I want to start with an impression I had while watching Ulmer’s keynote. He seemed genuinely humbled by the fact that many of his former students–me, Craig Saper, Michael Jarrett, Barry Mauer, Michele Glaros, and Stephanie Tripp–as well as colleagues–John Craig Freeman, Will Pappenheimer, members of the “Florida Research Ensemble”–had gathered together, had come to Gainesville so that he could be part of the conference. Once they post the video of each presentation, I think you’ll see it (if you go looking, whoever “you” are).
I’ve decided to make this my invent-l conference blog. I’ll try to make it more blog-like to, with more frequent bursts of where I’m at (rather than waiting a month and then delivering some kind of polished short academic essay). Can’t get away from the old training–“the old style” as Beckett said (quoted in Deleuze’s essay–but can’t find where and, guess what? I’m not going to bother finding the bloody page reference….)
Here is the machinima video that Stephanie Tripp and I unveiled at the Invent-L conference. It features the avatar of Greg Ulmer that she created. I posted it up at livevideo.com and will embed the video below.
I’ve finished two more “chora” in the autocartography: one in Haverhill and one in Smyth County, Virginia. Again, both grew out of existing places in Second Life, the first being one of the places in the “Imaging Places” work of John Craig Freeman, and the second being the work of a psychology student at UC Davis which attempts to provide a simulation of the experience of being schizophrenic.
Like the first one set at the Mayan Ruin, the editing of these were driven by the chosen music. I stayed with the work of Philip Glass as it fit so well with the theme of each. In Haverhill, I chose his two original works from The Truman Show soundtrack. This movie invokes the issues of identity as it is shaped by the digital medium. Freeman’s work in Haverhill features my “real life” self talking about the metaphor of metaphor and how the “broken bridge” by my house in Haverhill was about to undergo repair. Freeman has been putting his work, originally intended for art gallery showings and publication on CD-ROM, into Second Life (SL), the online 3-D participatory virtual reality. So the youtube video shows my SL avatar watching my “real” (digitized) self. The music is from the scene in the movie when “Christos” (the God-like creator of the Truman Show and owner of Truman) is watching Truman sleep; he approaches the screen and strokes his hair. At this point in the machinima, “I” (the SL avatar Abaris Brautigan) am watching “me” in Freeman’s introductory movie being aired in SL. The second segment shows Abaris walking from the interface globe up the invisible stairway to a platform-map of Haverhill, where the spheres (i.e. the nodes or loci of the original work) are situated. The music is from the scene in the movie when Truman is attempting to sail beyond the bounds of the small town he has been persuaded all his life never to venture beyond. At movie’s end, he discovers his self and breaks out of the digital realm; in my piece, “I” go from having trouble accepting my digital appearance and the sound of my digital voice to accepting this. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say exactly, but I wanted to point to the strangeness of identity formation at this time of transition from literacy to electracy.
The second location reminded me of the breakdown I mentioned in the previous post. The breakdown occurred in Smyth County, Virginia (how’s THAT for a signature effect?!), and I was admitted to the Smyth County Mental Hospital, where I was labeled as a schizophrenic after being mistakenly treated for being on LSD. I did not have the experiences that are depicted at the UC Davis SL installation, but being in the hospital was a very scary experience, one that I remember vividly. I took this experience into a seminar on “Psychosis and Literature” with Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, whom I quote at the end of the video. During that seminar, I learned of Lacan’s theory of psychosis, which seemed to fit my situation so well and to explain what happened to me. The music, from Glass’s opera Einstein on the Beach, includes repeated counting and nonsense voices–it sounds crazy.
In all three of these, the music has been essential in terms of creating the desired mood that I wanted the video to portray. Greg Ulmer, the theorist whom I worked with at the “Florida School of Grammatology,” writes about the significance of cultivating mood in electronic writing, especially in his book Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy. He views electronic media as prostheses for a fuller expression of our humanity, an expression which recognizes the recent breakthroughs in brain studies which show the centrality of the emotions in our reasoning.
I’ve been working on a conference presentation for the Invent-L Conference, which will be taking place two weeks from tonight. My presentation will be about a new genre of electronic writing that I’ve invented called Autocartography. And part of my goal is to create some “machinima” movies in Second Life that experiment with video as a dense communication medium. An initial stab at this, rushed to make the NMConnect Media Arts Symposium which starts this weekend, can be found here: Autocartography: A Mystory. The subtitle, “Chora: Mayan Ruin”, invokes the work of my dissertation director Greg Ulmer, whose book Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy invents “choragraphy” as a genre of electronic writing. You see, by inventing new genres, I only follow in his footsteps. I hope to have two or three more of these finished before I leave for the conference on the 19th.
“Mayan Ruin” tries to capture the chaos of madness, which I experience shortly after a honeymoon to the Mayan peninsula where I toured ruins like the one in Second Life featured in the movie. The choice of music, “The Funeral of Amenhotep III” by Philip Glass, from his opera Akhnaten, is meant to create a striking and frightening mood. I found myself editing the movie to synchronize with shifts in the music. I also found that, while in the process of making the movie, I discovered a narrative thread emerging from the short, 30 second scenes that I was patching together. That is, it started to make sense, and the more I look at it, the more sense it makes (if *that* makes any sense!). I won’t say any more about that now lest I pre-empt all of the scholarly commentary that is sure to follow!
During the honeymoon, I was reading a book called The King and the Corpse by Heinrich Zimmer, a book along the lines of Joseph Campbell’s explanations of mythology. When I encountered the serpent statuary and its related symbolism at Chichenitza and considered this in relation to Old Testament myths of the Garden of Eden, I became a bit overexcited. I remember reading William Faulkner’s THE SOUND AND THE FURY on the way home to relax.
When I came across the Mayan Ruin in Second Life, all of these memories were resurrected, which makes it for me a “chora” or “sacred place.” I didn’t realize until after I began the filming that the name of this particular ruin, Xibalba, is the name for the Mayan Underworld.