Shelf Space for the Artist

By Chris Wilcox

Electronic literature (e-lit) seems very hard to try and place on the collection rack of artistry. It’s new and it can be seen as dangerous as it challenges us to do what we’re not normally comfortable with. This makes it hard for e-lit to have a voice in the world because of the way in which people are required to interact with it.

So where does e-lit find room to fit in our lives and how does it have a future? Currently e-lit seems to be a very small form of art yet has influences from all over the digital media realm. It’s biggest challenge as something small and new, lies within the viewer. This is because when people are faced with the “new” and “different” it can be hard to understand and easy to become frustrated. This is how I feel e-lit has been for me and I believe that because its hard to accept the “unknown”, e-lit will have a difficult time finding it’s way in the world.

One way in which we can start to see this is by looking at some of the works within the ELO. In exploring John Cayley’s Translations or Donna Leishman’s Deviant I found myself frustrated as meaning and interpretation was harder to derive. Not to say that they weren’t part of literature but my patience with these pieces specifically was limited. The over abundance of sound in Translations to the “lost-ness” I felt in Deviant left me with a sense of disinterest.

This was interesting though as it’s uncommon to hear someone talk about other forms of art as “frustrating”. When we look at photographs for instance, the relationship we have to each one seems very limited. This is because the picture doesn’t produce any sound and doesn’t let you play within the image like Deviant does. Because it differs so much then, e-lit can be seen as dangerous as it invites change in a variety of ways we’re not used to.

But this seems to be a big problem for the newer generation of artists as how their work is presented conflicts with our modern day expectations and desires. Because our interaction with e-lit is so different than what we’re used to, it makes it’s future look quite grim. How can it expect to find it’s place in the world when we find it hard to even bother viewing it?

Maybe the possible answer then lies with what Andrew Klobucar writes towards the end of his piece, The Silent Screen; basically we require patience. I do believe that eventually e-lit will make it, but for now it appears to be the minority working it’s way through the jungle of the art-world. What Andrew reminds us in his writing is that it took ages for mutual agreement in assessments of the printed page. Thus so too will it be this way with e-lit as we discover ways in which to read the page by turning it upside down.


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