“Going through the Signs” by Jody Zellen and Deena Larsen

Screen capture of “Going through the Signs” by Jody Zellen and Deena Larsen. A first person POV of a bridge entrance, with a second window showing another bridge, this one curved to the right. Text: "(First bridge) / Step through / (Second bridge) / play it safe / without signs / do you follow flows?"
Open “Going through the Signs” by Jody Zellen and Deena Larsen

This collaborative hypertext poem uses a “page space” designed by Zellen to create a sequence of pop-up windows that last 20 seconds before closing along with links that lead to new pop-up windows, simultaneously closing the previous one, and leading to a final page with three thin vertical frames. This produces a powerful sense of progression in which the reader must press on or have to start over while not providing any way to get back to an earlier page. Larsen uses this structure to build a trail of consciousness which includes the thoughts of a character seeking a path and sense of purpose in a world that seems to have the former, but not the latter.

Read more about this work at ELMCIP.

“untitled(to reconstruct)” by Jason Nelson and Jody Zellen

Screen capture from "untitled(to reconstruct)" by Jason Nelson and Jody Zellen. Grey background with cyan images and letters scattered throughout the image. Text: "City" "to reconstruct" "human beings from" "The observer" "images"
Open “untitled(to reconstruct)” by Jason Nelson and Jody Zellen

This collaborative poem places the same text Jody Zellen wrote for “Cut to the Flesh” into a page space designed by Jason Nelson (originally for “Branch/Branch” and “A Tree with Managers and Jittery Boats”). This tree structure is a fascinating way to organize lines of verse because it creates multiple possible readings as the reader opens up branches in the hierarchy. Its cascading effect is reminiscent of William Carlos Williams’ variable foot, richly analyzed by Eleanor Berry and many others as follows:

The variable foot has been taken as (1) a temporal unit, each step of a triadic line being equal in duration to every other (Donoghue, Weatherhead, Breslin); (2) a stress-based unit, each step of a triadic line containing a single major stress (Duncan, Hedges); (3) a syntactical unit, each step of a triadic line being a single complete phrase or clause (Solt, Hofstadter); (4) a unit of meaning or attention (Goodman, Hofstadter); (5) a unit of phrasing in reading, the triadic lineation constituting a score for performance (Wagner); and (6) a visual unit (Shapiro, Perloff, Sayre, Cushman).

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“Cut to the Flesh” by Deena Larsen and Jody Zellen

Screen capture from “Cut to the Flesh” by Deena Larsen and Jody Zellen. Words overlaid by question marks on lightly textured background. Text: "The world disintegrates rapidly./Can one trust a reminiscence"
Open “Cut to the Flesh” by Deena Larsen and Jody Zellen

This multimedia poem was written by Jody Zellen, using a “page space” developed by Deena Larsen for this collaboration. Each of the question marks responds to a mouseover by triggering a line of verse moving diagonally across the poem’s surface along with a sound. The title’s reference to the flesh and the use of heartbeat, sonogram, and voice recordings saying things like “breathe” all reinforce a surgical conceptual framework, and metaphorically framing the diagonal language movement as cuts, slashing across the screen. The occasional variations in the sounds and word movement place the poem in conversation with some of the urban concerns which are so central to Zellen’s poetics, while the literalization of a metaphor through interface design is part of Larsen’s.

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“4 Square” by Jody Zellen

Screen capture from "4 Square" by Jody Zellen. Grey background with black text on the screen. Text: "SHOULD TELL YOU / I will try your other number again / go study and learn about the world / from one little day to a long year / go study and learn about the world / from one little day to a long year / I will try your other number again / well that is not what I have found / for each man will go down the same / land for you to move to / for you to be at one with the land / each day I think of you / point after all that / our show must go on / need to get in line / why did you do this / follow what you say"
Open “4 Square” by Jody Zellen

This free app art poem captures Zellen’s approach wonderfully. Each of the four squares respond to touch and can be tapped to change within each category or dragged to reposition with the others. Each category is representative of the materials she traditionally works with:

  • color,
  • drawings,
  • art based on tracings of newspaper and other materials, and
  • language derived from newspapers, books, and other sources.
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“Empty Thoughts for Real Life” by Jody Zellen

Screen capture from “Empty Thoughts for Real Life” by Jody Zellen. Traditional comic strip consisting of 8 panels, but devoid of any text or characters, leaving only preset word bubbles.
Open “Empty Thoughts for Real Life” by Jody Zellen

This minimalist piece takes a purely visual approach to language in a manner consistent with her other works. The panels only contain speech balloons, which are divested language, people, and context to represent purely abstract utterances. Is language disappearing from Zellen’s work? Or is it becoming yet another visual material to draw, cut, layer, shape, and imbue with behavior?

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“Seen Death” by Jody Zellen

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Open “Seen Death” by Jody Zellen

This poem takes on the coverage of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after the September 11, 2001 attacks particularly how by 2007 it seemed to have been somehow de-emphasized in the media. Zellen composes this piece out of newspaper headlines, data visualizations, iconic images, journalistic photography, text, and news media sound clips to make readers aware of the deaths that result from war and occupation. Slightly interactive, the reader triggers and ends scheduled sequences that display some of these materials in visceral ways that make it difficult to ignore the suffering. This multimedia hypertext is divided into three main sequences— “Death,” “Seen,” and “Extended Harmoniously—” and in all of them we see layered, stacked objects that contain language that has been remixed to produce newly readable poetic texts.

Is this a newly envisioned cut-up abandoning the aleatory to refocus language that has been dispersed and diluted by an overwhelming amount of other news?

“Pause” by Jody Zellen

“Pause” by Jody Zellen

“More Real than Now” by Jody Zellen

Screen capture of "More Real than Now" by Jody Zellen. Legs of people walking are shown in black, while letters (specifically "what is now...stasis...") are in white, and the street / background is gray.
Open “More Real than Now” by Jody Zellen

This video poem is built from a dual juxtaposition of language and image and an image with itself. A steady stream of language scrolls horizontally on the screen in a manner suggestive of a news ticker providing a prose poem that uses grammar and the window size to offer a sense of the line. This creates a disconnection between the line we read now and the one we read a few seconds or a minute from now: it is the same line, but we are witnessing a different portion of it. The way the work handles the images is similar. The window displays a portion of the image, and then moves (or does the image move?) so the reader can see different parts of the photograph. Interestingly enough, a semi-transparent snapshot of the original view moves along with the window, emphasizing the disconnection between the initial and current perception of the piece.

Now read the poem, keeping in mind how it meditates upon the past and present of urban spaces, and our perceptions and changing relations with both.

“Tomorrow’s News Today” by Jody Zellen

Screen capture from "Tomorrow's News Today" by Jody Zellen. Collage of images arranged vertically, one next to the other in a black frame that has four lines of white and red text beneath the the image collage. Text: The lines are too small to be read.
Open “Tomorrow’s News Today” by Jody Zellen

This responsive multimedia poem is built from several objects that work together to critique how news is reported and received in print, images, and television. She uses JavaScript to produce a scrolling poem composed of 40 newspaper headlines, each with a link that opens a tiny pop up window with an image that one needs to make interpretive leaps to relate to the headline. The Flash object presents a slices of grainy television images sliced into vertical strips while two text-to-speech voices read news sound bites— television’s equivalent to a headline. Depending on where the reader places the pointer, loudness is assigned to a male voice on the left speakers or a female voice reading on the right. The voices read the same looping text, seemingly in the same order, but starting in different points, and are synchronized to almost take turns, though there are overlaps. Both the scrolling lines of text and the spoken words reveal a prosody of headlines and sound bites: the rhythms of the news.

Conceptually, this piece echoes Ezra Pound’s famous quote “Literature is news that STAYS news” and William Carlos Williams response:

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
		yet men die miserably every day
				for lack
of what is found there.

 

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“Without a Trace” by Jody Zellen

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Open: “Without a Trace” by Jody Zellen

This daily generative piece is part comics, poem, graphic art, and net.art. Commissioned by Turbulence.org this work is concerned with the daily on several levels, as described by Jo-Anne Green:

Without A Trace takes the idea of this daily ritual as its point of departure. Each day for a year, a comic image, a trace drawing, and three words from the original comic strip will be randomly selected from an archive. These will be juxtaposed with live text and image feeds from the New York Times online.

This very personal practice of tracing from images in the print copy of the New York Times and the daily comic strip Real Life Adventures, lends the work a very personal and artisanal aura, as if we’re drawn into Zellen’s routine and artistic sensibilities. The subjectivity of the traced drawings is downplayed by the randomization of word choices from the online image feeds. In good comics form, Zellen juxtaposes the analog and digital worlds in this piece as she executes different processes on the materials to comment on the news and images of the day.

If these highly creative works somehow seem unoriginal, because their central technique is tracing over preexisting photos, watch this short humorous clip from Kevin Smith’s 1997 movie, Chasing Amy, featuring a “tracer.”

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