Piecing Myself Together

Am I in pieces?

“This was the hardest thing to internalize; that something permanent but invisible had happened.” The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

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In Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself, the embodiment and construction of feminine identity as well as the relationship of the female self to public and private space is explored. This work of Elit operates through a drag-and-drop interface which allows readers to comb through different environments of the work for icons that can be “dragged” and “dropped” on the female, paper-doll-like motif adjacent to her environment. In this way, readers are able to see how a woman’s environment inscribes itself upon her. More, readers are able to explore how different contexts, such as home, community, and work, affect construction of identity and perception of the self. “Dropping” an icon on the paper doll triggers an audio clip that typically reveals something about how the space being explored imprints itself emotionally or physically on the woman. The icons themselves, paired with the nearly 400 pictures used to create this piece, seem to denote more than their mere connotation would suggest as well (i.e. blood drop icons in the shower room, diary entries and hidden keys in the bedroom, a fetus en-wombed by a church, a sex toy behind a discreet couch cushion etc.). The mere act of uncovering these icons seems reflective of the many layers of feminine identity and the further act of layering these icons atop the paper doll motif seems to suggest the multiplicity, the mutability, and precarious balancing of feminine embodiment. How each sound is layered atop another until there is a steady cacophony of steadily increasing headache-fuel seems to only further illustrate how jarring and overwhelming a task it is to be all these women–at once. Though seemingly simple in design, operation, and presentation of its ideas, Davis’ work is quite a compelling and profound exploration of the intricacies at work in constructing feminine identity as well as a frightening one in how accurately and heartbreakingly it articulates how social and cultural contexts can be all-consuming.

Perhaps it is because of my own context–my gender identity, my age, my education–but I found this work to be particularly poignant. Especially as I combed through the unspecified, female narrator’s private spaces–their bedroom, their bathroom, their kitchen, their living room–I felt this growing lump in my throat, this increasing ache in my chest. The diary entry in the hamper–“In my dreams, I’m home but it’s not really home. And I don’t recognize the town but I know where everything is. So why do I keep running into things…”–reminded me of my own journal, sitting beside me as I write this post, and all of the secret parts of me inside its page no one will ever know. The rain cloud in the bedroom reminded me of the nights no one will ever see. The narrator recalling how hard they tried to but never could quite recreate their own mother’s passed-down recipes–“In the kitchen, where she was forever looking for the right ingredients”that hurt. It hurt me but also made me ache for all the girls and women I know who–secretly–try so hard to be half as good as their moms. Who are are always almost but neverI wonder if my own mom aches like this too? The mask at the front door in the living room and the narrator’s recollection of the monetary worth of what they’re wearing–of who gave it to them— made me remember a time when I was showered with all the gifts babe’s money could buy. I remember finding out the return on that investment did not equal love. Maybe it never could have.

 

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Who I became~

To me, this work, in its content, purpose, and design, is one of the most powerful and compelling pieces of Elit I’ve come across. There’s something so inherently moving about making an unseen, hidden process–such as social inscription; more, construction of feminine identity–visible. Maybe that’s the voyeur in me but I’d also argue that Davis is placing us purposefully in the role of voyeur. But, it’s like we’re spying on ourselvesIs that really spying???? Questions of ownership of the self are raised in this piece and authenticity as a construct seems to be being challenged here. Rather than constructing who we are from navigating our environments, Davis’ work seems to posit that our environments navigate us, that our navigation of our environments is decided long before the question can be posed. According to Davis’ work, we are not imprinting ourselves on our environments. No, our environments are imprinting upon us until we are, essentially, composed entirely of pieces of our environments. This work seems to ask readers to really consider the nature of feminine agency and autonomy in a culture that poses so many, often conflicting, restrictions upon women.

Maybe my reading of this work is singular, a response to the many interactions of my life that brought me to experiencing it. But, if anything, I believe Pieces of Herself is trying to communicate the significance of lived experience. Of all women’s lived experiences.  Of my lived experience. I think that’s an incredibly profound message. More, I think it should not be as revolutionary as it is and yet…. How ’bout that Kavanaugh hearing, right??

Ultimately, Davis’ Pieces of Herself operates on many levels but, perhaps most importantly, it seems to read as almost autobiographic, allowing the reader to assume the unspecified narrator’s identity as they simultaneously engage in the process, navigation,  and negotiation of constructing that identity. Davis achieves this level of engagement through the drag-and-drop interface of the work, the use of audio and commentary, and the visual/design aspects working in tandem in this piece to create an inviting and immersive experience. This work left me feeling overwhelmed and naked(?) as well as left me with many questions about the complex nature of the self and its complicated presentation and representations. How much of me is me? How much is what others want me to be? How do I tell the pieces apart? And, am I broken into pieces? Scattered? Shattered?

Mostly, though, I was left wondering this:

Can I be a mosaic?

****

References

“Pieces of Herself” – ELMCIP

“Bookish Electronic Literature: Remediating the Paper Arts through a Feminist Perspective” – Jessica Pressman, ELMCIP

“‘Pieces of Herself'” by Juliet Davis – Cynthia Roman, I ❤ E-Poetry

Fun Fact

I actually wrote about this piece a while back, during my first Elit “rodeo”. I decided to read what I had previously written until after I finished this post. Let me tell ya, it is wild. Like, reading something you wrote when you know you were an entirely different person than you are now is wildSlightly cringe-worthy. Anyway, I figured I’d provide you with a link to that initial post for your own entertainment. Also, I think it’s interesting, in the context of reading Pieces of Herself, to compare and contrast who I am and who I was in writing. It was fun revisiting her. I miss her, who I was. I wonder if she sees who I am now and wishes she could’ve done more.

Anyway….

BTW

So, this work reminded me of a couple songs I thought I’d share with the class~ I couldn’t help singing them in my head as I was reading this piece and so I thought I’d share that particular level of my experience as well….

Pretty Little Head – Eliza Rickman

Francis Forever – Mitski

Copycat – Billie Eilish

Gasoline – Halsey

~Till next time~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

 

Blog 3

In Pieces of Herself, I didn’t really look at the instructions or how to play the game. It was easy to get an idea of what to do, however, just from the name. I inferred that I would be identifying an individual who passed once I got to the Main Street and saw the cop cars outside. Then I just dragged items that were random and rearranged them to see what I could do with the grey image to the left of the screen. The grayscale screen makes it seem dark and creepy.

Facade prompted me to install a flash player, and unfortunately the computer I’m blogging on isn’t mine to be downloading anything. I assume that it’s like an interactive game on the computer where every decision made creates an alternate outcome. I like stuff like this, so the game must have many realities in itself depending on who is playing and what is decided.

v. *block b voice* HER (OH oh!)

For the love of god, please never let me put references in my blog post titles again. Like I’ve made some okay ones in the past, but I’ve reached a new low with this one. Anyway, stan block b.

Before I get into the e-lit pieces we’re going to cover this week, Façade and Pieces of Herself (aka the point of reference for that blog title, but let’s forget that exists, shall we?), I’d like to touch on the shared document we wrote on in class last week, in which we brainstormed our ideas for our own e-lit pieces. I posted this:

I was thinking of having some kind of branching hypertext narrative that kind of starts off fantasy/almost children’s book-like (like this kids book I wrote recently about a baby owl) and gradually getting more realistic (Maybe even branching into autobiographic snippets???)? Maybe?? Like starts off with simple sketchy drawings with few words and what seems like a single story then you realize that there are multiple things to click on on the page (pictures or words of the text I suppose?) that branch off into other little stories (maybe connected? maybe not?). With actual pictures and more color and links to music and videos. Idk I think the transition from simple to complex/fantasy to reality would be cool to play around with. I was thinking of throwing in bits of stories I’ve already written, actually. Wondering if I could (and would be able to) have a page where readers/users/players could type in “passwords” from other parts of the piece in order to unlock other pages… Wondering how to do that… make it kind of a game.

I… think I’m being a little over-ambitious here, but BIG SHRUG. I’ve noticed I have a habit of doing Too Much sometimes. Don’t really know what more to say about that except I doubt I’ll be able to make it extremely poignant or anything… more of a mass dump of all the stories and thoughts in my head. Previews of sorts scattered through hyperlinked pages of sketches and doodles I can hopefully gather from past notebooks. I guess in a sense it’ll be a look into my head?

Not…… sure…… if that’s a good idea. BUT WE’LL SEE, I GUESS?

I’m glad I got my presentation out of the way relatively early so I can focus on this for a longer period of time.

Anyway, look forward to disjointed rambles and thinly veiled social commentary, I guess.

Okay, onto Façade.

I’m going to preface this by saying that, as of writing this post, I haven’t played the game yet. Excuses being: my everyday laptop is a Chromebook, my Windows laptop at home is too decrepit to run anything above Word these days, I’m pretending my old baby Gateway laptop doesn’t exist (plus it could barely run Undertale), and my Fancy New Desktop stopped connecting to its monitor.

But I know Façade. I know it from back in my YouTube days, when I religiously watched Let’s Players. There wasn’t a cryaotic, markiplier, or jacksepticeye vid I hadn’t seen back then. But anyway. Most of the youtubers I watched played it at some point, so I’d skimmed their playthroughs out of curiosity.

And lemme tell you. This game is wild.

User-input-dominated. Incredibly intelligent. Wildly open-ended. I don’t even know how many endings there are with this game, but I know they can get… interesting.

Hopefully I’ll be able to play it at some point, and when I do I’ll be sure to link either a video or my commentary on it [HERE]. If you see no link, please carry on reading and pray I get my life together some day. *wink + finger guns*

Alrighty, onto Pieces of Herself.

First impression of the little point-and-click story is Wow, these controls are wonky. The side-scrolling was incredibly frustratingly sensitive and it was a little difficult to drag the little objects over to the “doll” on the left side of the screen. Plus it looked like you could still click on the areas where the objects were, but it didn’t do anything, so it gave me a little paranoid feeling that I was missing something (OOF. INTENTIONAL?). I can’t complain too much about the sounds, as the cacophony of sound effects and music clips was undoubtedly intentional.

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My “doll” once I’d found what I believe to be every hidden object. The water droplet and frog croaking never stopped…

The overall sense I got from the game, while ominous and foreboding from the black-and-white and jauntiness of the programming, was overwhelming. All the societal expectations of being “female” (whatever that means, amirite?) and being A Good Wife/Girlfriend/Daughter/Woman/Girl (Eeugh.) were expertly represented. Be timid but not boring. Be social but not too much so. Be sexual but no, not like that. (don’t think I didn’t peep that hidden vibe in the living room) Women are meant to be contradictions in society, therefore. But then it’s seen as frustrating when we contradict ourselves…?

That’s… does that make sense? Man, I don’t even know.

Being a woman, I’d like to think I’m over those kinds of expectations and I’m currently actually living as myself, but I suppose there are those self-conscious moments of Am I allowed to do this? or Is it my place to say that/have that opinion? I catch myself seconds later, because maaaaan heck that mentality. I’m allowed to have whatever opinion I want (within reason, tho, let’s be real), and being a woman shouldn’t deter me of choices I make.

(Oof, I’m listening to some inspiration music at the moment so pardon the Emo Turn this post has taken.)

Story-wise, though I feel like a lot of the environment’s little voice clips and such can be relatable and the overall story can be up to interpretation, I know there is an actual story to go along with this particular woman’s environment. Something to do with mental health and gender identity and coming to terms with (and hopefully defying) societal expectations. There really is no “end” that I could find, which only adds to the ominousness of the “Main St.” scene. Did something happen? What’s with the hospital? The cop cars? The car on the far right? What happened to this woman?

I’m looking forward to discussing this piece more in class. This piece as well as Façade. I hope we get to play both, and that we don’t have any more technical problems. Lookin @ you, wi-fi. Get your life together.

Alrighty! That’ll be all this week!

Have a lovely day/night/whatever!

–Masooch

Pieces of Herself…Pieces of Myself

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What is Pieces of Herself you ask? Well, it is just this…“At ironic and playful polemic, Pieces of Herself uses the motif of the dress-up doll to explore issues of gender identity in the context of home, work, and community. As the user explores the black-and-white spaces of the text (the shower, bedroom, outside, kitchen, living room, office, and Main Street), she encounters a variety of colored objects that she can drag onto the outline of a body, metaphoric acts of inscription that trigger audio files ranging from music to a biblical pronouncement about the “proper” socio-cultural function of women. What emerges from play with the seemingly disconnected pieces is a notion of the gendered subject that is both culturally produced (discursive) and singularly embodied (material)” (Pieces of Herself, Juliet Davis).

This was one of the most vulnerable pieces of literature I have read as an adult. I found myself discovering things about my past and present through traveling through Davis’s created world. Before learning and journeying through the story, the very first picture we see is an empty body with the words, “Her friends said she needed to ‘find’ herself. And sure enough, when she started looking, she found pieces of herself everywhere…” (Davis). Before reading, I already could relate to this character. I believe every woman at some point in her life has been told that she needs to “find herself,” which could mean something positive or negative. Either way, I have received that statement multiple times in my life. Her friends told her she needed to “find” herself and my friends told me as well. However, I found it interesting that I never told myself that I needed to “find” myself. It was also someone else telling me how to discover things in my life that felt empty and broken. I did not enter the rest of the story, and already I was drawn into the concept of this virtual world. Out of the seven different places, I am going to focus on only two for this blog post. There is so much to say about each room, but for now, I will be taking a close look at the shower and the bedroom. Who knows, maybe I will do a part two for this blog post and discuss the other places shown.

The most vulnerable places such as the shower and bedroom are where one can find out the most about someone if they were a fly on the wall. I appreciated that Davis had us look at the first part of Her world, which was the shower. Even the woman who the world has claimed was the most beautiful has felt the ugliest in the shower or the bathroom. At the top of the image, it says, “In the SHOWER ROOM, where women slip behind the curtains, in perfect synchronicity, to remain invisible from each other” (Davis). This was such a powerful statement to show how women really behind closed doors. “We,” meaning women, have skillfully mastered not allowing another woman to see us because of our insecurities to the point where we actual synchronize with one another in doing so. There were many “pieces” of herself that I found and were able to drag to the empty body. There was one that I saw not drag, and that was the image in the mirror of the woman putting her hands over her mouth and covering her mouth. Anyone, whether it is an artist, an author, a filmmaker, a writer, who shows that visual of a woman looking at herself upset in the mirror, is a pillar in my opinion. It is an image of a tender woman who is not weak but is a human being.

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The second place that I had an emotional and more profound connection with was the bedroom. A person’s bedroom, woman or man, is just as private as their diary. At the top of this page, the text says, “In the BEDROOM, where her mind would sometimes float to the ceiling” (Davis). This was such an eerie and captivating description of how and what the character goes through while in her bedroom. Another chilling part of the room that was genuinely relatable was the voicemail of her boyfriend, or the man leaving her several telephone messages. He started to sound concerned after the second time of not returning his phone calls. There have been many moments in my life where even the people in my life who I should have trusted just because they had certain titles, I would not return messages and did not want to speak to anybody. Just like Her mind would float, my mind does that more than I would like it to. The mind becomes overcrowded to the point where you are aware of your surroundings, but because your mind is so clouded, it can’t help but merely float away. What I realized was how much I was able to drag to her body only by the second place. Her body already was filled with the different pieces of herself. I found this reading to be insightful, relatable, and worthy of my time (just to be frank). 

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