Thursday, January 14, 2016

Moving La condición || La condición se cambia de casa

We all have to move from time to time, and I finally had time today to migrate La condición to my personal website. This way things will be tidier, and all in one place. I will no longer update this blog. Please, come and visit our new home.


A todo el mundo le toca mudarse de vez en cuando, y hoy por fin he tenido un rato para migrar La condición a mi web personal. Así las cosas estarán más ordenaditas; todo en el mismo sitio. Y ya no volveré a actualizar este blog. Por favor, vengan a visitar nuestra nueva casa.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


**please view and listen to poems through a desktop computer, they won't work on mobile devices**

"#SELFIEPOETRY: Fake Art Histories & the Inscription of the Digital Self" is an on going series of e-poems that I've recently started to write (although write might not be the right word to use), using the online platform NewHive--which I was basically testing to see if it would be a good teaching tool for my e-lit course next year.** However, I got hooked, and I began working on a series of poems that combines a few of my current intellectual interests: the (un)truth behind artistic or literary histories and our (il)legitimacy to intervene and organize events to create narratives that "make sense," vs. the interpretative role of the recipient of said narratives. I'm also pretty intrigued by the roles assigned to the producer of art and its consumers, roles that have been traditionally separate and that have begun to blend and blur indistinguishable thanks to their performance on digital media. Consumers subjectivity and representation has turned into a very particular way of individual signaling, turning the subject into an object of massive amateur (some have called it "democratizing") representation and distribution. The self (and the photographic image of the self) keeps reappearing in different digital platforms, inscribing itself through the space and time of the Web. In other words, we are obsessed with our faces (and this obsession goes well beyond taking photos in the bathroom).

My #SELFIEPOETRY series looks thus at some ways in which the inscription of the self (in today's paradigmatic digital manifestation, i.e.: the selfie) can be reinterpreted against a very vague and unorthodox selection of artistic and literary trends. As of today, there are 8 poems, each constituting an intervention in a different movement. They also touch upon some very personal matters, since I am intrigued by the many ways in which people today share their personal lives online.

Dreamtigers tigers tigers

Dreamtigers tigers tigers is the first poem I wrote, as an obvious homage to Jorge Luis Borges. Taking into consideration the latest and controversial conceptualist interventions in and around his work, I felt the urge to explore it myself. The poem consists on a recording of my reading of Borges's "Dreamtigers" (as it was included in the collection with the same title--El hacedor in Spanish). I didn't change anything in the text, I simply copied and pasted the English version (the original, btw), and then read it twice, first in English and then in Spanish. The voice recording loops endlessly going back and forth between both languages, and it's interrupted by a documentary video on the last wild tigers on Earth. Footage of real tigers interrupts the imaginary summoning of Borges's tiger (although this YouTube video is zone restricted and it is only viewable in the United States and some other English speaking countries. Very pertinently, Copyright policies ban its reproduction in Spain or Mexico, for instance, making this poem about intertextuality and appropriationism even more relevant to my purposes). My sound recording includes some repetitions and some strange, Spanish inflected pronunciation, as a means to highlight the struggles of vocalizing in a (not so) foreign language. Finally, in order to mesh the critical discourse on digital originality with the role of the so-called pronsumer, I incorporated about 8 copies of the same selfie image showing my face partially hidden by a shot of a tiger running.


I like to think of Futurismo as a funny (and eerie) commentary on all things avant-garde. Futurism, both as an artistic and a literary movement, is one of those very dated expressions, easy to identify at a first glance, and quickly associated to ideas like "speed," "machines," "progress," "war," and "industrialism". It takes us back to a concrete moment in Western history, characterized by revolutions (political and mechanic) and artistic manifestos.

I was reading Digital Memory and the Archive by Wolfgang Ernst at the time of writing this poem, and I was struck by his figure of the "cold gaze" of the machine that explains how, while human subjectivity and historical circumstances change (turning human memory into a matter of representation) agency in a machine is not pure abstraction any more, but becomes an (algorithmic-based) unchangeable reading of the past. According to Ernst, technical media then records time and acts as a time-machine between times and the past (literally, he talks about a media-archaeological short-circuit between otherwise historically clearly separated times). I am fascinated by the idea of machines short-circuiting history, and about the poetic capacity of digital performativity to bring the past to the same reproductive reality of the present. Periodization is underscored as the human invention that it is, in the same way that other artificial constructs are. The personal dimension of this poem engages with the idea of monogamy and "the one and only true love," suggested to be a social convention that can perhaps be periodized (or dated) in the same way as a futurist manifesto.

The poem includes my selfie next to a photo of a handwritten poem, superimposed over images of metallic engine parts and gears. The poem breaks into an animated spiral, and my voice reads the poem 10 times, partially muffled by machine sounds. The poem itself goes on for about 10 hours.

Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU)

This is a poem about immigration in the United States. Or about my migration to the United States. It is also a piece about one of the most important poets in the country, our friend of Leaves of Grass and "America," Walt Whitman, and about his portraying of American identity and sexuality.  To write it I made my computer Fred read Whitman's entry on Wikipedia while I drew some doodles on the screen (basically, I write the word America and draw little blue and red stars and dots over the Wikipedia page, I also underscore the words "sexuality," "sexual," and "politics," and draw a red circle around "race"). As Fred reads about the life of this 19th century (trascendental-realist) poet, me and my American husband read his "Poem of Women." After I read each stanza, his male voice repeats my words. However, things are hard to hear, since everything becomes muffled by a loud white noise. Finally, the photographs I used for my visa application multiply and rotate on the screen. No makeup, no hair products, no glasses, no smile.

I am not going to interpret this poem.

The Democratic Value of Art Making

Since the series is about selfies, the background image of this poem is a repurposed Instagram photo. On a beach, looking into a vague horizon (we've all seen/taken photos with this pose). Two sentences cross over the screen, moving from left to right (not perfectly however). Some meditation Tibetan chimes play in the background. Although the words that run across the screen in Spanish are self animated, the poem requires interaction. I've included some play buttons (and some redundant and spam-like "Click!" signs) that allow the user to play my voice reading the sentences in English. The user can push the buttons as she likes, making me repeat the words as many times as she wants. She can also bring the voices back to life by pressing the red play button that produces a heartbeat.

This poem was made in less than half hour. I didn't pay for anything, yet I used plenty of resources. I'm not going to read more into it either.

The Measure of All Things

"Your Digital Presence is the Measure of All Things" is written over da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica online, "Leonardo envisaged the great picture chart of the human body he had produced through his anatomical drawings and Vitruvian Man as a cosmografia del minor mondo (cosmography of the microcosm)." The Renaissance belief in the human body as an analogy of the universe is confronted with today's representation of the selfie in the Web. 

This time, I made a series of videos of myself reading Garcilaso de la Vega's "Soneto XXIII," a very well-known poem by this influential solider-writer who introduced Italian Renaissance poetry to Spain during the Golden Age. From tragic courtly love of medieval empires to teenagers' Youtube vlogs. 

Here is an anonymous translation of the sonnet I found in John A. Crow's anthology of Spanish Poetry (it's not the best, but it's free):

The soft shades of the lily and red rose
Show their sweet colors on thy chaste warm cheek,
Thy radiant looks, so tender and so meek
Arouse the heart yet hold it in response.

And as thy hair like strands of gold now glows
Casting its sheen upon thy neck so white, 
Touched by the breeze that stirs and gives them light 
Thy tresses in wild disarray do blow.

Pluck off the ripe fruit of thy joyous spring
Before time with its swift and angry sting
Covers thy precious head with lasting snow. 

The icy wind will chill the tender rose,
And fleeting years bring change to everything 
That Nature’s law might keep its ordered flow.

No Weekend Wi-Fi, un cuadro costumbrista (US of A)

A costumbrismo snap shot of a coffee shop scene in the San Francisco Bay Area, November 15, 2015. Believe it or not, this breakfast place had no wi-fi available on Sundays.

In reality, No Weekend Wi-Fi is nothing else but a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the current trend I've observed in contemporary poetry (and music, and film) that presents completely banal and unimportant things as if they were, actually, of trascendental relevance to all of us. By making this poem (and incorporating the texts that my husband and I wrote in basically the 10 minutes we were in this café) I am reclaiming my right to participate in this useless trend.

Animated photo GIFs over a pixelated copy of Hopper's Nighthawks, plus written text and two playable audio files.

City of Eléi

This little poem engages with the culture of boleros (although I'm not completely sure about the status of this slow-tempo music in art history).

I recuperated an old poem I wrote about love, passports, ex-boyfriends, the city of Angels and Mexico, and I incorporated a beautiful GIF by Canek Zapata, and a video in 8 mm of my right eye as a biological sun in this digital beach. Seagulls and my humming over Lila Downs's "Perfume de Gardenias" are part of the score. Music and water as transatlantic shared imaginaries in the Spanish speaking world.

I actually did incorporate credits for this one:

Background psychedelic GIF: Canek Zapata.
Text: Alex Saum, but with stolen bits 
from popular songs.
Crab: from the beaches of the interwebs.
Music: Lila Downs is singing "Perfume de 
gardenias" in the background, sort of.
Oh, and there is a series of copyrighted 
sounds and ads may pop up.

Pupila Romántica

"Pupila Romántica" reinterprets the famous "Rima XXI" by Spain's last romantic poet, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, to make it about myself. I photographed my right pupil through the glass and through the screen four times, then animated the image to produce an artificial, mechanic, blinking.

My glasses have a special anti-reflective coating that is supposed to protect my eyes from the toxic lights of my computer. It's said to be blue. I cannot see it, yet I believe it's there, like a ray of moonlight. What can be more romantic than that?


I'll be making more poems. I'll be writing shorter blog posts. I might translate this post. Or make a video in Spanish. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

If the Future Is Digital, Why Print a Book?

Last week I attended the international symposium "Reading Wide, Writing Wide in the Digital Age: Perspectives on Transliteratures" organized by the LEETHI group from the Complutense University of Madrid. It was a fantastic event where I had the opportunity to listen to very interesting work engaging electronic literature from very different perspectives, such as Vilashini Cooppan's reading of e-lit as world literature, or Germán Sierra's selection of digital objects that show how digital technologies have reshaped our conceptualization of reality [Here is a link to the complete program].

In my talk, "If the Future Is Digital, Why Print a Book?" I looked at how, while e-lit is a global phenomenon, in Spain it takes on additional importance as it allows writers to bypass the hierarchies that characterize Spanish cultural institutions. These institutions have been heavily supported by the State, and along with it have suffered a loss of legitimacy that is a consequence of 21st century financial crises. My talk explored several manifestations of computational writing practices emerging at the intersection of digital media technologies, electronic literature and traditional print. As I proposed, the digital-inspired work done by Jordi Carrión, Vicente Mora or Javier Fernández could, at a first glance, be framed as a rejection to the contemporary cultural canon, participating within some free culture movement ideas that manifest as digital remix or mashed-up creative practices. However, their paradoxical return-to-the-book, creating what I call “printed technotexts” (i.e. paper e-lit) highlights both the desire to escape the institutionalized canon, but also the necessity of being recognized by it and its “bookish” forms of authorship and power. In opposition to these, I proposed we look at born-digital works (e.g. Doménico Chiappe's Hotel Minotauro) that have remained electronic and are accessed online. I wonder if these type of texts should be read as a form of liberation from the Author as creative agent, the book as platform, the current literary canon, and the Spanish publishing industry altogether. It seems, although I am still scared to affirm, that only born-digital literature will finally escape Spain's literary paradigm (beyond the market) that has been in force for the past four decades. 

Here are the slides for the talk (in Spanish)


And the works cited: 

Becerra Mayor, David. La novela de la no-ideología: Introducción a la producción literaria del capitalismo avanzado en España. Madrid: Tierradenadie Ediciones, 2013. 

Bunz, Mercedes. The Silent Revolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Castells, Manuel. Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet age. Cambridge: Polity, 2012.

Carrión, Jordi. Crónica de viaje. Córdoba: Aristas Martínez, 2014.

Chiappe, Doménico. Hotel Minotauro. 2013. Web. 16 Jul.2015.

Cramer, Florian. Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts. Rotterdam: nai010 publishers, 2013.

Drucker, Johanna. The Century of Artists’ Books. New York: Granary Books, 1994.

Emerson, Lori. Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Ernst, Wolfgang. Digital Memory and the Archive. Minneápolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013

Hayles, N. Katherine. “Electronic Literature: What is it?” Electronic Literature Organization. 1.2 (2007): n.p. Web 15 Nov. 2013.
________Writing Machines. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.

Fernández, Javier. Cero absoluto. Córdoba: Berenice, 2005

Martínez, Guillem. “El concepto CT,”
CT o la cultura de la transición: Crítica a 35 años de cultura española. Ed. Guillem Martínez. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Mondadori, 2012.

Minchinela, Raúl. “La CT y la cultura digital: cómo dar la espalda a internet,” CT o la cultura de la transición: Crítica a 35 años de cultura española. Ed. Guillem Martínez. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Mondadori, 2012.

Mora, Vicente Luis. Alba Cromm. Barcelona: Seix Barral, 2010.

Vázquez Montalbán, Manuel. La literatura en la construcción de la ciudad democrática. Barcelona: Grijalbo-Mondadori, 1998.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Teaching E-Lit and DH: Plataformas de la imaginación

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity of participating in the international symposium, Máquinas de inminencia, organized by UNAM’s lleom in Mexico City. This series of talks was part of their larger electronic literature project, Plataformas de la imaginación: Escenarios de la literatura electrónica (and, shameless plug here: also part of the even larger series of exhibits we are coordinating with Berkeley and Barcelona's Hermeneia group)

Although I generally tend to favor speaking about my academic research, this time I decided to focus on a teaching project I have been working on for a while now related to the teaching of (Spanish) electronic literature in the US and its relationship to the fields of Digital Humanities and Spanish studies, as well as the University as a whole. What I propose in this talk (among many other things) is to perhaps start thinking electronic literature as a foreign literature, and as such, host it in foreign language departments within the University. These are important topics touching several aspects of the academic institution: curricular planning but also the administration and the social realm. I have been wondering lately if these teaching and administrative fields are not as important (perhaps even more important) than the type of research projects we tend to favor as professors in Research 1 universities.

Here are the slides I presented (in Spanish)—and hopefully there will be a video of the talk soon as well. I’m working on a translation of the talk, and I hope to share it (or publish it) in the future.

[Y ahora en español]

La semana pasada tuve la maravillosa oportunidad de participar en el simposio internacional, Máquinas de inminencia, organizado por el Laboratorio de literaturas extendidas y otras materialidades de la UNAM, como parte de las actividades que componen su proyecto Plataformas para la imaginación: Escenarios de la literatura electrónica (parte del proyecto aún más amplio sobre exposiciones de literatura electrónica que incluye nuestra muestra en Berkeley y la próxima a cargo del grupo Hermeneia en Barcelona)

Aunque no suelo hacer este tipo de intervenciones (prefiriendo presentar otro tipo de ideas relacionadas con mi investigación académica y no con la pedagogía), decidí presentar un ensayo sobre un proyecto docente en el que ando involucrada ahora mismo. Lo que digo en la charla (en especial aquello de pensar la literatura electrónica como una literatura extranjera, y ubicarla entonces en los departamentos de idiomas) me parece importante tanto a nivel curricular como administrativo y social. A veces me pregunto si esto no serán cosas tan o más importantes que la otra labor académica a la que nos dedicamos los profesores.

Ahí arriba os dejo las diapositivas de la charla; con suerte pronto habrá un vídeo para compartir también.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Spring 16 Courses

UC Berkeley students, beware! This Spring 16 I will be teaching two new courses:

1. A groundbreaking upper-division undergraduate course on e-lit that epitomizes digital humanities – literary analysis alongside basic programming skills and DH tools and methods
[Find out more about this e-lit undergraduate course here]

2. An exciting graduate seminar on the culture of the Spanish transition to democracy

[Más información aquí]

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The E-Lit Critical Making Group (Working Group)

JOIN US THIS FALL (as in, NOW) at >>>

The E-Lit Critical Making Group

In preparation for the spring exhibit, No Legacy || Literatura electrónica, this fall we will gather to explore tools for electronic literature and use them for creative work. We will play with tools such as Twine, Inform 7, Undum, Flash, generative grammars, and bots. Participants will receive an applied, rudimentary introduction to programming. Using the Python Natural Language Tool Kit, we will learn how computers read poetry and how they write poetry. We will gather at the end of the semester to share work in a digital salon. If you are interested, please fill out this form and indicate your availability. No experience with programming or digital tools is required, but interest in the subject matter is key.

Macintosh Color Classic (one of the machines we will be working with)

GSR Position (Spring 2016): E-Lit

Electronic Literature: A Critical Making and Writing Course

Are you an artist? What about a poet? Do you think computers are cool? Do you play with code? Are you a Facebook freak? Come work with Prof. Saum-Pascual!

I am looking for a graduate student interested in working with me in the teaching and research involved in an experimental undergraduate course on electronic literature, i.e.: poetry and narrative created on a computer, meant to be displayed on a computer (hypertext novels, generative poetry, social media fictions, etc.). This is a Mellon award funded project, part of the DH program at Cal.

The course would be structured as a workshop, and most of the instruction and all lectures will be carried out by me, selected consultants from the D-Lab, Digital Humanities at Berkeley staff, and invited guest professors. The GSR would be in charge of helping students identify the tools they need to create their digital artwork, and assist them in their production during workshop time.

Class schedule is yet to be determined, but the course will probably meet twice a week (1.5hrs x2), dividing sessions between lectures and making workshops. The class will be cross-listed in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, and the Berkeley Center for New Media.

The ideal GSR should be familiar with (or have an strong interest in learning about) most of these tools and skills:

1.     Hypertext, interactive fiction: Twine (, Inform 7 (, Undum (

2.     Generative grammars, Twitter bots:

a.     Tracery ( Cheap Bots Done Quick (

b.     Chatbots: ElizaScript (

c.     JavaScript and RiTa for NLP (

d.     Python for NLP

3.     Kinetic poetry: Flash

4.     Social media protocols (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest)

5.     Creative usages of PowerPoint and Office Suite

6.     Knowledge of Spanish is strongly preferred, but not required

7.     Interest in Latin American and Spanish literature and culture is also highly preferable but not required (pero... who doesn't like Borges??)

If you are interested in collaborating in this awesome new course, please send me your CV before September 25 at Questions are welcomed anytime!


Also, you might be interested in joining us THIS FALL (as in, NOW) at >>>

The E-Lit Critical Making Group

In preparation for the spring exhibit, No Legacy || Literatura electrónica, we will gather to explore tools for electronic literature and use them for creative work. We will play with tools such as Twine, Inform 7, Undum, Flash, generative grammars, and bots. Participants will receive an applied, rudimentary introduction to programming. Using the Python Natural Language Tool Kit, we will learn how computers read poetry and how they write poetry. We will gather at the end of the semester to share work in a digital salon. If you are interested, please fill out this form and indicate your availability. No experience with programming or digital tools is required, but interest in the subject matter is key.