Mezangelling language: net.wurked writing

MEZ [Mary-Anne Breeze] has been described as one of “the original net.artists” who is “…without doubt one of the most consistent, prolific, innovative artists working in new media today. Mez’s work with language has had a considerable effect on the language of many…” Since 1995, she has exhibited extensively via the internet and in ‘realtime.’

Can you tell me a little bit about the history of this text/language you’ve developed?

my “mezangelle” style of writing/textual construction][ that has at its base email dialogues and network exchanges][ underpins all my net.artwork, even the more image intensive versions. the format evolved from a series of emailed collaborative pieces carried out with m@ ][Matt Hoessli from the CADRE Institute][ on the 7-11 mailing list from 96 onwards. At the time, I was into switching avatarian cloaks ][the most regular being ‘ms post modemism’][ which is another defining criteria of my net.artwurk][“net.wurks”][. my particular ‘angle’ was to take various information text tracts and ‘mangle’ them through free/multi-word associative techniques and repost them–hence the term, mezangelle. this technique has developed since, with computer code conventions and regular chat/email iconographs contributing to its formulation.

i sometimes wish i hadn’t termed the style mezangelling, as it directs the language m.phasis 2wards the authorial side, and i’m not sure if this fits in2 its gradual enveloping nature…”mezangelle” was used for the obvious reasons, splitting the term in2 angel][le][, mangle, gel, mez etc…but it also had as a trigger JG Ballard’s adoption of his own name in his novel Crash; it seemed such a deliciously jarring concept that i decided it would fit with the fragmenting of narrative and auteurship i had in mind, considering the avatar swapping i usually n.gage in…now, though, i’m not so sure][…

Did you program a generator to translate english into hybrid new language or how are the translations made?

the text is purely self][human][-generated within a framework of mezangelled conventions and the net.wurk overall, with the aim b.ing 2 partially indicate a mechanised or hybrid organic/computerised feel.

it’s always a numbing process, trying to concretely describe the gradual shifts n.herent in mezangelling ][numbing in that i have 2 actually stop and cogitate for a while:)][. currently, the use of the double/inverted square-pair-bracket is the main distinguishing feature, and this is ][in part][ reactionary; after c-ing several of the more distinguishable features b.ing adopted in2 widespread usage ][well, widespread enough to realize its n.fluence, such as in various x.hibition “titles” & other new media work using key elements similar to mezangelle, etc][, i consciously d.sided 2 shift the emphasis 2wards a more polysemous approach. the use of the double bracket ][i like to think of it as triptych bracket][ is part compromise on my part, in that for a brief while i toyed with using the reversed bracket *only* but after trying it in one piece decided–for the sake of readability–that it was a no-goer. ][c, i *do* consider my audience 1nce in a while:)][ the trip.tych bracket allows for a cushioning of the enhanced/added meanings i m.bed fairly heavily in2 my texts, but when used extensively becomes quite complexly layered.

How did the initial idea gestate?

it was a smooth evolutionary process, utilizing email and chatlines as traditional correspondence techniques, then decompressing this to include more performative aspects–the collaboration elements were crucial, in that they opened up a previously bland informatic space into producing new artistic forms and genres.

Was it a response to something you considered missing on the net?

no, as the “net” ][in terms of net.art][ was largely formalizing into being around the time i first started my chat/textforays ][95][, so the process was more intuitive rather than prescriptive.

Did you have extensive previous experience with language/linguistics/syntax?

strangely enuff my professional arts career was kick-started as a hybrid writer/painter, though I was never satisfied with the medium][s][ and how my work was embraced within the umbrella-label ‘installation’. i had the urge to use the notion of scientific order to mask/covertly highlight another type of ‘random’ order and this led to the computer, 2 play & integration ][play is absolutely crucial to my work, if I don’t allow myself the time to absorb and digest and information-trawl, I’m lost][.

What was your method in choosing certain letters or symbols to replace words?

the method was based on absorption via my m.mersion in the basic components of networked communication via chats, the use of computer coding, emails, gaming etc, and so the incremental units of these exchanges became embedded in my net.wurks.

Was it based more on phonetics or on the similarities of the symbols to letters? Whenever I read your texts it seems almost easier to read aloud then just in my head.

neither; though initially it relied stylistically on grabbing from computer language/html whereas nowadays it seems more lyrically and structurally based ][which explains the ease of reading aloud][.

Did you begin the project with a certain theory of language in mind?

i’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the tandem process of language shaping reality and vice versa ][cf the whorfian, or sapir/whorf hypothesis][ and although i didn’t consciously have this theory in mind, i’m sure it’s influenced the way i want my texts 2 be consumed by the reader; also, barthes notion of re][thinking][writing of the author raises its ugly head in my overt intention to give the reader/audience various meaning/learning cues that must be actively pieced together.

Where do you think these “net.wurked” texts stand as far as the internet is concerned?

they don’t stand, they creep over netwurked tendrils, pop up spam-like ][but r very different to spam in content][ in many unusual places, and are archived for all 2 plunder in substantial email list/chat archives.

What kind of reactions have you received regarding your net.wurks?

many and various; some people find my work too conceptual or plainly inaccessible whereas others equate it to the likes of Shakespeare, Greenaway and James Joyce. Some moderators can’t get a grip on the open source tone of my artistic practice and take actions to unsubscribe or ban me from their mailing lists, as happened on the Australian new media list recode recently. the fan mail is amusing and touching, though, and helps balance these negative actions.

Mez is the 2001 Resident Artist at the WCG, has been awarded the 2001 VIF Prize by the Humboldt-Universitat in Berlin, was shortlisted for the prestigious 2001 Electronic Literature Organisation’s Fiction Award, and is currently in the running for the JavaMuseums’ Artist Of The Year 2001 Award.

RealTime issue #44 Aug-Sept 2001 pg. web

© RealTime; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2001