Alessandro de Francesco – EXPANDED POETRY #1

An online exhibition
19 February – 19 March 2021
der TANK, Basel

Alessandro De Francesco, Expanded Poetry #1, immersive textual environment, 2021

Alessandro De Francesco is primarily a writer of poetry, but his language—like in the work he has developed for der TANK—also spills off the page into an immersive audiovisual environment. Can there be an ocean of words, a cosmos of poetry, a universe of sentences? Poetry and prose are ways of arranging meaning in the interest of audio-visual patterning and experience. This experience of language creates enhanced perception and reality emerges as matter touched by feelings. In this sense, we could state that poetry is an ancient way of dealing with the environment. It performs a curious and beautiful entanglement between our voice, writing, the lungs uttering the voice, the mind writing, the hands following, the winds, the surroundings of meaning as being alive. Poetry—like technology—is invested in deep time. And the poet becomes a swimmer, an explorer, a dancer, a programmer departing from the spoken word, performing writing, creating a technology of experience that would turn text into a liquid, a fluid that is there to allow all the transformations we wish for the social. Language as the enhancer of our dreams of surpassing the barriers of the binary worlds, of inequality.

We could describe Alessandro De Francesco’s project for our website as a sailboat residency that aims towards a future possibility of encounter all of us in presence at der TANK when circumstances allow.

Expanded Poetry #1 is an immersive textual environment in two parts: a choral reading, and a virtual space on Mozilla Hubs where the choir’s voices are processed and the texts are presented in a tridimensional setting. The poems and the voices populate a fragile yet organic interactive architecture that is conceived in turn as a sort of multidimensional page. The poems are chosen from Alessandro De Francesco’s forthcoming trilingual English-Italian-French edition of (((, (Uitgeverij/punctum books, 2021, translated into English from the Italian by Andreas Burckhardt in collaboration with Alessandro De Francesco).

The double immersive environment and the poems themselves share some common essential aspects. In this work the farthest extrasolar planet-ocean—a planet entirely covered by liquid matter—echoes some of the most urgent questions of our here and now: the environment and migration. Different scales, different levels of perception and life, human and non-human, are fused into each other and blurred in order to reach a wider and deeper view of our position in the universe. The choral reading delivers a collective vocal experience, engendering a possibility for poetry to embody a form of togetherness and to widen the horizon of language as world and of world as language. Both, the text and the virtual environment, also echo each other in a non-illustrative way around these themes, and the visitors are invited to find their own perspective, their own way of reading and listening to this poetic matter, while moving around in the virtual textual space. Expanded Poetry #1 features one of the first, if not the first immersive poem ever created on Mozilla Hubs. Another version of it, Expanded Poetry #2, that will be realized in the near future in the physical space of der TANK, will feature a live performance by the reading choir, multichannel surround sound, and the first immersive poem in Mixed Reality with the Aryzon wireless motion tracking technology. In spite of such innovative elements, this project does not aim at being “avant-garde”, it just researches the best technologies available today in order to let everybody experience its multidimensionally layered meanings. It is not visual art with language, but ultimately still a form of poetry, as much as the virtual space is conceived of as a sort of page. For similar reasons the texts used in this project keep existing inside a book as well. Expanded Poetry #1 broadens the boundaries of reading and of poetry in and as space, recognizing human language, and therefore humankind, as a collective entity and as an intrinsic part of a wider environment.

Reading choir: Colin Barth, Alessandro De Francesco, Laila Dell’Anno, Sophie Garnier, Jonas Huldi, Maria Cristina Ionescu, Anina Müller, Jennifer Scherler

Alessandro De Francesco is an artist, poet, essayist and the founder of Language Art Studio. He lives and works in Basel, Cambridge and Brussels.