what is it about writing? … a leap across a gap?

I was updating my links and found this incredible post from Jonathan Harris – August 21, 2010.  “What is it about writing?”   Worth reading all the way through.

This post was part of his Today project, where he posted a photograph and usually a story a day, starting when he turned thirty. He kept it up for longer than a year … here’s a film about the project:

His work is an interesting mix – the word innovative doesn’t quite cover what is neat about what he does. Wish there were more web artists like him – or maybe I just haven’t found them yet.  Too many web artists are caught up in the newness of the medium … I don’t think we’ve seen what this is going to become yet.

Jonathan Harris website


memories and the risk that comes with writing

In 1992, artist Dennis Ashbaugh and writer William Gibson published Agrippa (a book of the dead).  The pages in the book “were treated with photosensitive chemicals, effecting the gradual fading of the words and images from the book’s first exposure to light.”  The poem, stored on a floppy disk, was programmed to erase itself after a single reading.  The point seems to be that memories (and our lives) are ephemeral.

It’s cool that the material object disintegrates, self-destructs in our hands.  But we’re left with reading about it … or looking at archived copies available digitally on the web.  Which changes the whole experience entirely, doesn’t it?

Certainly raises questions about the tension between owning a thing, of penning it down to keep it forever, and the ephemerality of memory and experience.  Isn’t this the tension informing what writing and books have done for Western Civilization?  The technology of writing and the book (and later photography) have allowed us the illusion that ideas and memories can be made solid, palpable, material and stored / archived over centuries.  It’s the grand hope of the digital revolution that ideas and human products can now be stored, without deterioration, in tiny drives with terabytes of storage capability, for centuries.  The tension eloquently embodied in Agrippa makes the point, however, that our desire to own and keep may be just an illusion.

As Annie Dillard writes in her essay, “To Fashion a Text” : “After I’ve written about any experience, my memories – those elusive, fragmentary patches of color and feeling – are gone; they’ve been replaced by the work.”  Writing, she says, are a sure way to lose your memories as memories. It’s been my experience that she’s right.

I love to write so, like Annie Dillard, I’m willing to risk “cannibalizing my life for its parts.”  But I do recognize the loss as well as the gain.

matx communal website launch

Some of my MATX cohorts have just launched a communal website called MATXer. There’s some pretty cool work on it, as well as links and information.

Interesting that it showed up on my birthday – just when I was going to find a place to host my website outside the university. After VCU outsourced my student email to google, I got mad enough to reserve a domain name and begin the process of having a professional web presence not connected with a university. My cohorts have the right idea.

cool web portfolio & prepping presentations

In class tonight we looked at some choices for e-portfolios. I’d forgotten about this one – but it’s definitely worth browsing through: Dave Werner’s e-portfolio He’s got a blog too: Okay Samurai Multimedia.

I’ve spent most of today preparing to present a paper at the UVA Department of English Graduate Student Conference this weekend. My paper is called “Reading Images of Violence: The Saigon Execution and the Sonderkommando Photographs.” Because it’s about images, I prepared a slide show to go along with the paper. I’m working on a second presentation on Emily DIckinson’s manuscript practices and I’m doing a visual presentation to go along with that one too. I’ve never been a fan of powerpoint, but it’s the simplest architecture I’ve found to make a clean, portable presentation. Definitely something I’ll be using again in my teaching.

virtual weirdness

Sometimes the stories that come out of current surveillance capabilities and the virtual-ness of media make me laugh out loud. This story on NPR was like that: Virtual Patrols of the Texas Border.

Mostly this story gave me the creeps and it raised some legitimate issues … like the fact that drug smugglers can log on and see where the law enforcement people are. I do wonder about people logged onto their computers “doing their duty” by watching the border virtually. Of course, when I was a kid, I knew a lot of people who owned police scanners and listened to them for entertainment.

But I had to laugh out loud when I heard about a group of Aussies e-mailing in that they were “patrolling” our border from their pub. What crazy times we are living in.

browsing on TED Talks … on creativity & design

I’ve been listening to TED talks this morning. I like Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on thinking of genius the way the Romans did … as a divine being that lives in the walls of an artist’s studio and assists with the work … kind of like “Dobby the house elf” according to Gilbert. Then there’s this talk by Amy Tan called “Where does creativity hide?” These are great for anyone who likes to make anything … although these women are both writers so their examples favor written creation.

Then I stumbled on this one about design. Since I’m reading this week about the Bauhaus movement for one of my classes – this one resonated with me. Rob Forbes on “ways of seeing”

The one that’s got the most to do with the MATX program, however, is this talk by Scott McCloud. He wrote Understanding Comics – a book that’s on my “to buy” list.

Time to get to work – today I’d planned to work on a submission to the Wit’s End New Play Festival. I have a play I think could be adapted for the American Shakespeare Center‘s style of production. I love what they do and would love to write for them. It’s worth a little time away from Flash and Bauhaus and the Blackbird video essay call and the MATX Student Guild budget.

another cool artist on the web

What a great link we got last night from the professor in charge of our production workshop. It was a presentation by an artist who uses the web in creating his art. Michael wanted to draw our attention to theWe Feel Fine project – but I also really like the Universe project. The Whale Hunt is an interesting approach to documentary work.

Jonathan Harris’ website

TED Talks: Jonathan Harris on collecting stories There’s another TED talks with Jonathan Harris. I watched both, but this one is the one I liked better – mostly because of my personal interest in documentary work.

Obama photos & a Flash poem

The trouble with including links to news sites is that a day later what I wanted to share will be history, literally. Since it’s no longer “news” it’s been moved to an archive and not always easy to find. Instead of changing yesterday’s post … I found the archived photos myself and here’s the link: BBC World News Obama inauguration photos.

I also read/watched a flash piece today called In Praise of an Elevator that I really liked. Sometimes “new media” pieces seem like novelties to me, sort of interesting but lacking depth. This one works as poetry and as a moving imagery / sound piece. All the pieces are equally strong; the sum of their parts even better. I also like the narrative arc – it pulls me through. There’re some other pieces in Born Magazine worth a watch.