Tag Archives: eliterature

Following the Stars…

Feature image: Oddly serendipitous journal entry from this morning~

Sharif Ezzat’s Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky is a Flash hypertext poem, whose simple interface asks readers to navigate the space one star at a time. The work is designed to look like a starry night sky, several of the stars acting as nodes that link to free-verse, narrative poems. The title of each poem is a reference to a line in a poem that is read in Arabic (with English subtitles) by an older man when readers initially access the piece. The subject matter of these poems revolves around the lives, relationships, and struggles of what appears to be an Arabic family. This family, though, seems intended to be representative of the human family more than of any one specific kind of family. Additionally, one of the poems addresses the reader directly, mentioning that we [the reader] are upstairs and cautioning that we not be woken up. This reference, paired with others spread intermittently throughout the piece seems to indicate this pieces and its stories exist somewhere between dream and reality. The overall atmosphere created by the design and reinforced by the honest, poetic elements of this work can, in fact, be summed up in one word: dreamy.  This work seems to draw its power from the earnestness and honesty of its simple design.

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This work is an old favorite of mine. In fact, it is the second work of Elit I ever read. This second reading of the work revealed that it is still as compelling as it was when I first read it. As soon as you enter the work, and hear the wind chimes tinkling in time with that old man’s voice telling you, “I am full of stories” you are immersed. The work captures you in a much slower and deliberate manner than some other works of Elit that make further use of digital means. It’s almost gentle the way the work invites you in, asking you politely what stories you would like to hear. When the screen lights up with stars as the old man makes his introduction, it does so ever-so-slowly and then all at once–the same way we fall asleep (and fall in love).

There are several stories you can read through. Each story is accessed by clicking on a star on the screen. The poem revealed is center justified on the screen, putting it immediately in focus. The content of each poem seems to be either reflective or meditative, asking readers to think more deeply about our place not only in our own lives and in the lives of others but also our place in the universe. Throughout the poem, people are compared to natural things like water, land, and stars. The sound of birds and running water can be heard intermittently in the background as well. All of these elements combined seem to reinforce the idea that all of life coexists and that we are all just trying to find our place within it. Often screwing up royally in the process but sometimes coming up rosy.

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Overall, I think this is a compelling work not in spite of its simplicity but because of its simplicity. It asks nothing more of its readers than to listen–to words both spoken and written. The poetry lies not within the work itself but within the story the reader weaves. The design of this work seems to further reinforce this idea by having no set directions for how to navigate the work. Additionally, the simple interface of this work with its gentle and soothing elements seems to reinforce the dreaminess of the piece, making readers wonder as the characters within the poems do about whether or not everything is all but a dream. Above all, I think this work wants to share with us that, while the stars may rarely align in the ways we would like, when they do, it lights up the night.

I’m hoping for some light soon.

 

Reference

“Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky” by Sharif Ezzat

 

Extra

*This work also reminded me of a song I thought I’d share:

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~Till next time~

x. i think i read it wrong

Hello friends it has been A Week, let me tell you. Hope y’all had a nice Thanksgiving that was devoid of familial discourse and full of rad food, instead.

I’m gonna apologize in advance for this blog post; she’s not cute. I’ve been slacking on my work for this class, but! We’re in the home stretch! So I’m gonna give it my all starting… Now!

Alright, so this week I read “Separation” by Annie Abrahams.

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Looking first at that main screen, I was intrigued to find that the piece was first created during the author’s stay in a hospital. The background surrounding its creation, and its purpose, to “separate” the reader from the computer through those random exercises that would appear throughout the piece were very interesting elements and vastly different from past works we’ve read for class.

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Well, other works have had readers do physical tasks, so that’s not new. But having to get up and exercise? That’s new. (Not gonna lie, it was a little eerie, particularly That Face coupled with the phrase “Show the pain.” Yikies.)

… Confession time. I read the piece wrong. I didn’t get up and exercise, I read the whole piece lying down (laying down?? whatever;;; colloquialisms). I did do the first one, though. That creepy one with the open mouth. Gladly, no one was in the room with me, so I didn’t have to explain myself kldjfskljdk.

Also???? L O L when I started clicking more quickly and it gave me this:

Screenshot 2018-11-26 at 22.01.13

Felt like I was being reprimanded. Patience is a virtue, I suppose. I was kinda confused about it, actually, until I actually read through that first page and saw this:

“All computer workers tend to forget their body, and so risk to be a victim of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) one day. The visitors of ‘separation’ are constraint to click slowly (, as someone recovering from rsi) to see appearing one word at a time of the text. Every now and than a exercise is proposed and all interaction with the computer is postponed. (A recovering rsi patient needs to do this kind of exercises.)”

In which case, I was like “oh. fair enough.”

Overall, a very interesting piece. The text had me Feeling Some Emotions with the depth of the language, and the meaning and perspective behind it only expanded my view of it.

Okie dokie, so regarding My Piece.

……

Clear update, huh?

Well, I’ve been editing the story itself, marking the “panels” with numbers to keep track of them while marking the different storylines in different colors (i.e., light blue for Baby Owl, a pinkish-red for Mama Owl; hopefully to correspond with the colors I’ll make the actual panels in Twine). I’ve also been planning how far I want the branching storylines to go. I was thinking of hiding a bio somewhere in there, too, but I don’t wanna spoil anything, I guess.

Anyway. That’s the progress I’ve made. It isn’t much, but I’m planning to really dive into working on it for the rest of the semester. That, along with my writing theory final project… and my novel for YA Lit…

It’s Fine :’)))))))

Okay. I’m gonna go. Looking forward to class tonight!

Have a lovely day/night/whatever!

–Masooch

Assembling the Story from the Pieces…

There are many stories in the Valley

Judy Malloy’s Uncle Roger is a work of hypertext fiction that explores the nature of love, relationships, family, business, class, and, ultimately, storytelling in a disjointed but compellingly, collage-like way. Uncle Roger consists of three different story files, A Party in Woodside, The Blue Notebook, and Terminals. This small collection of storie revolves around the early days of the Silicon Valley tech industry and people involved in the burgeoning industry. For this review, I explored A Party in Woodside. This story file is “a dream-like memory of a party of CEOs viewed from the perspective of the babysitter”. In the work, readers navigate the interface via selecting different keyword text nodes identified with words like “jenny” and “dreams and nightmares”.

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Clicking on a node takes readers from one strong of prose/poetry/lexia to another. Similarly to Michael Joyce’s Twelve BlueUncle Roger consists of many narratives that loop back in on each other and weave different tales as the narrative threads come together. Readers create the story as they explore the work further, each node revealing a new piece of the story. That said, definitive closure is never fully reached in this work. Instead, the story seems designed to be an infinite fever dream of clinking glasses, shady deals, and illicit affairs (and lurking felines, of course ^.^)~

Personally, I found the narrative aspect of this piece to be what really drew me in. Following Jenny’s thread, especially, captured my attention. I thought her story about navigating this new Silicon Valley world and the characters that inhabit it mirrored the act of readers navigating the work itself and its many nodes. Also, on a personal level, I found Jenny’s struggles and dreams and nightmares to be quite relatable. “God was a sort of long, dark man who hovered horizontally over me and had no face” and “It was dream. I am only writing what happened in a dream” are only two of many lines that struck a chord with me.

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Though humorous at times, I think there is a serious and mysterious atmosphere to this work that invites readers to engage deeply and thoughtfully with the work in personal ways . Also, I believe it invites readers to meditate on the disjointed nature of reality and storytelling. Often, like in Davis’ Pieces of Herself, our realities are the stories we tell ourselves and these stories consist of many pieces woven together. The final product is not always for us to see so much as for others to view and consume.

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Additionally, I think the design of this work is quite compelling. Again, it is another Elit piece whose design, like that of Ankerson and Sapnar’s Cruising, reinforces its content. Uncle Roger loops in on itself, readers often having to revisit multiple pages before they can progress further into the narrative. This looping quality seems to reinforce that dream-like quality of the work as well as the recursive nature of life and experience itself. Memory, like dream, is often subject to constant revisiting and worrying over. Both memory and dream are, also, stories that we tell ourselves.

Overall, I found Malloy’s Uncle Roger to be a compelling work of Elit whose content and design invite readers to consider their own preconceptions of storytelling as well as explore the complex nature of storytelling to life experience. That this story seems designed to never come to any closure I believe only further reinforces the content as well as the message that reality is recursive and wholly complex. The pieces may always be disjointed up close, an assemblage only once new perspective has been gained.

Sources

“Uncle Roger, File 1: A Party in Woodside” by Judy Malloy

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Update

I have continued to work on my Elit piece in Thinglink. So far, I have about half of the work done, by my estimate. The design and layout of the work is basically done. Currently, I am in the process of inputting text and information into the work. I want to play around with incorporating images and possibly audio this weekend.

~Till next time~

 

 

Cruising Right Along….

Meditating on Moving

Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar’s Cruising is a compelling work of kinetic poetry that explores themes of love and youth and whose actual design reinforces its exploration of “temporal and spatial themes”. This work is made using Flash and it combines still images with linear, moving text. The speed of the text, and thus the speed of navigating this piece, is determined by the user’s cursor placement and movement. Users are tasked with finding a “balance” that allows them to read and engage with the work in the same way that the characters of the story must learn to find a balance between their needs and emerging desires. In this way, users are learning to almost “drive” the narrative, making them actively aware of the place of the reader in interpretation of a text and the process of meaning-making. This level of interactivity, though slight in comparison to some recent works of Elit, achieves much in how it mirrors the struggles for control and to find direction that are expressed in the textual aspect of the work. More, the balance or “flow” that users must find between the textual and visual components of the work allows users to actively participate in the same struggles as the characters as well as be aware of their participation a readers in the processes of meaning-making.

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Though at first deceived by this work’s simple interface, I found myself highly engaged with the content. I love how the design of the work reinforces the narrative aspect of the piece. I found myself becoming absorbed with the process of regulating the “flow” of text and images until I could create a sensible, narrative “film” of sorts. Every time I thought I found a careful balance, the work would zoom out or zoom in because of a careless twitch. It seems impossible to find peace for more than a few moments–which, I think emphasizes the narrative component of the work. The characters within this story are exploring love and, seemingly, newfound freedom as represented by driving and the ability to “cruise” around town and through life. It’s difficult to find a balance between what is needed and what is wanted. I want to read this work at my usual pace but I need to slow down in order to read the work at all.

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It’s quite frustrating to realize what you want and what you need are not always aligned. (In fact, they may be in direct opposition to each other.) This concept is also interesting to consider in the context of reader vs. author. What the reader wants to interpret may differ greatly from what the author intended. The place of the reader in deciding meaning is not only emphasized in this work but seems to be a core theme. The reader literally must set the pace of the work, through cursor placement, in order to “read” the piece. To me, this seems to pose questions about traditional reading habits and conceptions of reading as well as conceptions of literary and rhetorical analyses. How much of our interpretations are just that–interpretations? Are not all analyses impressions recorded? These questions all seem to be posed by this work.

In addition to the design elements and conceptual components of this piece, I also found that actual text of it to be moving get it????? and quite poetic. I loved the spoken-word aspect paired with the “boppy” music; It really put me in the space of the work and creating this real sense of time and place. Without reading the introduction to the work, I believe readers would still be delivered to the early 2000’s, when cruising around town was hip and fashionable and, ultimately, the way teenagers met each other. It moved that fast and that slow at the same time, if that makes sense.

Overall, I found this work to be engaging in its own way and I thought the design of the work paired with the content in a way we’ve yet to see from the works we have explored. I’m fascinated by how works like this one, and Jason Nelson’s cyclical, slot-machine work This is How You Will Die, make use of an interface that reinforces the overarching themes of the work itself. I feel like digital works and born-digital material is uniquely suited, in this respect. Ankerson and Sapnar’s Crusing is not just a compelling work of Elit but also a literally moving work of poetry that asks readers to not only meditate on but actively participate in the not-so-easy process of finding a balance between what is wanted and what is needed in life.

Sources

-“Cruising” by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar

-Letters That Matter: The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1

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Project Update

So, since our last meeting, I have begun more actively working on creating my Elit piece. I have a pretty involved idea of what kind of work I want to make and what I want it to accomplish so most of my work thus far has revolved around managing expectations and figuring out what I can do with the tools that I have in the time that I have. Thus far, I have found some success using Thinglink. While it does not necessarily provide me with the functionality I’m looking for, it does provide a lot of room to play around with hyperlinks. Also, I can use an image of my own design as the background for the work (without having to entirely code a background). A photo-editing tool I have, also, found that I like is PicMonkey. It’s like Photoshop but simpler and, you know, free.

DG Project Links

Sneak peak shhhh……

For anyone struggling with designing their own work, I would definitely recommend checking out these sources as well as the other sources provided in the shared class doc ^.^

~Till next time~

ix. i got fired (virtually)

Not in real life, no worries.

I’m gonna jump right into it this week because it has been A Long Weekend and I am Tired. Please forgive my less enthusiastic rambling.

So Book & Volume. It took me a bit to download considering 1) I had to use my Big PC, 2) the app download link on the ELC didn’t work, and 3) I had to find one on my own. When I got it working, though, I was immediately endeared. I read the description beforehand and was a little skeptical when I saw that my task in this text game would be a mundane one.

Wowie was I off.

The futuristic, otherworldly absurdity that was the environment, however, completely made up for the monotony of the task you are given: reset(?) these 5 computer servers(??). I love when there’s that level of nonsense in a story’s world that’s taken as the norm, so the “main character” doesn’t question it, even if the reader/player absolutely does. To fully immerse themselves then, readers/players have to accept that nonsense.

It’s always a great time, doing that.

Now, I was a little lost at first because I’m not Completely used to the freedom of these kinds of text games. There’s so much you can do with little Easter Eggs to find (anyone else get approached by Carrie Fisher?) and places to go. It actually took me a few in-game hours to realize that I could travel out of the confines of the described block outside. Once I realized I could “go north,” though, I was set. That’s the charm of text games, I think. You gotta try all your options, and you don’t have visuals to guide you, so you gotta use your imagination to come up with those options to begin with.

There were little visual hints outside of the descriptions in-text, too. The bar at the top that notes your location, the time, and the direction options you can take in the top left corner.

Click to view slideshow.

As you can see in one of the screenshots I took in the game, I didn’t win my first playthrough. I think, when I got fired, I sat there and laughed. I had no idea I was on a time limit, but I couldn’t be mad. I’d messed around too much, so it was my fault.

Honestly, I didn’t play it again. I thought it was a poetic ending that would make for a good blog post. I do want to play it again, though. Absolutely.

When I have time.

I really want to explore the town more, and I hope to do so within that time limit I apparently have. I wonder if it was mentioned to get the task done by 2 AM, or if we’re just supposed to Get It.

Again, though, I can’t be mad. It was a rad game. I’ll be back to find out what happens when you reset(?) those servers(???? ?).

Anyway, in class we talked again about our own pieces. I’m sorry to say, but I haven’t made progress. I’m glad we’re being put in smaller groups to discuss our projects. It feels less pressured, more friendly.

I keep talking about how I want to put my YA Lit book into a digital form and go from there, so I will make that my task this week. Get the main plot down on Twine and start Getting My Life Together to figure out what Extra Fun Things I wanna add in. I talked about pictures but I can’t (read: I’m too lazy to) draw and, as I believe I’ve said, I think I’ll do better with words than with drawings. Maybe in the future I can add pictures. But as of now, I’m inspired by the format With Those We Love Alive as well as the absurdist language and situations found in both WTWLA and Book & Volume. 

Both start off with a somewhat mundane task to follow. Find the servers. Go about daily life. Sleep. Wander the city because in the future apparently we don’t have GPS.

Anyway.

I apologize for my lack of proper updated content regarding my project, and I hope to work on it tomorrow as well as in the upcoming weeks. I mean like, I don’t have a choice fjdklsjfklds but! Not the point! I’m hyped to work on this project, even if I have a breakdown or 3 in the process of the progression to finals week.

Welp. I’ll leave it here.

Have a lovely night/day/morning, friends!

–Masooch

Cruising Toward the End



Funny thing is when I first read the title. It reminded me of the Smokey Robinson song Cruise. So when I entered the site, I wasn't surprised at the vibe once I entered the site. The car made me think about cruising in the casual driving sense.

Then when I began to explore the e-lit piece I came to this screen:

 The entire vibe of this first page made think that we were headed on a journey of sight and sound. I was captivated by this photo. It made me think about my possible e-lit project and what I'd like for it to look like. There is a possibility that I could capture a photo that represents in my piece in totality. Then I click on the launch button.

I was brought to this screen. The image of the woman intrigued me because I wondered how she fit in what seemed like a puzzle. The jazz music set the tone of the rapid movement of the images at the lower part of the screen. Everything seemed to be melodic and after watching for a while, I was set into a trance. Very much like it would happen if you were cruising in a car. I spent about ten minutes wondering where the words were. Then I hovered over the flashing words, then I saw this:

Now the images were enlarged. The music stayed at the same tempo but I noticed at first the words moved from left to write. As the jazz music blared through my speakers I tried to make sense of the images as the words flew by backwards. Then something happened. All of a sudden, the words started moving in a direction where they could be read, if you slowed down the tempo. It wasn't until I did a screenshot of this image did I notice the words matched up to what was being said. I moved the arrow over the words causing them to slow down and then speed up. I found it to be extremely relaxing. I paid more attention to the melody and sounds and the movement of the words rather than the story being told. That within itself was an experience and it told the story of the feel that cruising gives a person.


My E-Lit Piece



Mya's InstaStory. I'm going to create an E-lit piece based on my character using Instagram. So far I only have one post and one image. One of my students reminded me of my main character Mya. I saw her touting her Howard University para during the college event at my job. It hit me in an instant that she was my Mya. Luckily, Mya is a fictional student who attends the actual school where I work. So my goal is to get some shots of my student who is acting as Mya this week to add to Mya's Instagram. The first post is going to be in memory of her grandmother, Big Ma. Who dies at the start of the book. This event serves as the catalyst that gives her the gift of sight, brings her father back into her life essentially setting life on a different path-- one which, Mya never saw coming. Her Instagram will be filled with photos, quotes and other things that Mya would post. I'm also going to include hyperlinks to songs that dictate and express her mood. I think I am going to post the photos based on events that transpire in different chapters of the book.

viii. masooch needs…

…a lot of things, like a publishing deal and constant validation, but mostly to get this blog post up.

Hey friends, long time no see.

Before I get into the e-lit piece I read/played through this week, Icarus Needs, I wanted to talk a bit about some updated plans I have for my final piece.

I know I kept talking about adding additional media like pictures and videos and whatnot as the story (or stories) progress(es), but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time. I think I want to try to pull of something like With Those We Love Alive, which I talked about in this post. I’ve been looking at Twine lately, which was used for WTWLA and I think maybe I’ll use that. I was playing around with it and there’s so much you can do with it. Also, I’m better with words than pictures, and I feel like I can put out something pretty cool with descriptions alone. Maybe a few pictures? Simple ones? I dunno. I’m afraid of it seeming childish in that way. I’m not sure how effective this whole “growth from simple to complex” idea I had will work out, especially with the time crunch. Anyway, I’ll ponder. I’ll try working out some kinda map for the branching storylines and at the very least start writing out the panels for the main plot.

IT’LL BE FINE, RIGHT?

Aiight, so Icarus Needs.

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I remember playing little games like these when I was in middle school. Miniclip.com was my site, alright? Particularly the puzzle games, most of which had stories to them. One that really sticks in my mind is Gateway (I & II). I don’t wanna say much about it, but from what I remember, the story in the second one gets really heavy, so consider that a warning. It’s an incredible game. Go play it if you love puzzle games and deep stories and eeriness.

But anyway. Back to Icarus Needs.

First of all, I love the design. The simple panels give it a fun, deceptively straightforward vibe, but you find out quick that it’s a bit more complex than you think, both story-wise and design. It maintains the simplicity, but… expands… on it…? That doesn’t make sense. Whatever. I’m a fan of games that bridge whimsy with emotional depth, even if the latter part is only hinted at. It gives you the sense of a bigger world outside of what you see in the game.

Fun fact: It makes me mad when games are written off as silly and insignificant. Like… Gateway II touches on [SPOILER] the trauma of losing a family member and the hold they could still have on you even in death. Also, how it’s not always healthy. [/SPOILER] At least, that’s what I remember. I gotta play it again. It’s just so good. But like. How dare you write off a whole story based on the medium it’s presented in? Big UGH.

In Icarus Needs, there’s kind of this narrator who speaks outside the panels in an almost innocently authoritative way, if that makes sense. Like it preaches to main character Icarus (I dig that name, by the way) these… dreamlike phrases that you think would require deep answers or something. Or like. Cliches. Like the “out on a limb” line when Icarus is in the tree.

But then, in reply, Icarus is kinda blunt, or subverts the line/question/cliche. I hope that makes sense…

Here are some of the panels that stood out to me regarding that:

Click to view slideshow.

His responses are so realistic while the narrator is more… idealistic ? Is that the word? Maybe not. Either way, Icarus’ responses are refreshing in the dreamlike setting.

And speaking of dreams. You’re told that this is a dream from the beginning, but you almost ignore it at first? At least, I did.

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Also it’s difficult to automatically trust an outside, omniscient voice just after you wake up in a strange room and have to save your girlfriend with giant phones, mud balls, nets to catch a rat, and apples (exactly 5). So yeah. I wasn’t trusting it or its cliche banter anytime soon.

Regarding the end…

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I was waiting for a different catch other than “and then he woke up.” I’m not mad about it, I mean. On the one hand, it’s expected. On the other, I wanted something more. And perhaps there is something more, what with the little squirrel king in the corner. It’d be so rad to have a sequel to this in a similar style. The puzzles were really cool and the story was just perfectly whimsical.

Looking forward to experiencing this again in class!

See y’all then.

–Masooch

*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!

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~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.

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