7º International Meeting of
Experimental, Sound & Visual Poetry
AN INTERVIEW WITH ANA MARIA URIBE
By Jorge Luiz Antonio (Brazil)
Fragmentos extraídos de la entrevista a Ana María Uribe realizada
por el artista brasileño Jorge Luiz Antonio en el 2003.
JLA - Do you think that this web contact is a new source of inspiration for your poetry?
AMU - Rather than being a source of inspiration, getting to know other digital poets via the Internet has helped me a lot in many ways. My source of inspiration - as I say elsewhere - are the letters themselves. I never participated in a collaborative work, although I made pieces for certain websites, like "Zoo", for "The Banner Art Collective", and "Deseo-Desejo-Desire", for Muriel Frega, who was putting up a page on desire. Exchanges in sites like Webartery taught me many things I might otherwise have missed or never tried, such as the use of Director. With it I made a CD-ROM of my work.
The answer to both questions is yes. Interviews help to define concepts, especially in my case, since I am quite lazy and not prone to theoretical analysis.
And, yes, since that interview there were some changes.
First, my use of matter (i.e., letters) became freer. Before that (let us say, until mid 2001) I felt I had a duty to my minimalist aesthetic standards, probably a consequence of the Bauhaus tradition in which I had been brought up. That is why in my works I only used one font, and only two or three characters from this font, e.g., "P" and "R", but never the whole alphabet in one poem. In "The Circus", which I began in the second half of 2001, not only did I start using all the letters of the alphabet, but I even modified their shape. This would have been taboo to me in 1999, something against my principles.
After "The Circus" sound became more important. It is essential in works like "Orchestra Rehearsal" or "Discipline".
In 2002 poems began to have a plot. There is a timeline with a starting point, a climax and a denouement, however simple it may be. The characters in "Discipline" already appeared in "The Circus", but now they are subject to the tyranny of a very cruel dictator.
Fourth and last, I returned to words.
When I started Anipoems in 1997, I gradually moved from words to letters. Only "Hojas rojas secas" ("Dry Red Leaves"), 1997, contained words. I found letters could be independent; they had a life of their own. For five years, characters were the heroes of my pieces.
Then I found I was really worried. Would letters also dissolve into smaller and smaller fragments (as words had done) and thereby cease to exist? Instead of being nurtured in the warm womb of the word, would they atomize and disappear forever?
Then I wrote "Deseo-Desejo-Desire", which marks my return to words.
JLA - Biographies usually contain other references such as profession or studies, besides works. This is sometimes a way of understanding the work and the author. I would like to know if your academic education contributed to the development of your poetry.
AMU - It was, however, undoubtedly the environment I was born to which contributed most to the development of my work. My father, besides being a civil engineer, was a writer and art critic. He introduced me to "Diagonal Cero", a magazine devoted to visual poetry which was published here, in La Plata, by Edgardo Antonio Vigo. More recently, in 1990, it was he who gave me the "Dictionary of the Khazars", which is so intimately related to hypertext, at a time when I did not dream yet of writing computer poetry. At home these were normal subjects of conversation.
AMU - Given the nature of the genre, I tried different media. For example, "Dry Red Leaves" was one of my old Typoems, typed with a Lettera 22 typewriter in the Pica font, which looked like Courier. Later I started a movie of the poem in 8 mm, which I did not finish, and then a poster, stamped with rubber blocks. Those characters were strange. They were not standard fonts. In 1997, when I bought my first computer and started Anipoems, I copied the poster letters, drawing them one by one with Coreldraw, and thus I made the animated poem. So this work has been around for thirty years in various media and versions.
JLA - What is the relationship between poetry and technology in your case?
AMU - I describe myself as "a visual poet who uses electronic means". So I am not a full web artist. I am, above all, a visual poet. My oldest web works are animated gifs, and the most recent ones are Flash or Shockwave animations. I have not used yet any interactivity or generativity, because I did not find a good reason to do so. The main thing is an interesting result, and not the use of any specific tool or web feature. I like the tool to do what I want, although I might do with it many other things I don't do.
Well, at least I keep trying. However, I must tell you something. The photos you know were all taken in one session a year and a half ago. I had had a bicycle accident and I had hurt my face, and I looked better when I smiled or when I turned sidewards.
I translated several books from different languages out of necessity. Apart from that, I was always interested in languages. When I studied philosophy and even afterwards I learned Hebrew and some Japanese. I have almost completely forgotten these languages but I could easily recapture them after some reading, since one forgets words but not mechanisms. Nevertheless, what prevails in my poems is the visual component, and at present I would like to master the intimacies of some script other than the Roman one.
If there is an "insight", it comes from the letters themselves, from their secret identity, which is revealed to me when I least expect it.
My poetry does not really contain purely Argentine elements, except occasionally, as in "Desire", where the "s" and the "i" dance a tango and compose the Spanish word "si", which suggests acceptance (="yes") but on a second reading may just be conditional (="if").
I never put the matter in these terms, because I do not feel tied to a particular time or place. What I do find in my work is that -as I told Megan- what attracts people from a certain cultural environment -e.g., the English speaking world- is not what captures the attention of people from other cultures like mine. In that interview I mentioned the "Ladders" (1999), which are not noticed by English speakers, perhaps because they are not funny. I might as well speak about "A Herd of Centaurs" (1998). It was ignored by almost everybody in both areas, but it was appreciated in Romania, where it was mentioned in a newspaper review of my work, and in Russia, where its static version was printed.
As regards the second part of your question, I do not believe the Internet homogenizes poetry, not in the least. I do believe, however, that there is a stereotyped use of certain Photoshop or Flash effects, or a certain kind of interactivity and even generativity, which produces rather boring visual results. But when you have a good idea, you immediately eliminate the unnecessary and the cliché.
JLA - Do you think it has components that are common to every poet in the world?
AMU - I translated the titles into English. On the other hand, language is no obstacle to understanding my web work because most of the poems are based on letters and not words. This is natural: any references you find there are universal. It is obvious that differences in appreciation stem from the various cultural backgrounds.
Nevertheless, I would not say this about all electronic poetry. Some e-poems are very universal. Anybody can understand Duc Thuan's "She" although it is based on an English word. Jim Andrews "Seattle Drift" is visually so expressive that we sense its meaning even if we do not understand the text. We also have sound e-poems that do not require mastering any language. Most e-poetry, however, is language dependent.
JLA - Tell me something about your experience with poetry from the moment you began to use the computer, the Internet and the Web as a means of poetic communication.
AMU - I always had access to computers, but I was never interested in them. In July 1997, after a trip to Burma, I lost my job and I found myself with a lot of free time, so I bought a computer. I started making the animations with Corelmove, which was included with the printer. I then copied them frame by frame and pasted them to a gif animator. After this, I put up the website. The first message I received read: "What is this?" However, I did not give up.
Her printed and electronic work is bilingual:
Book "Typoems and Anipoems" (2001, Buenos Aires)
CD-ROM "Ladders and Other Anipoems" (2001, 2002, Buenos Aires)
Website "Typoems and Anipoems" (1997-2003), http://amuribe.tripod.com