Table of Contents | Word Circuits


.these t.ex][e][ts:
“…a challenge wrapped in velvet visuals…”

Tanya Clement

Reading mez’s short fiction “ _][jus][texts_: email performance remnants_” which appears in the short fiction collection “data][h!][bleeding texts” is an exercise in making meaning, deconstructing meaning, and making meaning again. Indeed, this piece (it seems restrictive to call it a story or a poem as it is both and neither) encourages a methodology of deconstructive reading, precisely because it forces the reader to consciously construct like a child who unconsciously constructs—like a newbie fisting a crayon. In the introduction to the “data][h!][bleeding texts” collection (“__Datableeding: An Electroduction_”), the reader is asked for her “childhood or secret][ed][ name,” which name is later used to draw the reader’s attention to explanatory metatext. The explanatory text goes on to explain to—in my case—“Goober” that she should “Realign her constructs. Flow and Spark and glean.” Goober has been asked to approach the text like an “unconstructed” (less entangled in preconceived notions of language and reading) child who is less familiar with her creative, meaning-making tools (seeing, hearing, and reasoning). First asked to let go of her constructs, the reader is then introduced in the “Electroduction_” to other new reading and reasoning methodologies. Reading the six sections of “_][jus][texts_” involves using “the polysemic language/code system termed _mezangelle_, which evolved/s from multifarious email exchanges, computer code re:appropriation and net iconographs.” Reasoning in the six sections of “_][jus][texts_” should be performed ad hoc, as “Posthoc reasoning will not help comprehension.” So, let us get this straight. Goober is to begin “_][jus][texts_: email performance remnants_” by shedding preconceived notions of how to read in order to follow new rules of comprehension so that she may improvise (that is, construct ad hoc) meaning—deconstruction in order to construct what must (by definition) be deconstructable. The most astounding aspect of this experience is that the tools mez uses to enforce her reading methodologies are common to literature: the written word (code), the spoken word (phonetics), and the mode (manner of reading).

The first obstacle that the reader encounters while reading “_][jus][texts_” is the visual word represented by the author’s use of “_mezangelle_”:

to _mezangelle_ means to take words/wordstrings/sentences and alter them in such a way as to extend and enhance meaning beyond the predicted or the expected. it's similar to making “plain” text hypertextual via the arrangement and dissection of words & n.sertion of symbolic and actual code manipulation.
For example, in the “Electroduction,” Goober could read the word/s “]]wo[[man.i]]n[[festing” as “won,” “woman,” “woman infesting,” “manifesting,” etc. based on the interpretation of the brackets and the context. Brackets and order options might remind Goober (because she is a precocious child) of mathematical and computational syntax which often demands alternative responses. In another instance in “_][jus][texts6_,” “!!!STOP!!! . . . & s.eye” could be interpreted as “Stop and sigh,” or because the “eye” is emphasized by the period placement, as “Stop and see” with a long “e” like “key.” Word choice is not only a function the author invokes, it is one she demands from the reader.

Word choice in “_][jus][texts_” is usually employed in an atmosphere of play. In “_][jus][texts5_,” word choices offered to the reader are often sexual. The word “self-automise” is rendered as “zelf-auto[no] [sodo]mize” and “label” is “lab[ia]elle.” Word choices also refer explicitly to play: “outside” is rendered as “out.s[ch]ide” and “shedding” is “shed[yr skinne]ding[!].” The text teaches the reader that to question hidden meanings in each word is a game in which the winning goal is an alternate interpretation of the text—defamiliarization is not alarming; it is part of the experience of reading. Because most of the alternate word choices in the beginning lead to humorous alternative readings, more serious interpretations pack a harder punch. For example, in “_][jus][texts3_” or “ . . . . /Po[E].ST War[ning]” the last line “/P[H]ost orgasm yrself in2 war[ning]z/.” could be interpreted as “Post the orgasm yourself into war or warnings” or “Host orgasm (which is of yourself) into war or warnings.” This section refers consistently to “war” and “warning”—interplay of word choices implicates alternately the reader and/or the poet and/or the poetry as either the creator/enjoyer of “war” or “warning” or the possible victim or recipient of another’s enjoyment of “war” or “warning.” Goober can choose between being the one who “posts” warning or who “hosts” war, but Goober, used to play now, is conscious that her choice is superficial, as both choices are simultaneously evident as reading possibilities. The reader has been taught by the text to play with meaning, but in this case, playing with the meaning brings disturbing revelation about the reader’s agency—or lack thereof.

The spoken word also has a primary function in making meaning in “_][jus][texts_.” The reader learns in the “Electroduction” that “phonetics are employed” and “reading out-loud may help validate the phonetic allusions.” Indeed, as the user clicks through each section of “Electroduction” (each of which inhabits its own screen), a voice-over reads the headings out loud. The voice sounds odd at first, stressing the first syllable and elongating and shortening the traditional syllabic segments of the word, but the reader soon realizes it is as if the voice were that of a child “sounding out” a new word. In fact, Goober finds herself mimicking the intonations and hesitancies of the “Electroduction” voice-over as she goes through the text herself attempting to decipher the phonetic meaning of a word. In this electronic environment, the text introduces “_mezangelle_” reading instructions in two ways: (1) by sight and (2) by sound, thereby replicating the visual and phonetic reading alternatives represented in the code on the screen. Mez forces the reader to evaluate the process of reading while reading.

Often, both the written and spoken word must be employed for understanding in “_][jus][texts_.” Indeed, phonetics are essential when interpreting text like the following in “_][jus][texts6_”:

++P[urrsonal]A[reah]N[etwurked] j[p]ackets++syn[thetic].asp.sez f.ire++boyz will b bouyz will knot be beuys++eye M zoorounded++mi purrsonal wealth movez in fleshed N mus[k]cell.ed .wavz++
In the above, “Purr” is the visual representation of the pronunciation of “per” and as “eye M zoorounded” is “I am surrounded.” In invoking the phonetics of speech here, mez offers the reader a chance to see one meaning and hear another. The reader can see “eye” and deliberate the subjectivity of the understood “I” as it relates to what that “I” sees with the “eye.” The word “zoo” adds layers of meaning to the word “surrounded,” invoking the image of an “I” being surrounded by the impending chaos of the caged wild. Phonetics foreground the text on the page. The reader cannot interpret the alternate meanings of a word or sentence unless she says it out loud (in her voice or in her mind). In this way, the text teaches the reader not to trust the visual meaning on the page. As Goober finds herself “sounding out” the words in order to understand them, she realizes that she is always conscious of language and meaning as a process of construction and deconstruction.

Constant re-reading (as encouraged by each “_][jus][text_”) provokes a careful consideration of the technologies of making meaning. Questioning reading methodology is further encouraged by the mode of each “_][jus][text_.” The “Electroduction” and the second and fifth “_][jus][texts_” are organized in interspersed translations. A section of the text appears in plain (normative) spelling, and then it appears in _mezangelle_ (or vice-versa). For example:

[Goober , A Clue insert for you: some of the square bracket sets are backward. Some are set in a triptych, bracketing a meaning insert. Phonetics are employed. Spaces are created. Realign your constructs. Flow and spark and glean.]
Then, later in the piece:
[Goober , a clue n-sert 4 u: sum ov the brackettez setz r backward]inge off e-vil]e[]. Some are set in a triptych, a m][l][eaning insert. phonetic-tocks r m]de[]ployed[. spaces r created. re.aline yr construcktz. fl.ow]![ N sparke N gleane.]
As explained earlier, using _mezangelle_ allows for multiple options, but using _mezangelle_ alongside normative spelling is a mode that encourages more re-readings for both versions. Reading “m] de[]ployed[“ in the _mezangelle_ version informs the simple use of “employed” in the normative version. “Deployed” lends meaning to the war metaphors used in “_][jus][texts_” and makes the reader re-think the meaning of the word “employed” as well. What is mez saying about the use of words? Are words at the will of someone like employees of the boss or soldiers deployed into combat? Re-reading one version informs reading the other. This translation method is further complicated when the “normative version” takes on technical, computer language which seems more “encoded” than the _mezangelle_ version. In the next example from “_][jus][texts_2,” two iterations of similar text that appear in parallel columns also provoke different readings:
_N.avi.gationary Tele[ortho]don['t]ics_
and, two columns over, further down in the text:
_Navigationary Teledo-and don't-nics_ [note: see attached teeth.avi for additional information]_
In this case, one reads the _mezangelle_ version first (as it appears in the left-hand column), which refers to “teleorthodontics,” a reference to a hybrid of human and machine which is the main metaphor of this section. The second reference, in normative (although allusive) spelling, refers the reader to a fictional, attached “*.avi” file (possibly an Audio Video Interleave File). The _mezangelle_ version may include allusions to code language, but the normative version alludes to a file where code is performed, a promise of an orthodontics video replete with visuals (Video) and sound (Audio). Here, we see mez conflating modes, adding layer upon layer of possible interpretations and reading experiences by pressing the reader to make meaning in different ways.

The mode of reading encouraged by “_][jus][texts_” utilizes and comments upon space and time. In the “Electroduction,” mez’s reading instructions begin: Once up/down/on/under a time, /me wrote a letter to the stars. This letter contained all the available data on TTT (Textual Time Travel). TTT is a product of that elusive new mind set, the time machined/mezangelled way of thinking, producing, manifesting. The phrase “Once up/down/on/under a time” indicates how time space is used in all six sections of “_][jus][texts_.” Unlike with paper texts, Goober cannot opt to read one “_][jus][text_” before another. Each text is linked to the next without a “back” button, and the browser toolbar is disabled. The only way to go is forward through time and space is to the next “_][jus][text_” or end the reading experience by closing the window. Similarly, in some cases, the reader has no control over the reading space and time of a single “_][jus][text_.” As shown in the illustration below, “_][jus][text3_” contains floating crosses that obstruct the reader’s vision. Often, the reader has to wait for a cross to finish its journey over a word before the reader can go on making meaning:

In another case, in “_][jus][text3_” words fly through the static text on the page towards the reader in quick succession, fast enough that reading each word for meaning is difficult. And, in the course of struggling for individual word meaning, the reader loses the syntactical concept. It takes so long to comprehend each word that understanding the meaning of the words together is difficult at first. By the time Goober gets to the third word, she can’t remember the first. In addition, the stream happens once per visit, and then words are gone for good. The reader must revisit “_][jus][text3_”(through the gateways of “1” and “2”) several times in order to understand the sentence that physically (and so cognitively) alludes her. The following is a snapshot of the flying words “~Nubile/Geossensory/Space/.here. ~Time/]signature][/Modality/Not [Appli][cable/.here.” over the static text:
Text Time Travel is illustrated in this piece with flying text just as it is discussed in the static text: “ ‘flickering on2 spherical boundaries/ ‘renewed and never there.” By employing (deploying?) movement itself in the text, mez reminds the reader that movement is essential to making meaning in reading. She is demonstrating what she so eloquently writes in “_][jus][text3_”:
We all fall prey to the move, the jolt: others poke and prick through ashes designed to provoke, or tracts designed to placate. Whilst the motion catches a thread, the thought may be strung between the words, encouraged, or artificially rewired as a conduit for life...
Meaning happens, as mez shows us, in space and time, in the mode or manner of reading, in the movement between the enactment of a word (as visual, sound, or experience) and its reception

There is so much to unpack in “ _][jus][texts_: email performance remnants_” (The title “just texts”—are these just texts? Or are they sounds and movements? Or are they meaning-making machines?), but it is essential to begin with methodologies of reading. The text demands the presence of the active reader in every detail. Titled “email performance remnants,” the piece exists as a manifestation between two forces, the sender (author) and the recipient (reader), the speaker and the listener, the written and the read, the manifested and the comprehended. The “Electroduction” immediately recognizes the reader as an important cog in the meaning making wheel: [Clue insert:You, Goober , dear c.-auth.r and reader, are the nodepoint. The point in the fluid. The point that flows between, behind, before....comprehension critical/crucial.] What is surprising about the creative complexity of reading methodologies in “ _][jus][texts_” is how mez accomplishes this kind of reading experience. Like the inchoate child wielding that odd waxy stick and a fresh pad of processed pulp, the reader is encouraged by tried and true literary techniques (word choice, phonetics, and mode) to be childlike, to create and recreate, to “Flow and Spark and glean,” and once it is made, to let meaning go. Because, as mez has taught Goober:

Posthoc reasoning will not help comprehension. Read that first paragraph again.

Works Cited

mez [Mary-Anne Breeze] and others. “The data][h!][bleeding T.ex][e]ts”. 1995. April 2003 <>.

copyright © 2003 Tanya Clement

Table of Contents | Word Circuits