Saturday, April 06, 2013

Electronic Poet

Electronic Poet

If you've ever waited at the westbound Galleria MAX stop in downtown Portland, you may have noticed a strange metal object overhead, with a red LED display on one side displaying mysterious text snippets. This is Electronic Poet, which RACC describes as:

Keith Jellum’s “Electronic Poet” displays several curated collections of poems programmed in an evolving loop. The programs were intended to be rotated every six months and have included diverse selections including North American poets born before 1990; Native American poets; Oregon place names; Northwestern poets; European poets and many more. Jellum, wanted to create opportunities for moments of reflection within the urban landscape.

Electronic Poet

Longtime readers may recall seeing some other Jellum pieces here a few months ago, namely Transcendence (the fish-smashing-through-a-building thingy near the South Park Blocks) and Portal (the double hammer archway on 1st Avenue south of I-405). I liked both of those, and I've always liked Electronic Poet. But then, I tend to enjoy odd conceptual stuff like this, and your mileage may vary.

Electronic Poet

It didn't occur to me to make a video of Electronic Poet doing its thing; I just took still photos and called it a day, because that's what I always do. You're in luck this time, though, because someone recorded a full 10 minute Electronic Poet program and posted it on YouTube. That probably gets the idea across better than any photo I could take of it. While watching the clip, it occurred to me that there's something sort of archaic about the piece. It was created way back in 1984, when programmable red LED displays were still kind of new and exotic. Now it seems a bit quaint, sort of like a giant analog cell phone or a dual-cassette boombox with graphic equalizer sliders. I'm not saying change it; it's kind of charming and retro the way it is now, which is probably something they completely didn't anticipate back in 1984. Meanwhile, my neighborhood 7-11 convenience store has a full-color reader board that displays random stuff from Twitter, I suppose just to create a sense that they understand social media and the concerns of today's youth, that sort of thing. And someday people will sneer at that as a weird relic of the days before Holographic Smell-o-Vision was invented. Or something.

Electronic Poet Electronic Poet

1 comment :

Eric Allen said...

I see this every morning as I take the train to Beaverton. The sculpture itself is timeless. Theoretically the display could be updated, but what's the point? It serves its purpose well and is probably bombproof-burned out LEDs are cheap and easy to replace. I'm waiting for the text to be switched out...