Digital Cosmos

Week 3: FOUNDATIONS II – DIGITAL POETICS AND MANIFESTOS


“what a time to be alive, where a feeling can be seen through a paradox of leaving and coming”

In summary, this week our readings were Vniverse, Sea and Spar Between & House of Trust by Stephanie Strickland. Plus Ingrid Anderson and Megan Sapnar’s Cruising, Deena Larson’s Carving in Possibilities and Reiner Strasser’s ii — in the white darkness: about [the fragility of] memory.

I have opened this reflective piece with a quote from Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbows. Not one of the chosen readings for this week but a work (or an author at large) that I see as a candidate for unmistakable connection to our list of authors.

The first and most obvious connection is to Stephanie Strickland’s Vniverse, since Pynchon also has a fondness for the symbol/letter/form of V, to which he dedicated his debut novel V. To add, the symbol also occurs as a central theme in the oh-so-popular graphic novel turned Hollywood film by Allen Moore, V for Vendetta.

The critical mass V has accumulated through out literary history, as the numeral, symbol, and/or letter is curious. What has drawn the authors to this shape? Is it inherent like the sharp arch that is biologically programmed into the members of a bird kingdom?

Strickland’s artificial location in cyber-space harnesses the mysterious inquiry that has intrigued the very old to the more-recent-old societies and squeezed it into a controllable frame. The infinite-ness of space is maintained by a less-familiar algorithm that mediates the illusion behind a digital curtain for the audience.

Stephanie presents a form of space that is universally understood or accepted by organizing a number of constellations and star clusters, but has chosen to alter it so that her work does not mirror the cosmos as they are, but have them resemble the natural form. This decision can be seen as a resistance against tradition, but is not completely countering since a number of the clusters resemble or imply their origins in reality (like R2 and Shepard resembling the Taurus bull and the Big Dipper/Ursa Minor for example).

These choices demonstrate a sense of purpose to Strickland’s design, since each constellation still pulses with a historic memory, but reminds new in it’s form and chosen prose. Perhaps akin the natural phenomena, the Vniverse does not seem to be arbitrary in any sense, but entirely designed. It haunts readers with symbols that lead readers down a reference page as infinite as a space-like dream state.

Pynchon also honours reality in his fictional novel V, by letting his main character lose in a number of events that are found in history (like the Suez Crisis at the end of the novel). Both authors use these real-life elements to connect with their audience, while their creative details and alterations work as a compliment. Experiences of the world that already exists can be seen as thought-provoking enough, so they become suitable foundations for each author to imply ideas rather than construct an entire vision.

The digital frame Strickland has created is restricted in access, which is contrary to the physical realm’s experience, since the computer only allows a the participant to contact a certain number of possible outcomes. Although, this frame allows an exploratory power that is not yet possible within the real cosmos since they are so far out of reach to the common folk. The program gives Stephanie the power to add an extra layer onto the understood vision of space and demonstrate an alternative interaction with her participant’s common experience.

The featured image is taken by Axel Sigurõarson in Sùla, Norway.

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