Waveform is a speculative instance of ‘drone generated poetry’, meditating on the role of digital sensors in contemporary environmental monitoring. In this project, coastal shorelines are imaged using an airborne camera drone. The data gathered is then analysed using a machine vision algorithm that attempts to trace the nebulous boundary between wave and shore—a process whose inherent ambiguity exposes the functional contingencies and encoded thresholds of the system. The marker points that define this boundary then supply variables for another algorithm that generates short, enigmatic statements, which are curated to engage themes concerning the maritime environment, the perils and absurdities of life in a rapidly degenerating climate, and the interrelated acts of sensing, measuring, and knowing.

Both the process and its outputs entangle and unsettle the varied liminal markers distinguishing land and sea, the visual and the textual, and machinic versus human modes of sense-making, in order to inspire reflection on their combined roles in mapping, across science and culture alike, the epochal threshold of the Anthropocene.

Book

A collection of images and poems for this project was first compiled into a dedicated artist’s book in 2018, which has never been released. In 2020 this collection was updated and reprinted in a large-format edition for exhibition at the British Library, and subsequent public sale.

In 2023 a free, online edition of Waveform was compiled, derived from the 2018 and 2020 editions, and it can be viewed by clicking on the cover image below, or through this link.

Cover (2023 online edition)
Page Spread (opening diptych, 2023 online edition)
Page Spread (closing diptych, 2023 online edition)

Film

In 2019 a version of Waveform was produced as a short artist’s film. The ambient soundscape for this film was created specially by Prof. Mariana López. This film was shown originally for the July 2019 “Peripheries: Electronic Literature and New Media Art” exhibition held at the Glucksman Gallery, Cork, as part of ELO2019. Programme entry at this link here.

An abridged version of the film featured as part of the online Computer Vision Art Gallery for the 2021 IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), as part of the “Ethical Considerations in Creative applications of Computer Vision” (EC3V) workshop. Gallery page available at this link here.

In 2022, the film was included as part of The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 4, compiled by The Electronic Literature Organisation. The entry can be browsed at this link here.

In January 2024, the film featured as part of the LCB Depot “New Generations” exhibition of generative digital art. Event page available at this link here.

Waveform (film)
Waveform (film), as exhibited at the Glucksman Gallery, July 2019

Publications

The film version of Waveform is the subject of a full length article by Dr Katarzyna Ostalska for Text Matters journal: “Waves of Pixels and Wordgenerated Algorithms: Drone Poetry as a Collaborative Practice between Machine and Human in Waveform”. DOI: https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.13.15.

Waveform features in a chapter of Dr Jeneen Naji’s book Digital Poetry (2021) (specifically, in the chapter “Eco-writing and Drone: Digital Poetry During the Anthropocene”, alongside work by Shelly Jackson and Pip Thornton). It can be previewed and purchased at this link here.

Waveform is cited as part of Dr Lai-Tze Fan’s chapter “Digital Nature”, in Nature and Literary Studies (2022). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108872263.023.

Waveform is due to be featured in a dedicated chapter written by the artist, entitled “Drone Poetry”, in Ambient Stories: Digital Writing in Place. Ed. Amy Spencer. Emerald.

The film version of Waveform was discussed by the artist in a 2020 special issue of IJCMR “Digital Ecologies: Fiction Machines”. Available here [Archived]: https://doi.org/10.33008/IJCMR.202017.

Waveform is cited in the 2020 article “Electronic Literature and the Anthropocene” for Electronic Book Review. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7273/rt06-ts14.

The 2018 edition of the Waveform book publication has been discussed in the article “The Book and its Algorithm” for Artist’s Book Yearbook 2020-2021. It can be purchased here.

A detailed article, covering the early technical and conceptual background to the project, has been published by the journal Arts, in their 2018 special issue “The Machine as Artist (For the 21st Century).” DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/arts7040070.

In the spring of 2018 an output from Waveform featured in a publication entitled But There is No Land Near the End by A+E Collective. This publication showcases the work of over twenty internationally based contemporary artists, poets, and writers whose practices engage with ecological questions. Both the publication and the launch event were named after a poem included within the Waveform collection. Poet Maria Sledmere (@mariaxrose), whose work also featured, wrote a guest blog for Creative Carbon Scotland that offers an extended overview of the event, and this can be read at the link card below.

A short article concerning the initial work on the project was published by the online journal The Writing Platform in 2017. It is available here.