Difficulty Doesn’t Last

By Innessa Roosen


In Leonard Diepeveen and Timonthy Van Laar’s book Art with a Difference, the relationship between art and difficulty is explored through various examples of visual art and conceptual art movements. However, their connection parallels the same link between art and difficulty, as with electronic-literature and concerns relating to obscurity.

            As technology still continues to alter literature, as it always has, new modes of expression for the creative process inevitably form. The literary arts have always experienced the establishment of momentous technologies; such as the ink pen, the book, the printing press, the typewriter and the most complex technology yet, the computer. With the continual rise of the Digital Age, literature has been introduced to a new medium – the digital. The electronic medium is an avenue for which literature may sink, sing, dissipate, expand and become coloured on the screen, generating a passionate sensory experience. The possibilities for artists are infinite.

            The digital medium is just another way of channelling artistic perspective. In fact, it is a complex, timeless and placeless way of surfacing an immeasurable amount of ideas – which float through the space the screen provides. Digital poetics is discovering, performing and stimulating affect that the physical page could never possibly evoke. Then, why is electronic-literature so closely tied to what is considered difficult art?

            Electronic-literature is an incredibly new face in the literary art work, thus it is unfamiliar to most. Those interested in exploring digital poetics may feel overwhelmed by the unconventional and strange mode of expression for literature. Examining electronic-literature may bring an individual to view a work rather than read a work. The tendency to simply watch a digital poem solely for aesthetic, visual art purpose is seemingly effortless. In this case, the content of the work is overlooked, making the work difficult as there appears to be no blatant and direct meaning portrayed by the author. Yet, “difficulty is not a permanent, unchangeable feature of a work of art” (Diepeveen and Van Laar 101). So, what does this mean for readers and writers alike?

            Essentially, difficultly is not necessarily a persisting attribute of art, even with regards to electronic-literature. The acknowledgement or acceptance of a new art form, either by individual, collective or culture is crucial to understanding difficult art. As the acceptance of new art forms arise, change in perspective occurs. And, with societal approval of a new art movement comes understanding (or, at the very least, a desire for understanding) as the contemporary medium or concept is received. Feelings of apprehension “can disappear because the instructions the difficult work seems to be presenting gradually become clearer and make the work less difficult” (Diepeveen and Van Laar 101).

            Just as there has been and always will be a resistance to strange and innovative art concepts and mediums; that resistance is subject to change.


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