The artist Doris Mitsch is best known for her gorgeous, super-high-resolution scanner-based images of natural subjects like flora, birds nests and sea creatures. These are not photographs in the traditional sense, but an alternative way of capturing images, as both the scanner lens and light move over the object to produce a composite with luminous, ‘impossible’ lighting conditions. (Disclosure: I am the happy owner of several of these.)

Now, Mitsch has assembled an equally remarkable work of poetry, entitled I’m Searching For Something So Undefined: Poetry Found in the Cloud, which seems perfectly in tune with the digital zeitgeist. I say ‘assembled,’ rather than ‘written’ because she didn’t actually write a single line of these compelling pieces. Instead she knit them together from found fragments of online content, all derived from Google searches – like the title pieces, I’m Searching / Je Cherche / Ich Suche, and None of My Jelly-Roll, I Ain’t Gonna Give, both of which you can read by clicking below:


I'm Searching

I’m Searching / None of My Jelly Roll, I Ain’t Gonna give (Click to Enlarge)


Each line of the first poem was extracted from the roughly 57,600 results Google returned for the phrase “I’M SEARCHING FOR”. Each line of the second was extracted from 514 search results for “AIN’T GONNA”.

Knowing the manner of composition encourages the reader (this one, anyway) to continuously flicker between three modes of reading: first, considering each line individually – wondering about its original author and context; then, collectively, as some expression of the ephemeral, “Internet moment” from which all the lines derive; and then finally as an entirely new poetic construction, with its own cadence and meaning. In some ways, reading these poems feels a lot like using the Internet itself, as our surfing yields hobbled-together brief constellations of meaning, cobbled together from vast patterns of inchoate data.

Most ‘data art’ takes the form of algorithmic arrangements of pixels on a screen – a medium that is so new the tools to produce it are still being invented. Mitsch’s poems, by contrast, manage to embed the Internet in one of our oldest artforms, yet with results that are no less revelatory.

You can (and should!) buy a copy of I’m Searching for Something So Undefined, along with the several other beautiful books by Doris Mitsch, available on Blurb.

Image Credit: John Constable – Clouds (Detail) 1822 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne