“…a challenge wrapped in velvet visuals…”
Reading mez’s short fiction
“ _][jus][texts_: email performance remnants_” which appears in the short
fiction collection “data][h!][bleeding
texts” is an exercise in making
meaning, deconstructing meaning, and making meaning again. Indeed, this
piece (it seems restrictive to call it a story or a poem as it is both
and neither) encourages a methodology of deconstructive reading, precisely
because it forces the reader to consciously construct like a child who
unconsciously constructs—like a newbie fisting a crayon. In the introduction
to the “data][h!][bleeding texts” collection (“__Datableeding: An Electroduction_”),
the reader is asked for her “childhood or secret][ed][ name,” which name
is later used to draw the reader’s attention to explanatory metatext.
The explanatory text goes on to explain to—in my case—“Goober” that she
should “Realign her constructs. Flow and Spark and glean.” Goober has
been asked to approach the text like an “unconstructed” (less entangled
in preconceived notions of language and reading) child who is less familiar
with her creative, meaning-making tools (seeing, hearing, and reasoning).
First asked to let go of her constructs, the reader is then introduced
in the “Electroduction_” to other new reading and reasoning methodologies.
Reading the six sections of “_][jus][texts_” involves using “the polysemic
language/code system termed _mezangelle_, which evolved/s from multifarious
email exchanges, computer code re:appropriation and net iconographs.”
Reasoning in the six sections of “_][jus][texts_” should be performed
ad hoc, as “Posthoc reasoning will not help comprehension.” So, let us
get this straight. Goober is to begin “_][jus][texts_: email performance
remnants_” by shedding preconceived notions of how to read in order to
follow new rules of comprehension so that she may improvise (that is,
construct ad hoc) meaning—deconstruction in order to construct what must
(by definition) be deconstructable. The most astounding aspect of this
experience is that the tools mez uses to enforce her reading methodologies
are common to literature: the written word (code), the spoken word (phonetics),
and the mode (manner of reading).
The first obstacle that the
reader encounters while reading “_][jus][texts_” is the visual word represented
by the author’s use of “_mezangelle_”:
to _mezangelle_ means
to take words/wordstrings/sentences and alter them in such a way as to
extend and enhance meaning beyond the predicted or the expected. it's
similar to making “plain” text hypertextual via the arrangement and dissection
of words & n.sertion of symbolic and actual code manipulation.
For example, in the “Electroduction,”
Goober could read the word/s “]]wo[[man.i]]n[[festing” as “won,” “woman,”
“woman infesting,” “manifesting,” etc. based on the interpretation of the
brackets and the context. Brackets and order options might remind Goober
(because she is a precocious child) of mathematical and computational syntax
which often demands alternative responses. In another instance in “_][jus][texts6_,”
“!!!STOP!!! . . . & s.eye” could be interpreted as “Stop and sigh,” or because
the “eye” is emphasized by the period placement, as “Stop and see” with
a long “e” like “key.” Word choice is not only a function the author invokes,
it is one she demands from the reader.
Word choice in “_][jus][texts_”
is usually employed in an atmosphere of play. In “_][jus][texts5_,” word
choices offered to the reader are often sexual. The word “self-automise”
is rendered as “zelf-auto[no] [sodo]mize” and “label” is “lab[ia]elle.”
Word choices also refer explicitly to play: “outside” is rendered as “out.s[ch]ide”
and “shedding” is “shed[yr skinne]ding[!].” The text teaches the reader
that to question hidden meanings in each word is a game in which the
goal is an alternate interpretation of the text—defamiliarization is
not alarming; it is part of the experience of reading. Because most
alternate word choices in the beginning lead to humorous alternative
readings, more serious interpretations pack a harder punch. For example,
or “ . . . . /Po[E].ST War[ning]” the last line “/P[H]ost orgasm yrself
in2 war[ning]z/.” could be interpreted as “Post the orgasm yourself
into war or warnings” or “Host orgasm (which is of yourself) into war
This section refers consistently to “war” and “warning”—interplay of
word choices implicates alternately the reader and/or the poet and/or
as either the creator/enjoyer of “war” or “warning” or the possible victim
or recipient of another’s enjoyment of “war” or “warning.” Goober can
choose between being the one who “posts” warning or who “hosts” war,
but Goober, used to play now, is conscious that her choice is superficial,
as both choices are simultaneously evident as reading possibilities.
The reader has been taught by the text to play with meaning, but in
playing with the meaning brings disturbing revelation about the reader’s
agency—or lack thereof.
The spoken word also has a
primary function in making meaning in “_][jus][texts_.” The reader
learns in the “Electroduction” that “phonetics are employed” and “reading
out-loud may help validate the phonetic allusions.” Indeed, as the
user clicks through each section of “Electroduction” (each of which
inhabits its own screen), a voice-over reads the headings out loud.
The voice sounds odd
at first, stressing the first syllable and elongating and shortening
the traditional syllabic segments of the word, but the reader soon
it is as if the voice were that of a child “sounding out” a new word.
In fact, Goober finds herself mimicking the intonations and hesitancies
of the “Electroduction” voice-over as she goes through the text herself
attempting to decipher the phonetic meaning of a word. In this electronic
environment, the text introduces “_mezangelle_” reading instructions
in two ways: (1) by sight and (2) by sound, thereby replicating the
and phonetic reading alternatives represented in the code on the screen.
Mez forces the reader to evaluate the process of reading while reading.
Often, both the written and
spoken word must be employed for understanding in “_][jus][texts_.” Indeed,
phonetics are essential when interpreting text like the following in “_][jus][texts6_”:
j[p]ackets++syn[thetic].asp.sez f.ire++boyz will b bouyz will knot be
beuys++eye M zoorounded++mi purrsonal wealth movez in fleshed N mus[k]cell.ed
In the above, “Purr” is the visual
representation of the pronunciation of “per” and as “eye M zoorounded” is
“I am surrounded.” In invoking the phonetics of speech here, mez offers
the reader a chance to see one meaning and hear another. The reader can
see “eye” and deliberate the subjectivity of the understood “I” as it relates
to what that “I” sees with the “eye.” The word “zoo” adds layers of meaning
to the word “surrounded,” invoking the image of an “I” being surrounded
by the impending chaos of the caged wild. Phonetics foreground the text
on the page. The reader cannot interpret the alternate meanings of a word
or sentence unless she says it out loud (in her voice or in her mind). In
this way, the text teaches the reader not to trust the visual meaning on
the page. As Goober finds herself “sounding out” the words in order to understand
them, she realizes that she is always conscious of language and meaning
as a process of construction and deconstruction.
Constant re-reading (as encouraged
by each “_][jus][text_”) provokes a careful consideration of the technologies
of making meaning. Questioning reading methodology is further encouraged
by the mode of each “_][jus][text_.” The “Electroduction” and the second
and fifth “_][jus][texts_” are organized in interspersed translations.
A section of the text appears in plain (normative) spelling, and then
it appears in _mezangelle_ (or vice-versa). For example:
[Goober , A Clue
insert for you: some of the square bracket sets are backward. Some are
set in a triptych, bracketing a meaning insert. Phonetics are employed.
Spaces are created. Realign your constructs. Flow and spark and glean.]
Then, later in the piece:
[Goober , a clue
n-sert 4 u: sum ov the squ.re brackettez setz r backward]inge off e-vil]e.
Some are set in a triptych, b.racket.ing a m][l][eaning insert. phonetic-tocks
r m]deployed[. spaces r created. re.aline yr construcktz. fl.ow]![ N
sparke N gleane.]
As explained earlier, using _mezangelle_
allows for multiple options, but using _mezangelle_ alongside normative
spelling is a mode that encourages more re-readings for both versions. Reading
“m] deployed[“ in the _mezangelle_ version informs the simple use of “employed”
in the normative version. “Deployed” lends meaning to the war metaphors
used in “_][jus][texts_” and makes the reader re-think the meaning of the
word “employed” as well. What is mez saying about the use of words? Are
words at the will of someone like employees of the boss or soldiers deployed
into combat? Re-reading one version informs reading the other. This translation
method is further complicated when the “normative version” takes on technical,
computer language which seems more “encoded” than the _mezangelle_ version.
In the next example from “_][jus][texts_2,” two iterations of similar text
that appear in parallel columns also provoke different readings:
and, two columns over, further
down in the text:
don't-nics_ [note: see attached teeth.avi for additional information]_
In this case, one reads the _mezangelle_
version first (as it appears in the left-hand column), which refers to “teleorthodontics,”
a reference to a hybrid of human and machine which is the main metaphor
of this section. The second reference, in normative (although allusive)
spelling, refers the reader to a fictional, attached “*.avi” file (possibly
an Audio Video Interleave File). The _mezangelle_ version may include allusions
to code language, but the normative version alludes to a file where code
is performed, a promise of an orthodontics video replete with visuals (Video)
and sound (Audio). Here, we see mez conflating modes, adding layer upon
layer of possible interpretations and reading experiences by pressing the
reader to make meaning in different ways.
The mode of reading encouraged
by “_][jus][texts_” utilizes and comments upon space and time. In the
“Electroduction,” mez’s reading instructions begin: Once up/down/on/under
a time, /me wrote a letter to the stars. This letter contained all the
available data on TTT (Textual Time Travel). TTT is a product of that
elusive new mind set, the time machined/mezangelled way of thinking, producing,
manifesting. The phrase “Once up/down/on/under a time” indicates how time
space is used in all six sections of “_][jus][texts_.” Unlike with paper
texts, Goober cannot opt to read one “_][jus][text_” before another. Each
text is linked to the next without a “back” button, and the browser toolbar
is disabled. The only way to go is forward through time and space is to
the next “_][jus][text_” or end the reading experience by closing the
window. Similarly, in some cases, the reader has no control over the reading
space and time of a single “_][jus][text_.” As shown in the illustration
below, “_][jus][text3_” contains floating crosses that obstruct the reader’s
vision. Often, the reader has to wait for a cross to finish its journey
over a word before the reader can go on making meaning:
In another case, in “_][jus][text3_”
words fly through the static text on the page towards the reader in quick
succession, fast enough that reading each word for meaning is difficult.
And, in the course of struggling for individual word meaning, the reader
loses the syntactical concept. It takes so long to comprehend each word
that understanding the meaning of the words together is difficult at first.
By the time Goober gets to the third word, she can’t remember the first.
In addition, the stream happens once per visit, and then words are gone
for good. The reader must revisit “_][jus][text3_”(through the gateways
of “1” and “2”) several times in order to understand the sentence that physically
(and so cognitively) alludes her. The following is a snapshot of the flying
words “~Nubile/Geossensory/Space/.here. ~Time/]signature][/Modality/Not
[Appli][cable/.here.” over the static text:
Text Time Travel is illustrated
in this piece with flying text just as it is discussed in the static text:
“ ‘flickering on2 spherical boundaries/ ‘renewed and never there.” By employing
(deploying?) movement itself in the text, mez reminds the reader that movement
is essential to making meaning in reading. She is demonstrating what she
so eloquently writes in “_][jus][text3_”:
We all fall prey
to the move, the jolt: others poke and prick through ashes designed
provoke, or tracts designed to placate. Whilst the motion catches a thread,
the thought may be strung between the words, encouraged, or artificially
rewired as a conduit for life...
Meaning happens, as mez shows
us, in space and time, in the mode or manner of reading, in the movement
between the enactment of a word (as visual, sound, or experience) and its
There is so much to unpack
in “ _][jus][texts_: email performance remnants_” (The title “just
these just texts? Or are they sounds and movements? Or are they meaning-making
machines?), but it is essential to begin with methodologies of reading.
The text demands the presence of the active reader in every detail. Titled
“email performance remnants,” the piece exists as a manifestation between
two forces, the sender (author) and the recipient (reader), the speaker
and the listener, the written and the read, the manifested and the comprehended.
The “Electroduction” immediately recognizes the reader as an important
cog in the meaning making wheel: [Clue insert:You, Goober , dear c.-auth.r
and reader, are the nodepoint. The point in the fluid. The point that
flows between, behind, before....comprehension critical/crucial.] What
is surprising about the creative complexity of reading methodologies
“ _][jus][texts_” is how mez accomplishes this kind of reading experience.
Like the inchoate child wielding that odd waxy stick and a fresh pad
processed pulp, the reader is encouraged by tried and true literary techniques
(word choice, phonetics, and mode) to be childlike, to create and recreate,
to “Flow and Spark and glean,” and once it is made, to let meaning go.
Because, as mez has taught Goober:
will not help comprehension. Read that first paragraph again.
mez [Mary-Anne Breeze] and
others. “The data][h!][bleeding T.ex][e]ts”. 1995. April 2003 <http://netwurkerz.de/mez/datableed/complete/index2.htm>.