This week’s reading along with the post from Prof. Riva made me think again of narratives as discussed in class last week. In particular, the video of Screen Profile reminded me of a project presented a couple of years ago at DownStreet Art by artists Erin Ko and Alex Chouls called Flow. I go back to that project because I think it is an interesting example of alternative narratives and by comparing it with Screen Profile it can shed an interesting light over the debate on words and text in the digital era.
While in Screen Profile there is a set of pre-determined words, in Flow words are a direct contribution of the viewer who sends a text to the installation. The text is read by a software and projected on vertical screens. Flow was installed in a window and the result of the texting was only visible from outside at night. It has been installed in different settings where people could walk through it and share a similar immersive experience as the viewer in Screen Profile.
The difference is mainly that the viewer in Screen Profile de-construct the text while the viewer in Flow “puts” text into it, but they both contribute to create its patterns. Why am I comparing the two? There are several reasons:
1- the way the viewer deals with text which I think it is here (and I would argue always) perceived as image: it is granted that text is image, but the way these two installations deal with the text here reiterate that specific aspect of it by emptying the words of their meaning and favoring a visual result over a textual narrative.
2- the construction of alternative narratives: by undoing or assembling the text in alternative ways which might not apparently follow a logical discourse, the two installations contribute to a new narrative. The latter could again be textual, but could also be simply visual. That being said, the two installations overcome the label-oriented culture of text.
3- the intimate dimension of interaction of the viewer with the installation: both installations establish a private dialogue with the viewer, although in Flow a collective interaction could be possible. On the intimate relationship with the text, both from a cognitive and a more intuitive way of reacting to the text, I see similarities with the “old” book.
4- the playful approach of the viewer to the installations: I believe this is strictly related to the digital format. Somehow, I think the approach to digital forms implies a recreational aspect. I might be mistaken, but I think the icon-based visual aspect of most of the interfaces we deal with, it encourages to look at the digital opportunities in a more playful (game-like) way.
That being said, I think these two installations favor a new approach to narratives while intrinsically pulling from the traditional ones.