Last Thursday (2-27-14), We were treated with “Readings of Interactive and New Media work by Members of the Electronic Literature Organization.” Pictured above from left to right: Stephanie Strickland, Ian Hatcher, Samantha Gorman, Alexander Mouton, Dene Grigar and Brian Kim Stefans. Six wonderful artists with different perspectives. Most of whom just spent the whole day at the AWP conference at the Washington State Convention Center downtown. For more info: Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
1) Brian Kim Stefans– his work lives at arras.net.
Brian showed an algorithmic poem/painting that looked like (see below). The hand-drawn typeface oscilated between legibility and not, animated through ActionScript. There was no coordination between sound and text, yet there was a great dynamic between them. A great selection of music, going with Leo Ornstein – Suicide in an Airplane (a theme needing exploring in a post-modern context), a song composed in 1919, when silent films reigned and music had a sense of drama that didn’t need lining up with the visuals for it to be effective.
2) Samantha Gorman (click the name for her portfolio site)
She read from her latest work Pry which is a collaboration with her husband where they converted the Pry, e-book into an “iPad-based reading experience in the form of a book to watch and a film to touch.” This was a piece that used Objective-C and ActionScript. At any point, Samantha could touch the iPad to trigger the main chacter’s eyes to open and convert the text into a POV video, where sounds and text burst and add a unique texture to the media experience. (Coming to iPad April 2014).
She also read a poem (from the iPad as well) consisting of a scrolling plane of obsessive thought that progressed as you interacted with it, the story jumping into strange new dimensions, the text rolling by so fast that it becomes a performance piece, deciding what to read and when and where to pursue text, it seemed like it could be different every time.
3) Alexander Moutnon– work lives at UnseenProductions.
Alexander showed The Swinging of Weights, which is a video (at the moment) combining found text and his own imagery. The letters spilled out jagged and slow, giving the view3er to appreciate each word spelled with a font that used upper and lowercase haphazardly. (See image below) He was inspired by time. His work played with the sense of it, using photography that conveyed motion and movies that were converted to images. There were moments of laughter created by his unique soundtrack that began to tickle our expectations right at this frame with the conveyor belt sushi. The squeak took on a voice we didn’t expect.
Creators are going through an interesting transition right now as we move into mobile technology. A medium is dying. Flash which had a flourishing era in the Oughts (2000s) have been undercut by iPads and smart phones unable to support…
“Adobe was unable to provide a product that was suitable to the needs of battery powered mobile devices used for Internet browsing.” via why is there no flash player on ipad: Apple Support Communities.
Alexander is a coder without a language. His prototype is a video, but he is looking for something interactive and impemersive. Perhaps, learning ActionScript will be his next adventure.
4) Stephanie Strickland (click the name for her portfolio site)
Her creative origins in print poetry, she’s currently using technology to bolster her poems in a way that there’s no analog equivalent. Working with Ian Hatcher (See next artist!), V : WaveTercets / Losing L’una (SpringGun Press) analogizes the Ice Age versus the Digital Age. The iPad app uses fictional constellations to arrange the tercets in a combinatorial style that can be told in different modes: draw your own constellation and Oracle.
A question was posed to her: “Is randomness your friend?” She says “randomness is where you start.” It’s about composing resonant text that is not repetitive.
5) Ian Hatcher (ian hatcher ++)
Ian started his section by first reading a poem dedicated to Stephanie Strickland. “Not Not” is the title of the poem. Can be found in CLOCK 4 : O’Clock Press. 12 usd is worth it for the poem in my view. It was very dynamic and thoughtful. I can’t imagine what else might be in that chapbook. Wondrous things. He used a melodic, yet robotic voice like Hal or GLaDOS from Portal, yet it was his own distinct calm rhythm and careful announciation, deliberate when it would fade out. “True, False, False, False, True…” A recording of it might do it justice, but that was a full eight minutes where everyone was rapt, looking at this young man in plaid shirt and a knit cap who was scrolling through the poem on his mac laptop. He showed us a bit of what the poem looked like. Code-ish with strings of numbers he didn’t want to include in the reading, but a great bit of visual noise that most coders have come to accept in their line of work as they search for the key words.
He read another poem (gee, it happened so fast, I couldn’t get the name of the poem) where the text spliced into short phrases was animated via a set of probability algorithms where the array is flipped. The short phrases bounced up and down, sometimes five lines at a time. A stanza where the order of things oscillated before our eyes. The text going by so fast that to read it out loud, he made some decisions of what was important to say.
6) Dene Grigar Media Artist & scholar //////////////////
Music composer, painter and media artist. Dene Grigar, as well as being an excellent MC, showed us how to read a poem in the tradition of the Greeks, Homer and the like, but with a modern twist: using technology to add images and sound. Dene loves her “The MOVE Lab,” with its motion-tracking technology and robust multimedia capabilities, but wants something portable. Her latest solution to the portability problem is Kinect. She called her performance at Ada’s, proof of concept. It will be a while yet before she has mastered this new method/device, but she demonstrated how she can control a slidedeck by moving from side to side, the sounds controlled by moving her hand up and down. Her poem recited: Dene Grigar’s Fallow Field: A Story in Two Parts. It is from the point of view of many women in the Gulf Coast region.
A question posed to her regarding her process: Do you choose the technology before you write? She answered: “I don’t write for print.” When new technology comes along, she is relieved and excited, she exclaims “Something has been born to substantiate that piece!”
An audience member: “Something inside me kind of smiled,” she said reflecting on the experience, thinking of the connection between this kind of experimental literature and the Oulipo movement and the intersection of technology, how there was an element of unknowability with technology, aspects of it always remaining a mystery despite using it as a tool for art. She asked “What is your relationship with constraints in your art?”
Stephanie Strickland talked about the similarities between mathematics and language. “What are the parameters? If there were no contraints, you couldn’t write.” She said that her work was a little different than the works that came out of Oulipo, in the sense that she cares about the results of her writing, that it is not just a process.
Dene Grigar said “we all inherit traditional restraints.” She mused about her painter mother, whose paintings were often the same, but on different materials, therefore different and saying something about the power of the choice of substrate. Dene emphasized that a mastery of the tools is important “and some serendipity, too… The tools change underneath you so fast. You have to be improvisational.
Ian Hatcher addressed the “knowability about technology” part of the audience members’ musings saying that there are underling layers of technics, “papered over.” There’s a black box element, where you don’t know what’s going on or you have little control, he mentioned as an example, “NSA copying.” Technology requires you to think about the layers and within the layers.
An audience member asked a question about emotional goals. Some of the pieces are narrative and others invite the audience to control their experience.
Samantha Gorman talked about the illusion of control and how she built in climates. It’s your role as an author to create evocative moments.
Stephanie Strickland noted that there is a back and forth to it. Here’s to the importance of looking at a lot of electronic literature! Here are some links to help you think about how electronic literature has so much variety and plays with interactivity in different ways. Go to Electronic Literature Collection. and Electronic Literature Organization.
An audience member asked about the origins of the artists, where did they get their start in E-lit?
Stephanie Strickland’s father invented a check reading system, so early on, she was influenced by technology. Her focus was more towards literature and science, , she thought there was more to electronic literature than hypertext fiction. She explored using poetry and ToolBook.
Dene Grigar approached E-lit through graphic design and then got a PhD. She used Storyspace which was the preweb toool but she needed to incorporate sound. She moved on to use went on to use Flash and C.
Alexander Mouton studied literature, film and photography in school, but kept getting the critique that his photography should be movies. He strides confidently into digital design with the exchange between different media and exploring where their boundaries are, separating one from another, or starting to find technology that unites them.
The younger of the artists, Samantha Gorman and Ian Hatcher went to school for this kind of experimental creation and had mentors help them explore the space.