Voyage Forward

Discovering what electronic literature is capable of is truly riveting. Discussing the experience and thoughts of others about reading, or rather navigating, through a work of electronic literature in the class made a lot of things more clear to understand. I totally agree with the assertion that “when we are schooled, we loose our ability to make games out of life” and that “electronic literature is one way to bring that sense of fun back around”. Best example of this assertion would be the puzzle-solving aspect of its structure. Though, I do not know if this is absolutely applicable to every single genre of electronic literature, as I have yet to experience them all, but the fact that possibility is there.

Our next assignment was to examine the integration of computer algorithm into the presentation. Out of the two given options, I chose to look at Reconstructing Mayakovsky by Illya Szilak. This time around I decided to briefly write down my experience with this piece. Simply put, it is a multimedia electronic literature that examines the concept of utopia and the future of humanity. I was not familiar with Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky beforehand. Reading the line “Inspired by the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky who killed himself in 1930 at the age of thirty-six” in author description on the main page set a anxious mood before I begin reading it. Similar to Twelve Blue, this piece also relies on navigation. The first thing that it required me to do was selecting a media in which I would be engaging with the story. As a big fan of podcasts, my attention was immediately drawn to that particular category.

I was not so sure what to expect from a section titled Audio Podcasts in electronic literature. Since reading was supposed to be the main focus, my first guess was that transcripts of recorded podcasts would be listed here for reading. I was wrong. There were literary recorded audio files which you could select randomly and simply listen. I do not know why but the number 8 tends to be my choice when given, and that was the first audio file I selected. A narrator that sounded like Adam Driver began to talk about struggles of a woman with an inner voice that “infiltrated her mind”. This voice, if I’m not mistaken, correlates to the advertisement and slogans that people are often exposed to on media. The narrator described how uncomfortable woman felt with this voice affecting her thoughts. As I continued to listen, I noticed the voice of the narrator was actually digitally altered and I guess it was a way to portray concept of being hidden.

The narrator also described Mayakovsky in a very unsettling matter. This was possibly a subtle way to portray how people perceive or conditioned to perceive certain individuals with personal views that my be deemed radical. The overall theme of the work began to be clear around this point, especially with the analogy of a cruise ship that contained history of Russia. The theme was the dream of a better future and utopia. As I made a quick search online, I realized Vladimir Mayakovsky was poet in Soviet Russia and implemented “hidden” ideas and meanings into his writing. This particular electronic literature was bringing these ideas into a digital environment for readers to experience rather than read about them. It is a fascinating work.

Besides Audio Podcasts selection, I also examined Achieves. The implementation of algorithm was very evident as I believe the pictures displayed in this selection were randomly picked up from google search. The themes were more clear with the keywords listed on top; such as Freedom, Truth, Future, Revolution, and Utopia. I guess the algorithm picked up images that correlated with these specific words and crated a thematic exhibit. A question that comes to mind with this approach would be “Is the algorithm writing the piece rather than the author credited?” My answer to that question is that the author would be the featured painter, and the algorithm would be the curator of that painter’s gallery. The algorithm still serves the vision of the author.

This type of implementation, along with usage of additional medium such as podcast, in a work of literature made me go back to my question “Does literature require the action of reading in order to observe its essence and merit or can literature be experienced through multiple actions instead?” I’m beginning to think that it is possible to experience a literary work through combination of alternative media rather than focusing on sole ability of reading. Children tend to rely on many abilities that they posses to bring their games into fruition after all. I guess it is safe to say the same can be done in literature.

Bots/Blog 2

I feel like I am honestly having a hard time connecting with electronic literature. It probably doesn’t help that I am not a big fan of classic literature in the first place. With that being said, I chose to focus on the “Bots” collection, because I am not familiar with Mayakovsky. However, even the Bots collection the pieces leave me confused and flustered. I have explored all of the bots posted in this collection, one by one. I find myself totally confused. I think I understand the concept that a computer program uses some sort of algorithm to generate random posts. And sometimes they come together into something that is amusing. Call me a party pooper, but I just didn’t get it.

Funnily enough, the only bot that I somewhat connected to was the “How 2 sext” bot. The description says, “it plays on describing intimate messages between partners in often un-sexual language.” One says, “You quickly manage peer pressure while i stay focused on my studies.” Does this mean the author believes his/her peer quickly gives in to peer pressure while they manage to stay away from it and focus on their studies? My brain may just be too literal for this. I definitely need to stay late tonight and speak to my professor…

Bots

Bots is a lovely elit collection where accumulates artist and literary work associated with the social networks, such as Twitter or Facebook. There are eight bots in the collection. When I clicked any of them, there would be six blocks on the page. They are about the screenshot of the web, the web entrance, Metadata, Author Statements, Editorial Statements, and Downloads. Editorial Statements would be the first place I go to. It provides basic information and summary about this bot. I can learn the general information through the homepage and do not have to enter in if I am not interested in it. The Metadata provides hyperlinks. It shows the language and keywords of each bot. If I click the hyperlinks, I can find a list which collects the language and keywords of all the bots.

When the first time I went to Bots, I felt a little perplexed because it does not have a classification or a certain theme. It covers all the artistic and literary bots. It is very hospitable to the visitors and I assume it is in the progress. My favorite bot is the crossword. I used to play crossword games in the newspaper. However, the answer should be known in the next edition. It has a time delay for the game interaction. Tiny Crossword is a twitter account that you can follow. It will release the cross puzzles in advance. The puzzle is usually based on the important 21st-century repository, which means the database is updated. The combination of the crossword puzzle and social network somehow maximizes the utility of the game.

However, I am thinking about the literary or pedagogical level of using Bots. It seems to be something absent that is able to get readers into somewhere. I feel like Bots in some ways is more like a recreation. Our readers can have fun on the Bots but I want to figure out more literacy meanings in using Bots

Bots

I really enjoy walking through the bots collection. Glancing the Twitter accounts was so different from reading printed literature. The pattern, form, the way to display the texts, Real human Praise looks like a joke as it is ironic, but provides so much space for readers to think. I love the space created in every bot. All bots are not directly convey stories and plots. They are pieces of thoughts. These bots remind me of a similar kind of form of text in China. In the social media “Weibo” platform, there are also many accounts that were established for some particular and specific purposes and themes. Like a clock account, a forest account, or an account that only reports fake news.

Seeking Utopia in the Virtual World: Reconstructing Mayakovsky

“Let us compose an elegy for the PASSING OF what defined us as human. LET US LAMENT BECAUSE WE ARE still HUMAN.” – Reconstructing Mayakovsky

The world has never been perfect before. Will the world become better in a virtual world?

In Szilak’s book Reconstructing Mayakovsky, humans can live in a virtual world called OnewOrld with the help of the Oracle system. Click the “Mechanism” tab, the reader can see some white spinning words and some star-like spots on a black background, with a background music much like the sound of the outer space.

Click the rotating word “Movies” in the “Mechanism” tab, an advertisement of OnewOrld will show up. The ad shows the audience many disadvantages of living in a real world, such as cost lots of money, waste too much natural resources, expose to terrorist attack and diseases, etc. Then, the ad commits that living in OnewOrld can avoid all those issues and make people happy.

Click “Archive” in the “Mechanism” tab, many pictures will show up. Put the mouse on one picture then the information in this picture is presented. Click the picture, however, will bring the reader into one of the random e-book chapters. Click a globe sign in the right corner will bring the reader to an outer link, which is the source of the picture itself.

Click “audio podcast”, the reader can see chapter numbers hanging in a black background, they move while the mouse moves. Put the mouse on different numbers, the reader can hear different sounds, sometimes men singing, sometimes children playing, sometimes a woman mimicking a cat. Click on the number, the reader can hear an audio record of one of the book chapters.

Click “Manifesto”, there will be some brief philosophical sentences, such as “THE DEATH OF ONE GOD IS THE DEATH OF ALL”. These sentences are the main ideas of this book.

Click “Theater”, an invitation to join the Revolution Nostalgia Disco Theatre will appear. To me, the invitation letter does not make much sense. It is like a piece of random work created by machine.

Click “Mechanism B”, the reader can see some black words with its chapter numbers floating in a red background. Click on one of the words, it will take the reader to the chapter where it is from. Those numbers do not show up in order. They move with the mouse.

Click “Attributions”, it will bring the reader to a page where the author says other information about the creation of this book.

I read several chapters in “Mechanism B” and “Archive”, listened to some chapters in “audio podcast” including the first chapter and the 45th chapter. I can get the main idea and the macro-context of the world in the book. The heroine is called Vera, whose avatar has silver-gray eyes and bleached golden hair. Vera falls in love with Mayakovsky who already passed away, so she tries to reconstruct him in the virtual world.

After viewing the entire website, I realize that Utopia is impossible to achieve in the current world. Whether humans live with their physical bodies or with their virtual avatars, as long as there are human desire and hatred, the world cannot be perfect.

Bots && Reconstructing Mayakovsky (Blog 2)

I learned so much from reading this short collection in the volume. Mainly its relation to elit as a genre. I will admit that I didn’t know much (anything really) about using robots to generate language. A bot is considered “a chatterbot that engages users in conversation through text entered and displayed in a computer terminal.” This was all very interesting, even so,  I still remained apprehensive about the thought of creating my own elit using this technique. I clicked all of the Bot links and followed the accounts on Twitter. It was interesting also to see that this technique is used in most of the social media platforms that I already use, such as Twitter and Tumblr. The short bio also mentioned that this artistic and literary tool created for social networks has grown exponentially.” 

My favorite reading for this week was “Reconstructing Mayakovsky” by Illya Szilak. The epigraph quote describes it as a novel of the future. The floating stars in the main page served as a table of contents.  As I clicked each word it revealed context and information to a story. I preferred to download the paper version of the text. Additionally, I also loved that the design resembled galaxy. In another part of the literature words were floating around and when I clicked on each work it revealed a chapter of the story. I didn’t get read the entire book, unfortunately, but I enjoyed the experience. 

Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 9.32.19 AM.png

ii. something something robots ?

I’m last minute/late (depending on whenif I fall asleep at my laptop) buT HERE WE GO.

Let’s start off by touching on what went on last week. I went into class knowing not much about Twelve Blue and I think I came out knowing even less. It’s a beautifully artful and interactive piece filled with deep themes and meanings and intertwining plotlines about life and all that jazz, but when we were trying to figure out the precise who’s and the what’s and such, not even the internet could help us get the full picture together.

Thanks, internet.

Regardless, just from reading through (note: reading; not comprehending,  not understanding) an hour’s worth of pages from the piece, you get a lost and jumbled feeling, but… and this could just be me… a sense of empathy for the characters? Considering they’re all going through That Jumbled Mess and are probably on a similar (but definitely not exact) level of confusion and lost…ness (?) as you are just reading it.

Well, anyway.

That was last week.

I still think it was a conscious decision to have the already-clicked links blend into the background color to, idk, signify a dwindling lack of choice? Like running out of options? But you can still click the link if you look hard enough?? Does that make you stubborn??? Does that signify repeating past mistakes and reaching the same outcomes even though you think you’ll find something different or achieve a different result???? Idk man, I’m tired.

Anyway. This week we start presentations. I’m looking forward to them. I’m glad someone picked Façade. I would have, but (1) I’ve only ever watched someone play it, (2) that takes some Download Power feat. A Lot of Effort, and (3) … -shrug- I like The Hobo Lobo of Hamelin, sue me. (Fun fact: I almost picked The Hunt for The Gay Planet{happy #BiWeek y’all} but the story, while hilarious and oddly deep, gets mildly Lewd™ at one point, and I am Far Too Shy to read that out loud to a bunch of my peers. Maybe I’ll do a blog post on it one day. That day is not Today, though, so–). Looking forward to the Façade presentation, though! I’ll definitely contribute to that conversation. c. 2011 Masooch is ready to shine.

Let’s. Talk. About. The. I forget–

BOTS. That’s it. These buggers:

Screenshot 2018-09-25 at 00.11.31
Screenshotted respectfully from here.

I remember these from #NetNarr days. Wild times. We had the option to make our own, but I think I was too busy reading fanfic so I just reacted to them instead. Y’know, like those React Youtubers who are wildly popular for some reason. No I’m not tagging any of them good golly do you think I wanna get sued? Please, I am broke.

It’s Fine, tho, I guess.

Anyway.

{Totally random, but this song is stuck in my head. Anyone else here see Ed the other night? Oof. Bless.}

Bots. Bots are cool. We checked out Pentametron in class last week, and I had no idea how complex these lil friends can be. Pulling tweets that just happen to be in iambic pentameter?? First of all, rad. Second of all, I love iambic pentameter. Any kind of writing with a rhythm to it is just… just…

https://giphy.com/embed/l41YleLHixOeCWNe8

via GIPHY

Alright, now I’ll chat a bit about some of the other ones I checked out. Won’t go into all of them because, I’mma tell you now, I have no idea where to begin with RealHumanPraise. Let’s not even go there.

Station 51000 is a good mix of a story: of the ridiculous plus the realistic. I feel like a combination like that always makes something–even an inanimate object like an adrift buoy–have a personality, a life. It’s like those Disney Pixar movies. It’s WALL-E, only with weather warnings and a sailor’s wistful musings and guilt. I think. I never read Moby Dick.

But anyway, that buoy is now my son and I love him.

Speaking of sons, I’ve also adopted TinyCrossword. My little annoying honor student who doesn’t get any retweets or replies but still churns out crossword after crossword… You go, lil buddy. You’re doing great and I love you. (The words you use are terrible, though, my god.)

Then there is Tiny Star Field, who is adorable and pure and wholesome. I mean look at this:

How cute is that???

Brings up the question of “is this literature?” or, as my sleep deprived brain gets a chuckle at, “is it lit tho.”

… it is 12:45 AM.

I suppose the literature aspect is just up to interpretation. Tiny Star Fields can be inspiration or add to an aesthetic. Station 51000 absolutely has a story in and of itself. Tiny Crossword’s purpose is to irritate inspire an expansion of vocabulary. I guess. In a sense, they’re all stories. And like I said about personifying inanimate objects earlier, there’s a semblance of life to them, and that gives them personality and charm.

Long story short, Twitter bots take a lot of work and are real cute/real cool/mildly irritating (seriously, Tiny Crossword? “Oireachtas”? “ChristianUnion”? I love you, but lighten up.) and produce really cool things!

Is that what being a parent is like.

Alright, one more little thing to touch on before I crash. And I am about to crash.

Reconstructing Mayakovsky is … I was gonna say terrifying just based on this accursed menu and its echo-y, click-y, Doppler-effect-y noise.

I mean look at this thing. Click that link. I’ll even help you out. Click this link. Hear that? That’s what you hear in the void. That’s chilling. Do Not Like.

Screenshot 2018-09-25 at 01.02.56
Screenshotted respectfully from here.

I’m positive there’s some good story in this piece. Positive. Did I spend more than a few minutes trying to find it? Big yikes because I did not. It’s not that I was weirded out, but I was weirded out. I did click on “Movies” there and watched some kind of infomercial… something about human-machine stuff and a four P model and Better Life Guaranteed! dystopia kinda stuff. So yeah. Not terrified at all. Just from that bit alone, I was reminded of a game called Soma. Y’all like some psychological/survivor horror games? Moral and ethical ambiguity and underwater nightmares? Robots??? Click away.

Honestly… I think… That’s it for this week…

This one jumped around a bit, but! That’s how life knows, y’know?

See y’all next week.

–Masooch

 

Reconstructing Mayakovsky

I am pretty sure everyone started on the same page as I did reading Reconstructing Mayakovsky, but probably interpreted it differently because of the way we navigated the literature. I clicked the “BEGIN” button and the first things I saw was a cluster of dots that moved with just a small touch. The cluster rotated and moved up and down. The size of the text changed as I moved my mouse which was very interesting. There was also this irritating sound which made me scratch myself multiple times. I was reminded of televisions that have no signal.Image result for television off

 

After getting over the sound and myself, I hovered my mouse over the words and found that they were clickable, so clicked Theater to see where it would take me.

ReconMaya1

I got to the screen above and it seems like an invitation. I mean who wouldn’t like an invitation to some audition asking you to striptease. I hovered my mouse over “LOVE”, “ART” and “RELOVUTION” expecting them to take me to another secret realm. I like calling them secrets because it feels like I am the only person who knows about this place. I know it’s not! Leave me alone to fantasize! Jeez!

Anyway, those three words were not hyperlinked, so I took my disappointment to the >download invitation button which directed me to a pdf page with actual invitations with information on them.ReconMaya2

At this point, I’m like okay, what’s going on? where am I? However, I was not “lost” as I was reading Twelve Blue. There was an actual correlation and I was not trying to rack my brain trying to figure out what was going on.

I read the invitations and went back to the page before this. Since there were no hypertexts, I went back to the original page by clicking the mechanisms tab. It took me back to the cluster of dots with texts. I clicked the movie tab which took me to a different page with a sort of propaganda video which pertained to the story. The voice of the narrator played a role. The story deals with a dystopia, so it definitely had that vibe going on. I started getting a sense of what the story was about, however, I did not want to dive too much into it since my classmate was going to go over it.

Reconmaya4

I loved the whole idea of the Manifesto. The page had Rules of what made a dystopia. But what caught my attention was the printed version which is shown above. The paper definitely had more impact and I would love to hear more about that when Kelli goes over it in class.

I went through some other tabs including Audio Podcasts, which opened up to the same concept of rotation. But this rotation involved numbers which I presumed were the chapters of the story. When I hovered, the audio had a preview, but when I clicked on it, it actually had someone narrating the story. I also clicked Mechanisms B which also took me to a  different page with the same concept of rotation. But unlike the others, the background was red and it had titles, I clicked on the titles and it took me to the chapters. The format was very traditional.

Looking forward to what Kelli and Stephanie have installed for the class!

Let’s get Botty!


First, I'd like to say how proud of myself I am. If you would've asked me to present on bots a year ago I would've run away. But now, after two Net Narr class. I'm kind of a bot master. Not, really a master but I am no longer a novice. I'm somewhere in the middle. 

Okay, when I started down the rabbit hole learning about bots for E-Lit, I see this is slightly different than the purposes of bots for a networked narrative class. So, let's get down to the nuts and bolts of this whole bot-uation. That's my last bot pun I swear. Taken from the word robot, bots are, "computer programs designed to operate autonomously." 

In the world of e-lit it becomes a really cool, sometimes random way to generate literature. Or is it? There are debates that happen that online bots are nonsense and it doesn't amount to anything sensical let alone literature. Bots like Tiny Crossword don't seem to serve a purpose. But if you follow through the feed it begins to make its own form of poetic rhythm. 

One could argue that the person who programs the bot intended for it to appear that it doesn't make any sense and therein lies the beauty of it. So how do we detect a bot from an actual writer? Well, there's a game you can play to see if you can pick out true literature.http://botpoet.com


The best part about bots is making your own. It is cool to play around with already created bots. Creating your own allows you to play the author and create your own character. However, even though you are writing a script perse you still don't get to control the outcome much like other e-literature.

Here's a bot I created.


Professor Alan Levine explored the world of bots with us in my Networked Narrative class. The best part about bots is getting the chance to play around with them. Here's a link to some really cool bot stuff Alan shared with us last year. 



Viva La…Russian Revolution???: Analyzing Neo-Futurism & The Mutability of Reality and Story in Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky

Здравствуйте~

Reality remains fatal, a bullet in the brain ~

In the names of progress and peace, what would you sacrifice? Some of your freedoms? Most of your voice? All of your body? Replace your autonomy with technology, swap democracy for technocracy? These questions seem to be at the narrative heart of Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky (2008), a work of Eliterature (ELit) heavily inspired by the rise of both terrorist activity and technological advancement in the early 21st century as well as by the life and literature of early 20th century Russian Futurist writer and revolutionary Vladimir Mayakovsky. Szilak’s work seems to ask readers to not only immerse themselves in its rich narrative aspects but to consider, conceptually, the nature of reality and the complex relationships of story to reality, of self to machine, and of machine to nature. The work accomplishes this feat through a combination of textual, historical, navigational, and aesthetic “mechanisms” all working in tandem alongside reimagined, Neo-Futurist ideology to construct an experience that “promotes an idiosyncratic reading” (Gauthier) of the piece and reveals the mutability of meaning (story) and of humanity (the self).

OnewOrld, the world of Reconstructing Mayakovsky, is one in which humanity, and its propensity towards violence and chaos, has been abandoned for the seeming safety of virtual reality. “Inhabitants who survived a major cataclysm…live in hibernation units immersed in a virtual world” (Gauthier). The program and its safety are guaranteed by the Monad Global Attention Group, the financial investors behind the OnewOrld project. According to the short video clip–that ostensibly adopts the traditional style of a financial investment PowerPoint– found when one clicks on the “Movies” mechanism–hovering in the starry pocket of an otherwise infinitely dark and empty universe main interface screen–“real bodies cost money” and “the end of profitability is near”.

Click to view slideshow.

Physical reality has become unstable and so must be converted to a virtual system. This story, the overt one, plays out in 46 chapters whose text can be accessed via clicking on the “Mechanism B” mechanism floating in the aforementioned abysmal/primordial miasma (Gauthier).

Oneword background

Example of the Chapters + Some background info on OnewOrld~

Audio versions of the chapters can be found by clicking on the “Audio Podcasts” mechanism. The OnewOrld language is English that has been translated into French and then back into English using the Babelfish program–literally removing it that much further from ourselves. This makes the language read/sound quite mechanical, adding additional complexity as well as a sense of eeriness to readings. These chapters float chaotically in no specific order in their own, bright red or solid black pocket universes of the site. Readers are given no directions on how to navigate the narrative nor interpret the mechanical language within. Instead, readers seem asked to construct meaning on their own as though the work were one large, deconstructed poem, whose inherent order matters less than a reading’s interpretation.

This format lends itself to the idea that navigating an ELit piece is also, “an act of producing a work’s signifying properties in the moment of engagement with them” (Pressman). Meaning cannot be interpreted in this work until a node–a hyperlink, in this case–is clicked and its encoded lexia accessed. Even then, though, there is no promise of revelation. What do 46 chapters mean when, “We reject the absolute truth of the number”? Or, when “The difference between a lie and the truth rests in its utility”? This lack of inherent meaning seems to both be at odds and celebrate the work’s Neo-Futurist undertones. Futurism was an early 20th century art movement that rejected the past and the mere idea of the past influencing the future and instead celebrated the future, the youth, speed, dynamism, violence, and, above all else, the machine. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism calls for the abolishment of libraries and museums and, most famously, compares the automobile to the splendor of “the Victory of Samothrace”. Bold. But, also an ideology that seems promoted in Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

That said, while attributing meaning of this otherwise seemingly disjointed work through a kind of Neo-Futurism reading would be easy, it seems not to suffice. Contradicting elements appear throughout the piece, promoting violence but also a way for “non-violently defining, creating, and animating the world”. Pieces irreverently discard the human and its agency but also claim, “In so far as we are bodies and minds We are the embodiment of nature In so far as we use technology as an extension of our bodies and minds there are choices we can make [sic]”. These contradictions complicate any simple understanding or navigation of Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

Most of these contradictions can be seen when the overt narrative of the work is compared to its accompanying manifesto, which can be found by clicking on the “Manifesto” mechanism. A condensed version of the manifesto titled “a petit Manifesto: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the movies” can be read on the screen that first appears or a longer version of the manifesto, “Do You Think Malaria Makes Me Delirious?”, can be accessed by clicking “download print version”. The condensed version hits some of the manifesto’s highlights such as, “All realities are virtual, but few of us can live here”, “Art is to life as Kitsch is to death” and “EVERYTHING HAS BECOME US, But we are nowhere in the world” while the longer version elaborates on these subjects and many more–such as poetry, language, memory, religion, humor (“We believe that all humans can laugh but most jokes don’t translate well”), etc.–eventually concluding that, “Our future demands a feminine art that knows and appreciates the body and its ornaments” (Szilak). Not very Futurist proper and, in comparison to the narrative aspect of Reconstructing Mayakovsky, this manifesto seems to contrast greatly. In fact, it seems to be a rebuke.

Click to view slideshow.

The manifesto reads as quite a scathing critique of the virtual, technocratic world of Reconstructing Mayakovsky but also of some of the key tenets of Futurism, adding an element of self-awareness the Futurists themselves seemed to lack to the work itself if not the narrative within. Additionally, the manifesto seems to challenge notions of reality and perception, stating, as mentioned earlier, “When the wor(l)d has any meaning The difference between a lie and the truth rests in its utility [sic]”. Reconstructing Mayakovsky, then, becomes a mirror for readers, inviting them to explore the relationship between truth and perception of truth via its decontextualize, free-associative interface and it Neo-Futurist framework which invites a kind of contradictory, Orwellian “doublethink”.

Perhaps, though, some of these contradictions can be reconciled in Mayakovsky himself, who is a main character introduced into the world of the narrative aspect of this piece but who is also the author of much of the conceptual underpinnings of Reconstructing Mayakovsky. More, perhaps taking a closer look at Russian Futurism specifically and its conceptual underpinnings can bring a degree of understanding to an otherwise nebulous and mercurial work.

Vladimir Mayakovsky was born in the Russian Empire, pre-revolutions, in what is now  the country of Georgia. He came of age and became a writer and artist during a time of ideological upheaval as well as national and cultural revolution. In the early 20th century, Mayakovsky joined the Russian Futurist movement, an art movement that was influenced by Italian Futurism’s ideology which promoted/idealized modernization but that also, almost antithetically, appreciated traditional Russian folk art and life. Many members of this movement, like Mayakovsky, sought to dismantle the Tsarist autocracy that had been governing Russian for hundreds of years and replace it with some form of socialism–communism most commonly. Many artists from the movement participated in the generation and proliferation of Bolshevik propaganda.

Most members of the movement rejected the work of the so-called, “Great Masters”. One of the most famous Russian Futurist manifestos Mayakovsky contributed to, “A Slap in The Face of Public Taste”, proclaims, “The past constricts us. Academia and Pushkin make less sense than hieroglyphics. [burn] Dump Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard the ship of Modernity” (Burliuk et al. as quoted in Lawton). Essentially, the Old Masters are dead and should stay dead.

Many Futurists also came to reject the title of Futurism itself, Mayakovsky stating in a short essay titled “We, Too, Want Meat!” (1914), “What’s a Futurist? I don’t know. I never heard of such a thing. There have never been any”. Perhaps this rejection is what led to the eventual dissolution of the movement. Perhaps is was the fall of the Russian empire. Perhaps it was always just disillusionment in need of voice and performance….

Regardless, the movement essentially dissolved in Europe with the onset of World War I and dissolved in Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the assassinations of the last of the Romanov family, and the rise of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Mayakovsky continued writing in the “Futurist spirit” though, penning multiple books of surreal, decontextualized, or otherwise counter to poetry and becoming outspoken spokesman for the Communist party until his suicide in 1930. A bullet in the brain heart.

In many ways, Mayakovsky embodies the ideals Reconstructing Mayakovsky espouses–which makes sense. (The work is literally titled Reconstructing Mayakovsky and, in the piece, Mayakovsky’s character is resurrected.) Evoking Mayakovsky is evoking the complex, often contradictory nature of Russian Futurism–its promotion of both the machine and traditional folk art–but also of that time period of upheaval and revolution in which the movement and Mayakovsky existed. “We believe that art is the memory of the future and memory is the art of the past”, the manifesto states. Mayakovsky is both the art and the memory. Reality is what exists in between, is what exists in the vast blackness surrounding “Manifesto” and “Movies”.

The “Archive” mechanism seems to also enhance the idea of reality being made mostly of what is remembered and created. This mechanism consists of images, documents, and articles related to events referenced in the narrative aspect of the work. In this way, the reader and the reader’s reality are being tied to the reality of Reconstructing Mayakovsky as all of the events referenced in the narrative aspect of the work have a basis in our reality (i.e. the bombing of Nagasaki, the existence of complexity theory, etc), making questions about the reality of Reconstructing Mayakovsky also questions about our reality.

Click to view slideshow.

Some examples of the Archives referencing Mechanism B~

And, again, readers are given no directions for how to navigate this space of stacked images. The onus of coherence and persistence of narrative falls on the reader. This decontextualization seems another callback to Futurism while the compilation of meaningful subject matter seems to be what connects the overall concept back to Russian Futurism (which still values the traditional or “sentimental”) specifically.

Ultimately, the decontextualization of this piece allows for multiple readings of this work and, so, multiple constructions of reality, something that becomes apparent to readers as they attempt to, almost like “astronauts”, forge connections in that amorphous, black space between content and meaning. Additionally, the resurrection of Mayakovsky in this work resurrects and brings into question the ideals and contradictions of Russian Futurism, further complicating the understanding of thi piece and ensuring that no easy answers bring reconciliation. Through concept, design, and aesthetic, Reconstructing Mayakovsky seems programmed to function as an exploration of the contradictory nature of reality, perception, and the relationship of the self to both. Or, perhaps, it is meant to be a joke and its meaning just “does not translate well”.

Works Cited

Gauthier, Joelle . July 25, 2011. ”  Reconstructing Mayakovsky  “. Sheet in the NT2 Laboratory Directory of Hypermedia Arts and Literatures. Online on the NT2 Laboratory website. <http://nt2.uqam.ca/en/repertoire/reconstructing-mayakovsky >. Accessed September 23, 2018

Lawton, Anna M. Russian futurism through its manifestoes, 1912-1928. Cornell Univ Pr, 1988.

Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. “The futurist manifesto.” Le Figaro 20 (1909): 39-44.

Pressman, Jessica, and N. Katherine Hayles. “Navigating Electronic Literature.” Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (ebsite)(2008).

Szilak, Illya. Reconstructing Mayakovsky. June 2008. Web Design and Development: Cloudred. Art for animation and graphic design for manifesto: Pelin Kirca. Original music for animation: Itir Saran.

Further References:

http://pelinkirca.com/reconstructed/

http://cellproject.net/creative-work/reconstructing-mayakovsky-2

https://www.theartstory.org/movement-russian-futurism.htm

https://helenbledsoe.com/?p=238https://helenbledsoe.com/?p=238

https://www.estorickcollection.com/exhibitions/a-slap-in-the-face-futurists-in-russia

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До свидания!

~Till next time~

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