“Loss of Grasp” and Thoughts on Electronic Artists

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Serge Bouchardon and Vincent Volckaert’s Loss of Grasp was an interesting experience for a couple of reasons. When I first explored it, I was unaware of who created it, but half way through the text I realized its mechanics, its structure, and its subject of intimacy were all very familiar. I looked up who created it, and sure enough, Serge Bouchardon was also a creator of Touch.

There are a lot of similarities between the two texts and that made me wonder about a couple of things: 1) Do electronic artists develop a recognizable style like artists and writers of traditional methods do? and 2) How do we address an electronic artist’s body of work as a whole? The first question, I think we’ve already discovered to be true, as we saw with messof’s unique style and, looking at Andy Campbell‘s work, we see recurring dark overtones. Realizing I recognized Bouchardon’s style though, really solidified the fact that electronic artists are very much so of the same caliber as other artists. And I guess it mostly just made me realize my subconscious belief that I didn’t think they were. Not that I didn’t think what we’ve been encountering aren’t incredible pieces of work, by talented people, but rather that, while they were great pieces, a collection of them would not be as coherent and connected as a series or collection of paintings or essays or poems. Seeing as they do, though, leads me to think the world of electronic literature as this incredibly massive realm to be explored.

Okay, back to Loss of Grasp. If you haven’t played Touch, I encourage you to, as the similarities are abundant, and for that reason I’m going to focus more on what’s different about Loss of Grasp.

The biggest difference is the presence of a narrative voice as well as a plot. The story follows a man as he journeys from a state of optimism to one void of happiness and his fight to reclaim his life. I felt that the piece grew stronger as it progressed. Notice, it’s sectioned into six parts, just like Touch. The third and fourth sections deal with the narrator’s relationships with his wife and son. We see their interactions through his eyes which are attuned to reading the subtext of what his family is saying.

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The fifth section uses your webcam to display you being manipulated by the movement of your mouse. This section served to invest the reader into the work more, and if I were a male, I think it would have been more influential in my thinking “Oh, is this my story?” I still reached that question, but I felt distanced from it, and I think because we hear the narrator’s voice earlier, and it is distinctly a man’s voice, also possibly foreign.

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The last section though, was interesting in terms of user engagement because a text box pops up, prompting you to write, only your input is then manipulated to read a message the narrator is typing. This blurred the lines between narrator and reader even more. What I thought was even more interesting though was that I would try to predict what the narrator was trying to type, even furthering the connection between his thoughts and mine. The last line of the piece, “At last I have a grasp.” leaves an odd sensation with the reader, as we did not have control over the last section, leading us to question what do we have control over in our lives?

  3 comments for ““Loss of Grasp” and Thoughts on Electronic Artists

  1. bmytelka
    February 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I think most electronic literature artists have an easily recognizable style. While it is easier to imitate these artists compared to the other mediums (as Professor Whalen has emulated several styles for the class), styles are very easy to discern and compare. Jason Nelson and his deconstructive flash games may seem like a chaotic mess, but in reality it is really difficult to create such organized insanity.

    I think this game tries too hard to put you into the character’s shoes, but between the man’s voice, the images (with a webcam it’s not that mind-blowing, without one you have a default male), and the typing at the end I think it gets lost in trying to blur the lines between reader and author. It doesn’t really succeed, if that was its goal.

  2. February 17, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Realizing I recognized Bouchardon’s style though, really solidified the fact that electronic artists are very much so of the same caliber as other artists. And I guess it mostly just made me realize my subconscious belief that I didn’t think they were. Not that I didn’t think what we’ve been encountering aren’t incredible pieces of work, by talented people, but rather that, while they were great pieces, a collection of them would not be as coherent and connected as a series or collection of paintings or essays or poems

    I think this is a really important point, and it’s cool to see your thought process on this. Because I’ve been focusing our readings so far on formal essentialism (you might say), it’s probably been harder to pick up stylistic similarity. So what does it mean to recognize a style? What does style mean?

    Since much of electronic literature is formally or aesthetically experimental or avant-garde, it’s probably tempting to understand much of it exhibiting a “because I can” tone. But in looking at style, I think we can start to appreciate artistic or literary intentions in a different way. Of course, I don’t mean “intent” as a way to explain what a work means, but rather as an intentional choice of medium for conveying an idea. In this way, it’s not that YHCHI uses Flash to prove that they can, but rather because maybe it’s the best technology for conveying what they hope to convey.

  3. sarahjoy
    February 24, 2014 at 10:07 am

    I think the question of what is style is really interesting. It’s an artist’s equivalent, I think, to a writer’s voice. But what does that mean?I think it’s more than something that simply serves as a means of recognition. I think “voice” or “style” relates to what an artist brings to their work. It’s the factor that only they can provide that no other can. I think recognizing style indicates that an artist has developed a preferred way of exploring an idea. Like you mention, artists are cognizant of their medium, not simply using one because they can. The style they develop and use to explore or express isn’t confined by the means they chose to express themselves with. Or is it? I wonder if we could get our hands on some electronic artists’ non-electronic work, would we still be able to recognize their style?

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