Playing Poetry

Virtual Textual

An Exhibition by Playing Poetry

Phoenix Cinema and Arts Centre
6th October – 17th December

Curation and Lead Production: Nick Murray

Exhibition Design: Sophie Sampson

Assistant Production: Susie Buchan

Digital Production: Mateus Domingos

Through play we experience language differently.

Stories can be explored from numerous points of view. Words themselves can become objects to manipulate and affect the space around us.

In this new exhibition we invite you to explore a variety of digital works that each ask a different question about what poetry can be. Through transformative acts of play, twelve artists from around the globe present new ways to shift text from a static object to a vibrant experience that changes with each reading.
A theme running through the exhibition is the exploration of new worlds, from ASCII dungeons to the lush outskirts of online multiplayer games. Through this celebration of digital place writing, Virtual Textual responds to, and builds upon, a long and treasured history of nature writing.

As in the natural world where each viewer is their own focal point in any experience, in the game-based texts on show here, the player is an essential part of how each text exists in space. The writing shifts with you, and no two readings will ever be the same. Reading is no longer a passive act, but a dynamic and immersive experience.

Event Highlights

More info to follow on the programme of events. 

Friday 10th – Virtual Textual Opening Event

Thursday 19th – Let’s Play – Virtual Textual (Online)

Friday 27th – Cultural Quarter Lates: Artist Talks


Saturday 11th – Wood Wide Web Collage Poetry Workshop

Friday 24th – Cultural Quarter Lates – Poetry Performances

Thursday 30th – Searching for the Digital Sublime: Walking in Virtual Nature 


Sunday 10th – Walking Workshop: Making games around the Cultural Quarter

Exhibiting Artists

David McFarlane is a musician, digital artist and facilitator from Bolton, based in Greater Manchester. His work as a sound and digital artist has featured as part of Manchester International Festival, Manchester Science Festival, Manchester Festival of Libraries, and Bangalore FutureFantastic festival. Much of his work has links to interactivity, communication, and translation of information, often with an audible element. David also works as a facilitator in and around the north of England for a number of organisations, including TiPP, the RNCM, Walk The Plank, and Cartwheel Arts, and facilitates DMLab, Drake Music’s monthly accessible instrument prototyping session.

Charlotte’s first pamphlet I Refuse to Turn into a Hat-Stand won the Michael Marks Awards 2017. She has performed at Aldeburgh and Ledbury and StAnza festivals. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 3 and at the Manchester Festival of Libraries. She received a New Writing North award in 2019 and is currently an AHRC-funded PhD candidate at the University of Manchester. Her second pamphlet, Accessioning, is just out with The Emma Press.

Ian is a videogame developer living in Melbourne, Australia, with an interest in experimental work. He’s released many small-scope non-commercial works as well as several award winning commercial games. He’s currently working on a rover building game called Mars First Logistics with a small team.

Gemma Mahadeo is a Melbourne-based writer whose work has appeared both online and in print, internationally and locally. They write mainly poetry and creative non-fiction, sometimes play music, and occasionally do work in disability advocacy and activism.

Charlotte Geater is a poet and library worker who lives in London. She has been published in The Poetry Review and The White Review and her first pamphlet, Poems for My FBI Agent, was published by Bad Betty Press in 2020. She has an interest in digital poetics, and has created an online poetry bot called @belovedrecluse (currently available at ‘Head Girl’ is her first interactive digital poem.

Katherine Yang is an artist and programmer interested in creating poetic tools in the pursuit of softer tech. Her work has been featured with the Electronic Literature Organization, Backslash Lit, and The HTML Review. She is from Hong Kong and currently based in Boston.

Steffi Che is an interdisciplinary artist based in Hong Kong, working in visual poetry, drawing, illustration and painting. Her visual poetry is published in ‘2017 Bristol Poetry Anthology’, and ‘Instagram Poetry for Every Day’ curated by the National Poetry Library (South Bank, London).

Calum Rodger is a poet and former academic turned software developer based in Glasgow, Scotland. His work explores the interfaces of technology and poetics, ranging across print, performance, hand-crafted books, short film, games, web, and other forms. He is a former Scottish Slam Champion and holds a PhD in Scottish Literature. Discover more of his work

Matt DesLauriers is a Canadian-born artist and creative coder now living in London, UK. His interactive installations have been displayed in special events at the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. His work was part of Reykjavik’s 2019 Winter Lights Festival in Iceland and Ontario Place Park’s 2018 Winter Light Exhibition in Toronto. Matt is active in the open source community and has given numerous talks, classes, and workshops on creative coding such as UCL Bartlett School of Architecture in London, FITC in Toronto and Amsterdam, Frontend Masters in Minneapolis, and GROW in Paris.

Mariana Marangoni is a Brazilian artist and researcher based in London. Through a wide range of media such as installations, web-based experiments and fictional short stories, Mariana critically explores the materiality of media and the boundaries between natural and machine languages. She holds a MA in Interaction Design at the London College of Communication and is currently an Associate Lecturer at LCC. Amongst others, she has performed and exhibited internationally at the Victoria and Albert Museum (UK), Ars Electronica (AT) and Gaîté Lyrique’s NØ LAB (FR).

Rianna Suen is a generative artist, knitwear designer and game dev based in London. She mostly makes puzzle games and interactive craft based generators, but also dabbles in twitter bots and generative music. Previous works include Concrete Nest, a generative concrete poetry making tool, and Motif, a pattern making game inspired by the works of William Morris.

Mikey Parsons is a video game composer from Brighton, UK. He graduated in August 2020, under lockdown conditions during the Covid-19 Pandemic with a first class honours degree in music composition from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.