darwin poetry festival

1995 ABC Radio Darwin Interview

Tony Collins Ė Komninos in Transition

Komninos: I started to feel dissatisfied with myself, as that thing I was, a performer, you know, who was certain expectations of. I had a little computer and I thought this could be used for more than a sophisticated storage system and typewriter you know, there has got to be things you can do with it. So I just did a simple animation using pages from a slide-show program, just drawing a word in a different position of a page. It was the word four, so actually by flipping the pages quickly the word actually fell down the page. So I thought, you know, how about trying to move words around in time and space and making movies out of words with animations and getting them doing things and so personify the words. Sort of, an extension of Sesame Street, you know Ė ďtodayís going to be brought to you by the Letter I!Ē So itís been working, Iím calling it cyber poetry and itís sort of like watching television and its like reading at the same time Ďcause you actually have to read the words to follow the plot and there is no actual visual images presented to you. The words are still making the image, thatís why I still think its poetry and the words are still evoking the emotions by their actions and placement in three-dimensional environment.

[musical interlude]

Tony Collins: Is this a new direction for the publication and performance of poetry?

Komninos: I think itís a whole new direction in tech, literature yeah. Interactive fiction is becoming a big thing. A lot of CD ROM togs now, are directed at kids and kids are embracing the technology quite well, you know, they sort of point and click rather than turn pages. And, the hypertext stuff that can get you to other bodies of information and not necessarily have that sort of linear storyline, and kids are getting into that. Thereís ways we can tell stories with multimedia which is superior to say just a book because instead of turning the page and getting more text you can turn the page and get a movie, you know, a 20 second animation, worse still, worse sound sample, or you know youíve got a whole lot more things in your power to use to tell a story. But, youíve got to develop techniques of the film maker, the director, the lighting man, the sound person, the set designer, you know, youíve got to think of all these things in multi-media, itís multi-skilled as well. So, it is a whole new ball game in terms of the way we author in this media.

Tony Collins: What effect do you think the medium will have on the material thatís being written? Is that going to take the style of poetry writing away in another direction?

Komninos: I donít think so, I think it will still be basic words that evoke emotions, that evoke images, that tell stories. Thatís what it will be on the computer screen as well. It will still be the words doing the work, itís just that they will be wrapped in a different package.

Tony Collins: Are you sort of looking forward to the day when poetry books, for example, are published on CD ROM and do you think thatís far off?

Komninos: Well, Iíve said to myself Iím not going to publish another book in book form, from now on Iím going to publish in CD ROM form or some other form. I donít see that day too far off you know, book sellers are telling me now that pretty soon that book shops will just be a computer terminal and an instant printing machine.

[music interlude]

Tony Collins: Is this going to be an alternative venue to the stage for poetry then?

Komninos: Imagine this Ė if a video image can be digitized and if we can start to get 3D video images, they can beam me to a theatre space, my physical image and my voice, to a theatre space in London. I could appear as a 3D image on a stage, the audience could see me, by the way of a video teleconferencing thing, I could see them and I could be sitting in my home in Darwin. So, and that, and all that technology that Iíve just mentioned is available and is possible and can be done right now. Can you just imagine sort of like a concert in Sydney, where youíve got one artist being beamed by telephone line or by satellite from each state in Australia and actually appearing in front of people as a 3D image and their words coming out of their mouth and actually being able to talk to that audience because they can see them too.

[music/speaking interlude]

Komninos: I can see you know like amazing potential for the creativity of the use of the computer which basically up to now has been in the hands of scientists and technicians. Thank them for developing it, for having the brains to develop it but, soon its going to be cheap enough and accessible enough for those kids who are working their way through CD ROM titles now Ė childrenís ones, who are going to come up with their own ideas of how they want a journey to happen; to start using the computer creatively.

Tony Collins: Youíre studying at the moment, youíre a student yourself.

Komninos: I went back to school!

Tony Collins: Does that involve the use of multimedia?

Komninos: Yeah it is. Iím submitting my Masters in Creative Writing, University of Queensland, on a CD ROM which Iím authoring in a program called Hypercard. And, yeah I had to sort of convince them that it was literature and that it could be submitted as such. When I started off I wanted to, there was 26 computer voices, and I like, as a performance poet, you get, you often get the comment that you know, itís your voice that is making this thing work. You know, youíre performing it, thatís why itís working. But, I started you know, reading my poems with a computers voice and I found that they worked just as well with somebody elses voice reading them, even a false, obviously false Americanised accent computer voice. They still had the same sort of power. So, I tried to make my poems as much without me in them as possible to completely remove myself from the performance, to let the poems perform themselves.

[voice interlude]

Komninos: But in making this cyber poetry, it all, it threw up new possibilities for different kinds of performances like in theatre spaces where the live low-tech unaided performance of a reading, of a poetry reading or a performance of text could be contrasted, complemented with this video computer poetry of words sort of floating around in space and some live person jumping around in front of them saying Ė so sort of like bouncing the live words off the high-tech words. So, itís nice combination of high-tech and low-tech and bringing it, making a new kind of performance, well maybe was possible before with videos and slides and a tape deck but you can like, you can put them all into one neat package now with the computer.

[computer voice generation of poem]

darwin poetry festival