Penny Florence

I am an experimentalist and interdisciplinarian. Poetry, painting and film morph into each other in my thinking, yet they don’t merge; motion and difference underpins my practice and theory (I also make everything I write about). The potential for innovation inherent in digital structures and forms has barely been touched upon, for themselves and for their critical potential. A central issue for me is: what could digital forms reveal about poetic language that conventional critical writing cannot?  To explore this, in the late 90s, I began to experiment with "Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hazard," the Mallarmé poem often cited as the forerunner to concrete and modern visual poetry. Simply put, it seemed to me proto-digital more than proto-concrete. It became an interactive CD-Rom (sounds quaint now!) containing translations and critical interventions impossible on paper, but seemingly implicit.  Since then, I’ve focused on the Readers Project (with John Cayley and Daniel Howe), making poems embodying elements of translation and critique. I have called these “inextrinsic” because their energies direct the reader in and out at the same time. I’m now Professor Emerita, The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Previous appointments include: Chair of Humanities and Design Sciences, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena; Head of Research Programmes, The Slade; Director of Research, Falmouth University. I’ve also worked as an artist and filmmaker; a film poem of mine was screened at The Watershed, Bristol in 2014. Print publications include: Anthill (poems, 2014), "Readers meet the Readers" (article, 2011); Mallarmé, Manet and Redon: Visual and Aural Signs and the Generation of Meaning (book, reissued 2010); Sexed Universals in Contemporary Art (book, 2004); and Looking Back to the Future (essays, with Griselda Pollock, 2001), Un coup de dés on CD-ROM (essays, 2000).

Essays by this author

Espacement de Lecture


This introduction is not a “digital” essay, but what follows it - a version of a moving essay-poem originally presented in real time at the 2012 elo conference - is. Florence’s presentation explores how the “espacement” (Mallarme, Derrida) intrinsic to all writing changes in a born-digital context. The work reminds us of something we anticipated early in the formation of ebr - that ‘critifiction’ is and always has been the way to make essays in the digital era.