So the other day in class, the poetry of astrophysics was brought up.
This is a little like that, but mostly nothing like that.
So the other day in class, the poetry of astrophysics was brought up.
This is a little like that, but mostly nothing like that.
Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)] by Talan Memmott works from a selection of artist’s self-portraits and biographies, cuts them up, and reassembles them into new wholes, pairing a portrait and a biography assembled from factual parts never intended to interact, and presents an (almost) wholly fictitious painter.
Now the art of remix is nothing new. In the 50’s and 60’s there was the cut-up technique popularized by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin (of I Am That I Am fame), an idea that has itself been remixed time and again to produce the oft-humorous online generators of today. Remix culture rejects art and literature as static objects, and encourages the re-working of these objects into something new and different.
The biographies Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)] supplies are detailed things, not limited to a short array of facts, but describing the specific works and life events of the ”artist” in question. To glance at the biography removed from the obviously assembled portraits, it would take me more than a moment to realize their falsity. Of course, upon closer inspection, some of the painters being aged over two hundred years old might tip one off (as might the name “Vincent Degas”, but I never claimed to know anything about art), or the eventual repetitions as you click from portrait to portrait, but on the whole the grammar is so neatly cut as to provide seamless storytelling, everything seems to flow and follow. Rolling over the mouth of each portrait reveals a quote, unattributed like the rest of the components, serving to further flesh out the creation of an artist who never was.
The surreality of Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)] comes down to how much the reader is paying attention. It takes the mangled portrait to pull the reader out of the student-like skim mode, reading biographies as a chore, and to the present, making them pay attention and notice that something is a little weird when the biography starts talking about how, “In 1862, Degas moved to London and met Matisse and Bob Ross. Together, they initiated the formation of the Constructivist movement.”
Memmott’s use of self-portraits in particular creates an interesting frame; each work (prior to its dissection) represents how the artist saw themselves. Now they are re-arranged as part of a whole to represent an entirely new self, an entirely new person. Memmott takes re-mix one step further, from re-mixing art to remixing history, reality. He takes facts and produces fiction, not by changing them in any particular way, but by situating them around one another he makes a face and gives it a story whose parts we will recognize but whose whole we decry. This generator puts a name to a face and a story to the name, but only for as long as it takes for the reader to click ahead for the next fiction of facts.
For the creative project, I used Scratch to create a digital poem animation titled Skin. Very much influenced by RedRidinghood, I wanted to experiment with another fairytale, and the influence of control.
That last bit bears explaining. In Skin each scene is accessed by reader input, a star appears, the user clicks it, the next scene runs all its lines elements independent of reader input, then another star appears, and the next scene will not appear until the reader has again clicked through. The use of the star icon is a control method that keeps a grip on the pacing and sequence of the poem, not allowing the reader to get ahead of themselves or the story. They can postpone the next scene for as long as they wish, but in the end they only have the option to move forward (that or quit). Another control method I used was somewhat less obvious, by betting the elements to a consistent rhythm, the reader is able to keep in time with the rhythm as they move from scene to scene, and while they can wait as long as they like, a break in the rhythm feels unnatural compared to rolling with the flow of the poem.
Now, given that I have expended that much effort in attempting to coral the reader’s actions, to have the poem dictate their behavior rather than have their behavior dictate the poem, I could have made it an unstoppable force of animation a la DAK0TA. However, even though this work is far from interactive fiction, I wanted to include the one element of reader interaction, to engage invest them in the story. The click-through resembles nothing so much as the turning of a page, a mechanized act of revelation that asks the reader to oh do keep up dear as the scenes get shorter and shorter, involving them in the pacing and providing a sense of involvement in the inevitable fates of the characters.
The story itself is a warped telling of the selkie myth in space. Mostly because doppelgängers in space are so done, but if I could not have eye stealing I was going to have skin stealing, dammit.
Using Scratch as my program of choice was the most logical decision given the type of story I wished to tell, it is the interface that accesses the most senses, combining sound, image and interaction, and gave me the greatest degree of control over the visual presentation.
The poem’s animation is restrained, seeking more the effect of a picture book or story board rather than a cartoon, leaving the story clean and uncluttered, the illustrations as snapshot moments from the scene.
I am immensely satisfied with the resulting product, and would like to point out that that is a really sweet rocket ship.
3 pots of tea, 2 short seasons of television programs of dubious quality, 1 Scratch meltdown, and 238947293 misplaced sprites were harmed in the making of this production.
Also: the Selkie somehow ended up looking like one of these guys.
Using the internet is a bit like interacting with the real world whilst wearing a set of thick gloves. There is presence, there is material, but it is not to be interacted with first hand. A simulation of interaction can be achieved, but through a series of proxies: input gleaned from the mouse, keyboard, microphone, and webcam.
Toucher by Serge Bourchardon, Kevin Carpentier, and Stephanie Spenle manages to make the reader hyper aware of the glove more than it succeeds in removing it. Our awareness of touch, of interaction and its effects are heightened by the proxy. Every interaction is deliberate, awareness of the exchange from physical to digital space is required to experience each lexia, each devoted to a different form of touch.
Working across the navigation screen right to left, you come to the lexia “move”. You are asked to move about your mouse, to arrange and shuffle through a mix and match of queries. The first query pairing kicks off “move” with the question that perhaps drives the whole work: “Do you touch me when I touch you?” Which is a tricky enough question before you exit the physical world. You can rest your fingertips on a surface, you are touching that surface, but it is not touching you back. Touch is qualified by sentience, or at least responsiveness, driven by a seeming ‘mind of its own’. Even the peas and the mashed potatoes touching is driven by some malevolent will. I digress. When you, a human, touches something, it is that thing you expect to respond, in some manner or another. The doorbell gives under a finger’s pressure, though that is not the ultimate intended result. That result is the doorbell ringing, then someone answering the door.
It is in this state of removal Toucher exists. Your breath may blow away the letters and snowflakes that have accumulated on your screen, but only when received as audial input via microphone and a dozen other invisible processes resulting in the scattering of pixels. Of course this happens so swiftly you might not think on it, but for the remove. There is no stepping up to the monitor and blowing away the graphics as you would dust on a shelf. You must first locate a microphone and assure your computer you are okay with interacting with the work (snapping on the gloves, if you will) and then interacting with the microphone to see the idea of your breath displaced by several inches or feet as its effects are carried out on screen.
In the process of simulating the senses, trying to create something instinctive, rather than our trained proficiency of by proxy interaction, Toucher occasionally drives right past instinctive into innovative. Well, that might be a bit strong a word, but in its reluctance to adhere to standard digital interface interaction Toucher has readers learn connections they may not utilize. In ‘caress,’ where a seeing person would base their interaction with the object by sight, Toucher has you associate touch to sound. As you caress the screen (via mouse or trackpad) you are instructed to follow the sound in order to form a sense of an object, rather than relying on your sense of vision.
Toucher takes the processes of input with which computer users are already intensely familiar, and seeks to streamline them, though not in ways you would expect. What would be obvious in the physical world seems surprising in the digital (the sound of a touch for example.) Toucher ends up as a sort of ‘how to’ guide to interaction, there is more than one way to interact with your computer. The boundaries between digital and physical are blurring. Or at the very least, they are doing better at convincing you they blur.
(Commentary assumes Ana Somnia player had webacam enabled.)
In approaching Ana Somnia by Kim Köster, I had to pick up haul myself through the “is this e-lit?” dance.
Said dance involves furtively going through your class notes, then the class’ class notes, then some articles on the web before honing in on the most convenient definition that enables you to do whatever the hell you want. In this case we’re rolling with the “digital born” set of parameters of clarification for what qualifies as e-lit.
Still, that did not cover everything.
Ana Somnia is not a hypertext, it is not quite a game, and it could maybe barely be considered interactive fiction. Where I would prefer to dub it digital poetry and move on, there are almost no words at all: A title card to tell you what you are looking at and a tired Ana informing you, “no sleepy, it’s too bright.”
With that unsettled, we are quickly thrown into a minor crisis of personal agency.
When you swing your cursor by and a butterfly takes off, or the teddy turns its head, you are secure. You have a place in the world of Ana Somnia. Of course, a moment or two later you realize you only have superficial agency, bearing no real direction overall. Maybe.
There’s more randomly generated output than the dovetailing effects of your seemingly inconsequential interactions.
In what passes for narrative, there are no real choices. Knocking over that jar won’t change a thing, though you can do it if you like. You have only one real move, the extent of your agency in Ana Somnia is in making that move or not.
The dreams hurtle along without consideration for your actions or influence, no stopping for anything unless you want to start at the beginning.
On another level it’s even more interactive than any of those texts. It could care less what you do to your keypad, and is ambivalent about your cursor, but it really really cares about light bulbs.
When the lights go off the dreams creep in and they will be there, in the dark, as long as you are. With you until you turn on the lights.
Despite its seeming indifference to user interaction, Ana Somnia manages to break (or appears to break) the fourth wall more thoroughly than any work limited to point and click, the interaction bound to the interface.* It’s not you that affects little Ana’s dream, but the environment. She can’t sleep with the lights on, all you can do is turn them off for her and watch the dreams climb out.
*Yes okay webcam is as much interface as a mouse or track pad but what I’m getting at is it’s different, it’s causing the user to mentally link the artificial digital environment of Ana’s room and dream with the physical environment of wherever they actually are in meatspace when interacting with the world of Ana Somnia.**
**Your light effectively becomes the light in Ana’s room thereby making her room an extension of your space, how neat is that?***
***It’s pretty neat.
Once upon a time someone sat down and wrote Star Wars.
Think about that.
That is a thing that happened.
Admittedly, you could think about how someone had to write Hamlet. Or War and Peace. Or any other of piece of literature that is ground into the collective academic consciousness as being a Big Deal.
But this is Star Wars. Composed of galaxies containing planets populated by countless characters of countless species who are aligned with and empires alliances engaged in epic battles that span the stars in which the word epic is actually an appropriate descriptor all wrapped up in plots and relationships that would spawn the quotes and quips that have guided generations through adolescence and beyond. You know. That Star Wars.
And at one point in time and space
George Lucas wrote the whole thing
Brian Kim Stefans takes the viewer (reader?) through that experience that for themselves, watching and listening to every individual character and space that makes up Episode IV: A New Hope one at a time. One Letter at a Time is not interactive, there are no hyperlinks to click and no twisty passages to get yourself lost in, yet it cannot exactly be called passive. Keeping up is a difficult task, the reigns of reading are taken out of your hands. You have no control over how much input you receive, the flash animation blends the engagement of reading with the passenger side viewer’s seat. The letters flash by almost too quickly to read, punctuated by the rapid tapping of keys.
The incorporation of sound has a profound effect on the experience, giving the work a sense of dimension and time. Without sound the viewer is left with text and the white space, strangely staggered with odd periods of white with no text. But the addition of sound (particularly the bell note of the return key) gives a sense of pacing and space to the unseen document, the audible weight of each letter, the distance between one line of type and the next; for all that we never see more than a single letter or mark at a time.
The viewer is required to connect with every stroke at a breakneck speed, the format compelling recognition of each individual stroke’s importance removed from the whole. One Letter at a Time encourages consideration of the little bits. By selecting a subject most commonly recognized as film rather than using a novel, the deconstruction is even more pronounced, so far removed from the silver screen’s rolling credits acknowledging the massive input proportional to its groundbreaking output.
For all that, this isn’t about Star Wars. Star Wars is just the (grandly scaled and conveniently accessible) vehicle chosen to carry the idea. Every book you’ve read and movie you’ve seen was built up out of these tiny pieces. Take a screenshot of this flash animation, it could be from almost anything. By placing these bits one after another they’re given context. It just so happens that this time the context is Wookiees and TIE Fighters.
There are currently no events to display.