Darths and Deconstruction

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
one letter
at
a
t
i
m
e.

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.

The Modern Latin one just to start.

Only with the alphabet.

  1 comment for “Darths and Deconstruction

  1. January 31, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    SWOLAT is such an interesting and divisive work. In this blog entry, Mark Sample uses it as an example of how resistant many readers are to elit.

    If nothing else, SWOLAT lets us bypass some questions like “enjoyment” or “appreciation,” in a way, because it’s so opaque, at more than one level.

    Instead, it pushes us into questions about the claims its making through its formal disposition. You’re right that it does invoke the image of George Lucas sitting at a typewriter, pounding it all out. But this, of course, is a myth. The idea that an author produces a work of genius in a continuous stream of inspiration is perhaps a romantic ideal, but (as we’re looking at in our other class), texts are continually shot through with influences, inspirations, homages, ripoffs. The whole of Star Wars is (after Barthes) a quotation without single commas, so I think the idea that Brian Kim Stefans gives us here might be just to call our attention to that isolated genius myth.

    That said, what you describe here

    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.

    is an interesting aesthetic character, and it becomes a bit of a game to try and keep making sense of it as the piece goes on. I’ve never made it very far, personally, but I admit there is some sort of pleasure in the almost visceral burst of concentration it invites. But its a kind of pleasure that’s short-lived — something like what happens in this game. You could almost call it a test of optical endurance.

    Here, by the way, is another textual representation of Star Wars.

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