Cecilia Lindhé, Electronic Literature and Art in Sweden 1950–2010

The aim of this study is three-folded. It seeks to map out the development of the genre of digital literature in Sweden 1950–2010, perform close readings of selected works, and establish an online archive. Early known examples of digital literature are experiments with language and code on the first Swedish computers such as TRASK, which involved poets and composers Bengt Emil Johnson and Lars Gunnar Bodin, and others. Later examples are the hypertext fiction Iakttagarens förmåga att ingripa (1992), by author and avant-garde artist Karl-Erik Tallmo, and Kerstin Ekman’s literary computer game Rymdresa (1991). During the last decades, poets and artists such as Johannes Heldén, Lisa Jevbratt, and Per Thörn have published digital and multimodal works. However, these are only a few examples of a multifaceted field. The main focus is on material from Sweden; nevertheless, when it is relevant, the other Nordic countries will be related to as well.

Initially, an inventory of the genre will be made, where its origins, beginnings, important collaborations between people, organizations and different artistic fields will be delineated, presented, and commented upon. In an effort to describe what characterizes digital literature in a Swedish context, this first study outlines historical documents and creative initiatives. Examples of this kind could include code poetry, computer programmed texts, visual works (static and kinetic), hypertext, and text based computer games, but also alternative approaches to using digital technology such as an influence on printed literature, the visual arts and audio production will be of importance.

Subsequently, the study will critically discuss the genre of digital literature in Sweden as well as provide close readings of several works. This investigation, which constitutes the second foci, entails the interplay of letters, links, images (moving and still), colors, shapes, sounds, processing, and interaction. Further, digital technologies often foreground an interaction between multiple modes of expression, such as visual, verbal, auditive, and kinetic elements. This multisensory and spatiotemporal engagement with art has bearing on notions such as presence and absence, physicality and virtuality, spatiality and temporality, body and embodiment, to mention a few. Consequently, a special focus will be on the connection between materiality, code, and the senses, and the study will explore how sight, hearing, and touch are staged in these works.

Finally, an essential part of the project, that will run parallel with the studies described above, concerns the collection of the art objects as well as making them available in an online archive of Swedish digital literature 1950–2010.