Water and Twelve Blue


Water is a unique element. It shifts and takes the form of whatever is put in its path. It is flexible. It can pass underneath a steel door just as easily as it passes over rocks in a stream. Reading Twelve Blue for an hour and five minutes was very much like being a leaf carried on a stream. There was almost a sense of free association. This mirrors the nature of non-hierarchical hypertext fiction, as explained by Pressman in “Navigating Electronic Literature.” Here, though I did not feel like I was navigating; rather, it seems like I was taken on a confusing carnival ride (the latter of which is bought by someone in the piece).

I felt directionless. I could not grasp main concepts because there did not seem to be main concepts. Maybe that is the point? I’d really like to hear about my colleagues’ experience of the piece. I hope that it was not supposed to be like the skirt pierced with starlight in Sarah McLachlan’s song, “Building a Mystery” (See time stamps 0:37, 3:57):

Building a Mystery

In the video of the aforementioned song (if it doesn’t launch here, please play it in your web browser, it is an excellent work), we see thread being pierced through fabric and we can perceive light after sewing strokes (i.e. 0:37). However, it isn’t until almost the very end of the video that we see that what is formed is the singer’s voluminous skirt pierced through with pinpricks of light (made by the unseen seamstress’s hand) (i.e. 3:57). If it was supposed to be like this, then I missed something.

I did feel like I was in an underwater dream when I had to pick threads on the left-hand side of the screen. In my dreams, it seems like my mind free-associates. It is almost as if one thing suggests another. This is something that was explored in Pressman’s article and the embedded references therein.

There was something very trippy about reading Twelve Blue. Pressman’s references mention Salvador Dali. My experience mirrors viewing a Dali painting, The Persistence of Memory (1931):

Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” (1931)

There has always been something strange about this rendering of melting clocks and its almost barren landscape. In particular, I have always wondered what the figure is in the foreground. It looks like a strange shell, but that simply doesn’t match the landscape. Or is there a suggestion of blue water or sky in the background?

Strange. It was simply strange being with Twelve Blue for a little bit over an hour. I couldn’t help but wonder about agency, as expressed by Pressman. Was I really a driver of the narrative by the selections that I made in clicking on the hypertext and on the threads located on the left-hand side of my screen? I felt like I had no independent agency and it was the code driving me through the piece.

I go back to water in my final reflection of Twelve Blue. There seem to be a lot of references to it. There is a question that I came back to twice in my reading: how to go over the Falls? My reading also took me to drunken Li Po’s falling into a body of water because he stood up shakily in a vessel. Twelve Blue was water to me if I was an inert thing like a leaf or a stone. I didn’t like being out of control and not getting a main idea of what was occurring. I grasped that there were several characters: Delores Peter (explained as sad rock), Samantha and Satan Stank. Who on earth (land, water, or air) are these people? What am I missing? I feel uncomfortable. But was that the point?