By Joseph Gunulfsen
Electronic Literature is a new and unique way of experiencing literature, and in many of the pieces the viewer is forced to interact with what the artist has offered. Some of the pieces may seem absolutely foolish to some, while others are able to gain or acknowledge a greater significance. There is also a level of manipulation on the author’s part to the viewer in some of the pieces offered in the ELC or in other e-lit collections such as Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries Presents. Certain pieces like “Dakota” require that the reader actually views the piece until there has been some sort of understanding, due to the speed at which the words slam onto the screen before disappearing. It may take someone four or even views before he or she is able to truly feel that an understanding of the story has been obtained. In a piece such as “Wotclock”, technically one could stare at the slowly rotating camera all day and night. I personally would have no interest in doing so. The point however is that in many of the e-lit pieces, many of the literary rules by which we have played since childhood must be set aside. (more…)
By Joseph Gunulfsen
“In the White Darkness” by Reiner Strasser and M.D. Coverly is an interactive piece consisting of different words, images and sounds that appear and reappear on the screen. There are about twenty dots that sort of throb like pulsating hearts. When each dot is manipulated, a certain sound, image, or phrase is triggered. It may be the sound of the jungle, or a picture of the desert. It may a picture of a canal accompanied by the phrase “déjà vu?” The visual and audio stimulations can coincide. There are also roughly 30 dots that do not throb like the others; they are just there, seemingly dead. There is a dot on the bottom, right corner of the screen that when clicked on offers a map of the throbbing dots, connecting one to another. Some of them are actually part of a chain of three, and all of the lines that connect the dots are arc shaped. There is also a dot on the bottom, left corner that when clicked on causes the phrase “Just a whisper, at least, of the persistence of this memory, this forgetfulness” to appear . (more…)
By Joseph Gunulfsen
Jim Andrews’ “Nio” is a kinetic, interactive audio visual piece, consisting of two different verses in which Andrews invites the viewer or experimenter to utilize 16 different melodies, each represented by a corresponding visual icon. In the first verse, the icons form a perfect circle around what becomes the stage of the visual counterparts. The melodies can be started or stopped at will, and as many as six can be played simultaneously as desired. Also, the sounds are automatically synchronized which eliminates timing difficulties. The starting of each melody triggers its own visual correspondent which dances to the rhythmic sound toward the centre of the screen.
In verse two, the icons can be strategically or creatively arranged in any of the four provided loops. Each of the four loops is limited to only four different icons, but unlike verse one, the sound level of each component or melody within the same loop can be altered, enabling the experimenter to create different effects. For example, if the experimenter wishes to have the high-pitched, whiny sounds overpower the more deeply pitched sounds, he can adjust the levels of volume accordingly. And just as in verse one, the visual pieces are produced by activating the icons.
First of all, I must say that I was intrigued by this piece. Each melody or sound is an actual product of the artist’s own vocal cords. Andrews’ decision to cover the entire audio portion with his own voice helps to create a very original piece. The possibility of the viewer to conduct an orchestra while using the designated melodies of the artist was unlike anything I’ve seen before, other than maybe the Choose Your Own Adventure novels. “Nio” however is much more complex, offering countless varieties and combinations.
I checked out some other interactive works and came across an interesting piece titled “Neonlight”, by Macoto Yanagisawa. I found that although I was quite fascinated, especially with the correspondence or chemistry between the audio and visual aspects, it lacked both the complexity and originality that is offered in “Nio”. In “Neonlight”, with each click of the mouse I was taken to the next stage, whereas in “Nio” there are no stages. There is a beginning but no end; thus, the piece is unfinished.
As Andrews, the interactive video artist explains, “unfinished works constitute a subset of interactive works” and that the problem with using the term “interactive” is that it “refers to a large assortment of types of digital work”. Clearly, the artist would prefer not to be categorized under such a broad term, but rather have his work seen and analysed on a more individual level. Personally, I don’t blame him for feeling that way. “Nio” was well done and more importantly was extremely creative. As far as I am concerned, the piece qualifies as being a form of literature. After all, the components of the work were created by the artist, and each of the melodies has a special value or significance to the artist. This notion however is certainly debatable.
By Joseph Gunulfsen
Certainly, everyone reads for different reasons or motives. Some use reading as a form of procrastination, while others procrastinate and avoid the dreadful chore by all means possible. While reading is a drag for some and an escape for others, I feel it has much to offer us all. It allows us to see and attempt to understand the perspectives of others and think more flexibly. At the same time, it strengthens our ever growing vocabulary which, in turn, provides us with a more precise way of expressing ourselves. I often fail to arrive at the exact word for which I am searching. In a moment such as this, I think to myself that if I read more regularly I would not draw as many blanks while looking for the most appropriate word.