Among the many works of electronic literature that I encountered I was most impressed by The Family Tree. The Family Tree, created by Rozalie Hirs and Harm Van Den Dorpel, is a mind-bending work of art that stretches the imagination. The so-called family tree is best described as a mobile (as in one that would hang above a baby’s crib), and it would be efficacious to think of a mobile whenever I reference the family tree anywhere in this post. The fact that the work is titled The Family Tree is interesting to point out because, upon observing the work, the reader discovers it is very much contrary to a tree. Instead of being rooted at the bottom, this “tree” is rooted at the top, hanging in midair. Just as the title reverses our idea of a tree, the work in its entirety reverses many of our common ideas involving words, stories, and structures.
The tree is comprised of random words and phrases all connected vertically by punctuation marks such as commas, periods, and brackets. The family tree is suspended in air and subject to change due to the movements of the mouse. The constant motion of the swinging words symbolizes the ever-changing nature of stories and lives. The reader is able to control the swaying and the rate of progression just as we are in control of the stories we tell, and how we remember them.
This interactive mobile of words provides an interesting commentary on our perception and memory of stories. There are multiple recurring words and phrases such as “father” and “mother” which cause the reader to reflect on how their story is shaped by other’s stories before them, just as this tree is constructed. The Family Tree is not only a version of kinetic typography which can be fun to play around with, it is an intelligent work that causes the reader to ponder the creation of stories using many recurring ideas rearranged around each other.