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.
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).
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.
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:
- art based on tracings of newspaper and other materials, and
- language derived from newspapers, books, and other sources.
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?
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?
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.
Conceptually, this piece echoes Ezra Pound’s famous quote “Literature is news that STAYS news” and William Carlos Williams response:
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.”