Individual Work

Jhave Johnston’s “human-mind-machine” is comprised of three chief components. The most obvious of these are the animated, three-dimensional images of the words in the poem's title: “human,” “mind,” and “machine” (rendered using Autodesk’s Mudbox software). These three terms, which serve as the piece’s thematic backdrop, hover in the center of the screen, moving, morphing, and mutating to the palpitating, ambient loops that serve as the second, but perhaps most innovative, component of Johnston’s piece. Below the three-dimensional images, lines of text appear in a variety of fonts and change in synchronization with the cardial thrumming of Johnston’s soundtrack.

In terms of its content, “human-mind-machine” explores consciousness and its competing characterizations as organic and mechanical, patterned and random, individual and collective. Especially powerful is its depiction of life in an apartment building, where the smell of cooking onions by an unseen neighbor imposes upon the speaker’s senses, pointing to a visceral intimacy outside of language. The speaker explains, “We know each other well. breathing and farting in the same tight pool. Sharing the vectors of savage necessity.” The poet captures the subjective character of daily life while rendering this primal experience with a twinge of determinism.

The irony, of course, rests in the underlying programming feat of Johnston’s Sound Seeker application, which he describes as an “online real-time beat-synchronized poem animator.” The result is a delightfully chaotic instance of individual expression grafted to a patterned, structured format.