Cruising Right Along….

Meditating on Moving

Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar’s Cruising is a compelling work of kinetic poetry that explores themes of love and youth and whose actual design reinforces its exploration of “temporal and spatial themes”. This work is made using Flash and it combines still images with linear, moving text. The speed of the text, and thus the speed of navigating this piece, is determined by the user’s cursor placement and movement. Users are tasked with finding a “balance” that allows them to read and engage with the work in the same way that the characters of the story must learn to find a balance between their needs and emerging desires. In this way, users are learning to almost “drive” the narrative, making them actively aware of the place of the reader in interpretation of a text and the process of meaning-making. This level of interactivity, though slight in comparison to some recent works of Elit, achieves much in how it mirrors the struggles for control and to find direction that are expressed in the textual aspect of the work. More, the balance or “flow” that users must find between the textual and visual components of the work allows users to actively participate in the same struggles as the characters as well as be aware of their participation a readers in the processes of meaning-making.

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Though at first deceived by this work’s simple interface, I found myself highly engaged with the content. I love how the design of the work reinforces the narrative aspect of the piece. I found myself becoming absorbed with the process of regulating the “flow” of text and images until I could create a sensible, narrative “film” of sorts. Every time I thought I found a careful balance, the work would zoom out or zoom in because of a careless twitch. It seems impossible to find peace for more than a few moments–which, I think emphasizes the narrative component of the work. The characters within this story are exploring love and, seemingly, newfound freedom as represented by driving and the ability to “cruise” around town and through life. It’s difficult to find a balance between what is needed and what is wanted. I want to read this work at my usual pace but I need to slow down in order to read the work at all.

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It’s quite frustrating to realize what you want and what you need are not always aligned. (In fact, they may be in direct opposition to each other.) This concept is also interesting to consider in the context of reader vs. author. What the reader wants to interpret may differ greatly from what the author intended. The place of the reader in deciding meaning is not only emphasized in this work but seems to be a core theme. The reader literally must set the pace of the work, through cursor placement, in order to “read” the piece. To me, this seems to pose questions about traditional reading habits and conceptions of reading as well as conceptions of literary and rhetorical analyses. How much of our interpretations are just that–interpretations? Are not all analyses impressions recorded? These questions all seem to be posed by this work.

In addition to the design elements and conceptual components of this piece, I also found that actual text of it to be moving get it????? and quite poetic. I loved the spoken-word aspect paired with the “boppy” music; It really put me in the space of the work and creating this real sense of time and place. Without reading the introduction to the work, I believe readers would still be delivered to the early 2000’s, when cruising around town was hip and fashionable and, ultimately, the way teenagers met each other. It moved that fast and that slow at the same time, if that makes sense.

Overall, I found this work to be engaging in its own way and I thought the design of the work paired with the content in a way we’ve yet to see from the works we have explored. I’m fascinated by how works like this one, and Jason Nelson’s cyclical, slot-machine work This is How You Will Die, make use of an interface that reinforces the overarching themes of the work itself. I feel like digital works and born-digital material is uniquely suited, in this respect. Ankerson and Sapnar’s Crusing is not just a compelling work of Elit but also a literally moving work of poetry that asks readers to not only meditate on but actively participate in the not-so-easy process of finding a balance between what is wanted and what is needed in life.

Sources

-“Cruising” by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar

-Letters That Matter: The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1

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Project Update

So, since our last meeting, I have begun more actively working on creating my Elit piece. I have a pretty involved idea of what kind of work I want to make and what I want it to accomplish so most of my work thus far has revolved around managing expectations and figuring out what I can do with the tools that I have in the time that I have. Thus far, I have found some success using Thinglink. While it does not necessarily provide me with the functionality I’m looking for, it does provide a lot of room to play around with hyperlinks. Also, I can use an image of my own design as the background for the work (without having to entirely code a background). A photo-editing tool I have, also, found that I like is PicMonkey. It’s like Photoshop but simpler and, you know, free.

DG Project Links

Sneak peak shhhh……

For anyone struggling with designing their own work, I would definitely recommend checking out these sources as well as the other sources provided in the shared class doc ^.^

~Till next time~

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*Spoiler* Icarus Doesn’t Die in this One…

Shocking

In Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s Icarus Needs, users get to go on a “hypercomic adventure” as they try to wake up “everyone’s favorite mentally unhinged cartoonist, Icarus Creeps”. The premise of this work is that Icarus fell asleep while playing video games and has somehow ended up in a surreal, cartoon-esque dreamscape ruled by a squirrel king??? Icarus needs to find a way out of this nightmare while rescuing his girlfriend, Kit, and defeating a very squirrely squirrel king. Users play as the main character, Icarus, and can control his movements through the story via the arrow keys. as users move through the game, they encounter minor obstacles they must overcome in order to progress. Often, solving these puzzles involves going backwards in the game to locate some kind of item like a key or some apples or a crown from a locked chest at the bottom of a “royal bath” for which bolt cutters will need to be located. This game is designed to look like a kind of De Stijl comic strip, making use of strong blocks of primary colours as well as simple shapes and lines. Users “jump” from one comic panel to the next using arrow keys. Additionally, Icarus expresses a kind of sardonic, almost nihilistic, wit which imbues this work with a strong sense of so-called “Millennial humor” which could also be classified as a kind of Neo-Dada revival.

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Like come on I could see this as a Twitter post, 3k retweets easy

To be honest, I was not expecting to enjoy this work. Despite my deep appreciation for Elit and new forms of digital content creation, I’m not the biggest fan of “game” works or works that could be classified within the video game genre. It’s not that I don’t believe these kinds of works can tell a compelling story–far from it–but I tend to find that I am, well, bad at them. Video games are not my forte. So, anything that vaguely resembles a video game is usually moved far down on my list.

Anyway, that said, I found myself drawn in by Icarus Needs. Almost immediately, I was intrigued by the premise. (Icarus being trapped in a dream-world brought to mind surrealist interpretations of dreams, automatism, etc. and so connected this work to art from the start.) Also, I found Icarus’ dialogue to be witty, relatable, and so engaging. I loved the running dry commentary and self-awareness (“It’s a long way down” “At least six panels”) of the character.

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I would say most of Icarus’ speech as well as this work’s story line has a strong postmodern, Millennial sensibility to it. There’s this humorous self-awareness of ridiculous circumstances on both Icarus’ and Kit’s parts that I believe plants the work firmly in Millennial territory. Like, I feel younger generations more than older generations would appreciate this work.

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Reminds me of “screaming into the void” posts on popular social media websites like Tumblr, Twitter, etc.

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“Breaking the fourth wall” is another component of this work, in addition to the art style, simple interface design, and text, that I found to be compelling. Not only would Icarus mention the panel bounds of the work, there were also ample mentions/references to flying and falling which seem to reference the myth of Icarus.

Icarus No

These references to the myth, within the context of this work, I would classify as a kind of “breaking of the IRL fourth wall”. It’s an element that is asking readers to step outside of the context of one story and recall the contents of another story. It’s interesting, also, that the whole premise of this work is based around Icarus falling asleep under inconvenient circumstances.

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What really makes this work Neo-Dada-esque for me, though, is the ending. The work just kind of nonchalantly ends with Kit finding Icarus knocked out on the couch and waking him up. It’s one of those “it was all a dream” endings, leaving users to wonder about the nonsensical journey they just went on. I feel like users are left wondering, “Well, what was the point?”

But, that is the point–there is no point.

Traditional Dada an its following iterations can be viewed as a kind of celebration of absurdity, of nonsense, and of pointlessness. The meaning is that there is no meaning. I think Icarus Needs plays off of this sensibility and, really, makes a game out of it. In this way, this work subverts traditional gaming narratives. There are no high-scores or rewards and there is no closure. Yet, I find this work, as a game, is still entertaining and engaging for users. This is accomplished through design and dialogue and, I believe, riffing off of Millennial humor and sense. But, that’s just my opinion.

What do you think????

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~Find me #suffering on the Twitter till next time~

Putting the Pieces Together…???

“Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE.” ~ Tristan Tzara

Uncovering the Story

The story I want to tell is one I’ve been assembling the pieces of for a while now. Ever since my first interactions with ELit, specifically with works by Jason Nelson, Juliet Davis, and Porpentine, I feel like there has been this story developing. Between then and now, that tale has existed in a kind of in medias res state, waiting to be fully realized.

In my latest post in my suffering saga on my thesis blog, I went into detail about the design of the kind of ELit work I would like to make. Mainly, I want readers to be able to explore the complexity, mutability, and often contradictory nature of self-representation and aesthetic presentation in this contemporary digital hellscape landscape we all call “home”. It’s a subject I’ve been fascinated by for many years now, even before my introduction to ELit. I want my work to allow viewers to explore these issues through a Neo-Dada-esque lens, as well, which is how I have been able to make and find new meaning to life (experience) and art (expression) myself. I think it’s an interesting approach that has only been tentatively explored thus far. (Here’s an interesting article exploring memes as a kind of Neo-Dadaism! This is a topic I have explored on my own blog as well if you’d like to check it out!)

Anyway, these ideas have culminated into a project I call the Degenerate’s Gallery. This title is inspired by both Degenerate Art and the Rogues Gallery.  Essentially, I want this work to showcase new forms of digital content creation, like memes, as pieces of a new kind of self-representation that is representative, really, of a kind of re-emergence of traditional Dada ideals like nihilism, absurdism, and self-abnegation. Digital artifacts like memes and tweets seem to be engaging in a kind of revival of these traditional Dada ideals and, more than that, seem to speak to a new kind of self-image/identification that is self-deprecating but also a celebration of deprecation and of rejection of self and of reality (if that makes sense).

I imagine this project would manifest as a kind of drag-and-drop interface. The main screen would consist of a silhouette of a person’s head and shoulders, whose face and visible body are covered in a collection of artifacts such as memes and tweets but also Dada manifestos and pictures of traditional art pieces such as Duchamp’s lovely “Fountain“, which challenged the art world when it was first unveiled. Users will have to “drag” these artifacts from the silhouette in order to uncover significance (in a kind of purposeful reverse of Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself).

*Some of the digital artifacts I might include*

Dragging an artifact to a new place on the screen will cause a bubble of information about the artifact to appear. As users drag artifacts across the screen, they will engage in a kind of neo-collage, creating their own patterns of information. Through dragging artifacts across the screen, users will also be engaging in a kind of self-uncovering/ recovery as removing images from the silhouette will reveal an image beneath, where the face should be. This image will be composed of many increasingly smaller silhouettes, reflecting in fractals ad infinitum. (Imagine a fair’s fun-house mirror attraction mixed with Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirror Room“)

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Infinity Mirror Room

This underlying image is meant to be symbolic of the multiplicity of identity, especially in the digital age in which identity can be so easily manipulated and vary so vastly. The drag-and-drop interface along with the element of collage is meant to convey the mutability of self and of the self in art. Above all, I want users to understand that we are all of us works of art, degenerate, in-progress, slap-and-dash, or otherwise~

By the way, I finally dug out the charcoal and good ol’ sketch pad and drew my vision for my work:

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Honestly, this work is everything I didn’t even know I wanted it to be. Before putting charcoal to textured paper, I did not even know how scary silhouettes in places of eyes could be >.> Also, I discovered that I did still want to incorporate a kind of visual connection to bricollage and ideas of brokenness (disconnectedness) vs. mosaic (creation from destruction, assemblage of a new whole) via the “cracks” creeping across the screen.

I worry the aesthetic of this work may be a little scary but I also feel like this kind of aesthetic is “on brand” for me and is, essentially, a signature. This style is what distinguishes my approach and my work from that of others. I really want to see if I can incorporate some of my own drawings into my project, kind of like Stevan Zivadinovic did for Hobo Lobo.

Also, I want to recolor this design, perhaps re-draw it on black charcoal paper with white charcoal. I created a recolor in Google Docs that illustrates the effect I am going for:

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I want to draw this out for myself to see the effect IRL before I decide to rely on photo manipulation software.

To provide additional context to readers, I also chose to include a quote by notable Dada writer Tristan Tzara. The quote is provided at the start of this post. I believe it provides some framing in the same way that a poignant quote across the top of the screen provided framing and an additional layer of meaning to Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky and Jason Nelson’s This is how you will die.

All in all, I think I have a fairly developed and “fleshed out” concept for my work. I think it’s a meaningful concept, as well, and one that is trans-formative and imaginative. I’m not sure how I would go about creating this work but, currently, I am in the process of experimenting with different programs. Hopefully, I will come across a program I can work with!

Please, let me know if you have any suggestions! And, please, let me know your thoughts! I’m quite curious about what others think of my proposed topic!

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~Till next time~

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