I met Ester Xargay in Barcelona in 1999, and we began working together
immediately. For almost five years, we presented live visual poetry
made in a collaborative way: she would come up with videos and texts,
and I would arrange the images and the words into digital, performable
These pieces were presented in many different contexts: big poetry
festivals, small poetry sessions in bars, clubs and theaters, and
even conferences and lectures. But there were always some constants:
Ester's voice on the microphone, and me on the computer keyboard,
manipulating and projecting her images and words using the MIDIPoet
Ester has a wide experience in the fields of videoart and poetry,
and she is a recognized artist and writer in Catalonia. This short
interview is a reflection on what we did: maybe now we can look
back and try to talk about all the fun, excitement and discovery
that we shared while performing live visuals and poetry. We knew
we were experimenting with something new for both of us but, above
all, we did it because we enjoyed it tremendously.
Eugenio Tisselli: First of all, I would like to know whether
you believe that the word "poet" is the one that describes
you best, or if you prefer to use other terms. Do you think that
"poetry" is a term that is broad enough to cover everything
Ester Xargay: I usually say that I am a writer and videomaker.
I think that such terms can give more clues to understand what I
do, because they put me inside the fields of literature and audio-visual
creation. These are the two areas in which I work and that I try
What I do is some kind of visual poetry, a hybrid between literature
and videoart, that comes from sources which I would place closer
to cinema -such as the inventions and discoveries made in experimental
cinema, or the visual music films made in the 20s and 30s- rather
than to the more orthodox visual poetry.
I'm interested in writing, in the most experimental and artistic
sides of poetry, when it's grafted by other languages such as image
and sound, when it's involved with the research areas that are opened
up by computer programs such as MIDIPoet.
ET: Within your work as a poet, what are the roles played
by static and moving images?
EX: When I write, I work with language, in my case Catalan. Language
is a semantic construction in which there is a confluence of grammatical,
orthographic and logical rules, and a whole deployment of structure-related
When I work with images and sounds, I somehow enter into another
field, and I deal with other languages and different construction
and constriction elements. Even so, in order to do something in
any of these fields, (audio-visual and writing), we use certain
techinques and tools.
I'm interested in mastering the techinque, the construction, because
this is what lets me carry out the transference between these two
practices. I think that the more you can control a technique, the
more you can play with the intervention of randomness, the results
will become more accomplished.
I like to solve problems within languages, to force myself through
these kind of "schizophrenic" practices (or let's call
them symptoms of hybridation)
ET: Please talk about your experience with MIDIPoet in
poetry readings. When we worked together, we called our shows "digitorecitals"
1 ... what does this word mean
EX: I have great memories of the "digitorecitals" we
made with your splendid MIDIPoet. Together with Carles Hac Mor 2
we devised the word "digitorecital" for defining
these performances. This word suggests a uniqueness with respect
to more conventional readings. It points towards the fact that the
text passes through some digital process which gives it a different
appearance; live voice, for example, can alter texts or images 3
. In fact, there are a lot of possibilities for real time interaction
Here is the text included in a flyer, announcing one of our first
"digitorecitals". It broadens the definition I just gave:
"In a "digitorecital", the computerized MIDIpoetry,
in the shape of a textual "paraparemia" 4
in motion, acts upon the hearers-seers, otherwise known as
the audience. The visions heard (invented) by the audience are delivered
to the MIDIPoets, who manipulate them using their voice, in order
to return them to the spectators, which suddenly become active so
as not to ignore what they are receiving: liberated language, which
deflects the perception of grammatical sentences as the perverse
sedimentation of logic. In this pleasing manner, the hearers-seers
end up becoming aware not of their own visions, but of those of
the MIDIPoets, who have burst the sack of the unconscious. Then,
the words and the sentences can say much more than when one tries
to reason, with the pretention of saying even more. It is then that
the "digitorecital" truly starts, in a "paraparemical"
way: the visions of all those who speak or simply hear become simultaneous.
And thus, the spectators (now ex-hearers and ex-seers) are also
transformed into MIDIPoets. And everything starts all over again,
with new combinatories."
ET: Which expressive possibilities did you find through
your experience in using MIDIPoet at the shows? Which other paths
do you wish you had explored more?
EX: The fact of working with images and texts in an interactive,
real-time fashion, implies a full-fledged entry into the schizophrenic
dimension which I metaphorically mentioned earlier. It also implies
entering the world of computer programming, -which I think should
be learnt by the writers and the artists- which is an additional
language that comes to expand the creative parameters.
Programming, then, would be an area that I still have to explore.
To be able to program the textual compositions, the interactive
visual pieces, and also design the strategies of the movements that
can be generated from the participation of spectators that intervene
And this, in fact, reminds me, on a more limited scale, of the
poetical measures that appear in a formal level, calculations and
constraints that confer rhythm and sound to a poem. These are the
keys that give the performance of poetry a musical dimension.
On the other hand, I would like to point out what you always say,
that programming can be a way of making compositions, which can
be considered as scores that determine the behavior of text and
image on the screen. I find that making evident the aesthetic qualities
of the structures is a good thing, whether they are computer code,
the metrics of a written poem, or something else.
ET: Apart from the fact that a "digitorecitador"
does his/her "readings" on live stages, and a VJ also
works live at clubs and parties, do you find coincidences / differences
between a "digitorecitador" and a VJ? What happens when
an audience observes live manipulated images in different contexts?
EX: I am very interested in working with images and text in real
time. Doing things live is always quite magical! And magic, precisely,
is also a technique, and a very sophisticated one. In fact, in magic,
everything is seen and unseen in real time.
But I think that, when we talk about magicians, "digitorecitadors"
or VJs, we are rather talking about performance or recreation (which
in several languages also means "the time to play"); let's
say that it is the most ludic aspect of writing or audio-visual
production. And in fact there lies all the richness of improvisation,
in playing games with chance, combining all the raw materials that
each one has: visuals, sounds, texts, etcetera.
Personally, I feel most passionate about preparing things, working
in the background, doing the inside job, manipulating the "dragon's
machinery". I get the biggest enjoyment from composing and
working with constraints and chance.
That's what I would point out about MIDIPoet, that it allows everything,
improvisation, chance and constraints.
Now, for me, creation lies also in the configuration of programs,
in the aesthetic quality of interfaces, in the adventure that involves
reconstructing insatiably the bachelor machine 5
of weaving and unweaving chance.
ESTER XARGAY (Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Catalunya, 1960), writer
and video producer. As a poet, she has published the books Salflorvatge,
Trenca-sons, Darrere les tanques, the booklets Els àngels
soterrats, Les flaires del galliner, Volts en el temps, Ainalar
i Éssera Ponent, and also the books Un pedrís
de mil estones, Epítom infranu o no, Tirant lo Blanc la
and Amor lliure, ús i abús, co-written with
Carles Hac Mor, with whom she has translated, among others, Adrian
Todorov, Pascal and Queneau. She is a regular collaborator in Avui,
a catalan newspaper, and magazines such as Papers d’Art,
Transversal, Barcelona Rewiev, and Paper de Vidre,
among others. Together with Carles Hac Mor, she published Sextina
al microscopi, a DVD-ROM created for the Microscopies
exhibition in the Metrònom gallery (Barcelona, 2003) and
the CD-ROM Paraparèmies, desplaçaments, cosificacions….,
with Adolf Alcañiz, Carles Hac Mor and Barbara Held (First
Prize of Audiovisual Creation of Navarra, 1999). She has produced
documentaries and video-poems for BTV (Barcelona Television),
one of which received the Prize Espais a la Crítica d’art,
1 An invented word in catalan,
made up from the words "digital" and "recital"
2 Carles Hac Mor is a catalan
writer, and Ester's partner.
3 The MIDIPoet version of
Raymond Queneau's "Cent mille milliards de poèmes",
performed by Ester Xargay and Carles Hac Mor, featured a device
that transforms sound (voice) into MIDI signals, thus allowing MIDIPoet
to react to their reading by altering text on a projection in real-time.
4 A catalan term invented
by Carles Hac Mor. It is, by definition, undefinable, and is associated
to the practices of the absurd.
5 A term invented by Marcel
Duchamp, and later used by Deleuze and Guattari. For them, the bachelor
machine "forms a new alliance between desiring machines and
the body without organs to give birth to a new humanity. The subject,
which is produced as a mere residuum alongside the desiring machines
confuses himself with the bachelor machine, and thus the autoeroticism
of the bachelor machine gives birth to the subject. The bachelor
machine produces pure intensive qualities."