Tag Archives: ELit 2.0

*Spoiler* Icarus Doesn’t Die in this One…

Shocking

In Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s Icarus Needs, users get to go on a “hypercomic adventure” as they try to wake up “everyone’s favorite mentally unhinged cartoonist, Icarus Creeps”. The premise of this work is that Icarus fell asleep while playing video games and has somehow ended up in a surreal, cartoon-esque dreamscape ruled by a squirrel king??? Icarus needs to find a way out of this nightmare while rescuing his girlfriend, Kit, and defeating a very squirrely squirrel king. Users play as the main character, Icarus, and can control his movements through the story via the arrow keys. as users move through the game, they encounter minor obstacles they must overcome in order to progress. Often, solving these puzzles involves going backwards in the game to locate some kind of item like a key or some apples or a crown from a locked chest at the bottom of a “royal bath” for which bolt cutters will need to be located. This game is designed to look like a kind of De Stijl comic strip, making use of strong blocks of primary colours as well as simple shapes and lines. Users “jump” from one comic panel to the next using arrow keys. Additionally, Icarus expresses a kind of sardonic, almost nihilistic, wit which imbues this work with a strong sense of so-called “Millennial humor” which could also be classified as a kind of Neo-Dada revival.

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Like come on I could see this as a Twitter post, 3k retweets easy

To be honest, I was not expecting to enjoy this work. Despite my deep appreciation for Elit and new forms of digital content creation, I’m not the biggest fan of “game” works or works that could be classified within the video game genre. It’s not that I don’t believe these kinds of works can tell a compelling story–far from it–but I tend to find that I am, well, bad at them. Video games are not my forte. So, anything that vaguely resembles a video game is usually moved far down on my list.

Anyway, that said, I found myself drawn in by Icarus Needs. Almost immediately, I was intrigued by the premise. (Icarus being trapped in a dream-world brought to mind surrealist interpretations of dreams, automatism, etc. and so connected this work to art from the start.) Also, I found Icarus’ dialogue to be witty, relatable, and so engaging. I loved the running dry commentary and self-awareness (“It’s a long way down” “At least six panels”) of the character.

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I would say most of Icarus’ speech as well as this work’s story line has a strong postmodern, Millennial sensibility to it. There’s this humorous self-awareness of ridiculous circumstances on both Icarus’ and Kit’s parts that I believe plants the work firmly in Millennial territory. Like, I feel younger generations more than older generations would appreciate this work.

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Reminds me of “screaming into the void” posts on popular social media websites like Tumblr, Twitter, etc.

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“Breaking the fourth wall” is another component of this work, in addition to the art style, simple interface design, and text, that I found to be compelling. Not only would Icarus mention the panel bounds of the work, there were also ample mentions/references to flying and falling which seem to reference the myth of Icarus.

Icarus No

These references to the myth, within the context of this work, I would classify as a kind of “breaking of the IRL fourth wall”. It’s an element that is asking readers to step outside of the context of one story and recall the contents of another story. It’s interesting, also, that the whole premise of this work is based around Icarus falling asleep under inconvenient circumstances.

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What really makes this work Neo-Dada-esque for me, though, is the ending. The work just kind of nonchalantly ends with Kit finding Icarus knocked out on the couch and waking him up. It’s one of those “it was all a dream” endings, leaving users to wonder about the nonsensical journey they just went on. I feel like users are left wondering, “Well, what was the point?”

But, that is the point–there is no point.

Traditional Dada an its following iterations can be viewed as a kind of celebration of absurdity, of nonsense, and of pointlessness. The meaning is that there is no meaning. I think Icarus Needs plays off of this sensibility and, really, makes a game out of it. In this way, this work subverts traditional gaming narratives. There are no high-scores or rewards and there is no closure. Yet, I find this work, as a game, is still entertaining and engaging for users. This is accomplished through design and dialogue and, I believe, riffing off of Millennial humor and sense. But, that’s just my opinion.

What do you think????

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~Find me #suffering on the Twitter till next time~

Putting the Pieces Together…???

“Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE.” ~ Tristan Tzara

Uncovering the Story

The story I want to tell is one I’ve been assembling the pieces of for a while now. Ever since my first interactions with ELit, specifically with works by Jason Nelson, Juliet Davis, and Porpentine, I feel like there has been this story developing. Between then and now, that tale has existed in a kind of in medias res state, waiting to be fully realized.

In my latest post in my suffering saga on my thesis blog, I went into detail about the design of the kind of ELit work I would like to make. Mainly, I want readers to be able to explore the complexity, mutability, and often contradictory nature of self-representation and aesthetic presentation in this contemporary digital hellscape landscape we all call “home”. It’s a subject I’ve been fascinated by for many years now, even before my introduction to ELit. I want my work to allow viewers to explore these issues through a Neo-Dada-esque lens, as well, which is how I have been able to make and find new meaning to life (experience) and art (expression) myself. I think it’s an interesting approach that has only been tentatively explored thus far. (Here’s an interesting article exploring memes as a kind of Neo-Dadaism! This is a topic I have explored on my own blog as well if you’d like to check it out!)

Anyway, these ideas have culminated into a project I call the Degenerate’s Gallery. This title is inspired by both Degenerate Art and the Rogues Gallery.  Essentially, I want this work to showcase new forms of digital content creation, like memes, as pieces of a new kind of self-representation that is representative, really, of a kind of re-emergence of traditional Dada ideals like nihilism, absurdism, and self-abnegation. Digital artifacts like memes and tweets seem to be engaging in a kind of revival of these traditional Dada ideals and, more than that, seem to speak to a new kind of self-image/identification that is self-deprecating but also a celebration of deprecation and of rejection of self and of reality (if that makes sense).

I imagine this project would manifest as a kind of drag-and-drop interface. The main screen would consist of a silhouette of a person’s head and shoulders, whose face and visible body are covered in a collection of artifacts such as memes and tweets but also Dada manifestos and pictures of traditional art pieces such as Duchamp’s lovely “Fountain“, which challenged the art world when it was first unveiled. Users will have to “drag” these artifacts from the silhouette in order to uncover significance (in a kind of purposeful reverse of Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself).

*Some of the digital artifacts I might include*

Dragging an artifact to a new place on the screen will cause a bubble of information about the artifact to appear. As users drag artifacts across the screen, they will engage in a kind of neo-collage, creating their own patterns of information. Through dragging artifacts across the screen, users will also be engaging in a kind of self-uncovering/ recovery as removing images from the silhouette will reveal an image beneath, where the face should be. This image will be composed of many increasingly smaller silhouettes, reflecting in fractals ad infinitum. (Imagine a fair’s fun-house mirror attraction mixed with Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirror Room“)

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Infinity Mirror Room

This underlying image is meant to be symbolic of the multiplicity of identity, especially in the digital age in which identity can be so easily manipulated and vary so vastly. The drag-and-drop interface along with the element of collage is meant to convey the mutability of self and of the self in art. Above all, I want users to understand that we are all of us works of art, degenerate, in-progress, slap-and-dash, or otherwise~

By the way, I finally dug out the charcoal and good ol’ sketch pad and drew my vision for my work:

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Honestly, this work is everything I didn’t even know I wanted it to be. Before putting charcoal to textured paper, I did not even know how scary silhouettes in places of eyes could be >.> Also, I discovered that I did still want to incorporate a kind of visual connection to bricollage and ideas of brokenness (disconnectedness) vs. mosaic (creation from destruction, assemblage of a new whole) via the “cracks” creeping across the screen.

I worry the aesthetic of this work may be a little scary but I also feel like this kind of aesthetic is “on brand” for me and is, essentially, a signature. This style is what distinguishes my approach and my work from that of others. I really want to see if I can incorporate some of my own drawings into my project, kind of like Stevan Zivadinovic did for Hobo Lobo.

Also, I want to recolor this design, perhaps re-draw it on black charcoal paper with white charcoal. I created a recolor in Google Docs that illustrates the effect I am going for:

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I want to draw this out for myself to see the effect IRL before I decide to rely on photo manipulation software.

To provide additional context to readers, I also chose to include a quote by notable Dada writer Tristan Tzara. The quote is provided at the start of this post. I believe it provides some framing in the same way that a poignant quote across the top of the screen provided framing and an additional layer of meaning to Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky and Jason Nelson’s This is how you will die.

All in all, I think I have a fairly developed and “fleshed out” concept for my work. I think it’s a meaningful concept, as well, and one that is trans-formative and imaginative. I’m not sure how I would go about creating this work but, currently, I am in the process of experimenting with different programs. Hopefully, I will come across a program I can work with!

Please, let me know if you have any suggestions! And, please, let me know your thoughts! I’m quite curious about what others think of my proposed topic!

****

~Till next time~

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Because I Am (Still) Alive

“One way or another, the dream will come. Fight.”

(*I recommend checking out my first post on this work before delving into this one~)

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Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive is a dark, twisted, and fantastical Twine game that invites readers to become participants in the act of experiential inscription by asking readers to draw sigils on themselves as they work through the piece.  These sigils are meant to represent experiences typically invisible or intangible or hidden like “new beginnings” or “pain you can’t show” or “shame that taught the ocean everything it knows”. Of the work and its design, Porpentine states, “After playing, the reader has a tangible record of their own choices and identity beliefs in the drawings on one’s skin.”  These physical acts of personal and social inscription paired with the work’s re-imagining of abuse, loss, and trauma is meant to provide readers with new insight into the complex and often complicated and conflicting mechanics behind both. More, readers are able to make these experiences their own and engage in a kind of self-reclamation and renewal through in-scripting their lived experiences themselves on their person. In many ways, this work seems to encourage and be designed to help readers navigate the recursive nature of abuse and trauma and realize it is not something to overcome and defeat so much as cope with and manage day-by-day (a very difficult lesson to learn through any other way than experience).

 

This work, like Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself, affected me deeply ad personally. I found the recursive/looping interface Twine affords to provide an apt representation of the cyclical nature of trauma and abuse. It never really ends so much as loops back on itself, moving from good to bad and back again. Balance is found within making piece with the loop and learning to navigate those forward and backwards motions (“Every day is damage”). Moving forward can mean going backwards (returning to your “chambers” every night or checking on the “statues in the garden”, peeking through the telescope on the balcony to the “wastes”) and vice-versa because progress has no set direction. Progress is a process.

 

Click to view slideshow.

Narratively and word-choice-wise, I found this work also to be dead-on. Throughout the piece, our narrator (who is also you as indicated by the use of the second-person POV–“you make a diadem out of heretic bone and fleshsilk”, “you drag the glass across your skin”, “you no longer dream”, you receive a letter from the people “whose blood is your blood”, etc.) mentions losing the ability to dream as well as mentions seeing dead people wherever they go. “A dead person stares at you from beneath the lake.” “A dead person stares at you from the trees”, “a dead person stares at you from behind the hamper.” This loss of dreams seems to communicate the lasting trauma of abuse on the subconscious while seeing dead people everywhere seems meant to illustrate how trauma and abuse colour how you see the world. It’s a kind of living death, every memory another murder. You cannot forget but you also cannot move forward unless you forget. The evil, larval queen is representative of the power an abuser has over the abused, even long after the experience. That power never fades, merely manifests in different ways, requiring different things from you along the way. Accomplishing those things brings “little pride”.

When our friend, Sedina, appears, so does hope, though. Sedina’s presence seems to represent the importance of having a way to discuss or illustrate or otherwise work through/have an outlet for your trauma. There is no escape without that. Also, though, there is no escape without reclamation and reconciliation. “i’msorryforeverything”–It’s important to apologize to yourself, to be able to forgive yourself, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. You need to be able to own what happened to you in order to learn how to live through it. While “there are many ways to destroy someone”, it is important to learn that “power is wounded by anything that refuses to be destroyed by it”. Experiencing trauma, being abused–it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. The only way to beat it, though, is to live through it.

 

Click to view slideshow.

Perhaps, again, I am imposing too much of my own lived experience on a work. But, given the the invitation of this work to write how I feel all over my skin, I would say my reaction to its content is not only welcome but desired. By drawing my experience of this work out on my skin, I am connecting the content directly to myself. “What they did to me on the outside, they did to you on the inside”–this story is not mean to occur purely within a screen. At least half of it must occur inside of me. On me. I become a canvas, the art a record of my navigation through this piece, yes, but also a record of everything I have survived.

 

Click to view slideshow.

Overall, I find the design and content of Porpentine’s work to create a compelling narrative and illustration of how trauma and abuse are cyclical experiences that can have lasting and haunting effects. Through this work, we can gain new insight into our own traumas as well as insight into the varied nature of trauma itself. We can understand we have been traumatized and still hurt and long for the people we trusted and who betrayed that trust. We can understand holding onto letters from those who have hurt us because we used to loved them. We can understand that trauma is like being a “chasm person”, separated from everyone, a feeling of being bottomless and empty, of being good for nothing better than swallowing everything you come in contact with. Hope can feel like a shameful thing, when you exist as a chasm. With Those You Love Alive captures all of this nuance and asks you to remember it as an experience–so you won’t forget it. So you won’t forget you lived through it.

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I know I won’t forget.

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~Till next time~

References

“With Those We Love Alive” – ELMCIP

“Between Screen and Skin: “Touchy” Subjects, Precarious Identities, and Electronic Literature as Haptic Media” – ELMCIP

Fun Fact

*For this piece, too, I wrote another post about it a while back. This post goes a lot more in-depth about the narrative aspects of the work and its symbolism. At the time, I was working on a project meant to explore the cyclical nature of abuse and so I was very taken with this work. Really, this post is an in-depth look at this piece. I could go on and on about everything I loved about this work and what it represents. Like, reading it was a turning point in my life. I still think about aspects of this work from time to time in my on life. It left a lasting impression on me and I highly recommend reading my other post on it. This post is more of a continuation to my first.

*I also wrote a prior post on this week’s other work we’re reviewing High Muck A Muck if you’d like to check it out. That’s another very profound and compelling work that explores the complexity of navigating a multi-faceted identity in our increasingly global community.

Porpentine’s Twitter

Porpentine’s Blog

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.

 

Click to view slideshow.
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~

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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I Can’t Believe It’s Not Journalism!

“It’s like journalism–only better.” (pg. 6, slide 3)

This is bad

My Second Rodeo

So….that Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is some story, right? Some great work of far-off, far-fetched fiction, right? Like, could you even imagine living in a world like that???? Wild, right?

nervous laughter

I’m dying

WildHelp.

Alright, alright. Enough thinly veiled references to the blazing “hugest” dumpster fire politics in the greatest country in the world have become. However cathartic it may be…. 

I’m ready for Ashton Kutcher to pop out and reveal America’s been punked.

I remember when I first read Stevan Živadinovic’s Hobo Lobo a few years back, during election year, I believe. I was blown away, then, by how poignant the piece seemed. The allusions to socio-political points of contention such as xenophobia, nationalism, and big news media corporations (like Fox News) seemed so clear and so powerful, especially when paired with the invocations of Big Brother and the Fourth Estate. These complex, complicate, and, often, dark concepts seemed such a contrast, too, to the storybook, Dr-Seuss-esque elements used to convey them. It was shocking to see these elements so overtly packaged for consumption by the youth. Indoctrination is supposed to be subtle, you know?

Hobo Lobo seemed to be as much a modern reimagining of The Pied Piper medieval folktale as it was scathing commentary on contemporary politics, the 24/7 news cycle, and the effects of late-capitalism on the US.

Now, the work is f*cking horrifying.

the horror

If Hobo Lobo was too close for comfort before, now it’s a living nightmare.

I mean, look at this face:

Dick's bulbous head.png

Could use more orange….

Nightmare fuel.

And, that’s just the imagery. When paired with the actual language used in this work, Hobo Lobo becomes highly unsettling. In fact, despite this work being ELit, I found it very difficult not to read it as I would a traditional narrative. The work, though, I think lends itself to that kind of reading–being modeled after a hybrid of the standard design of a pop-up storybook and the typical design of comic books. Unlike comic books proper, though, pages shift fluidly into each other, elements of both language and imagery flowing from one “panel” to the next, creating a “poly-linear timeline” and a kind of “infinite canvas”. Time seems to progress as the work “flows” from one event into the next. Persistence of narrative occurs in that the imagery of each page coincides with the lexia beneath it, nothing de-contextualized about it. In fact, everything seems embedded in a thinly-veiled context–i.e a not veiled at all one #didn’teventry~ The pieces of propaganda strewn purposefully in the background of most panels seem to reinforce a socio-political reading.

1st screen_LI

I mean, you can’t reference Big Brother and not expect the ghost of Orwell to ruin the party. That’s his thing.

Hobo Lobo is a work that is meant to be read. Even the pages that do not make use of lexia, use images and sound–like pipe music and the laughter of children, the resolute thud of stone against earth–to convey not-totally-illusive narrative.

Click to view slideshow.

I mean, these images are narrative. Even if I did not have the accompanying limerick to direct my interpretation, I think I could figure out the story. 

Anyway, regardless of what contemporary parallels I draw from the content, I believe  Živadinovic’s Hobo Lobo is a compelling work of Elit, whose language, design, and aesthetic all work in tandem to immerse readers in this upside-down, surreal-but-hyper-real, topsy-turvy caricature world.  It’s combination of whimsical, folktale, Dr. Seuss-esque with snarky, political satire is both charming and revealing of the dark truth of indoctrination: that it’s all child’s play until the stone bites the dust and you’re swallowed whole.

Click to view slideshow.

References How I know my sh*t:

Elmcip “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin”

I ❤ E-Poetry “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin”

****

~Till next time~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

 

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

****

До свидания!

~Till next time~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

Diving Back In

“‘…there is no story at all; there are only readings’ (124)”.

I don’t know why WordPress is throwing my links all over the page like this. I had to cut a bunch of links to make the post remotely legible. I’ve tried many different things to fix the problem and I think it’s just a system error for the time being. Believe me, I’m annoyed about it too >.>

Flux & Flow

So…. I’m back at it again.

damndanielgif

Doing the ELit thing, writing the feelings whatever those are down, being “insightful”… You know, the usual.

Anyway, let’s get down to business.

I don’t remember what I thought of Jessica Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature” the first time I read it eons and eons ago but this time around, I found it to be thought-provoking, informative, and intellectually engaging. The article articulates the challenges and nuances of interacting with ELit, especially in a classroom setting, rather well. In my experience, I’ve found just articulating what ELit can be and what it can do to be a challenge in and of itself. So, kudos Jessica~

Fantasticmr.foxyeahgif

Pressman’s emphasis on navigation in ELit texts, too, I found particularly deft. Having a wonderful wealth of experience interacting with ELit–even creating my own work!–myself, I know how integral to a work its navigation can be–but, also, how much confusion a work’s navigation can create. More than that, I know how a work’s navigation can complicate reader/interactor understanding of literary purpose and overall merit.

If anything, this time around, I was most interested in the points Pressman was making about problems of conceptualizing, or, really, re-conceptualizing storytelling and authorship when it comes to ELit. Do affordances such as hyperlinking allow readers enough agency to make them co-authors of an ELit work, like Landow suggests? Or, are readers merely explorers of a work, trying to uncover all avenues of story rather than decide them? More, to what extent do readers decide meaning in works like this? Can an inherent meaning be embedded/programmed in these works anymore than meaning can be imbued in a written text? Or, is meaning ultimately decided by the reader?

Are there any stories at all in Elit? Or, is it all just readings?

I don’t have any answers and I love it.

The experimental, the uncertainty, the trans-formative, the de-contextualized, the room for possibility—is what I love about ELit. To me, it is the curiosity and the search for discovery and meaning-making that ELit spurs that makes ELit literary/a literary experience. The literariness exists in what we are given/in what we receive from a work, the questions it generates and the challenges it creates and asks us to tackle.

While I think the binary–stories/readings–is apt in some ways for describing differences between ELit and traditional literature, forgetting that there are readers behind both– story and reading–neglects a vital aspect of understanding new forms of digital literature and media. The underlying depth to ELit, I believe, is something that has to be realized in the reader.

Underlying Depth

And sometimes the nights last for months

And sometimes the nights last for months… Maria Guia Pimpao (I have the Google Arts & Culture extension on my browser which allows a new work of art to be the background whenever I open a new tab. When I opened a new tab to open Twelve Blue, this was the image that popped up and I thought it was rather appropriate, considering the work I was about to read, and so I wanted to share it with you~ #theinternetworksinmysteriousways

“So a random set of meanings has softly gathered around the word the way lint collects. The mind does that.” from On Being Blue William Gass

In my opinion, Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue is one of those powerful works of ELit. Like, it’s a seminal work for a reason not just that it was the first work of Elit. I think I forgot that until I “reread” it this weekend.

The work is a piece of “simple”, hyperlink fiction, progression through the work and its lexia triggered by the reader clicking on one link or “thread” to open a new window with new lexia and so on. Readers aren’t really given a set story or direction–there are no guiding signs or whatnot (other than a “Begin” button when one first opens the work).

Here are the first few “pages” I read:

Click to view slideshow.

Instead of clicking “all over” the threads, which I know from prior experience with the work would take me on all kinds of adventures, I decided to click on the links provided from one page to the next–just to see where the story goes, trying for a “pure reading”, so to speak. This went well…till I came across just a screen with a painting on it??? I had to click on the painting and, the next screen I got, didn’t have a link to click on??? So, I had to dive into the sea of threads anyway #whatever~~~~

But, it was interesting to just see where the work would take me (not purely on its own–as I was clicking on the agents spurring the story forward). I read a few excerpts about Lisle and her daughter and then about Javier(?) and his daughter. Nothing that really connected in any linear way. It’s clear from the text, though, that this “story” is taking place across multiple time periods and generations. I read about an accidental drowning that took place years ago and then I read a selection about the friend of the girlfriend, who’s boyfriend drowned, and how this friend remembered the somber atmosphere at school in the days following the mysterious accident. No clear time line is established and yet, the sense of time passing and moving, the sense of people holding on and letting go of time, is so vivid and so visceral. (“What choice do we have but love, what season after?”)

The design and navigation of this work is a topic of discussion that could–and will–continue for a while but the actual text of this work is so rich and fascinating in its own right. Small example but, I mean, how many creative and inventive uses of the word blue did you note while reading this work??? (“She had never been lonelier, never more blue.”) And did you notice each page is titled differently–mostly related to blue words, though–in the tab?? (i.e cornflower)

A strong swimmer out of grief

“She became a strong swimmer out of grief.” This page, in particular, touched me. The longing and sorrow are somehow enhanced that much more my this work’s infinite loop, like there’s always this girl on the edge of the ocean, longing for the mother she never knew.

There’s something distinctly literary about this work’s text, if not its nonlinear navigation. To me, though, if anything, the infinite looping in on itself of this work only serves to enhance the story it is “weaving”/telling. Each page is like a still life, perhaps disconnected from some greater whole, but capable of telling a compelling story in and of itself. For some, that disconnectedness may translate as “brokenness”, the lack of coherence or persistence of narrative over time, as a fault, but, again, I find the questions that exist in those perceived narrative “gaps” in works of ELit like Twelve Blue to be what keeps me coming back. Though, of course, I want answers, I also enjoy not knowing. It creates this mental space for me to explore possibilities–something not always offered IRL, where “pinning things down” is so highly valued these days.

Additionally, I think Twelve Blue gives readers a slight taste of the reciprocity ELit is renown for. (At least, it’s one of my fave parts of ELit.) This reciprocity is realized in the simple act of the readers clicking a link on the screen and being rewarded with a new screen, with new information. The work functions on reader input–slight reader input but still an action the reader must take in order for the work to “move on”. That’s a smidge more agency than most traditional forms of literature have been able to allow for a long time.

Riding the Waves

All in all, if you couldn’t tell, I’m looking forward to diving back into ELit and discovering new ways to tell compelling stories through new digital media. I think Twelve Blue is an excellent place to wade in with. It’s new in many ways but also recognizable in others. And, of course, the work is so beautifully, heart-breakingly, heart-achingly written.

I hope the rest of our class is at least half-excited as I am looking forward to diving in deep on ELit!

****

Links

Hypothes.is

*Feel free to check out some of my notes on this week’s article and respond to them if anything I’ve said resonates or triggers another idea~ Though I’ve been resistant in the past to using hypothes.is, lately, I’ve found it to be a good tool for taking notes maybe I just don’t like being told I have to use it and now that I don’t have to use it, I’ve got to rebel in the other direction????

Tweet tweet…

*Feel free to follow me on Twitter as well~ In between sharing sappy poetry and prose, I sometimes say some witty things??? #debatable??? #claimthecave

~Till next time ^.^~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

Diving Back In~

“‘…there is no story at all; there are only readings’ (124)”.

Flux & Flow

So…. I’m back at it again.

Daniel Vans GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Doing the ELit thing, writing the feelings whatever those are down, being “insightful”… You know, the usual.

Anyway, let’s get down to business.

I don’t remember what I thought of Jessica Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature” the first time I read it eons and eons ago but this time around, I found it to be thought-provoking, informative, and intellectually engaging. The article articulates the challenges and nuances of interacting with ELit, especially in a classroom setting, rather well. In my experience, I’ve found just articulating what ELit can be and what it can do to be a challenge in and of itself. So, kudos Jessica~

Fantastic Mr Fox Yes GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Pressman’s emphasis on navigation in ELit texts, too, I found particularly deft. Having a wonderful wealth of experience interacting with ELit–even creating my own work!–myself, I know how integral to a work its navigation can be–but, also, how much confusion a work’s navigation can create. More than that, I know how a work’s navigation can complicate reader/interactor understanding of literary purpose and overall merit.

If anything, this time around, I was most interested in the points Pressman was making about problems of conceptualizing, or, really, re-conceptualizing storytelling and authorship when it comes to ELit. Do affordances such as hyperlinking allow readers enough agency to make them co-authors of an ELit work, like Landow suggests? Or, are readers merely explorers of a work, trying to uncover all avenues of story rather than decide them? More, to what extent do readers decide meaning in works like this? Can an inherent meaning be embedded/programmed in these works anymore than meaning can be imbued in a written text? Or, is meaning ultimately decided by the reader?

Are there any stories at all in Elit? Or, is it all just readings?

I don’t have any answers and I love it.

The experimental, the uncertainty, the trans-formative, the de-contextualized, the room for possibility—is what I love about ELit. To me, it is the curiosity and the search for discovery and meaning-making that ELit spurs that makes ELit literary/a literary experience. The literariness exists in what we are given/in what we receive from a work, the questions it generates and the challenges it creates and asks us to tackle.

While I think the binary–stories/readings–is apt in some ways for describing differences between ELit and traditional literature, forgetting that there are readers behind both– story and reading–neglects a vital aspect of understanding new forms of digital literature and media. The underlying depth to ELit, I believe, is something that has to be realized in the reader.

Underlying Depth

And sometimes the nights last for months

And sometimes the nights last for months… Maria Guia Pimpao (I have the Google Arts & Culture extension on my browser which allows a new work of art to be the background whenever I open a new tab. When I opened a new tab to open Twelve Blue, this was the image that popped up and I thought it was rather appropriate, considering the work I was about to read, and so I wanted to share it with you~ #theinternetworksinmysteriousways

“So a random set of meanings has softly gathered around the word the way lint collects. The mind does that.” from On Being Blue William Gass

In my opinion, Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue is one of those powerful works of ELit. Like, it’s a seminal work for a reason not just that it was the first work of Elit. I think I forgot that until I “reread” it this weekend.

The work is a piece of “simple”, hyperlink fiction, progression through the work and its lexia triggered by the reader clicking on one link or “thread” to open a new window with new lexia and so on. Readers aren’t really given a set story or direction–there are no guiding signs or whatnot (other than a “Begin” button when one first opens the work).

Here are the first few “pages” I read:

Click to view slideshow.

Instead of clicking “all over” the threads, which I know from prior experience with the work would take me on all kinds of adventures, I decided to click on the links provided from one page to the next–just to see where the story goes, trying for a “pure reading”, so to speak. This went well…till I came across just a screen with a painting on it??? I had to click on the painting and, the next screen I got, didn’t have a link to click on??? So, I had to dive into the sea of threads anyway #whatever~~~~

But, it was interesting to just see where the work would take me (not purely on its own–as I was clicking on the agents spurring the story forward). I read a few excerpts about Lisle and her daughter and then about Javier(?) and his daughter. Nothing that really connected in any linear way. It’s clear from the text, though, that this “story” is taking place across multiple time periods and generations. I read about an accidental drowning that took place years ago and then I read a selection about the friend of the girlfriend, who’s boyfriend drowned, and how this friend remembered the somber atmosphere at school in the days following the mysterious accident. No clear time line is established and yet, the sense of time passing and moving, the sense of people holding on and letting go of time, is so vivid and so visceral. (“What choice do we have but love, what season after?”)

The design and navigation of this work is a topic of discussion that could–and will–continue for a while but the actual text of this work is so rich and fascinating in its own right. Small example but, I mean, how many creative and inventive uses of the word blue did you note while reading this work??? (“She had never been lonelier, never more blue.”) And did you notice each page is titled differently–mostly related to blue words, though–in the tab?? (i.e cornflower)

A strong swimmer out of grief

“She became a strong swimmer out of grief.” This page, in particular, touched me. The longing and sorrow are somehow enhanced that much more my this work’s infinite loop, like there’s always this girl on the edge of the ocean, longing for the mother she never knew.

There’s something distinctly literary about this work’s text, if not its nonlinear navigation. To me, though, if anything, the infinite looping in on itself of this work only serves to enhance the story it is “weaving”/telling. Each page is like a still life, perhaps disconnected from some greater whole, but capable of telling a compelling story in and of itself. For some, that disconnectedness may translate as “brokenness”, the lack of coherence or persistence of narrative over time, as a fault, but, again, I find the questions that exist in those perceived narrative “gaps” in works of ELit like Twelve Blue to be what keeps me coming back. Though, of course, I want answers, I also enjoy not knowing. It creates this mental space for me to explore possibilities–something not always offered IRL, where “pinning things down” is so highly valued these days.

Additionally, I think Twelve Blue gives readers a slight taste of the reciprocity ELit is renown for. (At least, it’s one of my fave parts of ELit.) This reciprocity is realized in the simple act of the readers clicking a link on the screen and being rewarded with a new screen, with new information. The work functions on reader input–slight reader input but still an action the reader must take in order for the work to “move on”. That’s a smidge more agency than most traditional forms of literature have been able to allow for a long time.

Riding the Waves

All in all, if you couldn’t tell, I’m looking forward to diving back into ELit and discovering new ways to tell compelling stories through new digital media. I think Twelve Blue is an excellent place to wade in with. It’s new in many ways but also recognizable in others. And, of course, the work is so beautifully, heart-breakingly, heart-achingly written.

I hope the rest of our class is at least half-excited as I am looking forward to diving in deep on ELit!

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Links

Hypothes.is

*Feel free to check out some of my notes on this week’s article and respond to them if anything I’ve said resonates or triggers another idea~ Though I’ve been resistant in the past to using hypothes.is, lately, I’ve found it to be a good tool for taking notes maybe I just don’t like being told I have to use it and now that I don’t have to use it, I’ve got to rebel in the other direction????

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*Feel free to follow me on Twitter as well~ In between sharing sappy poetry and prose, I sometimes say some witty things??? #debatable??? #claimthecave

~Till next time ^.^~

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