Culture Machine, Vol 5 (2003)

CM2003 Article: Amerika

Literary Ghosts: Liner Notes

Mark Amerika

The track 'Literary Ghosts' is a computer-processed remix of digital source material from the FILMTEXT 2.0 project. The project began as a new commission from Playstation 2 as part of my net art retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. The retrospective appeared twice at the ICA, once in November 2001, and then again in January 2002. The ease with which digital source material can be remixed in real time performance as well as reconfigured for physical installation spaces such as the New Media Centre inside the ICA points to the key difference between my practice as an experimental postmodern novelist publishing books like The Kafka Chronicles and Sexual Blood, and my ensuing work as a net art practitioner who is attempting to invent new scripting languages. Some of the digital source material for 'Literary Ghosts' comes from the earliest scripts developed for the project. In this regard, I digitally recorded my voice reading passages from the script that now appears in multiple versions online and in museum and gallery spaces. There are also further digital recordings of my voice reading some of the action-script used to generate various narrative behaviours in the animated version of FILMTEXT. Alas, there is also source material captured live during my video location shoots in various places around Australia, Japan and Hawaii.

For the FILMTEXT 2.0 project, a digital narrative for cross-media platforms, we have been able to create a variety of versions using the same source material. To date, we have created a Flash version, an mp3 concept album, an experimental artist ebook available in .pdf format, a looping DVD version exhibited in museums and galleries on plasma screens, and a series of live performances throughout Japan, Europe and the USA. Subtitled 'MetaTourism: Interior Landscapes, Digital Thoughtography', FILMTEXT 2.0 investigates the interrelationships between biotech, games studies, digital narrative, and network culture. For example, a few of the questions this art work addresses include: what are the cultural implications of a thriving biopower that commands and controls the productive processes of life? How are our most creative minds politicized by the digital rhetoric being transmitted by the all-pervasive media environments and how does this media penetration (as in the term market penetration) effect us internally? Are artists who cooperate with the corporate agendas of companies developing new media technologies also accomplices in further empowering the rapid spread of multi-national corporate capitalism? And what if the world were no longer a safe place to be? What if we were at once being targeted by media viruses, computer viruses, sexually transmitted viruses, and bioterrorist viruses? In the language of new media, what's the difference between these variable yet potentially corrupting codes of behaviour manipulation?

While asking these questions, I travelled to remote desert locations throughout the world where I was able to begin capturing both digital video and digital still photography images of landscapes that appear to be other-worldly. These landscapes - such as the Australian Outback, the Haleakala Crater atop the island of Maui, and the American desert - serve as backdrops to a digital narrative whose subject matter is centred on a philosophical and poetic investigation of what it means to be human in a near-future, post-apocalyptic culture.

It should also be noted that many other night-time location shoots have taken place in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

The digital source material (images and sounds) I have captured in these locations, and that have been sampled and integrated into all of the versions of FILMTEXT 2.0, will now be transferred to another, more enriched presentation platform. My next version of the work will be constructed as a work of interactive cinema contained on DVD. Whereas most DVDs contain a copy of the 'movie' plus supplemental material such as interviews with directors and actors, the DVD platform actually allows for much more advanced code/scripting so that the art work itself can become more interactive, a space for the viewer to experiment with layering soundtracks, launching different scenes in random or viewer-customized order, and utilizing features such as subtitles for more creative purposes.

Looking at the experimental documentary nature of the images captured for the project thus far, I was struck by the similarity of this work and that of Chris Marker's Sans Soleil. Just as I had wondered, while making GRAMMATRON, what Joyce would have done with a compositional protocol like http, I have been thinking about what Sans Soleil might have been like if the artist had access to very accessible and relatively cheap digital technology like I, as a net artist, have access to today.

For me, there's a new kind of image ecriture emerging in digital culture, and perhaps the work of Marker, Vertov, Figgis, Deren, Brakhage, and Godard are places to begin reinvestigating the potential of the moving image to respatialize itself in our collective network composition. This collective network composition is taking place first and foremost in what has recently been referred to as a net art commons (the 'consensual hallucination' of Gibson's cyberspace minus the corporate-driven plot of evil-doing?). Contemporary net artists are remixing and reconfiguring their wildstyle practice at will. An open-ended database of possibility enables continuous entry into the world of surf-sample-manipulate. (H)activist interventions as radically subjective re-encodings of media experience are not only transforming the process of analysing, communicating and conserving knowledge, they are transforming the very nature of knowledge. It is some of the effects of media communications technologies on knowledge, both its form and content, that I hope to explore in FILMTEXT 2.0.

The 'Literary Ghosts' track is built out of a selection of sound loops created specifically for this variable media project. Other versions could have easily been rendered for this issue of Culture Machine.

I invite you to download this mp3, convert it to the audio format of your choice, and create your own.

Mark Amerika December 2002 Boulder, CO