Syndicate: expect innovative poetry, multi-media artworks, interactive live performances, lively debate and sparkling wine.

Syndicate is a unique initiative bringing together writers, musicians, artists and researchers working in, and in response to, digital technologies, new media and evolving network practices. It is organised by Lila Matsumoto, Jo L Walton and Samantha Walton, in collaboration with New Media Scotland and with the support of the Edinburgh Fund’s Innovative Initiative Grant.

March 14: Syndicate #1: Allopoiesis

Thank you to the performers, helpers and audience for a great first night. Keep an eye out for documentation, plus news of the next event!


Sophie Robinson is a London-based poet who is currently working on a long poem about Soviet space travel. She’s interested in the the experimental sonnet, contemporary revisions of lyric, and queer space and time. Sophie was Poet in Residence at the V&A in 2011.

Calum Rodger is a Glasgow-based poet with an interest in digital poetics. Some of Calum’s latest work has been created using Chris Westbury’s ‘user-configurable dynamic textual projective surface’ JanusNode.

Dorothy Butchard is a researcher at the University of Edinburgh who is exploring the ramifications of new media for established narrative techniques and the representation of marginal communities in literary space. She curated a piece of digital art by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (장영혜중공업) plus several technical glitches, and shared ideas from her research.

Illiop’s electronic music is often reminiscent of the call of the Namaqua rainfrog, and/or the sound of a hundred ribbons tied to industrial machines. His creations are deeply diverse, always challenging, frequently captivating, and fairly elusive: only a wee fraction of his work is available online.

Iliop Prepares


Individual Syndicate events aren’t themed in advance, but they do have titles. The difference goes something like this: themes risk imposed unity of superficies; titles present paths into loose assemblages; they court serendipitous / pragmatic linkages and startling self-organisation.

Anyway: Syndicate clicked off in March with an event titled Allopoiesis. An allopoietic system is a system which produces anything other than itself, so obviously it’s a superbly fuzzy go-to rubric for any fresh undertaking. But allopoiesis also hints at its celeb counterpart, autopoiesis, the activity of self-production. (Two classic, albeit controversial, examples of autopoietic systems are human subjects and societies. Wikipedia: auto; allo (Heidegger Warning)).

So in its allusively subordinate status, its habit of generating its usurper, the word allopoiesis might itself be considered an allopoietic system. We discover, in microcosm, something sometimes considered a specifically poetic achievement: a forceful reciprocity between form and content.

Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,

The sound must seem an echo to the sense

One thing Syndicate hopes to explore is how such allegedly proprietary mirroring plays out in contexts not traditionally considered poetic, literary, aesthetic or even perhaps cultural. In this regard, Syndicate’s inaugural audience cantered (astride Calum Rodger) across territories which surely will repay a revisit.

For instance, Calum turned an AI Richards (sic)-esque eye to walls of tweets and collages of image macro memes. He provisionally distinguished between the closed type of image macro which “you either get or you don’t” and the open type which ask “what do you get from this?”; then he deftly ruined that distinction with a convincing alternative reading of one ostentatiously monolithic payload, discovering and developing its ulterior, inadvertent joke, born of an error. You either get it or you don’t, but what do you get? And what don’t you?

Another fascinating suggestion: scripts which generate these poems, rather than their outputs, could become objects of literary criticism (and indeed fandom, enthusiasm, shared cultural frameworks, etc.). But how? How should we approach such objects? How would the procedures of literary criticism have to adapt, for instance? Let’s keep thinking about this as Syndicate progresses.

Calum also read poems harvested from JanusNode, yet full of humour, import, desire and perhaps even intention which was wholly his own. Listeners may well feel the meagreness of any approach or attitude that can’t find its way to prioritising the author. We may well feel it even more acutely as we are jarred into discomfited, intimate enjoyment of the poems of Sophie Robinson. In their appalling passion and bleak hilarity, Sophie’s poems seemed to converge upon the public speech of a pop song or a victim impact statement; yet this was not only the “space where our subject slips away,” it was also the incessant invention of privacy, the space where our subject keeps popping back with growing fury to change outfits again or grab a new tool.  Texts may be tissues of quotations, but the technologies and practices of quotation are ever-changing. As one image macro would have it, “our names are usernames for rl.” What is the contemporary text, and what is the contemporary lyric subject? And is she on Twitter yet?

Chris Scott photographed the event; film by Laurie Irvine to come!


Syndicate is a unique initiative bringing together writers, musicians, artists and researchers working in, and in response to, digital technologies, new media and evolving network practices. It is organised by Lila Matsumoto and Samantha Walton, with the assistance of Jo L Walton, and in collaboration with Inspace and with the support of the Edinburgh Fund’s Innovative Initiative Grant.


One comment on “March 14: Syndicate #1: Allopoiesis

  1. Pingback: April 15: Syndicate #2: Real Time Strategy | Syndicate

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This entry was posted on February 28, 2013 by in Uncategorized.


Series Image: Power Out, by Georgie Lord
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