Patchwork Women: Looking at Juliet Davis’ “Pieces of Herself”

“You own everything that’s happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” ~ Anne Lamott

Of all the works we’ve examined thus far in class, I find Davis’ Pieces of Herself to be a particularly compelling piece of Elit. Perhaps that is because of my own interests with bodily autonomy and my own experiences with, well, experience becoming like a second- skin, but I feel that the overall structure of this work served to simply and effectively communicate very physical and visceral ideas through a digital medium.

In order to “read” this work, one has to scroll over the screen-space (which can also be toggled right-left with the mouse-pointer) and locate these clickable images that are sometimes hidden behind other things in the picture. For example, a germ-like images can be found when you scroll over a lavatory door–it opens and reveals the image behind that you can then click on. Once clicked, you can drag the image over to the body-shape located on the left-side of your screen. The image imprints itself on the body as an audio clip or song plays. Most of the audio clips are of women talking about their experiences with sexism, misogyny, or just with having certain modes of action imposed upon them and their wills. Which, I find very interesting–that the experience imprints before the explanation comes. That’s very true to real life. Something happens and is internalized before the significance of it is ever really understood. At least, I know in my case, that explanations and comprehension are not immediate processes that occur in the moment. There is no processing. No quick rebuttal. No quip. Just a that just happened or a what just happened? feeling you get to carry around for a while.

I thought this was a small, but, very accurate touch by the creator. It helps me immerse myself into the space and the stories being contributed to the space more easily because I can feel the reality.

Of course, what I find most compelling about the entire work is the dragging and dropping of these “experiences” onto the body–really, until the body is almost entirely obscured by them. You run out of space and end up having to overlap. And, some of those experiences carry noises–a frog croaking, water dripping–my god, the dripping water was driving me crazy. I picked it up in the bathroom scene and it just kept going throughout the rest of my play–well, I had to clear it (the body) about a quarter of the way through and just continue b/c I couldn’t handle the sound anymore. It was just grating on my nerves. Doing this, though, made me think about how you can’t do that in real life. This digital space allows me to “clear the board” and continue on but, in real life, you can’t just discard experiences or memories you don’t like. You can’t just throw the sounds, feelings, or whatever other sensory associations you have with them away. They’re stuck to you. Embedded. Imprinted. Yours. Mine.

I thought this piece really communicated, rather eloquently, that the body–the female body in particular–is not just a receptacle, like a trashcan, for experience that can be emptied out once it’s fulled. We accumulate everything we interact with. Absorb pieces of it until those pieces–all pieced together–are the only things there. At least, they’re the only things we begin to reference when it comes to answering questions about “who we are” and “what we like/dislike.” Experience becomes our reference point for future interaction. The responses others give us become our own responses–because we internalize them. Knowingly or not. That drip-drip-drip icon didn’t have any other accompanying audio clip to it but it still guided my future actions–I cleared the body and started collecting experiences again. I think the point of little icons like that in this came is that you don’t always know what little things are going to get to you. Things may never have enough explanation for you to accept them.

Anyway, I greatly enjoyed navigated this piece and hearing the stories that accompanied it. I found the entire piece to be very cohesive in the ideas it was trying to articulate. Nothing really took me too far out of the piece while I was interacting with it.

 

Now, for what I’ve learned so far working on my Elit project:

Elit is hard.

Like, I knew going into this first phase of the project was going to be challenging but, I’m very frustrated right now. I spent about 2 hours probably tinkering with a few different sites and all of them posed their own issues. Strengths too but the issues are really at the forefront of my mind right now.

The programs I played around with were Twine (both versions), Notegraphy, Prezi, and Google Story Builder. Out of all of the, Twine proved to be the most fruitful/the most complicated/the most irritating. I enjoyed Notegraphy and its simplicity but I don’t know how I’d incorporate it into a larger project. It’s really great for like a title page maybe or for some simple decoration to text or a page. If I can like copy and paste what I can write here–maybe into Twine–, I think that’d be cool. But, Twine is very complicated is what I learned from my short exploration of it.

Twine 2.0 is really fantastic for story boarding and creating a map of your work. Like, it allows you to connect–or not–pieces of your story and see how they play out. You can play around with connections and whatnot. Essentially, you’re making “pages” and then connecting them with visible threads which is really helpful, I think, if you’re not sure about the connections in your story or, if you really even want to have strict connections at all in your story. The only downside to Twine 2.0 is that you can’t add audio files? I decided, going into this, that I’d compromise on getting my words to fade into each other but I would not compromise on the sound-aspect of my piece. I think it’s integral to my work and so I want to find a way to add it.

After doing a little research, I found out that the earlier version of Twine (1.4, or 1.6, or 1.8?) allows for audio and video input. So, I downloaded that and started playing around on that. It was not fun. I couldn’t connect y pages as easily as I could in 2.0. In fact, I still don’t think I know how to do it or that I accomplished it successfully in any of my practice runs. Getting caught up in that made it so I didn’t even have the patience to play around with audio input. What I need to find though, is some kind of free audio library. I know Youtube has one but Twine wants URLs for audio input. So, if anyone knows anything about that, please let me know!

As far as the other programs I played with…. Prezi could work but I feel like my work would become too much of a presentation and not enough of a story. I like the movement and navigation though. It’s very clean. And, Google Story Builder sucks. Like, if you’re doing a dialogue only, maybe you could make it work. But, for my purposes, it’s not going to cut it. Mainly, I checked it out cause it seemed to have a sound-aspect but Google’s little library is pathetic. Like only 8 options I could find. None relevant to my work.

So, that’s what happened with my exploration of these programs. I do have my story boarding essentially figured out. Here’s a little snippet of how it’s going:

NAIVE (STOLE, WIDE)

**Humming? Buzzing? Both?–tapers off–bug zapper–silence**

I was you. Young and wide-eyed. Curious in that shy kind of way, peeking around corners and stealing glances. A baby bird, toeing the edge of their nest. Their world.

I was ALIVE. Alight.

Monsters are like moths, did you know?

***Plagiarise any part of my work, even in the “smallest” of ways, and I will hunt you down like the monsters I write about, ‘kay?  :)***

So, the bolded is the link that will take you from one page to the next. In a prior package, NAIVE is mentioned and clicking on it would take you to this selection here. The words in parenthesis are other words that’ll take you to this selection from other passages. The body text is not clickable–except for ALIVE. Which s another link to a different selection.

The words in italics are the accompanying sounds I’d like this piece to have when you open it. So, I have to locate some audio clips.

Since my piece has no beginning or end–just text and poetry, a lot of which has already been written–this is how I’ve been story boarding. Writing things out and finding the connections, then structuring the pages. I consider it a lot like knitting or sewing.

Image courtesy of the ELit Database.