something introductory: Intermediality vs Multimedia

February 4, 2008

One hundred years ago the modernist tendency thrust itself upon western society through one keen shift in the way the act of creation was approached. Modernist artists discovered the uniqueness of the media in which they worked and exploited those differences in order to define their styles. With the trend of self-criticism, artist such as Pablo Picasso were able to approach three dimensional presentations through a lens that only a painting can recreate, cubism. Music saw composers like Igor Stravinsky who sought to redefine musical composition by experimenting with dissonance and narrative composition. Lastly in literature writers like Virginia Wolff and Franz Kafka used the narrative form of expression itself to aid their narrative styles of storytelling. From an observational point of view cubism and Kafka share very little, but when looking at how both Picasso and Kafka approached their work, they become similar in that they used what makes the medium unique. Medium specificity established the course of art for the twentieth century, paving the way for the convergence of media in the internet age of the twenty-first century.

The modernist course of art has evolved into the contemporary, postmodernist art world of today. Speaking generally, and utilizing postmodernist tendencies, the walls erected by modernism in exploring the specificity of media are being knocked down as the focus of exploration shifts from what is unique to what is shared. New works of art are exploring the relationship between media rather than the characteristics unique to each medium. Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book best emphasizes this new exploration. The film can be described as a visual representation of literature. The film uses literary tools to communicate while also transforming language into a visual art. The premise of the film revolves around a fledgling writer seeking to stake her claim in the publishing world. Frustrated by the rejection from her late father’s publisher, and lover, she seeks to use the publisher’s new lover in order to manipulate the publisher into publishing her work. She manipulates both the publisher and the lover by seducing the lover and using his body to transmit her text to the publisher. Thus the audience is given both a cinematic narrative between the three characters as well as secondary references to this literary narrative being created and distributed via a human body. The film uses, as its language of communication with the audience and with the characters, the written form in multiple languages. This form is presented visually, not aurally, and does not provide translation when presented in a foreign language. Ultimately the text in the film is not presented to be read by the audience but rather to be viewed. The characters, however, see the visual text as literature and seek to own it as quickly as possible. Were a text made cinematic it would not be interpreted for cinema like the multiple adaptations of classical literature currently popular in American cinematography, but rather it would be transformed into the cinematic image. Joy Sisley in an essay on the intermediality of The Pillow Book suggests “that as a radical mediation of writing The Pillow Book not only upsets a conventional separation of word and image as two separate entities and mutually exclusive media, but also figuratively closes the conceptual gap between word and image by reminding us that writing is a visual medium” (Literary Intermediality, 36).[1]  By closing the gap between word and image The Pillow Book skates the line between literature and film. Now it is very apparent as to which side of the line this “film” falls on, but nonetheless there are elements of the film that are more reflective of a literary narrative, such as the lack of any one character describing that which is written on numerous bodies throughout the film. The film’s inspiration is a real book written by Sei Shonagon at the end of the 10th century in imperial Japan. Shonagon’s pillow book was a journal of sorts where she kept detailed lists, comparisons, poetry and various other entries she felt a need to remember. The movie pays homage to this text through paying homage to the literary tradition. By emphasizing the visual aspects of literature, this film acknowledges the intermediality between the two forms of art. The essence of the book is preserved literally through the words on the body, while the film narrative seeks to create a relationship between text and image.

The late 20th century saw an increased focus in this intermediality with the rise of adaptations as well as new original works. It is very easy to brush off adaptations as unoriginal works of art reflective of a financially driven industry, but it is naïve to suggest that these reinterpreted narratives do not provide their own “original” elements. Take for example A Charlie Brown Christmas animated short, the first animated version of the famous Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. Today the film and its soundtrack, composed by Vince Guaraldi, are seen as synonymous with Charlie Brown himself. But the original Peanuts comic strip was only a comic with no musical accompaniment. Once the Peanuts characters were combined with Guaraldi’s music, a relationship formed that transformed the narrative for a new medium, television, giving it a whole new depth and perspective. This new version is not a stand alone television special however, its style of story telling is completely reflective of the comic strip character that originated the story, thus it is a hybrid animation created through the combined processes of comic narrative styles and animated. auditory elements. The idea of retelling a narrative through a new medium is not a new concept; artists have been visualizing mythical narratives for centuries. But the way in which these different medium interpretations are interacting is. For example when the NBC television drama, Heroes premiered in the fall of 2006 it was accompanied by an online graphic novel that was published once a week, with the airing of every new television episode. The comic described back stories to the characters featured in the series while foreshadowing events to come. The comic was not a retelling of the show but rather it added additional narratives to the ones featured on screen. While it helped to advance the narrative it also reflected the intermediality of the show itself, a cinematized comic strip. Though the show’s narrative was completely original, it was inspired by earlier comic strips such as Superman and X-Men. Thus in the late age of modernism or rather in the age of postmodernism, media are integrating to evolve the narratives they are telling; giving The Lord of the Rings trilogy a cinematic equivalent complete with theme music or showing the tragic hero behind the wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz in Wicked.

On the other side of this push towards intermediality is the immersion of a new medium of artistic expression, the computer and more specifically the internet. Thus far the medium of the internet has been mostly used to present preexisting art to a wider audience. The medium specific art for such a tool is still be debated, the argument of the artistic merit of video games and websites has not come to a close just yet. But it is important to understand that too many who are exploring the artistic potential of blogs and the internet at large do believe to a certain extent that the creativity behind the creation of a webpage deserves the same kind of respect as the artists who use brushes and canvas to express themselves. What can be agreed upon is the artistic potential of such a tool. The internet, using the computer as its tool for communication, acts as a fully interactive virtual space where anything from a painting, song to even video clip can be transmitted. This versatility allows it to be extremely adaptable to our growing desire for intermediality. As mention above, the NBC television show, Heroes, used the internet to publish its graphic novel that accompanied the show’s weekly airing. This novel could have been put into print, in fact in its online form it used many of the signature characteristics of graphic novels in print, such as the thought bubbles and organizational structure, the latter of which does not aide an internet reader in following the narrative. Because they placed this graphic novel online there were able to present it in multiple forms: a printable version, an interactive version, and an animated version. Each version of the comic told the same story but used different attributes to tell it, attributes that before the internet would have been considered medium specific. The internet as it is being used in the year 2008 (this distinction is extremely important as the uses and design of the internet are very rapidly changing in its ever growing popularity) has defined the idea of multimedia. Therefore the concept of an internet based artwork utilizing multiple media to present the creative idea is neither unique to blogs nor does it originate from them. But as we will see blogs have served a crucial role in expanding the concept of the internet’s multimedia capabilities.


[1] Literary Intermediality, 36


I guess this proves that I am really in college?

January 31, 2008

blog readability test

Or rather that I am wasting my time before going to sleep.

What does this mean to you?

Test your own blog here.


Catching up and going places

January 31, 2008

My last semester of college has begun and I have been busy actually writing my thesis and working for classes that this little blog has been somewhat neglected. I promise that soon i will post some of the work I have done for the thesis itself but until then I would like to engage the blogosphere in a discussion of some of the other discussions being had around the digital world.

First I came across a post today regarding blogs and their ability to be critical. Kassia over at Booksquare has suggested in a recent post that blogs do not have the abilities print does to be critical and therefor are not a threat to print. I have posted a response to this suggestion and would encourage everyone out there to join in. What is important is that we identify where critical work is being done online and see how the blog is functioning to support or hinder that work.

Through technorati I found this post commenting on the rather long NY times article on the books on blogs. The author is giving a roundup of the Review of Books essay. This essay should prove very helpful in looking at the publication world’s response to blogs. A huge component of the thesis will focus on the literary community that exists between blogs and books.

Another blog has picked up the same article for review. Writing for the Web, has submitted a response to the tone of the article along with correcting a few of the gross generalities presented.  In general this author’s blog is very thoughtful and insightful when it comes to writing and the web 3.0.

The Blog Herald, a metablogging site that has proven very helpful with this thesis has just announced the expansion of Google’s Blogger into the Arabic World. Let the tools of the internet tear down the walls blocking communication.

Another post at The Blog Herald is in regards to blogging anonymously. It is a very good article and provides links to some very interesting posts where the authors describe their own struggles to be public about their online identity. It would appear as if the age old American debate of free speech has found a new forum in the blog world. Can someone be critical of their employer, professor, government and be honest and open about who they are as well? It would seem as though the answer to that is leaning towards the “no” with those fighting for it to be a “yes”. As being one who was personally effected by this fight when I decided to leave a class due to the professors misgivings about the blog world, I would like to see it lean towards the yes and end the days of digital silence.

if:book again provides us with updates on the progress of Grand Text Auto by announcing the completion of part 1, Expressive Processing. A meta-discussion is to follow in the next phase, check it out. Here is the meta of Grand Text Auto.

Another post on the if:book blog proved to take me back a few years, and I only mean a few as I find myself one who is pretty well in tune with my inner child. I love discussions of creativity, especially when the discussions themselves are creative. After all it is one thing to talk about the futurizer, it’s another to believe it, or believe in believing in it. For myself I am looking to one day invent my timechangeizerfying machine, perhaps I’ll do it for this blog, who knows.


Posts from around the blogosphere

January 22, 2008

Something I want to start doing weekly is publishing a post on some of the other very interesting work going on int eh blogosphere in regards to digital literature. So this will be the first of that sort of post:

if:book has a very interesting post on a relatively new blog with a very new idea,  blog reviewing before publication of a new text on digital media. the post can be found here and outlines the program along with comparing it to other blogs with similar goals. This could prove to be a very exciting project which could take us one step closer to finding a path for publishers in this digital age. The blog itself, Grand Text Auto can be found here.

Over at Pinky’s Paperhaus, there is a discussion on new, contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare. Can Shakespeare be re-imagined as a Manga? It is an interesting idea and I do enjoy when we get to see what makes each medium unique in its narrative interpretations but will this harm the classic? You can check out the mangas here. 

Not too much time this morning, more to come this afternoon.

Huysmans


When posting comments

January 17, 2008

Something I am running into in trying to describe the various functions of a blog are the particular aspects of the comment field. I as the author of this blog have the ability to put pretty much anything I want as a post, anything from a video, an image, an audio file and each of these can be activated from the front page or the post page on my site. This multimedia aspect of a blog is very important and should be considered one of its defining elements as a writing space, it is not limited in the same way a book is. When I get to the publishing aspects of blogs later on I feel that this part should prove to be very interesting. By that I mean how does one print a multimedia blog? Has it been done?

I don’t know…

But that is off topic for this. I have a question for the blogosphere today and it has to do with comments. I know that one can put text and even hypertext as a comment to a post but can one put images and sound? And if one can’t because I don’t believe it is possible with WordPress is it possible with other blog providers?

I think that the comment aspect of blogging plays a very important role in the community based creation of this type of internet art. For the first time, well maybe not the first time but it is the most influential, readers can become authors of the blogs they read by adding their two cents.

So blogosphere become authors of my work and comment.

Huysmans


Community and Art

December 21, 2007

Today was the last day of school for my old high school of which my sister is now a senior. I being an alumnus snuck myself to watch this winter tradition. I bring it up here because I think that it so perfectly describes the power of art in education.  The performance was one hour long and consisted of different acts by different grades, for example some 6th graders read their own poetry while the first graders performed a procession and high school groups both sang and danced. The most memorable for me was what the fifth graders did; the sword dance. A highly choreographed performance involving swords that are incorporated into a star by the intercrossing of the dancer who are marching in a circle, sounds complicated, looks complicated, but as being once a fifth grader who did it, it isn’t that hard to pull off.

 

Regardless of what was performed, the performance as a whole brought the school together, from kindergarten to twelfth grade, from students to faculty, and my push will be to get alumni there as well. What I am trying to say is that it helps connect that community; it removes the boundary of age, of position, of background and allows us all to enjoy something together. Even better is the fact that there was no one dominating medium of artistic production, we had costumes, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, and of course an audience interaction and response (which I count as a whole other medium).

 

Sorry I don’t have much more to say just yet but I guess I want to add this one final thought.

 

I talk about art and write about art and produce art because it is fundamental to community.

 

Huysmans.


State of the thesis

December 21, 2007

Twenty books to go

There is no snow

NYC may distract me

So thesis let it be

Just let it be

Twenty books to go

So so so so so