Because I Am (Still) Alive

“One way or another, the dream will come. Fight.”

(*I recommend checking out my first post on this work before delving into this one~)

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Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive is a dark, twisted, and fantastical Twine game that invites readers to become participants in the act of experiential inscription by asking readers to draw sigils on themselves as they work through the piece.  These sigils are meant to represent experiences typically invisible or intangible or hidden like “new beginnings” or “pain you can’t show” or “shame that taught the ocean everything it knows”. Of the work and its design, Porpentine states, “After playing, the reader has a tangible record of their own choices and identity beliefs in the drawings on one’s skin.”  These physical acts of personal and social inscription paired with the work’s re-imagining of abuse, loss, and trauma is meant to provide readers with new insight into the complex and often complicated and conflicting mechanics behind both. More, readers are able to make these experiences their own and engage in a kind of self-reclamation and renewal through in-scripting their lived experiences themselves on their person. In many ways, this work seems to encourage and be designed to help readers navigate the recursive nature of abuse and trauma and realize it is not something to overcome and defeat so much as cope with and manage day-by-day (a very difficult lesson to learn through any other way than experience).

 

This work, like Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself, affected me deeply and personally. I found the recursive/looping interface Twine affords to provide an apt representation of the cyclical nature of trauma and abuse. It never really ends so much as loops back on itself, moving from good to bad and back again. Balance is found within making peace with the loop and learning to navigate those forward and backwards motions (“Every day is damage”). Moving forward can mean going backwards (returning to your “chambers” every night or checking on the “statues in the garden”, peeking through the telescope on the balcony to the “wastes”) and vice-versa because progress has no set direction. Progress is a process.

 

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Narratively and word-choice-wise, I found this work also to be dead-on. Throughout the piece, our narrator (who is also you as indicated by the use of the second-person POV–“you make a diadem out of heretic bone and fleshsilk”, “you drag the glass across your skin”, “you no longer dream”, you receive a letter from the people “whose blood is your blood”, etc.) mentions losing the ability to dream as well as mentions seeing dead people wherever they go. “A dead person stares at you from beneath the lake.” “A dead person stares at you from the trees”, “a dead person stares at you from behind the hamper.” This loss of dreams seems to communicate the lasting trauma of abuse on the subconscious while seeing dead people everywhere seems meant to illustrate how trauma and abuse colour how you see the world. It’s a kind of living death, every memory another murder. You cannot forget but you also cannot move forward unless you forget. The evil, larval queen is representative of the power an abuser has over the abused, even long after the experience. That power never fades, merely manifests in different ways, requiring different things from you along the way. Accomplishing those things brings “little pride”.

When our friend, Sedina, appears, so does hope, though. Sedina’s presence seems to represent the importance of having a way to discuss or illustrate or otherwise work through/have an outlet for your trauma. There is no escape without that. Also, though, there is no escape without reclamation and reconciliation. “i’msorryforeverything”–It’s important to apologize to yourself, to be able to forgive yourself, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. You need to be able to own what happened to you in order to learn how to live through it. While “there are many ways to destroy someone”, it is important to learn that “power is wounded by anything that refuses to be destroyed by it”. Experiencing trauma, being abused–it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. The only way to beat it, though, is to live through it.

 

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Perhaps, again, I am imposing too much of my own lived experience on a work. But, given the invitation of this work to write how I feel all over my skin, I would say my reaction to its content is not only welcome but desired. By drawing my experience of this work out on my skin, I am connecting the content directly to myself. “What they did to me on the outside, they did to you on the inside”–this story is not mean to occur purely within a screen. At least half of it must occur inside of me. On me. I become a canvas, the art a record of my navigation through this piece, yes, but also a record of everything I have survived.

 

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Overall, I find the design and content of Porpentine’s work to create a compelling narrative and illustration of how trauma and abuse are cyclical experiences that can have lasting and haunting effects. Through this work, we can gain new insight into our own traumas as well as insight into the varied nature of trauma itself. We can understand that we have been traumatized and still hurt and long for the people we trusted and who betrayed that trust. We can understand holding onto letters from those who have hurt us because we used to love them. We can understand that trauma is like being a “chasm person”, separated from everyone, a feeling of being bottomless and empty, of being good for nothing better than swallowing everything you come in contact with. Hope can feel like a shameful thing, when you exist as a chasm. With Those You Love Alive captures all of this nuance and asks you to remember it as an experience–so you won’t forget it. So you won’t forget you lived through it.

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I know I won’t forget.

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~Till next time~

References

“With Those We Love Alive” – ELMCIP

“Between Screen and Skin: “Touchy” Subjects, Precarious Identities, and Electronic Literature as Haptic Media” – ELMCIP

Fun Fact

*For this piece, too, I wrote another post about it a while back. This post goes a lot more in-depth about the narrative aspects of the work and its symbolism. At the time, I was working on a project meant to explore the cyclical nature of abuse and so I was very taken with this work. Really, this post is an in-depth look at this piece. I could go on and on about everything I loved about this work and what it represents. Like, reading it was a turning point in my life. I still think about aspects of this work from time to time in my on life. It left a lasting impression on me and I highly recommend reading my other post on it. This post is more of a continuation to my first.

*I also wrote a prior post on this week’s other work we’re reviewing High Muck A Muck if you’d like to check it out. That’s another very profound and compelling work that explores the complexity of navigating a multi-faceted identity in our increasingly global community.

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Shedding Silence

So, my laptop managed to make a miraculous recovery. *killjoys make some noise~* She’s a real trooper.

Anyway, that means I finally got around to playing with sound. And, to being frustrated by it.

That said, I didn’t really feel a strong pull towards any of the not-to-do-list prompts. I did really like reading one of my works aloud in class this past week, though. So, I decided to run with that and record myself–again–reading my story. Only, this time, with some added sound effects to set the mood. Create an atmosphere.

It was not easy.

Audacity seems like a simple, user-friendly interface until you start piling on the different sounds and then it get complicated. (see, uncooperative) Adding a sound here or there moves everything else out-of-place. And, cutting something is a very, shall we say, hellish delicate process. Always, always listen a few dozen times after every little change to ensure you’ve done what you intended is all I want have to say. Always.

Without further ado, why don’t you take a little listen to the fruits of Shadow Girl’s many frustrations~

(Can you guess what I props I used to make the sound effect? Yes? No? Maybe? All will be revealed in this week’s reflection~)

This is the same story I read in class and, to be honest, it’s a favourite I’ve written so far.

In class, I talked a little about the inspiration behind a lot of my work. But, because I was kind of nervous speaking in front of everyone, I only discussed one aspect of my work–that I like writing girls who are as cruel as their world has been to them. More, I enjoy writing stories about female characters who’s motivations are not responses to a patriarchal influence. My girls are violent or disturbed/disturbing in and of themselves.

But, there is more to it than that.

For many years, when I was young, I was silent. Silenced by some unspeakable things that happened to me. It was very hard for me to speak because I didn’t feel like I had a voice of my own. More, I didn’t feel like my voice was mine. It belonged to someone else who preferred my mouth shut.

It’s taken many years and lots of intervention for me to realize my own preferences. For me to speak as I please. Still, though, I struggle to do that–speak at all. Break the silence. It’s not easy to exercise something you didn’t believe you had the right to for a long time. Often, I worry I come across as disengaged or uninterested, maybe unimpressed, when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In my writing, I think my feelings obvious. On the page is where I began to rediscover my voice so I think it makes sense that it is where you can hear me clearest. But, I wish I could find my voice just as well beyond the edges of the page.

That’s another reason why I don’t like to speak aloud–I don’t sound the way I do in my writing and I so desperately want to. Hearing the difference between what I’ve written and how I voice it frustrates me. It sounds like a disservice. Sounds disappointing.

In class, though, it was an unexpected surprise to hear that people liked how I read my work. Apparently, my soft tone paired with my “brutal” words created a discordant, eerie harmony that actually worked really well. Which, is something I never really considered–that my gentle from disuse, honestly voice could add another, meaningful layer to my writing.

Forgive the long preface but that other aspect of my work I didn’t mention in class is that most of it is an exploration of trauma and how it informs one’s future interaction as well as its, overall, lasting impact/effect on one’s life. It’s a focus of both my written and metals work. Specifically, when it comes to my metalwork and jewelry-making, I like to create wings–in case you haven’t noticed.

(Really, in case you haven’t)

To me, making these symbols of freedom out of a fixed medium transforms them into a profound statement. Emblems of what could be or could have been but isn’t or wasn’t.

They become almost escapes.

It’s an inherent contradiction I hope I can continue to finesse in my art.

Getting back to the writing, though, I think that discordant harmony I was made aware of fits in appropriately with my overarching theme–something I would never have known if I hadn’t spoken up.

Silence is such a hard adversary to conquer. Especially when doing so feels like a betrayal. I mean, silence is an old friend. The oldest of mine, even. An integral part of me. And yet, it’s not. It’s a companion I didn’t choose for myself. Still, though, they’ve always been there. Like a crutch. Like a friend.

Our relationship is one of attrition.

Living with trauma is attrition–a back-and-forth tug-of-war with yourself. No matter on which side ground is lost, you feel like you are playing a losing game. It’s, like I said, contradictory a lot of the time.

It’s calm, too, sometimes. Inside. When it’s stalemate. Usually, deadlock occurs when I’m writing or in the metals studio.

Writing and creating from that silence is revenge. It is opening a mouth that was preferred shut. It is telling a story I was supposed to keep secret. It is traitorous. It is truth.

If a lot of my work seems coarse or vengeful that’s because it is. It is my vengeance. These girls I write in these vicious worlds are meant to articulate the sorrow and rage trauma sows in the heart it broke. That most of these stories end on the crux of closure or with a tinge of something at best bittersweet/disappointing is not a mistake. It is for your contemplation.

Anyway, personal introspection/rambling aside, I imagine incorporating readings of some of these short works in some digital storytelling format with my metal projects. I think telling my stories with my own intonation and in my own voice is necessary for meaningful communication. After all, it is what my body of work sounds like to me. Me. It sound like me.

Something else I’ve also discovered since reading my work aloud is how similar my vengeance sounds like confession–like honesty starving for listeners. Hungry to be heard almost as much as it is ravenous for revenge.

When it comes to confession, I know, it’s best to be all-in. To be unapologetic. To be brave. I want to be.

If nothing else is heard, I hope that is.

****

~Extras~

Speaking of listening, I’ve recently been introduced to a great podcast.

My Favorite Murder  is all about these two freakin’ awesome chicks discussing, you guessed it, murder–a decidedly morbid interest/fascination of my own. My friend @libraryguy introduced me to this delightful show as one of their entries in our own little March Madness competition. We dubbed it #marchmacabreness/#marchmorbidness and, since we’re both connoisseurs of the creepy, horrific, and otherwise disturbing, the object of it is to see who can freak out the other more each week with some deep, dark internet find/fave. Well, at least, that was the object. It’s kind of turned into us just sharing freaky sh*t with each other back and forth. 

That’s beside the point though.

Check out the podcast! It’s not so much about employing sound itself to tell story, I’ll admit, but the way the hosts structure their conversations and use tone to convey different feelings is worth appreciating. And, the content is killer. It’s to my tastes, at the very least, so take that for what you will…. 😉

***Got that featured image up! A recent, horror-esque drawing of my hand in charcoal ^.^***

Shadow Girl signing off!