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  • Pixel Symphony

Visions and Verses: A Deep Dive into 'Conceits' with onekmonk

Updated: Apr 7


In this conversation, Pixel Symphony explores 'Conceits' with the artist onekmonk, where poetry intertwines generative art, articulated through the simplicity and versatility of Unicode characters. onekmonk reveals how each poem, set against a dynamic visual scene, invites a more prolonged contemplation than typical literary or visual art forms. They discuss the project's inception, the challenges of integrating code with poetic expression, and the nuanced ways in which the audience is invited to interact with 'Conceits'.


The fusion of visual art and poetry creates a unique canvas for expression. Could you explain the foundational concept behind integrating these two forms, especially using something as ubiquitous yet versatile as Unicode characters?


'Conceits' is a concrete poetry chapbook that wants to be an illuminated manuscript. Each page is a poem set against a visual backdrop. The composition is rendered using only plain text Unicode characters. Each poem was once a thought or a dream and each visual setting is procedurally generated and algorithmically animated. The theme that connects all the works is also the title of the series: Conceits - illusions, delusions, aspirations, hypotheticals, counterfactuals and their ilk.


This approach transforms the reading experience into an exploratory journey. The inherent challenge in deciphering the text invites deeper engagement. Could you share your thoughts on how this method of presentation alters the traditional consumption of poetry and visual art?


While I hesitate to prescribe a specific way for viewers to engage with the artwork, my hope is that people stay with the work for longer than the typical time it takes to read a poem or glance at an image. To this end, the text is often intentionally obscured, transformed or encoded to challenge the reader to decode and reassemble meaning. Similarly, the visual elements from the individual characters to the composition are imbued with symbolism and references, which may not be critical to decipher the work but are nevertheless entangled with meaning.


Influences play a significant role in shaping an artist's vision. In the space of visual poetry, are there particular works or authors that have left a mark on your creative process, guiding your exploration of text and imagery?


A singular event I can point to that set me on my course was reading Steven Hall’s 'Raw Shark Texts'. I recall vividly I had a visceral reaction to the appearance of the Ludovician - a concrete poetry antagonist - that has been prowling inside my mind ever since.


The balance between intentionality and the element of chance is a delicate one. How do you navigate this balance to ensure that each piece resonates with the intended depth and nuance? And how does it mirror or contrast the structured nature of traditional poetry?


The words in each poem are not random, but rather extremely deliberate. They come the way I imagine most poetry is brought into the world. For me, it is often through the windows of trains or other transit. The visual settings for the words are manifestations of algorithms which are acyclical and stochastically driven. The elements in each start as an attempt to complement or frame the words and procedurally move away from direct representation.


Interactive art creates a unique space for viewer participation. In the context of your work, how do you see this interaction playing out? Is it a subtle invitation to explore, or do you see it playing a more direct role in the experience?


Each iteration is built around a poem. The poem itself carries both visual structure and meaning and both are expected to be discovered rather than revealed. There are sometimes sporadic elements of interaction which are meant to be chanced upon as follies. For example, some words may fear the mouse or the flow of time may depend on the observer. Each piece can exist independent of the interaction but may be affected by it.


The blending of text, shape, movement, and hue results in a cohesive storytelling structure. Could you discuss how these elements coalesce to form a thematic expression in your work?


I consider word, form, motion and color all aspects of the same narrative alloy, ideally inseparable.


Symbolism often serves as a bridge between the visible and the invisible, the said and the unsaid. In your projects, how do you employ symbols to weave deeper layers of meaning into the fabric of your visual poetry?


I believe each work relies heavily on both visual and linguistic symbolism. I want the audience to look for them and try to discover them or project their own meaning.


The idea of visual rhetoric adds depth to the artwork's layers of meaning. Could you talk about how this concept comes to life in your work?


I don’t know. If I did, it was not intentional. I imagine that using semiotic building blocks to build visual scaffolding for semantic structures could qualify as visual rhetoric but if it does, it was accidental.


Narratives, whether explicit or emergent, contribute significantly to the identity of a collection. How do you perceive the narrative aspect of your work?


I first imagined what I wanted to see - the concept of a series of illuminated concrete poems had been with me for a while, but it was not clear how it might work. When the opportunity for this collaboration came along, it was a chance to learn how to bring it to life. The common narrative emerged as the collection grew and accreted around the themes captured by the title.


In what ways does technology influence the development of your work? Do you feel that your current coding abilities constrain your poetic creativity, or do they instead push you to explore new dimensions in your poetry and use of symbols?


This is the first time I am using code to create and present concrete poetry. In the past I would manually paint and arrange all characters in a text editor which in this case was also a code editor. It has inspired me to think of a way to use code itself in a concrete way in a future project.

This was a conversation between onekmonk and Pixel Symphony.


Release information:

'Conceits' on FXHash | onekmonk x Atelier

April 12, 2024, 08:00 AM PT


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