Eugenio Tisselli’s “degenerative” is a simple yet philosophically provocative experiment in new media poetics. In Tisselli’s description, the piece works as follows: “each time the page is visited, one of its characters is either destroyed or replaced.” Originally published in 2005, “degenerative” exists in the present as a ghost, a blank page marking the place where a message once existed. However, readers can view an archive that documents the degeneration of the content and structure of the original, as they consider the relationship between the writer, the text, and the audience. As Tisselli notes, “your visit will leave a permanent mark. this page will not be the same after you visit it. the only hope for this page to survive is that nobody visits it. but then, if nobody does, it won't even exist.” By programming degeneration into the work, Tisselli provides a dramatic illustration of the interactive nature of language and culture, where signs not only change the reader, but are changed by the very act of contemplation.
The text itself, initially, is straightforward. Yet, as characters are deleted and the content and structure of the page itself collapses into a jumble of broken words, the incomplete code beneath its initial representation becomes visible, too. Rather, it becomes partially visible, adding another dimension to the piece: As characters are subtracted from the page, its mode or representation becomes more transparent, revealing that, even when it seems most legible, our perception of the truth is limited by perspective.
Finally, Tisselli’s documentation of the work over a four month period, in turn, poses further questions about the curious effects of readerly attention. In particular, how does the process of archiving itself intervene in the dynamic interaction between writer, text, and reader?