25 May 2007

Sunset Blvd blazed...

Sunset Boulevard blazed, empty, rinsed in sunshine, the stray cars like bugs streaming in the footprint of a vast lifted rock.
— Jonathan Lethem, You Don't Love Me Yet, 124.

13 May 2007

It takes a long time...

It takes a long time for a mouse to realize he's in a trap, but, once he does, something inside him never stops shaking.
— Laurie Anderson, quoted in New Yorker Rock & Pop listings, for May 21, 2007, 10.

11 May 2007

Shall I tell you about the land where people hurry across?

It was a strange land,
With many roads and few destinations.
There were signs everywhere
Instructing people to do this
Prohibiting people from doing that,
But mostly people did as they pleased,
And the only rules that were enforced
Were the one protecting those people in power,
The people who broke the rules most often.

In the blink of an eye,
The soft, irregular shapes of the land
Became hard and regular
And the people swarmed over them
At incredible speeds.
No one remembered the voice of the land;
They had forgotten it had one at all.

But the land cannot forget.
Everywhere are sad traces of its history.
Confused and astonished at how quickly it is dying
The land grieves and waits.

What does it wait for?
For someone to listen, to recognize its voice,
To hear its story.
But it also waits for its eventual rebirth.
It will happen, sooner or later.
The question is,
Will we be there to see it?

— Sharif Ezzat, from Like Stars in a clear night sky, in Electronic Literature Collection Volume One, October 2006. See also his site, www.youwerehere.com.

10 May 2007

Between City

A week ago I attended the ELO/MITH Symposium on the Future of Electronic Literature at the University of Maryland, College Park. It had been a long time since I'd seen many of my friends and colleagues from what we used to call the hypertext community, and it was wonderful to catch up on what they were doing.

My first job upon returning was to write it up as a feature article for Arts Hub (subscription, sorry), my masters in Melbourne, since ostensibly I went on their nickel for just such purpose. That deadline met, I'm now sorting through my take-aways, and as soon as I get fully unpacked, I'll post a proper trip report.

In the meantime, I'd like to recommend to you, gentle reader, that you clear out some reading time for the first volume of the Electronic Literature Collection, published last October, and available for free both online and on a CD you can get by sending a non-virtual print artifact requesting it to ELO at its new home.

I'm enchanted by the work of J.R. Carpenter, whose short piece The Cape appears in the ELCvol1. I followed a link to other work, and was intrigued by ENTRE VILLE, that appeared at Web Biennial 07 at the Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum.

On a single page, an open notebook appears, with a text box on the verso, containing some eight short poems (or sections of one poem) in a simple scrolling text box, and on the recto a line drawing of the front of an apartment building. Many of the windows and doors are rollovers, and clicking opens a windoid that plays a short QuickTime video depicting what you might call a landscape shot of the immediate environment of the building, where one imagines the author lives. In a halo around the notebook pages are isolated objects such as a telephone pole, a mismatched pair of gloves, a Canadian 8¢ stamp, two Montréal postmarks, house number plates, and a graffito. The only animal life depicted visually in the work is an old dog with what looks like a giant cigarette in its mouth, and two diving boys on the stamp — but human voices are heard in much of the ambient noise of the videos.

It's a scorching summer day in Montréal, and the slow lazy movements of the camera, the limp clothes and curtains barely moving in the weak breeze, depict a kind of stunned happiness, or at least peace, except for the old Greek lady in the first poem — "Foul-mouthed for seventy/ her first-floor curses fill/ my second floor apartment;/ her constant commentary/ punctuates my day."

Almost everyone's got a summer-in-the-city memory like this one. It's lovely to relive mine through exploring Carpenter's elegant version of hers.