As a preface to the actual work, Cristobal Mendoza provides his readers with the central concept of "Every Word I Saved" in a brief artist's statement: "Every Word I Saved is a software piece that continuously displays every word that the artist saved in various computers, from 2000 to 2006. The words were harvested from sent emails, text documents and instant messaging logs, which were put in a database and then arranged in alphabetical order. Each word preserves only its original capitalization; other than this, their original context is erased by the alphabetical organization."
Mendoza's final notion that alphabetizing erases context recalls digital writing like Brian Kim Stefans' "The Dream Life of Letters" http://www.eliterature.org/collection/1/works/stefans__the_dreamlife_of_... and conceptual writing like Kenneth Goldsmith's "6799" http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2007/03/6799/ and "Soliloquy" http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/goldsmith/soliloquy/. In Kim Stefans' piece, the artist compiles then alphabetizes every letter of a feminist essay written by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, then uses Flash animation to "give life" to the now out of context letters. Goldsmith's "6799" is simply an alphabetical list of his music collection and "Soliloquy" is the print documentation of every word he utters for a week. "Every Word I Saved" is, like "The Dream Life of Letters," a work that relies on alphabetization as its context-killing concept, is digitally born and, in its Java form, only viewable on screen. Mendoza's piece, however, is actually thematically, conceptually, and affectively closer to the non-electronic conceptual works by Goldsmith.
By reading poets like Gertrude Stein, Charles Olson, Rae Armantrout, and countless others, we learn that words create their own contexts. In fact, it is difficult to pick up a book of contemporary avant garde poetry without finding an enactment or a self conscious discussion of what appears to be the paratactical remains of language poetry. Both Mendoza and Goldsmith take personal digital relics—Mendoza uses digital language and Goldsmith, recorded music—then organize them in the recognizable though truly arbitrary system of alphabetization. Despite the violence done to the context of each word he wrote then saved on his computer, Mendoza's "Every Word I Saved" remains an incredibly intimate and personal work with endless networks of meaning. After the Java timer comes to an end, the reader is met with a white screen dotted with black words racing horizontally across the screen. The visual image that initially comes to mind is writing on lined paper, or one-way traffic from a bird's-eye view. Meaning begins to be created in the form of a kind of character sketch. The author has written words like "yum" and "abstraction," which immediately complicates our idea of who this person is. As the word "failure" repeats and repeats across the screen, there is suddenly a sadness to the piece and the words become like those of Gertrude Stein, emptied out in order to become closer to a pure context.
The reader's ability to hit any letter key on their keyboard to bring up the first word in that lettered section of the list is the only technically interactive aspect of the work. When the reader hits the letter "h" for example, (see screenshot) the word "ha" is repeated over and over again until it gives way to "habia," "habla," and "hacer," allowing the reader to discover that the author is also a Spanish speaker—adding more information to our character sketch. The pronoun "I" is the most uttered word in the English language; and as pressing the "i" key will show, it is clear that this is also true of Mendoza's digitally-written words.
The question of the "I" in this work is as central to its concept as it is of Goldsmith's "Soliloquy." In the piece itself Goldsmith self-consciously says, "I mean what what would your language look like if it was if you collected every piece of shit word you that you said for an entire week." Mendoza is asking a similar question but in a more 21st-century style. In a world where we spend a significant amount of our lives communicating with and through our computers, what would your "Every Word I Saved" look like? What would it reveal, even out of context, about the author, about how human beings who now communicate with machines as often as they do with people? As extensions of the 21st century human, our computers are personal spaces where we place language even more personal, more private, and paradoxically more public even than the words we utter each day.