The Universe is a Poem, and All Poems are Bullsh*t

I know that after last week we’re supposed to be developing reading strategies more sophisticated than “herp derp digital media is weird” but I really think that approach is appropriate here. Oni Buchanan’s The Mandrake Vehicles is an deconstruction and debunking of the poetic process. Each installment begins with a block of  text, which though lacking both context and coherence has a flowery poetic charm. Letters are evaporated from the text, leaving an utterly nonsensical collection of broken word fragments and random letters. Then–again seemingly at random–letters trickle down and coalesce like raindrops, puddling at the bottom of the page into a list of unrelated words. The remaining nonsense letters then condense on their rows, forming a long rambling stanza which, much like its antecedent text block, is is admittedly aesthetic, but defies clear understanding. The whole process is then repeated to produce yet another poem.

Maybe I’m just a philistine when it comes to poetry, but the text blocks and resulting poems were almost complete nonsense to me, having been produced by a nonsensical algorithm. If you’ll pardon some dog Latin: nonsensicus ex nonsensico. Individual lines sometimes seemed to have meaning, but the preceding and following lines were non-sequiturs. Unable to find meaning in the results, I tried to decipher the formative process, re-watching the animations for telling details. But empirical observation ultimately proved fruitless. I might as well have tried to spot the Higgs Boson in that deluge. Words would form and flip and flow away in the blink of an eye.

The Mandrake Vehicles strikes me as a metaphor for the the composition process of poetry in general, which in turn reflects on the way humans process information. If these poems had simply been been presented on a paper page, I would have pored over them for hidden meanings and underlying structures, conjectured as to authorial intent and historical context. And I would have found them. But instead I saw the nonsense poems take form from nonsense processes, and was disillusioned  The poem’s actual content was not made more nonsensical by the revelation, but my mind still categorized it as such. Yet can’t the same be said about how we interpret reality?  Just as we associate authority with words, we assume assume permanence in the physical world related to us by our senses. But really the world is composed of a multitude of vast laws and minute phenomenon that undetectable to humans. We receive a limited range of stimuli, losing much of the objective reality–evaporating letters. Then we subconsciously interpret the raw stimuli, forming tiny tangential thoughts and and distractions along the way–trickling words. The result is a warped, truncated simulation that we nevertheless entrust with full faith and credit to reflect the outside world–the resulting poem. And should we try to consciously extrapolate from or interpret our contrived little mental diorama, the whole rat race of raining letters repeats. Through her use of ephemeral digital animations Oni draws attention to our blind faith in the our subjective realities, revealing that all stimuli–be it printed text, physical senses, or digital abstractions–are simply information filtered through our subjective minds and thus equally untrustworthy.

Stray observations:

  • sometimes trickling letters would stop on a row and form a word, then bleeding or collecting more letters and continue their descent
  • on the second, but not the first, condensation letter will reverse order or jump lines
  • raccoon + raccoon = raccoon
  • sometimes trickling letters will arrive at the bottom in reverse order or clumps and move laterally to reach their final position
  • google ‘zerg rush’



~ by Freddie on February 24, 2013.

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