Alejandro Miguel Justino Crawford, Egress

(The Claudius App, 2014)

Egress. To leave; to exit from. From classical Latin ēgressus: the action of going out, aperture, outlet, or digression. In figurative use, from the 8th century: death.

In 2014, Alejandro Miguel Justino Crawford released a poem entitled Egress that operates within an immersive 3D application for Mac or PC. The poem drops the user into a literal field of signs. Egress features a simulated valley populated by various elements including construction marquees endlessly streaming haphazard enjambments of text, a flurry of verbal detritus falling from the sky, and an ambient soundtrack. Like the user at the console, the reader in the game is immobile, stuck, bound to a static position, left only with the limited capacity to browse: of course, there is nowhere to go.

While dozens of road signs blare atrocious assemblages of spam text, one marquee offers something resembling an egress:

Because the producti
on of forms in a new
medium re-signifies
their constitutive
elements, such differen
tial functions can be
explicitly foregrou
nded and aesthetically
investigated, particul
arly in transitional
moments.

Embedded within the manifold horrors of the Internet—normalized performances of algorithmic racism, misogyny, and exploitation, to name only those screened in the poem—Crawford’s interactive poetics presents a software update to existential queries in a transitional moment. There is no exit to Egress. It is network culture distilled. Even the escape button is powerless. Instead, the poem demands the user must quit the program, keep reading, seek tactics of egress, even where none appear.

Contributor

Danny Snelson

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