E-Lit Forum 2009
Week 2 – In conversation with Sharif Ezzat
1. What inspired you to select the specific stories that were in “Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky”?
I was motivated to share stories that seemed to offer insights on human nature, or to describe some universal state of longing, frustration, awe… Why do we pass down stories? To learn from others’ choices, to be entertained, yes, but also to recognize elements of ourselves that lay hidden in others’ lives.
2. Why did you include the stories of land and water? They appear to have no explicit connection to family as do all of your other stories?
There were a few stories (‘land’, ‘stars’, ‘water’) that played with a metaphorical familial intimacy. The ‘land’ piece was likely borne out of my direct experience. The area where I wrote these stories was the first wild land I really became familiar with: the particular trees, birds’ songs, flowers, the rhythms of the seasons… I realized that until then I had only known man-made lands, which seemed hard, regular, sterile and mute by comparison. It was a very different sensation, to know this land, and I felt like it had a place in this collection. The ‘water’ piece was more of a anthropomorphic musing which allowed me to express my concern about global water issues in a more intimate and playful way. There are clearly environmental themes in these stories; I was aware at the time of an intuitive continuity among family, earth, and universe, and tried to express that awareness.
3. Why did the individual stories not have their own audio narration like the introduction?
The opening narration was intended to pull the user into the mood of the piece and entice them to explore the interface. Beyond that, I feel like narration would be overkill. I think voice can be used to great effect in multimedia, but for these stories, I wanted the primary experience to be textual.
4. Do you think working in collaboration with another creator/artist helps or hinders your ability to produce E-Lit?
It depends on the project. Often I enjoy working alone, but those are usually small-scale projects; collaboration opens up opportunities for expression that aren’t available to the individual artist, and there is more room for the unexpected to manifest.
5. In your post you wrote, “As with most of my commercial projects, Like Stars uses xml-formatted data, decoupling the content and the interface which, among other things, allows the number of stories to grow and the content to be modified infinitely.” Have you ever thought about re-releasing this piece and allowing access to the programming so that the viewers could become part of the stories content?
Great question. I had considered another life for this piece, in which users can share their own experiences on a story’s theme, similar to the old http://www.fray.org storytelling site. They could be represented in the interface as constellations around each “main” story’s star… One of the most important early lessons for me was the idea that a digital artwork is never really finished. When content (text, audio, video, etc.) is abstracted from presentation (display, interface), it becomes more open to re-contextualization and reconfiguration, and its useful life is extended. I hope to be able to remix and re-release my artworks many times over.