Posts by tag: Richard Powers

The Bio-Work of Art

I can’t be the first one to see an uncanny resemblance between Christian Bök’s Xenotext project and the bio-art of Orfeo‘s protagonist, can I?

Novelist Richard Powers is on the latest episode of Bookworm, talking with Michael Silverblatt about his latest book Orfeo. (Word to the wise — start listening to Silverblatt’s show, if you don’t already know it.) The book’s protagonist is apparently an avant-garde composer of music at work on a project to embed his musical masterpiece in the genetic code of a germ. As Silverblatt puts it, he’s “on the threshold of creating virtual, terroristic music.” Or, as Powers says, he’s trying to “encode a private musical message, embed it into the nucleus of a living cell, and have that cell propagate in the world carrying his little MP3 cassette with it, filling up a world that’s absolutely incapable of hearing it.”

Bök’s Xenotext is described as a nine year project to engineer “a life-form so that it becomes not only a durable archive for storing a poem, but also an operant machine for writing a poem.” (Read about it in Bök’s own words here.)

In both cases, the appeal of the idea of genetically encoding the work of art is to to make something that will be “legible” to life for a period longer than any material artifact.

Powers mentions two bio-artists during the podcasts: Brazilian Eduardo Kac, and American Steve Kurtz. Incredibly interesting stuff, even to skim.

Richard Powers on narratology

The discoveries made by various literary scholars, such as Mikhail Bakhtin, Gérard Genette, Mieke Bal, Algirdas Julien Greimas, and Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, have had a profound influence on the way I write, and I truly believe that they provide wonderfully efficient shortcuts for writers to discover expressive possibilities that might otherwise take decades of trial and error to figure out.

– in Contemporary Literature 49(2)

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