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The Labyrinth Project is an art collective and research initiative on interactive cinema and database narrative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication. Under the direction of cultural theorist Marsha Kinder since 1997, this initiative works at the pressure point between theory and practice. After hosting “Interactive Frictions,” a groundbreaking international conference and exhibition at USC in 1999, Kinder decided to focus on producing interactive narratives and installations in collaboration with visual artists and writers known for their experimentation with nonlinear forms. She assembled a group of talented digital artists --headed by Rosemary Comella, Kristy H.A. Kang, Scott Mahoy and associate producer and curator JoAnn Hanley--to oversee these productions. These collaborations also involve the participation of talented students from several divisions within USC’s School of Cinema-Television--animation, critical studies, interactive media, and production. No matter whether our primary collaborator is a filmmaker or writer, we choose to make our projects cinematic. For, Labyrinth is committed to creating a productive dialogue between the immersive language of cinema and the interactive potential and database structures of digital media.

Norman M. Klein is a professor at the California Institute of the Arts and author of The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory, and Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon. He is completing his next book The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects. His exhibition “Scripted Spaces: The Chase and the Labyrinth” was shown at the Witte de Witt Museum, Rotterdam, and the Kunstlerhaus, Stuttgart. A cultural critic and novelist, he has published dozens of essays on media, urban culture, animation, architecture and globalization.

Rosemary Comella has been working since 1999 as an interface designer, programmer and project director at The Labyrinth Project, Annenberg Center for Communication, University of Southern California. Before coming to the Annenberg Center she worked internationally on numerous collaborative digital arts projects ranging from interactive installations and CD-ROMs to social research and cultural projects.

Andreas Kratky studied visual communication, fine arts and philosophy in Berlin and Paris. He has been involved as a media designer and artist in a series of artistic or commercial projects such as the award winning DVD That’s Kyogen, or the “Web of Life” project jointly carried out by the ZKM and the Aventis Foundation. His art projects include Postkarten fur die Haupstadt (Berlin, 1996), Berliner – Tonale Portrats (Berlin, 1998) and mondophrenetic (Brussels, 2000). He is currently working at the ZKM – Institute for Visual Media and at the University of Karlsruhe.

Article (SF Gate, 18 sept 2003)

Texte en anglais

Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, 1920-1986 is an interactive narrative that combines a database detective story with a digital city symphony and a metanarrative reflection on storytelling in this new medium. Set in a three-mile radius near downtown Los Angeles, this DVD-ROM explores Boyle Heights, Bunker Hill, Chavez Ravine, Chinatown, Echo Park, Little Tokyo and other contested locations that helped shape the city’s cultural history. These ethnically complex neighborhoods are documented through archival photographs and films and through contemporary images that either reproduce or evoke them. This DVD- ROM is accompanied by a book, which contains a novella by cultural historian Norman M. Klein and essays on the production by Jeffrey Shaw, Marsha Kinder, Rosemary Comella and Andreas Kratky.

The interface enables the narrative to be navigated in three ways. Positioned within a small window, author Norman Klein tells the story of Molly, the fictional protagonist of his novella who is based on a real life person and who may have murdered one of her husbands. He invites us to collaborate with him in writing this fictional life. Or we can explore what Molly never noticed—the back stories of real life people whose mini-memoirs preserve histories that otherwise might have been lost. And finally, the project leads us to reflect on this act of database storytelling and its cultural implications, particularly when set within L.A.’s urban dream factory. The contrast between past and present is most dramatic and uncanny in the back stories, where one can slide fluidly between “bleed-throughs”—old and new photographs of the same cityscape taken from precisely the same angle—which enable us to make buildings instantaneously emerge or vanish.

Drawing on hundreds of photographs, newspaper clippings and films from the archives of USC, the Los Angeles Public Library and the Automobile Club of Southern California with additional material from personal collections, “Bleeding Through” helps us refigure our vision of Los Angeles, particularly if it has been based primarily on representations from Hollywood mainstream movies.

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