AGENCE TOPOS ART CD-ROM SHOWCASE,
Libraries and classrooms can only benefit
In the Showcases current selection, several trends and common themes are evident. A number of works, for example, cleverly revisit literary genres. In the poetry category, Haijin (zero_degré, Canada, 2000) opens a window onto Japanese haiku with an interface inspired by one of its major themes, fruit falling from a tree. Poetry takes on diary form and joins up with video in Mordre/Parenthèse (Yannick B. Gélinas, Canada, 2000); it becomes oral and sound creation in Shock in the ear (Norie Neumark, Australia, 1998) and is expressed as sacred and incantatory songs in La cathédrale aveugle (Ollivier Dyens, Canada, 2001).
Liquidation (Michel Lefebvre and Eva Quintas, Canada, 2001) plays with the narrative intertwining of police novel and photo-novel by allowing random access to fragments of the story. In Pause (François Coulon, France, 2002), the influence of comic books is palpable, as is that of mythological tales in Voyage avec lange (Tamara Laï, Belgium, 1999) and Scrutiny in the Great Round (Jim Gasperini, United States, 1995). Narrative is set in exotic lands and takes us across an imaginary Mongolia in La Suite Mongole (D. Kimm, Canada, 2001), while Mauve désert (Adriene Jenick, Canada/United States, 1997) and Quatre saisons picaresques (Camille Lavoie, Canada, 2002) unfold along the lines of the travel diary and road movie. The interactive fictions from The Labyrinth Project, Bleeding Through and Tracing the Decay of Fiction (Rosemary Comella and cie, United States, 2003, 2002) explore various layers and textures of Los Angeles.
Tom Drahos draws on 19th-century European literary masterworks to construct seven CD-ROMs that create worlds full of references functioning on multiple levels (Illuninations, Albertine off-line,
Journal de l'année de la peste, Opium, Chateaubriand.com, Les fleurs du mal, Kafka, France, 1999-2002).
Several works take advantage of the archival function of the CD-ROM to create interactive journeys through memory. The 360° panoramic visit serves as a key to unlock worlds in Beyond (Zoe Beloff, United States, 1997), a work that explores the birth of image technologies at the turn of the last century through ghostly images inscribed on the walls of an abandoned asylum. This work, which according to Steven Tomasula is too theoretical to be a film and too visual to be an essay, becomes on CD-ROM a work of memory and reflection on a fascinating period in history (1850-1940). Of Shifting Shadows (Gita Hashemi, Canada, 2000) combines fiction and documentary to convey the memory and history of three women who lived through the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
Several titles make creative use of the techniques of collage and appropriation. A is for Apple (David Clark, Canada, 2002) explores the cryptography of the apple through a vast web of references from both popular culture and psychoanalytic theory. The theme of food and socialization around meals is the point of departure of As American as Apple Pie and Cocktails & Appetizers (Michelle Citron, 1999, 2001). Illuminations: A Book of Letters (Barbara Sternberg, Canada, 2002) draws from the style of illuminated manuscripts and alphabet books to offer a multimedia reflection on science, religion and art.
Traces et contrastes (Joseph Lefèvre, Canada, 1995) is a visual creation around a symbolic itinerary designed like a subway map, while Act as a Free Person (Alain Brunet and Christophe Martin, France, 2000) invites users to navigate freely through eclectic images.
Humour mixed with social comment is present in several of the Showcase works, such as The Worst of Connanski (Loïc Connanski, France, 1998), a humorous collection of short video vignettes that takes advantage of the multimedia format to increase its impact. The relation to the body and body image is addressed in poetic form in Histoire de la femme aux grosses mains (Véronique Hubert, France, 2001), and from a feminist perspective in In my Gash and Cyberflesh Girlmonster (Linda Dement, Australia, 1999, 1995) as well as in Voxelations (Steven McCarthy, United States, 2000).
NEW NARRATIVE FORMS
Several theorists anticipated this arborescent structure in network form, interwoven with links, intersubjective, hybrid, fragmented. Michel Foucault identified it in Larchéologie du savoir (1969), noting that the limits of a book can never be clearly defined because the book forms part of a network: [the book] is caught in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences; [it is] a node in a network. Others, like Gilles Deleuze, imagined a less linear text, closer to thought, composed of coexisting plateaus. Roland Barthes was concerned with intersubjectivity, the intertwining of the roles of author and reader. Without claiming to fulfil these theoretical visions, interactive work opens a space where these issues can be explored in concrete fashion.
Theodor H. Nelson, who, in the 1960s, following Vannevar Bush, laid the foundations of what would become hypertext, described it in this manner: non-sequential writing, a text that opens up and gives choices to the reader and is best read on an interactive screen. It goes without saying that such a system has a considerable impact on the role of the author, who becomes scriptwriter, architect, and stage manager, developing structures that allow the reader a certain freedom.
GETTING LOST, FINDING YOUR WAY: THE PLEASURE OF BROWSING
Spatial allegories are particularly effective ways to encourage such browsing, for they combine developments in the story with recognizable geographical or physical reference points (wandering through a city or territory, exploring a house, getting lost in a maze, etc.). In fact, any type of network (family tree, geographical arrangement, road network, etc.) can serve to structure a work and the spatialization of the narrative. Literary genres also help users find their way around, with their established and better known codes. Often, its the work itself that generates its own internal network with little or no relation to existing models, developing its own narrative structure and way of advancing through the text. In multimedia, these structures are the product of a rearrangement of spatio-temporal relations in an intimate virtual experience (Anna Munster, 2001).
CREATING FOR MULTIMEDIA
The artist must not only consider the linear development of a text, but also its staging the stage being replaced here by the screen and the virtual space that extends within it taking care to provide a multisensorial spectacle in which a variety of elements will be deployed in a scenario that encourages the audience to become immersed in the spectacle, or, in this case, the multimedia work. Indeed, such works tend to take on the attributes of spectacle through the use of some of the technical effects at their disposal (rapid movements, sound cues, morphing and special effects related to animation, objects that are moved by the mouse, etc.)
This style, so characteristic of interactive digital work, also makes it easier to distance the audience, in contrast to the naturalism of real-time images, and to encourage the users active participation in interpreting the narrative, by joining together scattered fragments, forming bridges between sections and elements, and decoding an often concise and poetic text.
Artist and independant curator, Élène Tremblay has organized various exhibits on photography, web art and video. She teaches photography in various universities in Montréal. She was the general director of the gallery Vox, from 1998 to 2002.