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Ubu meets Gertrude (Towards A Post-textual Avant-garde)

Johanna Drucker, Christian Bök, Jean-Michel Rabaté, Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg in dialogue.


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Philosophy / Theory


Organized by Aaron Levy

Opens to public


Please join us on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 from 8:00-9:30pm at Slought Foundation for a public conversation with Johanna Drucker, Christian Bök, Jean-Michel Rabaté, Nick Montfort, and Scott Rettberg. The discussion will begin by addressing the book as a twentieth century artform, situating the artists' book within trajectories ranging from Russian Futurism and Surrealism to Fluxus, Conceptual Art to Postmodernism, and Alfred Jarry to Gertude Stein. The discussion may explore issues such as the poetics of new media, narrative and non-narrative sequences in an age of decentralized networking, and possibilities for a post-textual avant-garde practice. The discussion will conclude by addressing Implementation, a novel-length work of fiction by Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg published and distributed on stickers, concurrently on view at Slought Foundation in December 2004.

Implementation is both a work of fiction and a work of art. Implementation is a novel about the peripheral effects of the war on terror, psychological warfare, American imperialism, sex, identity, and the idea of place, and an art project that borrows from the traditions of, mail art, sticker art, conceptual art, situationist theater, serial fiction, and guerilla viral marketing. Both Montfort and Rettberg have written electronic fiction in the past, and view the sticker novel Implementation as an alternative way of connecting ideas of nonlinear narrative and interactivity with printed texts in physical space.

Johanna Drucker is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and the Director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Drucker received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1986, and has been on the faculty of Yale University, Columbia University, the University of Texas at Dallas, and Harvard University, where she taught art history, theory, and practice. Drucker has published works in the fields of twentieth-century art history, the history of writing and the alphabet, artists' books, experimental typography, and visual and concrete poetry. Her scholarly books include: Theorizing Modernism,The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, The Alphabetic Labyrinth, The Century of Artists' Books and Figuring the Word. In addition to her scholarly work, Drucker is internationally known as a book artist and experimental, visual poet. Her work has been exhibited and collected in special collections in libraries and museums including the Getty Center for the Humanities, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Christian Bök is a Canadian experimental poet and scholar of pataphysics. His work Eunoia, a story that uses only one vowel in each of its five chapters (that is, a lipogram), is one of the best-selling works of Canadian poetry. Edited by Darren Wershler-Henry at Coach House Books, Eunoia won the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002. His poetry has been featured in the lyrics of Norwegian artist Ulver's "A Quick Fix of Melancholy EP" (2003). Bök is also a sound poet, having performed an extremely condensed version of Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate, and has created an artist book comprised of Rubik's cubes, recently on display at Marianne Boesky gallery in New York in the exhibition Poetry Plastique. Bök currently teaches at the University of Calgary and is the author of Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imanginary Science (Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies, Northwestern). He is also the author of Crystallography (Coach House Press), a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award for Best Poetic Debut. Bök has also created artificial languages for two television shows: Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley's Amazon.

Jean-Michel Rabaté, a Senior Curator at Slought Foundation, is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania since 1992, and has authored or edited twenty books on Modernism, Joyce, Pound, Beckett, Lacan, Derrida, psychoanalysis and literary theory.

Nick Montfort is coeditor of The New Media Reader (2003, MIT Press), author of Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (2004, MIT Press), author and programmer of interactive fiction (Ad Verbum, Winchester's Nightmare) and coauthor of several Web-based electronic literature projects (, 2002: A Palindrome Story, The Ed Report). He is a Ph.D. student in computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania. Along with Scott Rettberg (see below for bio), Montfort is writing Implementation, a novel about terror, identity, and American imperialism that is being published in monthly installments on sheets of stickers. Readers of the novel then post the stickers in public places and photograph them. The resulting documentation is published on the Web at:

Scott Rettberg is assistant professor of Literature at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where he teaches New Media Studies. Rettberg is a coauthor of The Unknown, and is the cofounder and served as the first executive director of the Electronic Literature Organization.