p r o x i m a t e . o r g

From Rhizome Artbase

Stroll through this site, a home to the exploration of the effects,
possibilities, and limitations of the Internet on textual and graphical
communication. It explores the limitations of the internet as a means
for human relations, the loss of the gestic in text and image & parodic
attempts to recover it, and the distance of human relations on the

Patrick Herron
5 March 2001

Hi there.
in the end will be the flesh and the flesh will be made word
Please take a stroll down the gallery path of p r o x i m a t e .o r g.
The site is home to the exploration of the effects, possibilities, and
limitations of the internet on textual and graphical communication. It
explores the limitations of the internet as a means for human relations,
the loss of the gestic in text and image & parodic attempts to recover
it, and the distance of human relations on the internet.
The site is named 'proximate' as a nod to the concept of proxemics in
human communication. Proximate communications, specifically oral
communications, contain extralinguistic information, e.g., body language
& context, that remote communications such as recordings or textual
communications do not have, cannot have. The hope of the internet as
some sort of transcendent medium deserves serious skepticism when placed
in such a light. Such a light also gives us opportunity for discovering
the positive. There's always the tension, the conflict.
The name "proximate" is also a pun on intimacy on the internet, as in a
proxy mate. We all know sex sells, especially on the internet. The
internet seems to be used as a proxy for human contact and proximal
communication, which gives me pause. Such an intuition adds to what I
sense as a sort of growing desperation for real, physical human contact,
particularly in America, with everyone working on him- or herself, never
time for affection, only time for status, career, a new car. Such use of
energy may be at odds with a more positive force in life. The world has
some strange dynamic property to it; there's something beyond our
knowledge, yet within, around; perhaps such a thing helps explain the
necessity for contact. The internet is often used as a substitute for
that contact, but it can't do that well. There is NO substitute. The "i"
that the pun pivots on is relevant to a constant concern throughout the
site regarding identity. "I"? Y?
I have authored this site as a byproduct of discussions I have shared
about the internet, interface design and human gesture, the pretensions
of proximity in web pages and the actual distances constructed by them,
and some resulting poetry. Most of the discussions were this past summer
and autumn through subsubpoetics (an e-mail list started by Jordan
Davis) with Alan Sondheim and two close friends, one a writer, the other
a designer. (Some material from these dialogues can be found at another
web site: http://gesture.org/text.html.) I am interested precisely in
the type of relationships that web pages build between people. I have
observed that this internet aesthetic, this relater, is a duplicitous
one (getting back to the original definition of art?) -- that the
writing styles typical of e-talk and the "personalization" of web pages
add up to make a user feel close, proximate, A SOMEBODY, while all along
the relationship is constructed at an incalculably great distance. Such
a great distance, that it allows the person or persons constructing the
content, who is trying to get your attention or most likely your money,
to completely disregard those at the receiving end of the communication.
Like the power of a bomb; you can destroy people and not even have to
suffer through witnessing it.
This web site appears in lieu of a book. Besides, such material would
make little or no sense only in print. Of course, publishing the work on
the internet pretty much guaranteed the publication. Makes it easier to
work from outside the system as well. p r o x i m a t e tries to imitate
this confrontational, faux-personal aspect of the internet in ludicrous
ways, in some poems ("Come Closer!," "Simon Says," etc.) . Other poems
engage a more sincere aspect, such as the relation between nature and
the binary of computing, or my creeping suspicion that web pages are
multiplying in the fashion of A.M. country stations, albeit at a greater
rate, thus undermining this "personalized" bright future the internet is
supposed to provide. All web pages seem the same after a while. I am
primarily interested here in confrontation and the language unit of the
sentence and the chord structures of poems (as I mis/read Ashbery), as
opposed to the syllable, the notes of poems.
I have a strong interest in interface design, as interfaces on the
internet (or in all technologies, even writing?) are the starting points
for my discussion, as interfaces are the most immediate contact we have
with others, though letters and graphics and hypertext links.
p r o x i m a t e is linear, as I wanted the site to feel less like a
"Choose your own Adventure" book and more like a neglected side hallway
in an old art gallery space. The site contains several poems, including
2 kinetic poems, a few RealAudio recordings of readings with some
background processing in some cases, some original graphics, and some
groundwork for new interfaces (which are now static). Perhaps the
structure is a gesture of my sincerity, as the face of much of the
material is one of sarcasm and duplicity (multiplicity?). I felt I could
point out internet-style duplicity by exaggerating it.
Of course, without the internet, this work would be meaningless. The
internet has afforded me the opportunity to publish in such a fashion.
As much as I criticize the Internet, I cannot imagine a time or place in
the past where a maturing writer could develop in a fashion that is at
once independent and public. Proximal and distal. For this I am not only
fortunate but grateful. With this site I have something at stake, both
as a poet and as a professional web designer & developer. The job pays
my bills, the poetry inflates my lungs, but I wanted something devoid of
such a feeble opposition, a place where the two could meet. The result
is p r o x i m a t e . o r g .

Patrick Herron
5 March 2001
Legacy descriptive tags
postmodern, Narrative, MP3, memory, meme, language, interface, identity, HTML, Flash, email, disappearance, digital, design, Contextual, Conceptual, audio, Animation, technophobia, surveillance, social space, security, Readymade, privacy
Attribution: Rhizome staff
Variant History
outside link
open submission
5 March 2001
Patrick Herron
static files
5 March 2001
Rhizome staff