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DEC 15, 2016

Mezangelle, an Online SAV E +


Language for
Codework and Poetry

This interview accompanies the Net Art Anthology presentation of work by Mez

In 1993, Australian artist and poet Mez Breeze began to develop her own online
language, Mezangelle. Her Mezangelle poetry has appeared across the internet
over the last two decades under multiple names and connected to multiple

Mezangelle uses programming language and informal speech to rearrange and

dissect standard English, creating new and unexpected meaning. Mez Breezes
approach to codeworkonline experimental writing that explores the
relationship between machine and human languagesis imbued with a sense of
playfulness and creativity.

For Net Art Anthology, Rhizome is presenting 43 emails containing Mez Breezes
contributions to the net.art email list 7-11, one of the first online communities
purely dedicated to net art experimentation. Viewers may subscribe to the email
list to receive the works in their inbox one by one over the course of the next
year, reperforming their original transmission in the same order and pacing.

The following is an interview with Mez conducted by Rhizome assistant curator

Aria Dean in December 2016.

Aria Dean: Can you describe Mezangelle?

Mez Breeze: Mezangelle evolved in the mid-1990s, gestating in email exchanges,

computer programming languages + chat-oriented software [ie y-talk, webchat,
and IRC] and attempting to fuse English, poetic conventions, programming code,
contemporary social commentary, and online communiqu.
A Mezangelle post on the 7-11 mailing list, 1998

Mezangelle fuels various ongoing codework repositories, one of which is "_cross.ova.ing ]

[4rm.blog.2.log][_. The output posted here is constantly evolving and de-evolving in terms of
style and convention. Mezangelled works aren't designed to be parsed as linear or static, but
instead exist in an artificially induced finishing state:
"Viewers of Mezs works are not only required to read (and sometimes
interact), but to translate the Mezangelle language, which often (if not
usually) creates multiple interpretive possibilities. Mezs interest in playing
withand making as much as she possibly can out of ASCII code is
obvious; the addition of images gives viewers more to work through Mez
works this possibility with her use of language, and by using images as
prefix and suffixto extreme ends, and by doing so metaphorically hits two,
three, or more notes at with a single gathering of letters formed into a word
in ways previous generations of writers could not."

C T Funkhouser in New Directions in Digital Poetry" referencing the

Mezangelle work _ID_xor.cism_

I do see Mezangelle as intrinsically questioning a culture of exclusion that can often develop
alongside binary systems, as well as exploring the "rightness" and "wrongness" of function vs.
dysfunction, and the binary opposition/conditioning that often envelops those devoted to
mono-meaning curves [which in part explains my fascination with trinary logic].

Screenshot from the Javascript-based Mezangelle project T E X T Filtah, 2000

While engaging with a Mezangelled text, a reader/user is encouraged to construct meaning in

a tumultuous fractured meaning zone that bends and happily shifts comprehension goalposts.
Rule-fragments do exist [t]here, but determination of meaning depends on an
acknowledgment that there is never only one level of interpretation, or an ultimately correct
[or incorrect] option.

Works created in Mezangelle are designed to function, or meaning-establish, via a

combination of semantic triggers combined with an individual's own subjective meaning
framework. There is no one way to interpret Mezangelle: many people parse only the poetic
underpinnings, whereas some in the code-loop happily grok-absorb programming elements or
ASCII-like symbols. Many others have analysed Mezangelled works on a more granular level:
one of the better-known attempts comes from theorist Florian Cramer, who says of one of my
earlier codeworks _Viro.Logic Condition][ing][ 1.1_ :
"What seems like an unreadable mess at first, turns out to be subtle
and dense if you read closer. The whole text borrows from
conventions of programming languages; it presents itself as a program
with a title, version number, main routineindicated with the line [b:g:in]
and several subroutines or objects (which, like in the programming
language Perl, are indicated with two double colons). But the main device
are the square brackets which, like in Boolean search expressions, denote
that a text can be read in multiple ways. For example, the title reads
simultaneously as Virologic Condition , Virologic Conditioning , Logic
Condition and Logic Conditioning . This technique reminds of the
portmanteau words of Lewis Carroll and James Joyces Finnegans Wake ,
but is reinvented here in the context of net culture and computer

As the four readings of the title tell already, this particular text is
about humans and machines and about a sickness condition of both. The
square bracket technique is used to keep the attributions ambiguous. For
example, the two words in the line ::Art.hro][botic][scopic N.][in][ten][dos]
[tions:: can be read as arthroscopic / art robotic / Arthrobotic /
horoscopic and Nintendos / intentions or DOS . So the machine
becomes arthritic, sick with human disease, and the human body becomes
infected with a computer virus; in the end, they recover by code syrup &
brooding symbols . So mez has taken ASCII Art, as we can see it in the
exhibition above, and Net.art code spamming and refined it from pure
visual patterns into a rich semantical private language. She calls it
Mezangelle which itself is a mez hybrid for her own name and the word to

Since her square bracketed expressions expand into multiple meanings,

they are executable, that is, a combinatory source code which generates
output. But its also a sophisticated reflection of cultural concepts of
software which rereads the coding conventions of computer programming
languages as semantical language charged with gendered politics. Its
imaginary software which executes in the minds of computer-literate
human readers, not unlike the Turing Machine which was an imaginary
piece of hardware."

Since 2011, Ive been pushing Mezangelle into 3D Spaces and mobile apps created by myself
and Andy Campbell. For instance, in our anti-surveillance game #PRISOM, the Surveillance
Drones talk to each other in Mezangelle. "#PRISOM" premired [via an Augmented Reality
Head-Mounted Display set-up] at the 2013 International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented
Reality, in conjunction with the University of South Australia University's Wearable Computer
Lab and the Royal Institution of Australia. When creating the Mezangelle scripts for the
#PRISOM Drones, my main influence was global covert surveillance [think: PRISM surveillance
program] and increasing monitoring of individuals private data/lives.

#PRISOM AR game featuring Mezangelle, 2013

AD: Is Mezangelle a language system in the sense that it can be reproduced and
replicated by a writer other than yourself ?

MB: Indeed it can, and many have produced Mezangelle versions/content of their own [ie Sally
Clair Evans, Florian Cramer, Peter Wildman, and Mark Marinos Netprovs to name a few].

AD: Your poetry is often discussed under the umbrella of codework, a form of
experimental writing that mixes identifiably human language with code from
computer languages. The practices within codework vary widely; not all of them
engage with and handle code in the same way. While mezangelle language draws
on elements of code, the code is non-functional and non-executable, right?
Considering this, how do you see the relationship between the code and the text
in your work?
MB: I like to think my use of code conventions acts to open up poetic aspects via a type of
dimensional interplay [combining the lyrical with a formalised structure]. Those who choose to
absorb my output may enjoy trying to ferret out hidden meanings, and/ or derive their own
deductions. Some readers that attempt to parse Mezangelle, and codeworks in general, have a
certain pre-set programming knowledge that allows for a certain interpretation, whereas some
may instead perceive the code interjections as a type of visual accent [especially those who
are traditional poetry fans].

GoDaddyGoDaddyGo from _cross.ova.ing ][4rm.blog.2.log][_, 2012

I do enjoy manipulating standardised code protocols and conventions, and all my works have
[at their core] a definitive social commentary function. When creating in Mezangelle, my aim is
to encourage continued exploration through code emulation, curiosity, play and repeated
questioning/collapsing of institutionalized concepts. Of course, with curiosity and play being
strong markers of mine, I do think of my works as cheekily [and sometimes melancholically]

A more recent analysis by Roopika Risam of the Mezangelled work

Anthropo[S]ceney||AnthropO[bs]cene seeks to unpack this relationship between code and
"Breezes use of brackets adds new dimensions and questions to her poem,
disrupting both the experience of reading and the possibilities for
interpretation. Breezes poetry experiments liberally with different
dimensions of programming syntax. In contrast to executable code poems,
poems that dont rely on executable code are not bound by the rules that
constrain programming languages. Rather, they take advantages of the
structures of code to represent the relationship between computational
technology and human experience in symbolic ways. In doing so, these
poems draw attention to the structural elements of computational
technology that we may not see but are central to our experience of
technology and of the world."

AD: What compelled you to develop your own online language?

MB: I originally became interested in the idea when, in 1993, I was first exposed to the work of
VNS Matrix [who I later wrote about in Switch Magazine and who also feature here in your Net
Art Anthology: yay!]. Their mix of game aesthetics, Anarcha-feminism, and virtual/online
engagement intrigued me; at the time I was creating mixed-media installations involving
painting, computer text and computer hardware. I was also exploring notions of performative
identity-play at the time. I first dove online using Telnet/Unix and Kajplats 305 to juggle avatar
use, identity-play, and interactive fiction: Mezangelle had its roots here.

AD: What pre-internet literature and language practices were influential in

designing Mezangelle?

MB: As Ive said previously, its exceedingly hard to pin down influential content thats easily
reduced to just the literary, so instead Ill give you a ramshackle list of
influences/tools/inspirations [thats by no means complete]:

Kimba the White Lion + Astro Boy [manga/anime + not the bastardised Disney versions].
Two great Hoppers [Grace Hopper, Dennis Hopper].
David Cronenberg [his earlier visceral works, especially _Dead Ringers_: gynaecological
instruments for operating on mutant women!!?!].
Consolidated [specially the album _Friendly Fascism_].
Giacometti [both Alberto + Diego].
Horror [j horror, b+z-grade, splatterpunk, Romero, Craven etc not gorno or torture porn
_New Order_ [before Gillian left (then came back) + the inscriptions on the vinyl I had as a
teenager] + _Joy Division_ before them [poor Ian:/].
CB Radio.
Dr Who [Tom Baker version(s + jellybeans + the multicoloured scarf!)].
Frida Kahlo, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Stevie Case [for what in various degrees to strive
for and also what not to become].
_Ghost in the Shell_ [Originals (1+11)].
Cindy Sherman.
Non-Euclidian Geometry [thanks Gina!].
John Wyndam [Triffids! Triffids!]
Snapper [a duck I had when I was about 8?] + Tahnee [a now-passed Border Collie] - both
taught me (to) respect].
Unix [shelled + otherwise].
FKA Twigs [Afrofuturism = yaas pls].
_Porcupine Pie_.
Altered states of consciousness [in many forms].
_Cosmos_ [Carl Sagan].
_Eat Carpet_.
The D-Danguage [a made-up language from my teens where my siblings + I conversed via
words where wed replace all the initial letters with the letter D].
_Aeon Flux_ + _The Maxx_ [_MTV oddities_ ftw|wtf!].
_The Goodies_.
Childish Gambino, the Herd, M.I.A, Regurgitator.
Bill Burroughs.
Gurrumul Yunupingu.
ReBirth RB-338.
_DOOM_ [+ _Quake_].
Sci-fi + Cyberpunk [specially Le Guin, Ballard, Atwood, Stross, Octavia E. Butler, Bill Gibson].
LaTeX [+ LaTeX2e].
_Raw Like Sushi_.
The Dreamtime.
Sociology [to that kooky lecturer whose name (but not face) Ive since forgotten, thanks].
Koko [the gorilla].
_G-Force: Battle of the Planets_.
_The Life of Brian_.
_Ren & Stimpy_ [Its loggg-ogg, logg-ogg, its big, its heavy, its wood!].
Dennis Potter [even with the potential misogyny].
Sam Coleridge [_Kubla Khan_ + _Rhyme of_, obviously].
LittleDog + BigDog.
_The Wizard of Oz_ [original].
Lars von Trier.
Kathy Acker.
Systems Theory.
_House of Leaves_.
_True Detective_ [Season 1 only!!!!].
Brian Aldiss.
_The Canterbury Tales_.
Max Headroom.
Adam Jones.
Hamlet [character].
_ Aenima_.
Alex the African Grey Parrot.
_THX 1138_.
Situationist Internationalists.
_Phoenix_ + _Frogger_ [+ hours-long arcade gaming at the local takeaway in general when I
was 12 (with salty chips, yes please)].
_Tetsuo_ [1+2].
_Westworld_ [both movie + teev series].
Theatre of Disco.
Academia [+ learning the limitations of it].
Libraries [in all senses of the word].
_Brave New World_ [novel].
_The Blair Witch Project_.
The concept of ARGS [in terms of potentialities rather than necessarily executions].
David Lynch.
Peter Greenaway.
Richard Kelly.
Chris Cunningham.
_Duke Nukem[3D]_, _Half-Life[1+ 2]_, Everquest [1 only], _Dear Esther_, _ The Endless Forest_ +
_World of Warcraft_.
AD: How do you think digital writing has changed in the last decade or so? Are
there new possibilities for experimentation?

MB: Digital writing has transformed in the last decade, absolutely. Whats interesting about
this is the altering of social engagement markers in relation to online comms [think:
chan/imageboards, txtspeak, memetalk, snowcloning], and how this is shaping discourse in
general and the corresponding effects on institutionalised systems [think fake news (ie
propaganda) items that are in fact a creative (and fundamentally catastrophic) rendering of
facts that can alter the trajectory of democracy itself)].

There are many new possibilities for experimentation in the digital writing sphere, including
experimentation within game spaces, especially in relation to Virtual Reality/Augmented
Reality/Mixed Reality. Potentials include breaking down narratives and distilling and
reordering components into discrete fragmented VR units, and/or shifting the story emphasis
to consecutive divergings [similar to branching narratives like in Choose Your Own Adventure].

Narrative/VR game All the Delicate Duplicates with Mezangelled text splines, 2016-2017

In VR/AR scripting, aspects that previously would have been only been peripheral, or
incidental, can now take equal centre-stage: mono-attentional entertainment may shift
according. Viewers/players will use a combination of renewed agency, 4th wall breakage, and
field-of-view-constraint-lifting to accommodate new methods of constructing [story]texts with
VR/AR based tools [think: StoryboardVR, Tvori, Mindshow, Actiongram]. The striation between
360 video/photos and "true" [ie agency engaged] VR will [and currently are] reflecting
interesting avenues for digital writers.
AD: In addition to disrupting and fragmenting language itself, your work also
problematizes authorship. There are a number of different avatars to whom your
works are attributed. Is this something that emerged organically in your practice
as youve created works across multiple platforms and communities? Or is it a
more intentional, perhaps even political, choice? Both?

MB: From my POV, my choice to avatar-assign authorship of certain Mezangelled works reflects
a desire to meddle with certain systems that influence the formation of meaning, of
comprehension. If you systematically obfuscate and deliberately muddy binaries aligned with
gender, race, sex, age, ownership, and authorship, your work itself gets an unparalleled chance
for interpretation without the looming fact of traditional, and often seductive, polarization, or
ego-hinged attribution. So really, my use of multiple avatars is indeed a mix of deliberate
crafting and opportunism.


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