Brainstrips- by Alan Bieglow (Blog 4)

Of both the articles for this week, my favorite one was the Brainstrips piece by Alan Bieglow. This piece was very engaging and even humorous at times, I enjoyed every section of it.

I noticed that the word brain strips in the main page lead to a category for different lessons.
In the first word brain, the two characters in the comic discuss deep philosophical topics of existential theory. The questions were “what is art’, “are men more sensitive than women, “does God exist”, “how do we know we are human,” “do trees have rights” and “is color real”. All of these questions forces the reader to think outside the box and formulate reasons that are neither right or wrong. For each of these question, I enjoyed the artistic and narrative process of creating my own story. I also enjoyed the visual and audio experiences that Bieglow provided while reading. Everything felt like a real-life comic movie.

In the second section, the word strips were “Science for Idiots”. You would probably expect that the section was like the dummy book of science, however, it was unlike that. Science for Idiots discussed the politics of science in everyday life and how some things just don’t make any sense. For example, in the evolution category, Bieglow writes that “minimum cage size recommended by the zoo industry for an ape is 14 by 14 by 10 feet, slightly larger than a standard office cubicle” Well this statement raises that question of ethics because that size is not large enough to accommodate an ape. So the question remains, who are the real idiots in science?

Lastly, just the letter S in that word lead me to another page with math lessons and concepts. Each word in that section was interactive and hilarious! I felt like I was learning a classroom lesson, however, it was more enjoyable because at random parts there would be a tangent that made it not so serious. The storyline was intelligible and tasty to follow along. I loved that the visuals in the background were consistent and moved while reading. Overall, this was a fun read for today’s blog.

*** Click Here to Read it!

A Quiz that Lasts One Lifetime minus 8 Months

This is going to be a last minute review of Brainstrips by Alan Bigelow.

The first section is titled ‘Deep Philosophical Questions…’ and it is a comic book with some deep philosophical questions. For example, is color real? I never believed colors were real. They always look fake. I think the rumors about the colors being products created secretly by the government to make us forget black and white is true. I am totally fine inside my box, thank you very much. I do not need to see the fake things outside of it. I pay my taxes and that should be enough. Another question is ‘Do trees have rights?’ and it is a good question. Some people believe they do have rights but I watched a YouTube video of a guy in his basement talking about those trees and he said trees are overrated and I think it may be true. Trees clean the air but I prefer animals because you are not allowed to have a tree as a pet.

The second section is titled ‘Science for Idiots’ which I do not need because I am smarter than everyone else. Especially my neighbor, George. He is a curious one. I do not understand why he never bothers to leave his trash on his side of the sidewalk on Mondays. I always find banana peels on the ground as I leave for the office and I just want to scream and throw a rock at his house. Perhaps I should ask him to look at Brainstrips. The part called ‘Evolution’ might teach him something. Maybe he could become as smart as I am and work in a nice cubical office just like me and earn more money. There is also a part called ‘Gravity and You’ and it is about gravity. It shows a person digging into the core of the world. I do not think this is real. I have never tried it myself but I do not believe you can actually dig that deep. There are some videos online about digging that deep but I think they are fake.

The third section is titled ‘Higher Math’ and I do not like this section. It is stupid. The part called ‘Subtraction’ shows a guy winning one million dollars by gambling. He only tries three times and wins big and it is not believable. I buy instant tickets all the time and I never win big. I only manage to win ten or twenty dollars after three tries, so the guy in the story should win only that much to make it more believable. I write stuff on Reddit all the time. Storytellers should be more careful with their stories. Another stupid part is ‘The Googolplex’ and I thought it was about Google search but it is not. It is about a girl and numbers of 1 and 0. In the end of the story, the girl discards all the zeroes for some reason and make the number small. I do not understand this at all. The more zeroes mean the number is higher and I think everybody knows this. The guy in the part ‘Subtraction’ is smarter than this girl, I think.

My overall score for this particular piece of literary work is: “I’m late!” out of 10.

 

 

(In case there is some confusion, this was a satirical post.)

Brainstrips: Strip Your Brain

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I enjoy reading the piece. It is intriguing. I went through an emotional reverse when I read it. I held a high expectation to it, but the “nonsense” shown later astonished me. But it also excited me that I feel a strong intention of the author.

The author Alan Bigelow is a professor in the Interdisciplinary Studies. “Interdisciplinary” would be the theme through the whole piece. Here to learn more about Bigelow: https://www.medaille.edu/alan-bigelow-phd

Walkthrough & Analysis

The first part is “strip”.

It uses comic strips to answer “deep philosophical questions”.

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The opening comic is quite interpretative.  A woman or man always says, “I am leaving you and finding the real meaning of  life.” THEN they runs away with the other man or woman and falls in a new loop. “What is the right answer of life?” that is a philosophical question that has never ever been answered.  The starting page reveals the theme of ” strip” part. It speaks of those” nonsense” and tricky questions that we try to but fail to answer in the life.

 

Click to view slideshow.

When we read those questions in advance, we would really think of those philosophically. Whereas, the author gives us a “… “. It is really creepy that we might feel ” a load of bull”, but they are so true that we cannot say they are wrong.  The author gives us an interdisciplinary perspectives. He questions what real philosophy is. Should it really base on Aristotle, Schopenhauer or Kant? His answer is NO. Philosophy is about life. We saw things from angles, we got disparate interpretations. Those questions have never ever had “right” answers.

Those strips from the Gloden Age of American Comics are recreated and be given different understandings. #Reconstructing Mayakovsky. It breaks a regular cognitive in literacies and constructs old literature in a new way.

The next part is “Brain”.  This part is ” science of idiot”.

Screenshot_6

The title is a paradox. As the reader asked above:” Who is the idiot?” Who is the author addressing? The idiots could be science itself or the one who believes the “science” is the science.  If those scientifical elements have no meanings when they get together, what does the fact really do to us? The author reminds of us reading what behind the “facts” and do not be fooled by “idiots”.

 

Click to view slideshow.

Interestingly, you cannot go back after finishing a topic.  I feel like it is a deliberate design. We do not look back what we read as they are nothing. We should feel what we read and remember the astonishing moment. It is a sensation that let us ask WHY? What is the author want to tell us?  When science is not presented traditionally, should we accept it traditionally? When things go out of expectation, can we fit in immediately? Can we turn our mind to identify what it is?

That is also a rule in reading elit. We cannot predict what will happen next but we should keep going and exploring.

The last part is “S. It speaks of ” Higher Math.”

Screenshot_19

 

Click to view slideshow.

Those ” Googleplex”, “Geometry”, “Irrational Numbers”, ” Addition”, and “Subtraction” are not talk about mathematics. Rather, they applied to explain “values” things. But is it really “valueless”? or how do we define the “value”? Bigelow plays a tricky game with us. He let us hold a high expectation to that stuff. But he fails us. “If you are too serious with them, you are out.” He intends to involve us in playing and enjoy the electronic tour. Science and math should belong to everyone.

http://writingelectronicliterature.miazamoraphd.com/category/student-blogs/

Bigelow is not the first one who jokes the science. It reminds me of the Ig Nobel Prize.

According to Improbable Research, Ig Noble Prize awards unusual and imaginative achievements in science, medicine, and technology.  Click to know more: https://www.improbable.com/ig/.

Let us learn more about Ig Nobel Prize 2018:

Finally, here is a math test for you.

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Again, DO BE SERIOUS. Whatever you choose, the result would be the same.

All in all. Bigelow shows us the possibility of playing knowledge and language. The philosophy, science and math are humorous but satirical. They are connected with politics, ethics and social problems. They are thought-provoking and let us ponder what the real issues behind. They are presented as the powerful language that raises new awareness. The interdisciplinary reconstructing demonstrates more possibilities of elit.

 

Brainstrips/Blog 4

Brainstrips is an interesting take on an old concept. In fact, it’s a few old concepts mashed together in an intriguing way. The textual elements of the comic are thought-provoking, in the way that philosophical questions are. For example, even on the cover, the man in the army uniform says, “So this is how you found the Meaning of Life…?” Then girl replies, “I’m sorry, but Richard has the right answers for me!” However, philosophical questions are not necessarily meant to have “right” and “wrong” answers, so where does her response come from? Are Mr. Suit’s answers simply what she wants to hear? Has no one ever told this woman that a healthy debate is good for the heart? (JK, I am not a doctor).

Another textual element that I really enjoyed was the the lines in “Is Color Real?” One character seems to now know that he is in a comic, and the other two are aware. The first character says, “I sense a blackness all around us…” Then the other two point out that it’s the black border on the page of the comic. The first mate point’s out that the captain’s left hand is “breaking the frame.” The comic declares, “Suddenly, a shift in foreground perspective!” as a too-big bird passes by the boat, the oblivious character not realizing that it’s in the foreground. The very last quote is a cute sentiment about thinking outside the box, obviously referring to the panels of the comic.

I honestly was not very fond of the visual effects in the first part of the comic. The shaking of the speech bubbles felt… cheep. That movement did not need to be there in order to advance or enhance the story. It was as if the comic was screaming, “Look, I’m eLit, I promise!” The flashing lights on the boat were cute, but it was a very small part of what the comic was actually about. The sound was essentially just background noise that I muted after the first two panels. I am honestly not even sure if I missed anything in the 2nd and 3rd parts of the comic because I forgot to turn it back on again.

The theme of Brainstrips was consistent thoughout, discussing philosophical questions that aren’t really meant to be answered. If I had more time I would go through the comic a number of times and see if different answers effects the outcome of the quiz, but I have a suspicion that it’s all the same.

Overall I enjoyed this piece of eLit, but mostly for the content and quality of pictures. For me, I probably would have enjoyed it no more and no less if it had been a comic in a physical comic book.

iv. i love existentialism in the morning

I hecked up, friends. Y’know how you have a thing to do sometimes, but you’re like “mehhh I can wait a bit; I need to rest right now, but I’ll get to it” and then you just… fall asleep?

Case in point: this blog post.

But that’s okay! Because I got to read Brainstrips just after I woke up. And what a wild ride that was.

It’s interesting reading something so offhandedly deep and philosophical so early in the morning, because in that still-tired state, you both miss things and catch things and basically get a whole different story than you would while reading it when you’re fully awake.

Maybe that doesn’t make much sense.

Anyway. I got to experience both Brainstrips and the Taroko Gorge remixes, but I’ll be chatting here about the former just based on the bigger impact it had on me. (Sorry, Vee ;u; )

The “comic” / e-lit piece had what seemed like 2 layers to me (probably more to be honest, but I’m capping it at 2): the ridiculous humor layer, and the serious layer. I considered calling the second layer the “Things We Don’t Want To Talk About Because They’re Too Off-puttingly Serious” layer but the title seems too long to keep typing.

The humor of that first layer is one I’ve seen around the internet a lot, particularly in nihilistic games/posts/etc. A kind of “hahahahah this makes no sense but it’s okay we’re all dying inside” kind of millennial humor.

Regardless of if that makes sense or not, Brainstrips was intriguing in that it explored deep matters–philosophy, morality, environmental awareness–in a sort of flippant way.

Screenshot 2018-10-09 at 08.48.43
Borrowed respectfully from here.

Like this. Peak internet humor. Blatant use of wordart. Stock image of a button I could swear I’ve seen floating around the internet in other games/game-type things like this.

In the first section (and the other two, but I’m just focusing on the first right now) we have that comic-style lightheartedness, but with questions in the corner that would stop a person short and either a) make them squirm, or b) start a whole existential discussion that may or may not end in tears and an awkward but good-natured and consoling pat on the back.

Screenshot 2018-10-09 at 10.15.10
Also borrowed from Brainstrips pls don’t make me link to it again.

Anyway is it just me… or does it give off that feeling like from Back to the Future 2… in a very materialistic future where Everything’s Great but really Everything’s Terrible? Maybe BttF2 is a bad example. I dunno. But do you get what I mean? Like some kind of false-utopian/actually-dystopian genre vibe?

Maybe I’m looking too much into it.

Regarding the questions, Brainstrips is absolutely literary. Comics on their own are a form of literature–a stance which I will defend to my dying breath–and Brainstrips is no different based on formatting alone.

When navigating through the text, I tried changing up what I thought would be The Correct Order of the story by clicking on questions lower on the list before the higher ones on the first page. Turns out the order didn’t matter, but just that small bit of ability to choose was… nice. And frustrating once I realized the choice didn’t matter but hey, that’s life ain’t it.

One more thing before I sign off and finally post this thing. The sounds were a crucial aspect of the piece. Ambient and creepy sometimes, loud and garish at other times, all-around off-putting and perfect the entire time. Sound in a story can make a story. Just look at horror movies/horror games. Watch them/play them with the sound off and you have a whole different experience. There are probably articles on it that’ll get all psychological and such which I’d love to look into, but! That’s for another time!

As for now, I will bid thee adieu with a final screencap from Brainstrips:

Screenshot 2018-10-09 at 08.51.24

Have a lovely day 🙂

–Masooch

Blog#4 Brainstrips by Alan Bigelow 

Brainstrips is a quite interesting E-lit piece as it combines both visual and auditory approaches. In a nutshell, it is a three-part knowledge series as it says on the first page. When I read this piece, I felt like I was thinking all the way along my walk through. It really envoked my inspiration and awareness.

1

The first part of knowledge is titled “deep philosophical questions”. It presents when I click the letters “STRIP”. It is a philosophical section. There are five questions: “What is art?” , “Are men more sensitive than women?” , “Does God exist?” , “How do we know we are human?”,  “Do trees have rights?” , and “Is color real?”. Hence, this part addresses totally five philosophical questions by using comic pictures.

deep philosophical questions1. Deep Philosophical Questions”

The second part of knowledge is titled “science for idiots”. It presents when I click the letters “BRAIN”. This part is in charge of six scientific issues which are global warming, evolution, gravity and you, relativity, elementary particles, and nuclear fission. The animated images and texts inside each issues are vivid illustrations for each point. For example, in global warming, the images and texts sequencely tell the readers the origion of the phrase “global warming”. Wally, an earth science professor, once lived in Oak Park before he arrived in Columbia. Oak park is a suburb of Chicago with a large population and it suffers from global warming.

science for idiots 2. “Science for Idiots”

The third part of knowledge is “higher math”. There are six categories: the googolplex, geometry, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and irrational numbers. However, the content is not about the superficial mathematics. It applys the mathmatical formula into life. Like the addition, it tells a story of a pegnant woman and addition is indicated in the sum of her experience. The addition formula is applied into adding her experience of life. I love the way of connecting mathematics with life. They are different fields of theory and practice, but sometimes have several subtle association. The formula has no emotion and sense, but life has temperature. It has a neutral effect when these two things connect.

higher math      3. “Higher Math” QQ截图20181008204002“Addition”

Yeah, the exact prinple of life is called “higher math”.

 

Works Cited:

Alan Bigelow. “Brainstrips”. http://collection.eliterature.org/2/works/bigelow_brainstrips.html

 

Taroko Gorge/Along the Briny Beach!

“Stone articulates the bay. Salt waters carve. Waters mist. Sandstone writes the sea foam. Shuffle along the storied wing long…Shore outlines the channels. Deserted islands erode. Sand dune deposits the maelstroms. Beach comb along the salt-glittering uncharted umnamed…” -J.R. Carpenter, Along the Briny Beach

As a learning student and writer, if a person asked me to think of what literature and poetry are, a few words come to mind. Beautiful, musical, captivating, alluring, and unique. After reading Taroko Gorge by Nick Montfort (http://collection.eliterature.org/3/work.html?work=taroko-gorge), I never realized how the pace of reading poetry and literature plays a part in how we intake what we are reading. Montfort wrote and programmed Taroko Gorge in 2009, which is a piece of generative poetry that gives the reader the feeling of “walking through nature.” It flows down the page with descriptions of nature. The pace of reading poetry has always been slow to me. Even when I go to poetry readings and learning how to recite my poems, I was told to speak slow almost as if I were a robot. However, Taroko Gorge flows fast where it doesn’t seem like poetry sometimes. It reads as a form of art.

Some would probably not enjoy the fact that reading this piece of electronic literature is a fast-paced read. The standard way to read would be to read slowly so the reader could enjoy and appreciate the words. I do agree that reading poetry slow is an excellent way to take in what you’re reading. However, there is nothing wrong with a little change. The flow of the poem allows the reader to have something exciting and unexpected come on the screen. I would describe it a “never-ending song,” but instead of the melody, the lyrics are never-ending and always changing. There is a certain beauty that I noticed and began to appreciate after reading the poem.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 1.50.54 PM

I have been on walks through the park, the woods and other places that involve a nature scenery. There is an overwhelming amount of creativity that comes with these nature walks. The great thing about Taroko Gorge is that the walk does not have to end, unlike in real life where at some point, you must finish your walk and come back home. The lines from the poem attract the reader by its calming words and soothing flow on the screen. By doing some research, I found out that these lines are inspired by Taiwan’s Taroko National Park. From the comfort of my home, I was able to enjoy a nature walk through electronic literature, which is something I have never experienced before as a student. I think the key to really grasping Taroko Gorge is by merely reading it more than once. I read it several times, and each time it was something new and excited. Each time the poem began to unfold before my eyes, and I sat back with a cup of coffee and basked in this newly found poetry.

Now, not to turn my back on Taroko Gorge, but one of the remixes that I will be discussing next is Along the Briny Beach (http://collection.eliterature.org/3/work.html?work=along-the-briny-beach) by J.R. Carpenter, which made me even more curious and captivated by this poem generator that was originally formatted by Montfort. One of the reasons why I wanted to carefully read this piece is because my favorite place is the beach. I am at peace and always in a meditative place when I go there. So immediately this piece caught my attention. One of the differences between Taroko Gorge and Along the Briny Beach is what the reader relies on. The remix has more motion and images that are in sync with the text shown on the screen.

The images that are shown on the screen while the poem is being generated makes made me feel like I was on the beach from my home. With the use of color, images, and text, the poem was able to truly align with what the generator was pouring out. What I thought was fun was how I could move my mouse over the images and the image would sometimes stop, show letters, go fast, or go slower. It also helped that the pictures were of sand, shells, the water, and even things such as rope that would wash up on the shore at a beach. The words and lines that were generated were just as beautiful as the words. Words such as, “salt-glittering” and lines such as, “Islands daydream the coral orchards”; allows me as the reader to “dive in” this piece and become one with it. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Taroko Gorge and Along the Briny Beach as a new way of looking at what poetry really means and what it can be in the literature world.

Click to view slideshow.

Adventues in E-Lit 2018-10-08 22:42:00



Taroko Gorge was interesting, to say the least. Truthfully it was hard to stay focused with the poem because it moved. Then I started to pay attention to the literary devices being used and try to pick up on a pattern to keep with the flow of the poem. Which made it easier. Then I tried to figure out what the poem was about. Words like forest, stone, and crags came up in several lines in different stanzas. Other words like veins and dwell appeared often as well and yet, it was still hard for me to make sense. In order for me to try and make sense of this piece, I had to look up the word crag. Because after ten minutes of watching the poem scroll by, I still couldn't figure out the meaning. So, according to dictionary.com, crag means a steep rugged rock a projecting part of the rock. Okay, that makes a little more sense so this is a poem about the outdoors and nature.  I didn't get a clear sense of what the theme of the poem. Even though I didn't really connect with it I did get a sense of calming after about five minutes of reading. I went back and read through the editorial and author's statement. It was then that I was able to get a better sense of what the piece is supposed to be about. And I did get a big sense of nature and serenity but I didn't pick up on the historical context or the significance of the location until I read the statement. Then I was able to go back and look at things again. This time some of the lines and stanzas were put into perspective.



Next, I took a look at Alan Bigelow's Brain Strips. And right away I was intrigued. One reason being is that I love comic books. And I thought it was cool to have an older looking drawing for the images. It made me feel that this philosophical piece was going to have a lot of satire and humor. For the most part, it did. I didn't care too much for the sound. But I did love the questions and the comic strip style responses written to each of them, I found the Is God real especially funny with the way it ended. The colors and the effects enhanced the reading to me. It made the stories jump off of the page. It also made me think that there were more elements than the words and images on the screen telling the story. The sound effects played another part. It added to the sensational appeal of the piece.  I enjoyed this reading more than the other it felt very engaging and interactive. And the concept was much more straightforward and easier for me to grasp. If I were to do an e-lit piece I would like the navigation of the work to be similar to this. I would have the sound bites be a little less jarring though.



Brainstrips: a three-part philosophy series)

b1

The author claims that Brainstrips is a “three-part knowledge series”. The word “brainstrips” is divided into three parts, hyperlinked to other web pages. 

b2

You can only start with the “strip” part. When the mouse move to this part, it turns red. 

b3

There are six questions on the left corner. Click each of these questions and they will be answered. 

b4

What is art? On this page, you can hear mechanical sounds and see the background moving. Can AIs replace artist? We don’t know, really. It was a question asked in my philosophy class. 

b5

Are men more sensitive then women? The traditional answer is obviously “no”. The background music is strange, applause blended with bell sounds. The last strip is creepy. The women are smiling but they are talking about changing men’s gene to make them sensitive. The difference in feelings between men and women has been a hot topic since a long time ago. Men and women cannot truly understand each other because their brains are structured differently. But altering human genes is illegal, which may cause serious moral issues. 

b6

If you listen carefully, you’ll notice that the gunshot actually has rhythm and correspond to the animation. I don’t understand this one. What will happen if God exists? What will happen if God doesn’t exist? 

b7

The BGM is chaotic siren and futuristic gunshot. How do we know we are human? It seems that we don’t have a clue. The aliens think that human is a lower life form. But this comic doesn’t present humans’ view point towards aliens. Maybe humans think that aliens are lower life forms, savages, barbarians? What made us human? Strength, weakness, evilness, kindness… We cannot give exact answers. Humans are too complex to be defined. 

b8

This strip reminds me of a funny picture. 

QQ图片20181009000607

Retrieved from http://joyreactor.com/post/676306

Research show that vegetables do have senses. They can feel pain but they cannot speak or bark like animals do. Sure trees have rights, but not any more when humans want them. Sure women have rights, but not any more when men want them. 

b9

This one is really interesting. The fisherman “senses a blackness around them”, in fact, the background color is black. “Your hand is breaking the frame”, “never seeing outside the box” are puns. True, they are comic characters, and always live inside the little box. This makes me think: are we virtual characters too? 

The second stop is “brain”. There are a few scientific topics displayed. Among them, the most astonishing one in “nuclear fission”. This section answers five commonly asked questions about nuclear bombs. After viewing all the answers, I know that it is impossible to escape from a nuclear explosion. But how do they know the answer? I only hope humans will not ruin the whole civilization. 

After viewing all the explanation of the questions, the reader is asked to do a test, which is composed of multiple choices. After finishing the quiz, you will be scolded by the author of being dumb. 

The third part is “s”. This part is all about math. 

This piece evokes philosophical thoughts, but it is actually quite realistic. Many thoughts are evolved, including feminism, anti-warism, surrealism… The more you read, the more you think. We know very little about the world and ourselves. 

Re-imagining Assemblage in the Taroko Gorge Remix Collection~

Some Reassembly Required…

Taroko Gorge (2009) is a work of generative poetry created by Nick Monfort and inspired by a body of poetry written about the Taiwanese national park of the same name. Lines of poetry are generated via a JavaScript program, designed to format each line of the work in a specific way. Monfort states, “…this generator forms strophes that begin and end with a “path” line and may have one or more more static “site” lines in between. Between each pair of such strophes is a “cave” line that trails off, as if into darkness, like the tunnels in the park that were carved by Chiang Kai-shek‘s Nationalist army.” Essentially, the work is designed to generate a pattern that alternates between providing a pairing or grouping of lines and a singular line. That singular line always ends with an em-dash, inviting readers into the void beyond the text. Inviting readers to walk beyond where the sidewalk ends. This text is produced limitlessly, the poem without an end until the reader decides to stop reading and exit the screen.  The work’s generative programming challenges traditional notions of authorship and of agency in navigating a text (how do I know when to stop reading?), has inspired multiple creative and compelling remixes (which I’ll get to), and was not very interesting to me at first (tbh).

See, I’m all about challenging the academy/the establishment/whoever the authority is but, in the case of Taroko Gorge and its remixes, I was a little underwhelmed by the gauntlet being thrown down. I guess, in comparison to other works of Elit I’ve encountered, this body of work just seemed so much less??? That was until I came across an article by our friend Katherine Hayles in which she described the design of Taroko Gorge and its subsequent remixes as a kind of digital assemblage. That’s some art shit. My kind of art shitHeck yeah. Once I donned those art lenses, I was able to see past the work’s seemingly simple interface and really take a gander and what I was looking at: neo-assemblage. Double heck yeah.

Taroko Gorge 1

First page of Taroko Gorge for me~

So, assemblage has existed in many forms over the years. Most notably by Picasso and good ol’ Duchamp but also by artist such as Dubuffet (real cool guy with a real cool body of work) and Tatlin. Many Dadaists preferred “photomontage“, a cousin to assemblage and a precursor to Photoshop, while Neo-Dada artists, like Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, preferred to call their process of making works of art from composing found objects into different arrangements “combines“. Assemblage also brings to mind bricolage, which is a kind of “do-it-yourself” combining of seemingly disparate found objects into a whole work (a topic I’m researching for my thesis).

Anyway, art history lesson over, viewing Taroko Gorge and its subsequent remixes such as Along the Briny Beach (2012) by J.R. Carpenter and Tokyo Garage (2009) by Scott Rettberg, as contemporary assemblage, I think, generates some interesting questions about the composing process and its performance–how much of what we write is simply found language, pasted together and given meaning because we decide it has meaning? All of it. But, also, I think viewing these works as digital assemblages helps re-conceptualize the seeming nonsense of their decontextualization.

5-paulhan

Self portrait made out of butterfly wings by Dubuffet

Assemblage was a way to help expand the mind beyond the constricting constraints of traditionalism by pairing non-like objects together and asking viewers to read them as related, as a new whole. Taroko Gorge and, especially, Along the Briny Beach, seem to do something similar in the ways both works make use of their lexia and display. Taroko Gorge places absurdly paired wording in a traditional strophic form while Along the Briny Beach does the same, even using quotes about beaches and the sea from traditional literature, but adds further complexity to the canvas, so to speak, by having 3 additional strings of lexia run horizontally across the screen, one string invisible until an image of a beach slides behind the otherwise background-colored text, revealing it. Kind of overwhelming at first, tbh. Both pose unique challenges to readers and their processes of reading and processing information. But, they also offer so many fascinating possibilities in regards to both. Like with Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue, there are no clear answers and there is certainly no easy sense of closure. Only limitless possibility. A large expanse of blank space open to interpretation.

Along the Briny Beach

My first page of Along the Briny Beach~

I’m reminded of what Hayles said in an earlier article of her’s we read–that there is no story; only readings. I think this concept applies to Taroko Gorge and its many remixes (and also too many works of assemblage). The traditional notion of authorship is blown out of the water by pieces like these. The program combines the text into stanzas. And, I would argue, the traditional notion of reading is also obliterated by the infinite scroll. I can’t go back. I can only watch. Watch and remember. In this way, the poem becomes a little bit mine–for as long as I can remember it. This work and its design places readers in this odd space, somewhere half-between passive observer and cognitively engaged participant. Along the Briny Beach and Tokyo Garage similarly place readers in this limbo.

Tokyo Garage 1

My first page of my fave Tokyo Garage~

The text that slowly inches up the screen is often intellectually or aesthetically or poetically stimulating but, at the same time, its steady and unending ascent can make the text become this endless stream of nonsense, without clear purpose or intent to guide reading. In some ways, these works read as a kind of counter-to, anti-poetry. There is no inherent meaning. No specific place to start nor any closure. At the same time, though, there seems to be this invitation to meditate on the use of language to convey poetic thought and aesthetic appeal and just beauty. What does any of this language really capture? It’s all words. What is beautiful about their repetitive recombinations? Anything? What is the function of poetry and language, especially in this digital age where forms of aesthetic representation are vast and varied and so easily accessible but so rarely able to be appreciated?

Ultimately, I think Taroko Gorge and its remixes provide a way for readers to explore their own preconceptions about language, semiotics, authorship, authorial intent, and reader expectations. The works certainly challenge many traditional conceptions of these topics. But, I think viewing these works as both digital and cognitive kinds of assemblages allows these works to become a question about the overall nature of composing, creating, and interpreting meaning and signification in online spaces as well. At the very least, doing so engaged me with the work in a new–and interesting–way and provided me with a way to develop insight I might not have otherwise.

Sources

Taroko Gorge collection

“Literary Texts as Cognitive Assemblages: The Case of Electronic Literature”

 

~Till next time~

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