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08 octobre 2007

Préface en Anglais de Régine Detambel

by Régine Detambel

Everyone is looking for the so-called Northwest Passage that would open the route between the scientific and artistic continents. We act as though we were confronted with merciless plate tectonics, I mean: as if there really were a fault line that separated these two areas. Why would so many Muses continue to make pieces out of human creation? No, we desperately need to go back to Pangea, when the world was whole, united, before the continental drift…That doesn't mean that the artist will turn his back on the Earth world or that he should bid farewell to human things in art. There is no need either for futuristic stories, or for any particular formal virtuosity. Let's imagine a very ordinary story, yet, where almost all of the words, nouns, verbs, even adjectives would be new words taken from biotechnology. We could see something that might well be the poetry of the future. If ribosomes, those little things made out of sugar, are capable of translating more than fifty proteins in their coded language — like pre-adamic man who spoke all languages before Babel came to pass —, then why not follow in their steps? Why not take advantage of these new text grids as fertile ground for fiction, epic stories, etc? Even if at first, we bring along remnants of our old sexual and psychological selves. What comedies and farces could the ribosomes and protein-inspired double helixes bring to life? In any case, a double helix could get our little transcendency motor working again… Like nature and the scientist, we could tackle the code units themselves. A poem is a laboratory for experimenting with mutating language, where broken fragments of a language are pieced together in new combinations. We need lexical mutants. Unless we consider — which is, after all, more likely — that it is obviously an organic, regular metamorphosis of words that takes place. Reread your old dictionaries…

Maurice Dantec suggested an experience using a novel that imitated genetic codes. Literary art, "if anything remains, should be close to a molecular biochemist who deciphers and assembles the genes that are required to create a Frankenstein terminal, in other words, we should put literature and the World on the dissecting table, in our particle accelerator's tunnel and get going on the experiment, starting with careful observation of the damage it makes ". In order for one form to live, it has to surpass itself! Dantec often compares genetic code to a novel ("the novel of your biological life is composed of three billion symbols, with a four-letter alphabet, forming approximately one hundred thousand paragraphs or chapters, each one a gene, coding the history of a protein that is required for such and such a function in such and such an organ"). Henceforth, a work of fiction could be a mutation applied to an initial story whose consequences would be read in the second part, the book dividing into "an inverse transcriptase report". But François Jacob pointed out the limits of comparison between text/gene: "nobody has ever written the famous message of heredity that is passed down from one generation to another ". No doubt, the Brazilian poet and visual artist, Eduardo Kac, uses biotechniques to artistically "write" a living text, in order to try to contradict Jacob. Kac suggests using biotechnology and living organisms in poetry as a new area of verbal creation. In his 2003 manifesto, Biopoetry, he imagines a "scriptogenesis", that is to say a "transgenic poem" that consists of translating human speech into a code of four characters, similar to that of genes, that would synthesize related DNA molecules, incorporating them into living creatures' genomes and finally studying the variations over the generations "through mutation, loss or natural DNA exchange", by retranslating the part that corresponds to this "transpoem" into a human language. In Genesis (1999), a Bible verse is used for this translation to be integrated in the DNA of a bacteria, then cultivated in conditions that are favorable to mutations, in order for the sacred word, far from being protected by carnal archiving, undergoes changes that allow the poet to present the bacteria as co-enunciators of the work. Who is speaking?. Apollinaire already spoke of the possibility of living poetry. Barthes studied the biology of style. So there was already some ribosome in the writer's style? The voice is raised, it elaborates, at the limit of flesh and the world and style is never more than metaphor, that is to say the equation between literary intention and the author's fleshly structure. Style is already bio art, it is art in vivo. All poetry is already bio poetry!. We did not wait for the geneticist to become the poet for future species, but no doubt, we will ask him to be accountable not only for ethics, but also for the beauty of the world for which he will be the author. Nevertheless, it is not solely a moral issue. Here, it is first and foremost a question of the power of literature, the power of art. We should try to maintain the purity of this field against increased confusion between art and science (meaning science as a raw experience…) that takes on the role of language (or of a material, or of light for a visual artist), becoming an alibi for progress. It is not enough for a ribosome to write a book. That does not make it literature. Rather, in one sweep, it reduces the text and the life that nourished it. Reality is not enough to make it literature, no more than a confession makes a work or sincerity makes an author, or hormones make something love. So we should continue to widen the gap, to maintain the fault line, since it is the only place where the subject disappears (the theme as well as the "me"), and the only way to open the space in which art can happen.                                                      Transaltor  Gayle Wallimann