From the Work to .txt / and Back



On Mary-Anne Breeze’s Net Literature



Franz Thalmair




»The text is plural. That doesn’t only mean that it has more than one meaning; it also means that it fulfills the actual plural of meaning: an irreducible (and not merely acceptable) plural. The text is not a co-existence of meanings, but a passage, a transition: for that reason, it is prone not to interpretation, be it ever so generous, but only to an explosion, a dissemination.« [1]

mez, netwurker, data[h!]bleeder, ms post modemism, mezflesque.exe, ova.kill, net.w][ho][urker, Purrsonal Areah Netwurker, Phonet][r][ix … The pseudonyms and avatars of Australian net artist Mary-Anne Breeze are as multifaceted and open as is her artistic work. Since the beginning of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s, mez has developed an artificial language of her own that she calls »m[ez]ang.elle.« Her texts, which are only posted on the Internet, are created using different associative techniques that merge to form a play on language made up of content and form, production and reception as well as literature and performance. Orthographic and literary allusions along with links, snippets of code, Internet slang and programming languages create a hybrid that in itself can be read in smaller semantic units, creating a maelstrom of literature in motion. The word »m[ez]ang.elle,« for instance, combines »mez,« the artist’s main avatar, and the English word »to mangle,« which alludes to the writing technique behind her neologisms and to the invented file extension ».elle,« which in turn can be read as a reference to the artist’s gender. The artist described her writing process in an interview[2]:

1. a trigger is in[itially.e]volved [could b ph(r)ase/code strings, a sensory cue, +/or information spark(s) via aggre(p)gation trawling].
2. a syn[es]t[ling]ax [dr(p)a(rsed)wn from my data absorbing at that time] then w[b ]ra[nches]ps around the trigger.
3. then come the mechanisms employed 2 diffuse the impulse 2 use a [self]conscious authorial voice 2 construct the work.
4. then comes the compiling: pie[r]cing 2gether via a streaming process of generating>constructing>analysing>re[m({h}ash)ix] constructing>m[f]ixing>optimizing etc blah until it has some type of internal consistency.
5. my wurks r never really finished; they kinda hang together in a faux_fixed state,

m[ez]ang.elle has been compared to Lewis Carrol’s or James Joyce’s portmanteau words. The Internet’s wealth of content and facets nurtures m[ez]ang.elle, calling for the utmost concentration if a reader wants to try to decipher its meaning. The extremely complex writing process is linked to a complex reading process that can only take place at the expense of dramaturgical deceleration. The author, who applies her own code system to all communications media on the Internet, began her work in the so-called MUDS (Multi-User-Dimensions) and to still continues to participate in the relevant mailing lists for Net culture and established formats like blogs, Twitter or Facebook. With all of the media set pieces found in the text structure, m[ez]ang.elle isn’t merely a personal medium of communication, but is also used as an active tool for reflecting on contemporary art production on the Internet. mez breaks with traditional language conventions with the aim of developing an open, process-oriented form of communication. In her own words, Mary-Anne Breeze’s »prime n.spiration« for creating m[ez]ang.elle was »reality_shifting … of constructing a new m[c]o[mmunication]dality + m.bracing net.worked shifts + m.mergent practices in the online medium.« She conceives of the process of gleaning meaning from her literature in broad-based terms. Her language doesn’t stand for the construction of a work that can be reduced to a semantic core, but for a discursive flow in which interpretation and performativity are as important as the work of art itself. That’s the reason why readers of m[ez]ang.elle never have the feeling that they truly understand a text … and that isn’t even necessary because »The .txt is plural.«





Translation: Jennifer Taylor-Gaida


1 Roland Barthes, »Vom Werk zum Text,« Charles Harrison & Paul Wood (eds.), Kunsttheorie im 20. Jahrhundert. Künstlerschriften, Kunstkritik, Kunstphilosophie, Manifeste, Statements, Interviews, Ostfildern-Ruit 2003, p. 1164.