By Megan Finnerty & Salome Fornier-Hanlon
“Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales” by Edward Falco, Mary Pinto and Will Stauffer-Norris, is a visual poetry piece that combines eight abstract chemical and light created photographs, each depicting different lands, with their own constructed texts whose content and formatting reflect the art upon which they are displayed. Each of the eight compositions play with the relationship between colour, scene and language; the colours of the pieces being reinforced through text, as their names provide further description of the scene or story written. With the implementation of flash, “Chemical Landscapes” becomes an engaging work, the text making a temporary appearance as it quickly fades out, leaving the reader to grasp onto small snippets of text, and either replay the same poem to try and read more, or venture onto another; creating his own internal landscape and its story with the words he has absorbed.
While “Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales” is an enthralling work, I found myself confused and disoriented due to the failure of the author’s conveyance of their message or intent. While this visual piece is clever and intriguing as it lures in the reader by its evanescence and romantically worded prose, the concept of the collaborators of having a reader jump from scene to scene all the while procuring random ideas to construct a new story or meaning was far from being executed by my exploration of their work. My first impression of what this piece was trying to project was a representation of the ocean through art, text and movement, relating content to interface and behaviour. The words fade in onto a background of what looked like a seascape for all but two (one which mirrored rain, and another of purple, which I was not too sure what landscape it projected), and then faded out to white. This dynamic struck me as wonderful in representing the undulating and recessive nature of an ocean tide, requiring us to replay the scene over and over to grasp the full text, replicating the in and out movement of waves on shore. Eventually, however, novelty wore off, leaving me more frustrated than mesmerized. The necessity for me to repeat the same text over and over to read the entire poem became exasperating, leading me to cheat and pause the flash. I became further disappointed when I realized that most of the poems had nothing to do with the sea, their text not only suggesting a different landscape, but pieced together in a very un-fluid manner, random ideas and words popping in from nowhere. In the end, I still appreciate the piece for its visual execution, and though abstract, the beauty in the prose it displays. If the authors had successfully communicated their philosophy behind this work, “Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales” would be a very powerfully moving piece of e-poetry; a truly engrossing visual, mental, and sensational experience of art, movement and textual meaning.
Thank you for your thoughtful review, Salome!
I find myself in agreement with much of what you had to say about “Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales”. While I too at first found myself completely mesmerized by the mimicking of the ocean tides and the lovely combinations of colour and texture, I soon became quite frustrated. Having to call the text back by clicking on it again and again did not appear to be a huge concern initially, but I quickly became annoyed, as I could not find myself being able to get through the entire piece in one viewing. I realize the creator intended this to be the case, however having to go back and re-click it multiple times to complete the reading, I found myself losing focus quite easily. That lost focus caused me to have to read the pieces several times before I actually absorbed the content of each one of them as a whole. The piece does in fact create a slightly different experience with each reading, however they all caused me to experience the same aggravation. That being said, I did however enjoy how Falco’s words so nicely matched the visual landscapes created by Mary Pinto. Softer colours were effectively used to create more serene landscapes, accompanied by calmer, more tranquil content, while the poems that portrayed more stressful scenes of nature were amongst a darker, slightly edgier landscape, visually elevating the intensity.
Using ‘Visual Poetry or Narrative’ as a keyword is very appropriate for this piece, as these “landscapes” were thoughtfully created using only chemicals, a flashlight, and a darkroom. However, while I did find myself admiring the beautiful visual atmosphere this array of works provides, I personally found myself a bit more engrossed with the importance of time in this piece rather than its visuals, as the visuals quickly disappeared with the text.
The world of electronic literature is still quite new to me, and I realize that while many pieces are extremely interactive, others leave you with no control whatsoever, forcing the viewer to go along for the ride. “Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales” is a little bit of both, leaving the viewer almost slightly deceived. At first glance, the viewer is in complete control, only to realize that the initial click is about the only control you are granted in this piece. While this piece was visually beautiful, I found that its beauty was slightly outweighed by the frustrations it caused me.
A Few Questions…
1) How did you guys feel about this piece? Did you experience the same frustrations that we did?
2) Do you think the creators in this piece made a positive choice in making the reader continuously chase after the text?
3) Do you feel that this piece may have been more or less effective with the addition of either interactive elements, or audio?