The Field Project

The Field Project is an ongoing, international collaborative writing experiment begun in the Spring of 1999 by Mike Kelleher and Thomas Bell.  The idea is to explore the possibilities of electronic writing by asking participants to write essays on the topic, "Poetics of the Field."  We chose this topic not only because of its affinity to the poetics of "Composition by Field" as promoted by Charles Olson and the poetics of "The Opening of the Field" by Robert Duncan, but also because we were looking for a term that most closely described the place of writing on the web in a way that dealt with writing in and of itself, but which also distinguished this writing from print.  A page can be a "field", but a field does not necessarily have to be a page.  Further, the notion of "field" connotes the possibility of creating a writing that can be at once visual, aural, inter-medial, and three-dimensional, however one might imagine those happening (see the work of Aya Karpinska and Eduardo Kac for starters).

As this collaboration has progressed, and I have been able to get to know the collaborators more closely, I have come to see many other possibilities for this term as they relate to the ideas and works of the individual collaborators.  mIEKAL aND, for instance, suggested to me in conversation that he saw the web not as "virtual space" but rather as an extension of the natural ecosystem.  His involvement with "permaculture" farming at his Dreamtime Village in Wisconsin has led him to search for spaces, such as the web,  in which cross-pollination, hybridization, and genre mixing can occur, as in certain "natural" fields.  Another possibility exists in Jim Rosenberg's poems, which create dense visual fields of words overlaid on top of one another in virtual space, creating clusters of text and clusters of fields of text in a dense galaxy of lexical meaning.

Personally, the idea of a field appeals to me because it suggests the notion of "Unified Fields" in science, which theory injects into the spatial frame of reference the notion of Time.  Time, for me, is the fundemental, yet mostly unexamined, aspect of the web. To my mind, web writing has to do with movement (a&a&a&a&a&a&a& so on...), linkage, forwarding, and therefore time.  One says "space" when speaking about the web, as in "cyberspace", but where is this space?  Perhaps the better question is not WHERE is it? but WHEN is it?  One moves forward in time, not space, when interacting on the web. That said, the field is an opening question, a suggestion of possibility in both time and space.  The ambition of The Field Project is to create links between individual fields all over the world, traversing the infinite temporo-spatial field of the www.  For this reason, we have chosen to maintain our own sites, in our own countries, in order to open and to keep opening the field of electronic writing.

The Field Project is only beginning.  This is our first step.  The project will progress in phases, each with a new subtopic of the Poetics of the Field, with new and old collaborators participating at various points in time.  If you would like information about participating in this project, please send email to Mike Kelleher at mjk@acsu.buffalo.edu.

See you.

Mike Kelleher
Buffalo, May 2000