Interactive.

Instructor: Natalia Fedorova

Text in Visual Art: Material, Time-based and Interactive examines the role of text in visual arts in historical perspective. The course is separated into four blocks. The first, Old and New Media, provides a theoretical introduction and terminology for new media art critique and curating, as well as discussion of the possibilities of integration of new media art into contemporary art institutions. The second one, Material Textual Practices, illustrates text’s functioning within the boundaries of contemporary art. The last two blocks: Time-based Text, and Interactive and Performative Art and Text, reveal new media art behavioral practices.

The course mostly relies on online materials as illustrations of possible practical implementations of the curatorial modes discussed. The unique feature of the course is a series of class visits by acknowledged practitioners such as Alexander Gornon, Factory of Found Clothes, Laboratory of Poetic Actionism, as well as Skype talks with Nick Montfort, Amaranth Borsuk, Samantha Gorman, John Cayley, JR Carpenter and Roberto Simanowski. There will also be field trips to the Russian Museum, the Erarta Museum, NCCA Cyland Media Art Laboratory, and Mikhail Karasik’s workshop.

Visual artists have long incorporated words into their work, from Marcel Duchamp’s clever ready-mades and Tom Phillips’ altered books to Jenny Holzer’s projected phrases. Many poets, too, were attuned to visual techniques in their work, from George Herbert’s shape poems and William Blake’s illuminated manuscripts to surrealist collages of cut-up language and letterist Hypergraphic. These works challenge the divide between art and language, blurring the line between them. The course will look at the history of the representation of language in visual art forms from futurism and the avant-garde to artists’ books, videopoetry, kinetic and new media art. The course explores their transition across national and media borders. Careful observation of the dynamics of correlations of text and art will allow students to contrast the notion of novelty in avant-garde, contemporary, and new media art, and to understand the shift from object- to process-based new media curatorial practices.

Students will be required to attend all seminars, to do assigned readings and to write short responses to them after each class, to do six assignments, and to present and realize a final curatorial project: a language-based art exhibition online via Sakai or, or at a physical location with celebration to follow.


  1. Short (1-2 pages) responses to reading and discussion in class (to be collected in art critique chapbook or blog at the end of the term)
  1. Six assignments:

Assignment 1: Bring in a piece of digital or analogue art that includes text, and prepare to provide the context for it.

Assignment 2: Choose a museum, festival or exhibition presenting material or digital text (e.g., FILE or Zebra Poetry Film Festival), and prepare to talk about its specific features.

Assignment 3: Write a short text or poem in a shape that characterizes you or is meaningful for you.

Assignment4: Make a collage of collected meaningful texts (and images) or alter a book to obtain additional meaning.

Assignment 5: Choose a comic that you feel is especially effective in telling its story visually.

Assignment 6: Play Facade or Last Express. Make sure to spend at least several hours with one of them.


  1. 3. Midterm and Final project:

Midterm project: Presentation and discussion of ideas for the final creative or curatorial project.

Final creative or curatorial project involves developing a conceptual base and realization (digital or material) of a collection of text-based artwork.

Tentative topics for curatorial projects:

Medium-based curatorial projects:

VIDEO.txt, videopoetry festival

Moving Words: kinetic poetry project

Bigger Sparta: a collection of object-poems inspired by Ian Finlay’s Little Sparta

Space Inhabited With Words and Objects (see Ilya Kabakov The Communal Kitchen, 1991) project (see Vuc Cosic or JODI)

Visual poetry online magazine (see Платформа)

Hypermedia project (see or

Collective Hypertext (see Mola or ROMAN)

One Move Interactive Fiction (see Aisle)

Thematic curatorial projects:

Writing on the Wall (Impressionist words, Symbolist words, Futurist words, Conceptual words, Zero-degree words, Pop words), words «written on the walls of art galleries»

Writing on Difficult Surfaces (city art or CAVE writing)

Transmedia project (see PROTOTOROID book, kinetic poem, CD, dance performance)

  1. 4. Optional task:

Presentation on a course related topic.

Tentative Topics:


Ideogrammatic Wrtitng Systems (e.g. Sumerian, Egyptian or Mesoamerican)

Poster Art (Constructivism, Bauhaus)

Surrealist Graphic Novel

Art and Language


Generative art (poetry generators)

Graffity World


Andre Breton

Max Ernst

El Lissitsky

Isidor Isou

Roy Lichtenstein

Vito Acconci

Carlfridrich Claus

Stanislav Drozdz

Lory Anderson

Ilya Kabakov

Jenny Holtzer

Jury Albert

Dmitry Gutov

Vuk Cosic


Rosa Barba

Anatol Knotek

Ivan Khimin

Orbita text group

Assessment criteria:

Assignments and reading responses: 50%

Final project proposal and final project: 25%

Participation: 15 %

Optional task: 10%


  • PDFs and linked readings on the blog (TBD).
  • Electronic Literature Collection Vol 2
  • Hayles, N. Katherine, WritingMachines. MIT Press, 2002.
  • Graham, Beryl, and Cook, Sarah, RethinkingCurating:ArtafterNewMedia. MIT Press. Cabridge, 2010.
  • Manovich, L., The Language of NewMedia. MIT Press, 2002.
  • Simanowski, R., Digital Art and Meaning. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
  • Schedule:

New and Old Media.

16.09.2013. Class 1. Introduction:

Reading the syllabus, talking about the assignments and course requirements.

Recent exhibitions

February 2012 – Codings, Pace Digital Gallery, New York

Teksts=Attels, KIM, Riga, Latvia

Heaps of Language/Ecstatic Alphabets, MOMA, NY

June 2013 – Текстологии, Четверть, Спб

Words Unstable on the Table, Waterman’s Theatre, London

August 2013 – Emergence of Electronic Literature at University of Bergen Library, Norway

Monday Begins of Saturday, Bergen Assembly 2013 Guide PDF

Assignment 1: Students bring in a piece of digital or analogue art that includes text and prepare to provide the context for it.


Lev Manovich, Avantgarde and Software. New York, 1999. 36-50

Marshall McLuhan, Interview

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, “Immediacy, Hypermediacy and Remediation,” Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000

23.09.2013. Class 2. Digital Media and Avant-garde Tradition. Remediation.

Continue discussing students’ examples of text based works of art.

How does the media shape the artwork and allow for convergence of text and image?

Shifting concepts of art production and perception. Problematic novelty of media art compared to avant-garde.

30.09.2012. Class 3. Image as a Text. Ideogramme and Calligramme. Pattern Poem.

Assignment 3: write a short text or poem in a shape that would characterize you or be meaningful for you.


Fenollosa, Ernest, and Ezra Pound. The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry. 1919

Dick Higgins, A Short History of Pattern Poetry: A Guide to Unknown Literature. Albany: The State University of New York, 1987
Samples of Early Visual Poetry

Татьяна Назаренко Визуальная поэзия

Татьяна Бонч-Осмоловская Изображение сердца в Европейской фигурной поэзии

Симеон Полоцкий «От избытка сердца»

«Благоприветствие царю Алексею Михайловичу на рождение цесаревича Симеона»
Guillaume Apollinaire, Selections from Calligrammes (1912-18)
StéphaneMallarmé,“One Toss of the Dice Never Will Abolish Chance”(1897)


WillHill “TheSchwittersLegacy” PDF

SamplesofSchwittersMerz .

07.10.2013. Class 4. Futurist books and painting (class in the Avant-garde Museum).

Futurist books and painting.

F.T.Marinetti Paroli in liberta

В. Хлебников, А. Крученых Слово как таковое (1913)

Павел Родькин Футуризм и современное визуальное искусство ― М, 2006

Russian Avant-Garde Books from the Getty museum (1912-14)

14.10.2013. Field trip: visit to Michael Karasik’ workshop.


Class 5. Surrealism. Arbitrarity of Linguistic and Visual Sign.

Мишель Фуко. Письменность вещей//Слова и Вещи.

Людвиг Виттгенштайн. Логико-философский трактат.

Rene Magritte Interpretation of Dreams (1927)

The Betrayal of Images (1928-1929)

Words and Images (1928)

21.10.2013. Class 6. Book as an Object: Artist’s Book vs Samizdat. Erased and Found Texts. Field trip: visit to Andrey Bely Centre.

The Myth Of Democratic Multiple and the book as a form of art

Assignment 4: Make a collage of collected meaningful texts or alter a book to obtain additional meaning.


Katherine Hayles. Writing Machines. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002

Artists’ Books Online


Tom Phillips A Humument

Jen Bervin Nets

Эрль В. В поисках за утраченным Хейфом. – Спб., 1999

Oni Buchanan The Mandrake Vehicles.(ELC II)

28.10.2013. Class 7. Object as a Text. Class visit: Factory of Found Clothes.

Class 11: Letterism and Concretism. Image and Sound.


Lussier, Pascal-Denis. The Ani-Art of Art Built on Un-Creating Past Creative Creations. Absurdist Monthly Review -Issue 10

Letterism and Hypergraphics. The Unknown Avant-Garde.

Manifesto of Letterim Poetry

Letterist Pages

Emmett Williams, Sweethearts
Öyvind Fahlström:Manifesto for Concrete Poetry(1955)
Eugene Gomringer:Concrete Poetry(1956),

The Poem as Functional Object(1960),
“Silencio” and “Wind”

Steve McCafferty, “Carnival(1967-75)
Décio Pignatari,“beba coca cola”(1957)
Max Bense,“Concrete Poetry I and II(1965)
Mary Ellen Solt, The New Poet-Reader”(1968),

Flowers in Concrete(1966)

Nick Montfort, Concrete Perl (2011)

Class 12: Class visit: Александр Горнон.

22.10.2012. Class 13 and 14.

Class 13: Conceptualism.

Language as a material and immaterialization of an art object grammar of the space. The language turn.


Koz, Liz. Words to be Looked at. The MIT Press, 2007

I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women. Les Figues Press,2011

Goldsmith, Kenneth. «Language as Material» Uncreative Writing:Managing Language in Digital Age, New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. p. 34-63

E-flux #29, 2011

Kenneth Goldsmith Soliloquy



Head Citation

Vanessa Place About

After Lyn HejinianAfter Lyn Hejinian


Jenny Holzer Short Vid on some of her work

Лаборатория Поэтического Акционизма «Пунктирная композиция» (стихи Андрея Монстырского)

Class 14: Class visit: Laboratory of Poetic Actionism.

29.10.2012. Class 15

Class 15: Discussion of final projects.

Midterm assignment: Presentation and discussion of ideas for the final creative or curatorial project.

Time-based Text and Visual Narrative.

05.11.2012. Class 16 and 17.

Class 16: Russian icon as a model of Visual Narrative. Field trip: Russian Museum. Visual narrative and writing used in painting to visualize speech.

Class 17: Visual Storytelling: graphic novel.

Assignment 5: Choose a comic that is especially effective in telling its story visually.


Roland Barthes. “Rhetoric of the Image.” Image, Music, Text. Ed. and trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1999. 32-51

Will Eisner Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative. Tamarak: Poorhouse Press, 1996. 17-23

Fra Angelico Annunciation (1432-1433)

Book of Kells (800 AD)

William Blake Illuminated Books

Roy Lichtenstein Hopeless (1963)

Ginsberg, Allen, and Eric Drooker. Howl : a graphic novel

Morice, Dave. Poetry comics : an animated anthology. New York: T&W Books, 2002

Alan Bigelow Brainstrips (ELC II)

12.11.2012. Class 18 and 19.

Class 18. Kinetic Art and Kinetic Text.


Perloff, Marjorie, “Screening the Page / Paging the Screen

Михайловская Т. Дмитрий Авалиани//Арион. – М., 2005 № 2. – с. 233- 236

Авалиани Д. Самурай.Листовертни. – М., 2003.

Авалиани Д. Листовертни (флэш).

АвалианиД. Листовертни.

BP Nichol: “First Screening: Computer Poems(1984)andIntroduction(2007)
Dan Waber’s Strings(1999)
Stefans, Brian Kim, Dreamlife of Letters(2000)
Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries,Dakota(2002)
Kenneth Koch and Alan Lastufka,A Social Life with Friends(2010)
Eileen Myles,You Make Me Smell(2010)
Simon Barraclaugh,Three “heart” poems(2011)
Zuzana Husárová,To MyselvesTo Myselves(2011)

Class 19: Case Study: Codings, Pace Digital Gallery, NY, 2011.

Codings (catalogue). Pace Digital Gallery, NY. Curated by Nick MontfortCodings (catalogue). Pace Digital Gallery, NY. Curated by Nick Montfort

Pall Thayer Microcodes
Adam ParrishAutonomous Parapoetic Device (APxD mkII)
Nick Montfort Sea and Spar Between

19.11.2012. Class 20 and 21.

Class 20: Poem Film, Essayfilm and Videopoetry.

Montage and rhythm in video composition. The non-illustrative canon. Institutionalization of videopoetry in festivals (Russia Пятая нога, Вентилятор, OЧЕVIDNO, Гидеон), VIDEO.txt and web portals (,


Ken Kelman Film As Poetry

Tom Konyves Videopoetry: A Manifesto
Willard Maas Poetry and the Film: A Symposium

Robert Lax

Man Ray, L’Étoile de mer (TheStarfish,1928)
Kate Greenstreet, Trailer
Funkhouser and Hufnagel,Grammar Girl(2010)
W.S. Merwin,Separation(Grace Cho, 2010)
Jhave, Videos(2009-2010)
Doyon-Rivest and Gibbons, Like Wings Abandoned from Some Future Score(2011)
InterviewwithSwoon(2011)and embedded filmNightVision(2011)
«Орбита», поэтическая группа. Видеотека

Class 21: Field trip: NCCA Cyland Media Art Lab.

Interactive and Performance Art and Text.

26.11.2012. Class 22 and 23.

Class 22. Hypertext and Hypermedia.


Bolter J. P. Writing space: The Сomputer, Hypertext and the History of Writing. – Hillsdale, 1991

Aarseth, E. J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, 1997

Роман Лейбов РОМАН (1991)

Shelly Jackson Patchwork Girl (1995)

Olia Lialina My Boyfriend Came Back From the War(1996)

Samantha Gorman Book of Kells (2004-2008)

JR Carpenter

Class 23. Hypertext and Hypermedia.Class visit: JR Carpenter/Roberto Simanowski.

03.12.2012. Class 24 and 25.


Class 24. Playable Media.

Assignment 6: Play Facade or Last Express. Make sure to spend several hours, at least, with at least one of them.

Nick Montfort Fretting the Player

Chatman, S. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1995.

Jenkins, H. “Game Design as Narrative Architecture,” in First Person: New Media as Story,

Electronic Literature Collection Vol 2

Sandy Baldwin NewWordOrder:Basra

Michael Matias and Andrew SternFacade

IFDB (Interactive Fiction Database)

Jordan Mechner LastExpress

Class 25. Interactive Textual Installations.


Simanowski, R. Digital Art and Meaning. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 120-158

David Small Illuminated Manuscript(2002)

Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv Text Rain(1999)

Screen (ELC II)

10.12.2012. Class 26 and 27

Class 26: Speaking Clocks and CAVE Writing. Class visit: John Cayley.

John Cayley, Speaking Clock

Cristian Maclay, The Clock

Another Day, collaborative writing project

Class 27. Writing in Zero Space.

Augmented reality or going back to the cave/CAVE?


Lisa Swanstrorm A review of: Jörgen Schäfer and Peter Gendolla, Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces and Genre

Rita Raley Writing.3D

Roberto Simanowski «Interactive Installations». Digital Art and Meaning. Minneapolis and Lonon: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 120-158
Jeffrey Shaw Legible City(1988-1991)

Amaranth BorsukBetween Page and Screen(2011)
John Cayley Writing on Complex Surfaces
Dan WaberI, You, We(2005)
Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin Listening Post(2001)

David Knoebel Words in Space:Oh(1999)

Rosa Barba W22

17.12.2012. Class 28 and 29.

Class 28. Class visit: Amaranth Borsuk.

Class 29. Text in Digital Performance.

Body moving in space and digital text.


Maria Backe «Self, Setting and Situation in Second Life». Literary Art in Digital Performance. Ed Francisco J. Ricardo. New York and London:Continuum, 2010. 109-140

The Last Performance

The Precession

Laurie Anderson: 0 and 1

Language is a Virus

Talan Memmot

Cris Cheek,’sdiscussionofMMOG Theory: Uncle Roy All Around

Second Life Texts of Alan Sondheim

Glide by Diana Slatterly as performance


Mez Archive:

24.12.2012. Class 30 and 31.

Class 30: Class visit Samantha Gorman.

Class 31. Final Exhibition and celebration.

Recommended Reading:

Bazin, Andre “The Ontology of the PhotographicImage”,What Is Cinema. Berkley:University of CaliforniaPress,1968.

Arnheim, Rudolph, Excerptsfrom Film as Art. Berkeley:University of CaliforniaPress,1957.

Aarseth, Espen. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA:MIT Press, 1999.

Bordwell, David, “Historical Poetics of Cinema “In R. BartonPalmer, The Cinematic Text: Methods and Approaches [Special Issue] Georgia State Literary Studies 3(1989):369-398.

Counsell, Colin, and Laurie Wolf, eds. Performance Analysis: an Introductory Coursebook. London: Routledge, 2001.

Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology. 1967. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. 1st American ed.

Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.

Debord, Guy Society of Spectacle

Film Adaptation

Drucker, Joanna. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

_____. ‘Intimations of Immateriality: Graphical Form, Textual Sense, and the Electronic Environment.’ In Reimagining Textuality: Textual Studies in the Late Age of Print, edited by Loizeaux and Fraistat: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002.

Eisenstein, Sergei ,”Methods of Montage”inJayLeyda,ed., FilmForm, NewYork:Houghton Mifflin,1949

Funkhouser, Christopher T. Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007/

Hainich, Rolf R. Augmented Reality and Beyond: Booksurge, 2009.

Jull, Jesper “Videogames and the Classic Game Model”. Half-real: videogames between real rules and fictional worlds. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005:23-54.

The Oulipo Compendium. Harry Matthews, Ed. 1998.

McCaffery, Steve. Prior to Meaning: The Protosemantic and Poetics. Evanstown, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2001.

Montfort, Nick, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge, Mass:MIT,2003.
Kittler, Friedrich A. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.

Kostelanetz, Richard, ed. Scenarios: Scripts to Perform. 1st ed. Brooklyn, NY: Assembling, 1980.
Murray, Janet (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck. New York: Free Press.

Raymond Queneau, Exercises in Style. 1981.

Janecek. Zaum: The Transrational Poetry of Russian Futurism(1996).

Андреева Е. Все и ничто. Символические фигуры в искусстве второй половины XX века. – СПб., 2004.

Арнхейм Р. Язык, образ и конкретная поэзия//Арнхейм Р. Новые очерки по психологии искусства. – М., 1994. – с. 108 – 118.

Аронсон О. Слова и репродукции (комментарии к поэзии Льва Рубинштейна) //Логос. – М., 1999 № 6. – с. 144 – 156.

Генис А. Глаз и слово// Иностранная литература. – М., 1995 N 4

Крученых А.Е., Алягров (Якобсон Р.О.). Заумная гнига. – М., 1916.

Крученых А.Е. Взорваль. – Спб.: ЕУЫ, 1913.

Крученых А.Е., Хлебников В.В. Тэ ли лэ. – Спб, 1914. с. 226-230.

Голынко-Вольфсон Д. Интеллектуальные приключения гипертекста в России. – в рукописи.

Кацюба Е. Свалка.

Максуд Р. Искусство каллиграфии // Максуд Р. Ислам. – М., 1998. – с. 47 – 48

Назарли М. Особенности исламской каллиграфии//Наука и религия. – М., 1997 № 2. – с.33-37.

Никонова-Таршис А. Массаж тишины// Новое литературное обозрение. – М.,1997 № 23. – с. 279 – 280

Поляков В. В Книги русского кубофутуризма. ― 2-е изд., испр. и доп. ― М.: Гилея, 2007.

Сетевой проект: Выставка визуальной поэзии «Платформа»

Степанов А.Г. Фигурные стихи в исторической динамике: эволюция визуальной графики//Культура: Семиотика, феноменология, телеология. – Тверь, 2003. – с. 123- 137.

Штейнер Е. Картины из письменных знаков//Сознание в социокультурном измерении. – М., 1990. – с. 41-56.

Шубин Д. Искусство и технология. http://wwwhttp://wwwhttp://wwwhttp://www./media/art/

Черновик: Альманах литературный визуальный.

Collection of links at

Useful Web Sites:

Artists’ Books Online

Aspen Multimedia Magazine (courtesy of

Booklike Tumblr Blog

Brazilian Visual Poetry

Concrete! A documentary about the Sackners

Contemporary Visual Poetry curated for Poetry magazine

Dotremont, Christian, Logogrammes

Dusie Journal and Chapbooks

Esopus Magazine

Ferrum Wheel Journal

The Fluxus Performance Workbook

Geof Huth’s Blog

Hernandez, Mara Visual Poetry

How2, Special section on “livres de poètes,” with photos and interviews by Dale Going

How2 Bookarts Feature, curated by Susan Johanknecht

The Intermedia Poetry Project

Mechanical Brides, Steve Calvert’s guide to Concrete Poetry

Moving Poems, Poetry films in different languages

The Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry

SCRIPT journal

Tom Phillips and A Humument

Electronic Literature Directory, colletion of lnks on Vispo


UbuWeb Visual Poetry Feature

Wave Books Erasures

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