Saturday, February 17, 2007

In Other Words I Don't Know What I'm Doing...

I can’t say my ideas are really concrete with the story I want to tell. I’m afraid I thought more about form to start with then content – I’m afraid this is similarly the downfall of a lot of New Media (especially with the ELO) so it was probably good to take a step back and think about this. My first conclusion was that I wanted to have a story dealing with the supernatural/absurd. Supernatural themes are much more accepted in New Media then conventional literature (Michael Chabon has some really interesting opinions on genre fiction if you’re interested.)

As such, I kind of wanted to do a ghost story. Something that’s largely allegorical for past haunting present and this urge to not slow down and stop and think about it. I think the protagonist is a girl and there is jester-like character, but the rest of this really changes depending on form. I tried to stick to non-traditional forms, even those not mentioned in class.

1.) Comic/Graphic Novel (fairly obvious – yes?) I’m decent at drawing but I’ve never drawn a full comic so this would be an interesting experiment. I think the comic genre would be really fun to do with anthropomorphized characters something like rabbits. This would involve a group of rabbits always running to stay ahead of something and then one finally questioning why and slowing down. It probably would involve a were-rabbit type creature and a giant combine. The jester like character would probably be a slightly deformed rabbit (scraggly appearance, etc.) UPSIDES: ART, ABSURDISM, ANTHROPOMORPHIZING. DOWNSIDES: STRANGE, STRENUOUS.

2.) Graffiti – This didn’t really come up in class but before class I heard this story about Shelley Jackson who had a short story printed one word at a time as tattoos on people. I’m not suggesting anything of that calibur – but it makes you wonder about the nature of the canvas. I thought it would be awesome to tell a story sort of urban-legend-esque by writing it with sharpie in places like bathroom stalls. Or maybe even as flyers. Unfortunately I could probably get in trouble for this and the story might only last a couple days. So I might just take pictures of it. The protagonist would be human, the jester would be quotations in verse possibly resembling rap lyrics. UPSIDES: UNIQUE, URBAN, UNICORNS (okay that last one just started with a ‘u’). DOWNSIDES: TEMPORARY, TRASH-ABLE, TRICKY.

3.) Photoshop Mash-up Fairy Tale – This would just largely textual but would be illustrated with photoshoped mash-up pictures. The protagonist would again be human, though possibly a cartoon. Like a webcomic this would allow me to play with ideas of infinite canvas. Only, unlike a webcomic, there would be more text and it would be separate from the pictures. There would be photos possibly with some hand-drawn aspects. This might be kind of hard to do just because it’s not really limited by many technical constraints. UPSIDES: FREEDOM OF IDEAS, FREE-MATERIALS DOWNSIDES: OVERWHELMING, OUT-OF-CONVENTIONAL-CATEGORIZATIONS, ONLY SOME PICTURES AVAILABLE

I’m up for collaboration if someone else has good ideas. I'm really playing around with ideas still.


Lauren said...

I clicked on your link to the story printed one word at a time via tattoos and it was utterly fascinating. Do it! It can't be that hard to find 3000 people willing to get a tattoo that doesn't have any previous personal significance to them!

Obviously I'm kidding, but I do find the graffiti idea very intriguing. Especially with a ghost story. How creepy would it be for everyone to just start finding parts of a ghost story in various places around campus? Deliciously creepy. You go to check your PO Box and near the front door there's a sentence about a brutal murder...and the name is the same one as in the sentence you saw by the library the other day; what is going on on this campus?

You could photograph it and put it up on a website so we in the class could see the story in its entirety, but for everyone not in the class, the story in its entirety wouldn't be readily accessible. For them it would just be a potentially very chilling experience - and the point of stories is to elicit emotional reactions, right?

Another interesting aspect of a graffiti-told story is the interactive level of it. We've been discussing interactivity in terms of hypertext and blogs and such, but when I think really hard about it, I can conceive of a world in which the Internet isn't absolutely necessary for interaction with a text. Will people pull down your fliers and erase your chalk? Or will they pick up their own Sharpies and expand on what you've written on their bathroom stalls? Seeing a reaction to your work is always exciting. This could be really interesting.

You could start writing on people's whiteboards, chalking huge messages in the quad. Everyone would be so confused. How would this sheltered, happy campus react to something mysterious and unsettling? It's a social experiment as well as a text.

That got me really excited, heh.

I like the rabbit idea, too. The idea of always having to run away from some unknown thing is an interesting one, with a lot of symbolic possibilities.

So that's my two cents. I think you've got a lot of really great ideas to start from, and whatever you choose, your project will be interesting.

Tom Kealey said...

I wonder if you can get people to wear temporary tattoos or stickers. I wonder if you can write a story in stickers and put them up on campus and then create a map that people need to follow in order to find out the story.

Or, if instead of physical graffiti, I wonder if it can by cyber graffiti. Could you post parts of the story on different websites? You'd have access, right, to Wallpaper on The FaceBook. Or commenting on various blog sites. This would be a way to keep it semi-permanent. And you could include links too.

Whew. I'm kind of excited about that one.

I do like the rabbits too. Why are we running so much? I wonder if this can be an allegory for something that WE are doing too much. Like using computers or the like.

Anyways. Lots of possibilities here. I do like the cyber graffiti though.

JessicaJ said...

I am afraid I may not be too helpful, as I am definitely with Tom and Lauren. I love the graffiti idea. There are so many possibilities! In terms of which medium you would choose, like temporary tatoos or stickers or chalk or fliers or whiteboards or whatever, there are already tons of options. Of course, you have to take into consideration that it may be pretty difficult to get custom -made temporary tatoos and such. This campus seems to be into posting fliers in bathroom stalls (captive audience I guess) so that would definitley be an option. I like Tom's idea about posting it on the web, too. That's really interesting. If you were to post it on people's facebook walls and as comments on blogs, would those people know about the story or would it just be a mystery?

I also wonder if there would be some way to give clues as to where the rest of the story could be found, like numbering the graffitis or color coding them or something like that, so that the people who want to look for the rest of the narrative could do so. Wouldn't it be cool if people all around campus were spending their days in search of your story?

My only concern would be that you need to make sure somehow that people don't dismiss it. If I just saw a couple words on a flier in the bathroom, I think I might be more confused than intrigued. In that sense, every installation would have to hold a little more weight or power than a regular sentence of a story. I don't know exactly how to address that, but it's a thought.

Anyway, I think that makes three positive opinions, so if you were Gene Yang you would definitely go with this idea. :)

Adam Johnson said...


I, too, read that story about the Shelly Jackson tattoo story—in the Believer, I think. Pretty cool, huh. I wonder if you could get people to email you photos they’ve made of each word of a story you wrote. Of course, you’d still have to write the story, but you could fire the images of the words at the reader in the fashion of spreeder. Here’s a song on youtube that has the lyrics come in sharpie-cardboard signs. Funny how it engages a different part of your brain than your normal music appreciation nerve center:

Also, here’s a very strange movie to check out, rabbits included. It takes a while to download but is worth it. Every image in the story comes with a word tag, like a children’s book, which gives it a childlike feel in tension with the darkness of the fairytale.

The key is to work on the story, and let the synapses fire as to how you think it could be best read. When I was an undergraduate, I found a box of yardsticks that someone was giving away. I wrote a story of mine in markers down the yardsticks, numbering them, and then hung them from orange trees down Palm walk of my university. I then sat out watching how many people (very few) would read the story. So there could be a physical dimension to a new media project as well.

Adam Johnson said...


I googled the words "life tattoo" and right away got an image of someone who'd tattooed the word "life" on his bicep. So you could use found images for your tattoos as well.

Darren said...

Jessica, I think all your ideas sound pretty interesting, but I have to say, I really like the comic book idea of the rabbits running from something and then one of them questioning why they're running. It's such a simple little story, but it strikes me that it's so simultaneously absurd and strangely meaningful (running from something you don't understand, daring to look back at the thing that frightens you the most) that there would be a lot of room to play around with it.

I especially think it would be interesting to begin the story with the rabbits already on the run - with the implication that they've been running off and on for a long time now - and then you sort of fill in the backstory as the young rabbit protagonist asks the elders all about this strange monster chasing them.

Of course, there's really two ways for this story to end - one, he stays behind and the monster isn't really a monster at all, which strikes me as somewhat anti-climactic (in the sense that it seems preachy - "if you face your fears, etc, etc). Maybe the monster is worse than all the old rabbits' stories - or maybe there's a lot of them - or maybe it's something that even the rabbits don't fully understand, like a fire or a tank or something. Just throwing out random ideas.

I also really like the graffiti idea. It's sort of in that "Blair Witch" aesthetic, rooting a fantastical story in very small little real-world details. I'm not sure if you'd want to "tell" the story through graffiti, so much as offer hints to the story. Maybe you'd want to a sort of documentary/essay style - a collection of "real-world" evidence as to the existence of this ghost, or whatever. Finding a strange phrase written on different places. It has alot of options for breaking the fourth wall.