9th seminar: Bertrand Gervais
Bertrand Gervais (University of Quebec in Montreal)
The Readies (from Bob Brown to dj readies). Notes on an Imaginary Reading Machine
On Monday, October 14th 2019
18.15 at Jakobi 2-114
I will focus in this conference on a reading machine, a machine that probably never truly existed, but received however quite a lot of feedback, to the point that it became the center piece of a protest rhetoric. This imaginary machine was invented by Robert Carlton Brown in his Readies (1930). The desire to find new ways of capturing, preserving and transmitting texts has been a recurring feature throughout the 20th century. And the process has intensified in the 21st century with the latest computer developments that have multiplied the reading surfaces, from the iPad to the Kindle... These new devices bring us into a “screen-based culture” that seems to sound the death of the “book-based culture”. However, this search for a technical device capable of competing with the codex was not done at once, it did not lead spontaneously to a functional model. The desire to renew the very instruments of reading has left many traces, projects of reading machines that were never realized. Bob Brown’s Readies is one of those. The careful examination of Brown's project, notably in its controversial remix by Craig Saper, under the pseudonym dj readies, will make it possible to understand how reading machines, beyond their technical dimension, have important semiotic and symbolic implications.
Bertrand Gervais is Canada Research Chair in Digital Art and Literature, director of the Research Laboratory on Hypermedia Works NT2, founder of the Research Center on Texts and Images Figura, member of the Interdisciplinary Research Program RADICAL (Markers for an articulation of the cultural, artistic and literary dimensions of the contemporary imaginary) and a Professor at the Literary Studies Deparment of UQAM (University of Quebec in Montreal).
He is currently documenting the transition of a culture that focuses on books to a screen/image culture. He and his research team are observing the consequences of the transition on our relationship to the world (increasingly mediated by fictions whose structures and borders have blurred), on our capacity to interpret writings and images, and on the resulting new identity- and community-based forms. Their research has three main objectives: to study artistic and literary practices deployed in a digital context; to document the manifestations of a screen culture and its impact on the contemporary imagination; and to develop methodologies and strategies for artistic and literary research based on contemporary technologies.