“Gabriella infinita” by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez

Open "Gabriella infinita" by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez
Open “Gabriella infinita” by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez

Gabriella infinita (1999–) is a hypermedia narrative by Colombian author Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez. The narrative is presented via a rich array of lexia, images, and audio files, and we are not provided with established markers such a contents list or page numbers which would normally guide the reader through the conventional print novel. Instead, links to the various lexia and sound files are hidden in the visuals, and it is only through exploring the interface and testing out possible entry routes that the reader/user pieces together the narrative.

A Lecturer at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Rodríguez is well-known for his theorisations on digital narrative and hypertext (see his bibliography). He is also arguably the leading hypertext author in Colombia and his Gabriella infinita, as well as his later Golpe de gracia (2006), have won him a series of awards and nominations, and put him at the forefront of e-lit in Colombia.

"Gabriella infinita" opening image
“Gabriella infinita” opening image

The plot of Gabriella infinita is clearly set in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, with references to immediately identifiable places within the city in several of the lexia. Similarly, the opening image which the reader sees before entering the narrative displays the landmarks of the Monserrate hill, and the Cerro de Guadalupe with its famous statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe appear behind the sky-scrapers of the Centro Internacional. Yet this is a futuristic and dystopian Bogotá, in which the cityscape is in a state of devastation and destruction.

Set in this identifiably Bogotano backdrop is the story of Gabriella, who searches for the missing Federico, and we follow her through the various lexia, images, and audio files as she attempts to piece together clues as to his disappearance.

Yet, more than just her story, what Rodríguez weaves for us is the story of our own encounter with hypermedia narrative. Gabriella’s sensations and experience, as she searches for Federico and tries to make sense of the scraps of evidence that she finds, stand for the experience of the reader of hypertext narratives. For instance, Gabriella’s perusal of Federico’s bookshelves as she attempts to make an order out of the apparent disorder in which the books are arranged is a clear metaphor for the work of the reader of hypertext narrative, constructing an order from the dispersed lexia. Or her examining of the loose sheets of newspaper strewn on the floor of Federico’s apartment, and finding that “al ordenarlas, le han revelado relaciones insospechadas” [‘when she put them together, they revealed unexpected connections to her’] is, again, an image of the reader of hypertext fiction creating his/her own order from the dispersed links, with the primacy on the reader, not the writer, to establish these ‘unexpected connections’.

But does Gabriella ever succeed in her quest? And do we, as reader-users of hypertext fiction, ever gain full control of the narrative we are navigating?

Radikal Karaoke by Belén Gache

 

Open 'Radikal Karaoke' by Belén Gache
Open ‘Radikal Karaoke‘ by Belén Gache

Radikal Karaoke, by Argentine author Belén Gache, is an online piece combining text, still and moving images, sound files and user-activated effects. In this work, the reader-user is invited to read out loud poems composed of fragments of political discourses, at the same time as activating a series of videos and special effects. Gache describes Radikal Karaoke as a ‘conjunto de poesías que se apropian de la retórica de la propaganda política’ [‘collection of poems that appropriate the rhetoric of political propaganda’], but the notion here of ‘poetry collection’ is not in the conventional sense of a printed text that brings together several individual poems under into one volume. Instead, the ‘conjunto’ refers to the very creative process of the poetry itself, since the poems are composed of the re-mixing and re-combinations of found texts.

Belén Gache is one of the leading authors of experimental fiction in the Hispanic world, and has published to date a variety of literary works, both print and electronic, that engage in experimental practice. Her oeuvre is frequently characterized by an intertextual play with pre-existing literary genres, authors and texts, set in a creative dynamic with digital technologies, and Radikal Karaoke is no exception.

Radikal Karaoke opens on an interactive interface that displays, in the main part of the screen, a video in black and white which shows rows of spectators, applauding, set on a continuous loop and speeded up. Beneath the video lies the control panel of the work, consisting of firstly a row of buttons each identified with letters, and, beneath these, the lines of text we are invited to read.

In this work the user has to take on an active role in the execution of the poetry, both through our reading of the text out loud (as in karaoke), and through the activation of the visual poetry of this work. The visual poetry is created by the reader-user as s/he presses the various keys of the control panel, some of which produce modifications in the video in the main screen, changing its colour or speed, and others change the video file completely, and replace it with a new moving image.

Gache’s insistence on the ‘retórica de la propaganda política’ clearly indicates that her poetic endeavour has an ideological stance, and she encourages us to deconstruct the empty discourses of political rhetoric by means of parody, and through the shock contrast of sound, image and text. The videos function as a sort of meta-poetic commentary that makes us question the text that we read out, and interrogate political rhetoric, the powers of large corporations, and the indiscriminate consumption of social media.

But it is, perhaps, the very last button of Gache’s control panel –button V7 – which turns out to be the most shocking and disturbing for the reader-user. For, after having passed through a series of videos showing slaves, aliens, and cybernetic entities in thrall to the neoliberal system, the final button shows us… well, try it out for yourself, and see how you are implicated in this video.

 

“Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta” by Marina Zerbarini

Open "Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta" by Marina Zerbarini
Open “Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta” by Marina Zerbarini

Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta [Eveline, Fragments of a Reply] (2004) is a hypertext narrative by Argentine author Marina Zerbarini. It takes its inspiration from two short stories by James Joyce – ‘Eveline’, and ‘A Painful Case’ (1914) – which Zerbarini uses as a springboard for creating a multimedia narrative that brings together photographic images, videos, animations and sound files. Marina Zerbarini, is a leading digital artist from Argentina who has worked across several media, including photography, painting, objects and installation art for some decades, and whose electronic works include some that fall into the e-lit category, whilst others are more properly net art. She created this work in Macromedia Flash, using the ActionScript programming language. Each time we open Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta different interfaces are loaded, these ranging from bleached-out images of sheets, to extreme close-up photographs of part of a human face or hand, with the image pixelated such that the individual pixels are visible. The cursor takes the form of a butterfly, and, by clicking on buttons that appear across the various interfaces, we activate different content files, including images, excerpts of text, and sound files (these latter containing excerpts mostly of electronic or orchestral music).

Butterfly cursor over pixelated close-up in Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta
Butterfly cursor over pixelated close-up in Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta

The chronological order of the files is not pre-set, and instead, the reader has to piece together the story from multiple stimuli, as s/he reads disparate blocks of lexia, views images, watches videos, and listens to sounds. The two source texts which are the inspiration for this work provide clues as to its possible interpretation. In Joyce’s original short stories, endings are unexpected, and questions left unanswered; in Zerbarini’s narrative, this sense of uncertainty, and of searching for meaning, is re-enacted procedurally, as the reader has to undertake a journey through these multiple sources to piece together the narrative. But more than just a re-telling of Joyce, Zerbarini’s narrative invites us to explore the nature of hypertext narrative and our embodied relationship to it as reader. The foregrounding of the human body through the extreme close-ups means that we have to think through our own affective relationship to the work as we navigate it. And yet… through the overt pixelation, Zerbarini makes us question our own status as human. Is it perhaps our possible transformation into cyborgs as we engage with electronic literature that Zerbarini is encouraging us to reflect upon here?

“Hotel Minotauro” by Doménico Chiappe

Open “Hotel Minotauro” by Doménico Chiappe – Version: Spanish | English

Doménico Chiappe, a Peruvian-Venezuelan writer and a journalist currently living in Madrid, has written and produced two delightful works of electronic literature: Tierra de extracción (1996-2007) and Hotel Minotauro (2013-2014). His works depict a critical and pleasant voyage to diverse Latin-American landscapes where poetry within prose, and prose within poetry, submerge the reader into hypermedial embedded narratives.

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“Bust Down the Doors!” by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries

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Open “Bust Down the Doors! by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries. Versions: English, German, French

“Bust Down the Doors!”, a videopoem by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, opens with a countdown, preparing the reader to the challenge he or she is about to encounter. Quick flashing words that compose the poem begin to blink in and out of the screen, daring the reader to catch each word properly and keep up to rhythm. The contrast of the black letters against a white background creates an almost hypnotizing pattern to this race. This format is repeated in all three different language versions, which are English, German, and French.

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“Zig and Zag” by Sérgio Caparelli and Ana Cláudia Gruszynski.

zigzag1
Open “Zig and Zag” by Sérgio Caparelli and Ana Cláudia Gruszynski.

Zig and Zag” is one of ten ciberpoems created by the writer Sérgio Capparelli and the graphic designer Ana Cláudia Gruszynski for “Ciberpoesia” website that features a series of 28 visual poems created by the Brazilian duo. Like “Bembo’s Zoo,” this is more than just digital versions for visual poems also published in a printed book, the ciberpoems of Capparelli and Gruszynski has an important educational role, it catches the interest of children and youth for digital poetry through creative and stimulating presentation.

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“sc4da1 in new media” by Stuart Moulthrop

titleImagesc4da1 in new media“, a Flash poem/rage-game by Stuart Moulthrop, is as outrageous as it is delightful. The piece is composed of two alternating interfaces: a rage-game remediation of Pong; and a transient text. Every time you beat a level of the remediated Pong, you access a new installment of the transient text. There are six levels to the remediated Pong. The perversity of this rage-game version of Pong makes Chiku’s “Syobon Action” (“Cat Mario”) a piece of cake in comparison. I almost broke a vocal cord when I made it to level 6.

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“10:01” by Lance Olsen and Tim Guthrie

Screen capture from"10:01" by Lance Olsen and Tim Guthrie. Black background with a picture frame that has the image of a theather with the audience getting to their seats and others sitting down. The audience are silhouttes in complete black colors.
Open “10:01” by Lance Olsen and Tim Guthrie

10:01 is a hypertext novel set in a movie theater during the ten minutes running up to the screening of the film. The text was published in 2005 in The Iowa Review Web. It consists of the image of a darkened cinema where black silhouettes sit in various rows. This image serves as one of the possible ways to navigate the text. By clicking on a figure, we read from one to five texts, each of them advancing the narrative. The text can also be navigated by using the time bar, but the reader does not feel constrained to read it chronologically. Each of the characters has its own story, which is told by an omniscient narrator that has access to their innermost feelings, hopes, fears and desires.

Even though critics like Alice Bell, Astrid Ensslin and Hans Rustad describe it as a “Web-based version of Olsen’s print Novel” (Analyzing Digital Fiction, Routledge 2014), the authors state in the credits that: “A print version of 10:01 that complements rather than reiterates this hypermedial version is available from Chiasmus Press.”

The novel is built using a combination of HTML and Flash, which allows video and sound when required by the story. The sounds represent a particularly significant contribution to this work, by setting both tone and pace. The text also presents hyperlinks (although some of them are broken) which alternatively illuminate or complicate it. The brilliancy of this work resides in the shifting tone, from harsh and critical to satirical and funny. If you would like to know how a real shrunken head ends up in a cinema in the Mall of the Americas, you should read it. You might also discover that “America… is a land of excellent pies.”

"'America' she said into the microphone, 'is a land of excellent pies."
“‘America’ she said into the microphone, ‘is a land of excellent pies.”

Featured in The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1.

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“Code Movie 1” by Giselle Beiguelman, with music by Helga Stein

Screen capture from "“Code Movie 1″ by Giselle Beiguelman, with music by Helga Stein. Arrangement of two digit numbers with interspersed letters on a white background. Top and bottom of image are obscured by thick black scribbles.
Open “Code Movie 1”  by Giselle Beiguelman

Code-Movies #1 is an e-poetry project developed by Brazilian researcher and multimedia artist Giselle Beiguelman. The project integrates a series titled / / ** Code-UP, developed from 2004. / / ** Code-UP is an project based on algorithmic manipulation of images captured with mobile phones. The source of the images of / / ** Code-UP are the frames of Blow-Up (1966), the first film in English from the Italian director, Michelangelo Antonioni.

The choice of Blow-up by Bielguelman was no accident. The Antonioni´s film script is inspired by the story “Blow-up” (1959) written by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar. In the tale, a photographer becomes obsessed with the probable circumstances surrounding a photograph that he makes of an unknown woman and a young boy in a Parisian park. Cortazar´s tale reveals the literary narrative through a photographic image viewer that offers its multiple layers of meaning of the object or scene depicted.

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“Pieces of Herself” by Juliet Davis

Juliet Davis pieces of herself
Open “Pieces of Herself” by Juliet Davis

Davis portrays her view on theories of how women are seen in society by using pictures and interactive digital media. “Pieces of Herself” uses a drag and drop interface by using a dress-up doll which gives readers opportunities to customize their exploration of the poem. The character is portrayed as a kind of dress-up doll that appears on the left side of the window, while readers visit the woman’s house and discover different items to place on her. Every time something is placed on the dress-up doll, it triggers an audio clip and a short, looping animation that remains on the doll. The fact that we cannot remove any of these animations is a comment on the irrevocable layering of experiences on a young woman as she is shaped by the world that surrounds her.

As you explore the poem, notice the speaker’s tone when describing the scenery. What importance does the phrase bring to the poem’s context? Colors and images emerge as the mouse clicks on the interface, and each one has a special meaning to the doll’s life. Consider the small visual and aural parts of the work and search for the meaning of every sound individually and as it combines to produce a complete artistic experience.

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