“In conversation: 2022 server residents Mateus Domingos + Rory Green”


From July-September 2022, Avantwhatever.net caretakers Patrick, Ben and Bec hosted Mateus Domingos and Rory Green as their inaugural server residents. What follows is a conversation Rory and Mateus held during their residency, where they explore each others' intersecting creative and research practices and experiences of the residency.

The shared text file was created and edited on the Avantwhatever.net server, and is presented here largely unedited. Some server commands and formatting have been retained, in the hopes of inviting you in to our shared experiences of remote ssh web server access and interaction.

“cat mateus-rory-interview.txt”


--15 August 2022 21:58PM GMT+10--

I'm sitting at the dining table in my apartment writing this. It's cold, and on the table is a small ceramic vase with a bunch of Australian flowers in muted green tones. I'm uncertain where to begin this conversation, but capturing where I am as I enter this shared server feels appropriate to my experiences during this residency, and our conversations to date Mateus.

Before starting the residency, I had experimented briefly with the terminal to link my local work to Github, but I had not used it to consciously connect to a server, let alone a server based in a discrete location known to me. It feels special, both expansive and intimate – how I often feel about poems that are important to me. It's been a powerful place for me to research and reflect on digital poetry and my own creative and pedagogic practice.

Could you tell me a bit about where you are logging in from Mateus, and how it has felt to you connecting to this server on Wurundjeri country?

-R

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--19 August 2022 18:11 GMT+1--

I've pieced these answers together from several locations. Initially logging in through my PC at work. It's a quiet office. There are no cut flowers. It's intensely familiar. There are flats above, where I lived for a while. Out the window I can see an artist-run space whose community I'm a member of. I can see the in-between places, wastelands, tower-blocks, a string of garages. The OS is windows and the server accessed through Git Bash — which is different, and looks different to my home process.

I spent a few sessions playing with the traceroute command. It returns the IP addresses of each point the data packets pass through on their transit from my computer to the Avantwhatever server. For me this time has been about trying to articulate that sense of presence — finding ways of being here, connected, at different times. I'm connecting from another reality. There is a latency in typing directly to the server. It is recorded in the ping times recorded by the trace command. It is reassuring, as it confirms this strange connection — a message beamed around the world. Equally, in that pause it leaves a moment to wonder about the places it passes, the infrastructure required.

I feel like a visitor, welcomed in. Like one of those time travellers, who has appeared for a moment, but always close to fading away returning to another spacetime. (I was reading William Morris' News From Nowhere as we began this residency, and it has remained present in my thinking. It features one such traveller.)

There might be space for later editing and revisions. We might keep elements of markdown and annotation.

It has been a hot, dry summer here. The systems we are using to connect are vulnerable. 409ms is the time the traceroute records this evening.

I enjoyed hearing about your process coding a friend's poem. I was interested in that act of translation (contingent on finding the way of coding), and how that functions elsewhere in your practice? It feels relevant to the reading of Tiger Dingsun's poem1 as well, which is a kind of careful disassembly that encourages gives a reader the tools to spend a different kind of time with it.

-M

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-- 20 August 2022 13:36 GMT+10 --

Hey Rory, hey Mateus. Bec here — taking my first look at this doc (thanks for getting it going!) and thought I'd make my presence known.

It's Saturday, and it's been raining, and I'm feeling tired and my body is sore; I could use these things as 'excuses' for why I'm on my couch and watching TV while I write, but honestly I often need to be set up like this to be able to focus on computer things. For the past hour or so the sun has slowly intensified and the grey clouds are parting, and Pecan is restless, so I'm keen to head outside soon and spend some time in the garden. I pulled a few weeds earlier and the ground was gorgeously soft after the rains.

Your impulse to check in with the local context for your writing resonates with me. Rory, I found myself wondering what sort of flowers are in your vase? And since you first wrote a few days ago, whether and how their condition might have changed? Have they drooped or dried, changed colour or darkened/yellowed the water? Maybe you've moved them, or maybe they're not in that vase anymore? I don't have any fresh cut flowers, but across the room I can see some dried everlasting daisies that I grew in warmer, earlier months of this year, and a small bouquet of dried celosias saved from a wedding I arranged flowers for a few months ago.

At our weekly meetings, there's usually an initial 'small talk' — though I don't think of it is small or lesser-than — where I reach for questions of your moods, your weather conditions, your time. Mateus, your timezone offset and that our (the rest of us on the Eastern coast of the 'Australian' continent) Sunday evenings are your Sunday mornings, and our seasonal/climactic differences, though maybe routine now, are still fascinating to me. The local conditions of our server visits is an interesting context, and something Patrick and Ben and I talked about a lot in the lead-up to opening up to other residents, so it's lovely that you began there.

I'm using nano to edit this doc, via Terminal on a Mac. I used the 'cat' command to first read the contents of this doc, in my Terminal window, but now that I'm in nano there are no automatic line breaks so sentences are continue off to the right-hand side of my screen which makes the reading and writing experience disorienting; long lines of text are difficult to read back over which is inclining me to some kind of stream-of-consciousness. When I first tried to chime in I got an 'unwriteable'/'permission denied' error and so I had to use sudo ('super do-er', a phrase I find funny every time I reach for it), which reminds me that we talked about group permissions at the last meeting and I need to follow up with Ben.

I ran the 'who' command when I first SSH'ed onto the server and I think I'm the only human currently logged on. According to the dot net landing page, I'm approx 5km from the server. I don't experience the lag that you write about Mateus, understandable given the relative distance. Traceroute tells me it still took 64 hops to remotely connect, but only 7ms. Around 60 *** unknowns in the list of connections.

I feel a little nervous writing into this shared doc, mostly because of the potential vulnerability of someone having logged in and began their own edits since I started mine.

I'm not sure how often I'll chime in to this chat, and will certainly try to avoid long missives like this one. I might return with more questions, but mostly am just keen and curious to hear more from both of you.

BF

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-- 20 August 2022 15:47 GMT+10 --

I've logged on to the server while sitting in the study of my flat. There is a sulky peace lily on the floor next to me (need to find some furniture to place it on) and I've just had some lemonade to try and fight this mid-afternoon energy slump. From the window the sky is starting to blot with clouds.

How funny to me seeing your timestamp Bec – we have just missed each other! You make a good point about the risk of overlapping edits, something I had not thought of. One thing I have enjoyed about this server is developing an awareness of shared digital space – a lot of the online world feels either rented (social media platforms) or somewhat solitary (personal websites, like communicating at a distance via flag raising or fire signals). This server feels more like a sharehouse: I see the evidence of co-habitation when I log on, and have a slight anxiety about leaving my shit lying around!

Thank you for sharing the traceroute cmd with us Mateus. It is striking to see evidence of this physical path through various networks. I originally began by describing my place as a way of grounding my experience with the server, but I feel somewhat adrift seeing the number of hops between me and the little machine that's storing this conversation – many contexts I am not aware of, can bring limited attention to. Maybe this view of the infrastructure is too cynical...

All poems are a series of mistranslations: sensation to thought, thought to language, language to audience and in reverse. Each step lossy. I have collaborated with many writers and artists to help edit their writing and often to help them prepare it for a digital context, doing some coding or advising them on how X presentation might be achieved with Y tools. I love being able to show people what I think is possible and what is achievable in a digital medium, discussing how this interfaces with the intention of their work. In the best situations, which occur often, my conception of what is possible expands in dimensions previously hidden to me. There is an affective labour in this editorial process that I value and enjoy – each poem is both viscous and fragile, and the process of translating an idea for something multimedia or interactive is deeply interwoven with the translation of a personal apparition into a jointly visible entity.

How this reflects back to my own writing practice is fuzzier for me. There's probably a good aphorism which captures how difficult it is to see in yourself what you see in others, but I don't know it. I am gestating two sketches for digital poems at the moment and it feels a bit like augury (or chaos): sensations bypass thought to language, or material gives shape to thought. I have pages of presently disconnected words in a notebook. I am adding properties to <div> tags via the browser inspector, taking note of unexpected outputs. Every part grows at a different rate, and so at times it feels like nothing is happening and at other times like too much belongs here. But this feels like a digression from your question now.

I enjoyed writing about Tiger's poem on the server subdomain, and I hope to make time to do others this coming week. I definitely reached an opening in the thicket where there was deep play alongside the deep reading. I'm not sure if I could cultivate that kind of process towards my own ideas but if I did it would give me a lot more resolve in my practice. If nothing else, I might leave some cairns for someone more intrepid than myself to follow through...

Looking at your server notes, I feel a connection between the thoughts I'm chewing over here and what you describe as 'the tension between / the thing, / the idea of the thing and / the why of the thing'. I'd love to hear if there is a pattern to how these forces interact in your practice, and what (if any) influence your time with the server might be reconfiguring these forces.

In my vase is a bull banksia, some conebrush and sprigs of argyle apple. They are turning dry and brittle, but the colours have not changed.

R

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--21 August 09:11 GMT +1--

Your comment about cairns really resonates with me, and the ways I’ve been thinking about writing in the space. I think this is especially apt for the terminal space - where navigation feels like an interactive fiction; GO/cd to move between spaces, LOOK/ls to list files, and EXAMINE/cat to notice the things people before have left.

I was thinking about algorithms, complexity and difficulty. I tried to perform some algorithms. The kind of things it would be easier to code (if I could code). So trying to exist in part like a programme, on the server. I think that’s also part of the reason for exposing the motes directory2 and trying to fill it with files. If there are cairns there must also be a terrain to navigate. The texts dance between being the thing, and a marker of the thing. At least that’s how I enjoy writing and thinking about them. Writing in the server affords another kind of doubling of space that I’ve missed. The writing is all in relation to the weekly calls and discussions. It all folds into this experience, as a careful way of marking time and learning about another place.

I think I’ve been interested in pressing against or testing an idea, that the form of the thing can be noticed through different moments difficulty or obstruction. The edges are felt, when the code breaks, the latency (again), or server etiquette negotiated. Like Bec mentioned above, the unbreaking lines of the nano editor cause the text to stream off-screen. And this only feels possible I think, because of the careful space Bec, PH and BB are holding.

-M

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--28 August 21:02 GMT+10--

The motes directory does feel like a distinct terrain – like a coastline of rockpools, I have loved hopping between folders and picking up what is inside of them, holding them to the blue light.

Something I think about a lot is how to share the things I find online. I love surfing the web, collecting links, sending them to others when the links make me think of them. My time in this residency has been intended to find ways of talking about the web with poets, and how a poetic practice might unfold in a browser. I have come across a lot of writing, art, conversations that I've found inspiring. But to put it in some order, some sort of map that is visible and comprehensible to others? What your writing on the server has done for me is that it has given me the gentle joy of exploring an unfamiliar terrain, and in turn helped me reflect on how processes of learning and discovery do not always involve sequential movement.

Beyond the new technical skills I have fostered during this time (navigating/configuring/setting up Apache server, Git, etc) I hope I take away from this time a renewed sense of trust in nonlinear thinking, writing, artmaking. What you have said about the form being noticed through moments of obstruction makes me think of this hope, both in the way I feel my understanding grow through the interruptions of error returned when working with machines, but also personal interruptions: of thought, of confidence, of legibility. Practicing patience, curiosity, and forgiveness in relation to obstacles like these might sound a bit childish, but have been a bit part of the embodied knowledge I have been absorbing through this time on the server.

I'm interested to hear more about your experience of our weekly calls. For me it's been so so great to hold space with the Avantwhatever caretakers – the way each individual's creative practice and interests overlaps and meets, like waves meeting and amplifying one another, has felt both generative for my thinking and comradely in a v positive way. The way this routine occurs simultaneously for participants across vastly different time zones interests me a lot, too. How has that presence informed your time during the residency, and do you think it has affected your practice more broadly?

R

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--3 September 17:13 GMT+1--

Rory, I feel like you put everything so well. Your clarity and careful thinking has been a great joy to spend time with, in the calls, the subdomains and elsewhere across the server. And checking into this document over the weeks has been equally wonderful.

The routine of the meetings has been wonderful to experience. I’ve been very aware throughout the residency that I’m lingering in the space out of time with you all - when we talk; the sky always lightening here, noise from the neighbourhood, church bells that get half-clipped so they emerge again as distorted melodies, meanwhile you are watching the dusk, preparing a meal. It encourages me to think about the space and people around me more carefully, to take notice. I’d like to continue to build the server I started working on here, and find ways to make it open to others. I’m sure I will continue to seek out spaces like these and follow closely your practice and those of the caretakers.

-M

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“References”


  1. Rory's close reading of Tiger Dingsun's piece I Never Believe it Until it Happens Again can be found on Rory's 'Browser Poetics' subdomain here (back)
  2. One of Mateus's Avantwhatever.net server residency projects, motes. (back)

“About Mateus + Rory”


Mateus likes to build and break experimental digital tools and practices, often involving networks and usually text-based. Mateus's presence on Avantwhatever.net can be found at motes.avantwhatever.net.

Rory Green is a poet, editor and casual coder currently living on unceded Wangal land. For the Avantwhatever server residency they are researching for a prospective syllabus on making poems with web browsers. You can view Rory's research notes online.