“Tachitoscope” by William Poundstone

“Project for Tachistoscope (Bottomless Pit)” is unlike any story I have read before. According to the author, William Poundstone, “the starting point of this piece is the historical coincidence that “subliminal advertising” and “concrete poetry” were introduced as concepts at nearly the same time.”

The piece definitely reads like some sort of subliminal test video. Words are mixed with other stimuli that flash on the screen like a series of subliminal messages or some sort of brain washing video. The stimuli somewhat change how the work is perceived. A different symbol flashes behind each word, and some words even have a second word flashing for a brief moment. While this is happening, colors brighten and darken in the background according to the music being played. Mostly this music is pretty generic, but at times it can get lower or louder and more important. This, along with the color change, changed how I saw and understood the work rather than if I was just reading it on a white page.

Though the effect was very exciting, I don’t know if it did anything extra for the work. The music seemed to grow louder or darker at random, and not many of the symbols seemed to correspond with the story being told. I kept trying to make connections between everything being flashed at me, but I couldn’t make sense of them.

Despite this, I enjoyed having to make an effort to actually read the text. I didn’t want to miss anything important, and the text itself was actually quite interesting. It reads like a scientific or history report on a bottomless pit, very exact with measurements and soil descriptions, as well as a thorough history of the pit and the people who interact and live with it. I think I’ll find other texts in a similar vein to this interesting to read as well.

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