erasure poetry with Amiri Baraka and Ron DeSantis
Code lives here.
Reading about detournement this week has me thinking of this meme by Trevor Allen.
If, for Debord, detournement is about creating new webs of meaning, and robbing existing signs of their own meaning, then erasure seems like a powerful method of reframing recognizable corpuses (corpi?). I'm especially interested in his point that a detournement is less effective the more it approaches a rational reply. Rather than trying to "embrace debate" or critique our political enemies directly, the goal is to render them absurd. This meme has stuck with me for half a decade because it does this so nicely - rendering the ugly beautiful through an act of erasure, finding the poetry in a shitty tweet by an awful guy.
I am really into the idea of a war on semiotics through acts of juxtaposition and synthesis. And memes are probably the closest thing we have to a breakthrough practice of detournement - there's a reason Brad Troemel calls them the only true art form of the 21st century.
Anyway, I thought I'd try my hand at my own version of Allen's meme: erasing a text I despise, leaving only the parts that reflect something beautiful. Trump's tweets are pretty played out, and I'm not much of a poet, so I made an "erasure generator" using the tweets of Ron DeSantis and the poems of Amiri Baraka. It parses each of DeSantis' tweets, leaving only the letters that correspond to a fragment one of Baraka's poems. This results in an ugly-beautiful archive.
I used this GitHub gist to pull deSantis' most recent 3000-some tweets, and pulled S O S, a collection of Baraka's poetry, from libgen.
This took a while to get right (lots of for loops), but I got some cool ASCII art out of my struggles:
But, after sorting things out, I had a successful generator, replacing all letters that didn't correspond to a line of Baraka's poetry with spaces.
I decided to pipe it through tweet-image-generator for a more compelling visual presentation.
This kind of whips, but it's a bit much for proper consumption. I tried combining the output (basically waiting until the generated tweet had 240 characters and stripping whitespace) to increase legibility slightly, with some success.
But, ultimately, this didn't feel like the aesthetic I was going for, so I met somewhere in the middle:
I might think about ways to stay true to the spirit of what I'm trying to do while having a bit more content - for starters, a larger tweet archive or a more verbose target of my ire might help a lot. The biggest next step would just be curation - with 1/20th of the Baraka text, I generated almost 500 images, and sifting through them might result in some happy little accidents.