Tag Archives: (re-) Mapping Moby

Ice(land), Ice(land), Baby!

So in January and February I am in away in Iceland on a two-month research residency working on a number of creative projects, finishing some (I hope) and starting some (for sure) and in development on more (no doubt). In January I am in residence at Gullkistan in Laugarvatn in Southern Iceland, on a sheep and horse farm next to a geothermal lake, and in February I am at Listhús in Ólafsfjörður, a herring village in the northeast of Iceland located at the mouth of the fjord Eyjafjörður. It’s an amazing opportunity to continue with work that draws inspiration from landscapes as a form of affective digital storytelling. Although the goal is to work on a number of projects, many Art Line related or inspired, I am also taking time to finish an article on augmented reality exploring the nature of “place,” “materialities,” and “reading differently” in the context of the “(Re-)Mapping Moby” project. It’s for a special issue of Convergence focussed on “Cultural Expression in Augmented & Mixed Reality” and co-edited by my colleagues Jay D. Bolter and Maria Engberg. I will be working from a distance with collaborators to finish a video installation version of the “(s)AND” project which will be shown as part of the Telling the Baltic exhibition in Rostock Germany (Feb-March 2013) and continuing on to Kaliningrad (April 2013).  Although we had hoped to work on an augmented reality version of the work for Rostock, we will save that for the “Mixing Realities Digital Performance Festival” to be held in Kalrksrona in May 2013, also as part of the Art Line project. (Another post will follow about the festival with more details.) The festival will include a variety of scholars and artists working across media in installations, exhibitions, performances, and seminars. I am also directing the festival, and so I have many hats to don, wonderous hats, fascinators even, if ever there were a more apt definition of the word. (Another post will follow about the festival with more details.)

One of the new projects I’m working on is a project called “iSLAND” which will be exhibited in the Marinmueum (Swedish Naval Museum) in Karlskrona in fall 2013. It’s another landscape-based work that works to forge connections between Iceland and Karlskrona through expressions of isolation, intimacy, and bridging watery-distance. I’ve included a full description below and a slideshow of just a few images (of the hundreds I’ve captured so) that have already begun to inspire me. This is a mystical magical place, where you are likely to encounter a rainbow, a geyser, a waterfall, a herd of horses in the yard, and a hot-pink sunset, all in the same day. iLike.


an experiment in intimate screens and touchable narratives

Project Leader: Lissa Holloway-Attaway

In this collaborative project, we are exploring alternative methods for digital storytelling via the use of the iPad. The goal is to make and tell a fictional story based on identities found in distant histories and landscapes surrounded and connected by water, ships, submarines, and submersibles. The story will be an artistic historical reflection on islands and sea cultures, in particular on Karlskrona and Iceland.

The iPad will be used both as a production tool and as an interface for displaying the story content. The touch screen capabilities of the iPad, as well as the “personal” nature of the hand-held screen is a key component in our research. The iPad touch screen provides “up-close and intimate connections” between the producer and the viewer/user and in our method of revealing the story, we will incorporate these elements. For our production methods, we will use the built-in iPad camera in a number of ways:  still photos, video, and augmented reality panoramas, for example. Also, we will use iPad applications for “filmmaking,” audio production, and artistic expression (particularly those developed to engage and explore touch and sensory input on iPad screens).

The project title “ iSLAND” suggests both the device used to produce and exhibit the project (an iPad) and references the content and the locations for the storytelling. This will be a personal (fictional) story of identity-making set in the converged landscapes of Iceland and Karlskrona, Sweden. In Swedish, “Iceland” is translated as “Island,” which in English means a land-mass surrounded by water. Both Iceland and Karlskrona are deeply connected to their physical nature of being islands. For Iceland, a remote island country on the border of the Northern Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, this suggests both isolation and uniqueness in its culture, people, and heritage. For Karlskrona, a small city comprised of more than 30 islands in the Baltic archipelago, this suggests a kind of scattering of identities over land and sea. The “i” then in our project title also hints at the personal identities an island can contain, as well as on human individuality and uniqueness. Drawing on old histories of sea culture and sea crossings (above the sea in ships, and under it in submarines), we will try to cross the waters and find cultural and historical connections.

The story will be revealed in a series of panoramic images (still images, video, augmented reality), audio expressions, (remixed texts, original poetry, music, and ambient landscape recordings), and text and video files. The content will use a mixture of languages (English, Swedish, Icelandic, German, Polish, and maybe more). The story will be accessed on an iPad where the user may select a series of clips, texts, and other media to  “touch” together the story. In the use of  augmented reality panoramas in particular, the user also will be required to hold, move, and physically interact with the screen in ways that highlight how contemporary digital media has moved beyond story-telling on the traditional page, computer monitor, or film screen.

This project is partially funded by Art Line, an EU project exploring digital art innovation in the Southern Baltic region. It will be developed in part during a two month research  artist residency by the project leader (Lissa Holloway-Attaway) in Iceland in January and February 2013. Following the residency, other collaborators in Sweden will work together to create the story and technology. The project will be exhibited in the Swedish National Naval Museum (Marinmuseum) in Karlskrona in Fall 2013.

Iceland Landscapes…

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Moby Marathon Remixing

The late spring and summer were packed full with exciting trips and research, and sometimes a combo of both, but I haven’t really updated my activities for a while–a little longer than intended. I guess that’s a sign of being busy…

This fall too has immersed me in teaching, including a new course called Digital Bodies in Literature, which I am offering as an exclusive undergraduate seminar elective (3 students only!) in The Digital Culture and Communication Program. More on that in a later post and the ways it has engaged me in thinking again about those-oh-so-troublesome non-human bodies

Whaling Captian reads Moby-Dick

A “real” 19th C whaling ship Captain begins the reading at the Mystic Museum outdoor stage.

I do want to highlight, however,  a trip from this past August which I am “revisiting “a lot lately in light of developments in an on-going “marathon” project (a literal and figurative description).

This summer while in the US, I went to Mystic, Connecticut and to the Mystic Seaport Museum for the annual  “Moby-Dick Marathon”–a non-stop 24 hour reading of the complete text of Melville’s Moby-Dick. And, yes, it was almost exactly 24 hours, although unlike a few Moby die-hards, I wasn’t present for the whole time. I did get to read some key chapters, and favorites of mine, though– Chapters 10 and 133–for example. It was thrilling and a little surreal, particularly as I read the Chapter 133, “The Chase: First Day” aboard the Charles W. Morgan, an original 19th century whaler being restored at the museum and currently in dry-dock. Reading aloud to the crowd, some of whom who had spent the night on the ship, and from noon the day before at other museum locations, and then finally speaking the lines “There she blows! – there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!” which signals the first sighting of the whale itself in the entire novel, actually gave me goose bumps. I definitely got my Melville geek on, just a little bit. It was the 27th annual reading in Mystic, but the first for me. What an out-of-body (and yet embodied) experience!

everyone reads Moby

Mo’ Moby reading aboard ship

Besides getting to hang out with true Melville fans (as you’d have to be to participate in a reading of this type), I was also there to do some research on how to stage such a marathon reading, as I am hoping to  create my own “(Re-)Mixed-up & (Re-)Mediated Moby-Dick Marathon”  in May 2013 (or possibly September 2013, if I need/am allowed extra time). This will be a cornerstone event in the launch of the first iteration of the “(Re-) Mapping Moby Project.”  (A video outlining this project in more detail is also available online and I’ve blogged about it as well.) My conversations with organizers and museum staff, who were very generous to share ideas and methods, were very helpful and key to helping me think through the organization of my own event.

reading Moby-Dick

All manner of devices were used during the marathon to read the text, smart phones to paperback.

The event will be included as part of Art Line sponsored Digital Performance Festival I’m coordinating to further my research in, and efforts to help create, a sustainable Digital Art Platform.  As part of Art Line, many of the International partners are working to create a “platform” for knowledge exchange in the southern Baltic region for exploring art innovation in public, physical and virtual spaces. This means both making a literal platform, included as part of the Art Line website in the form of commissioned art works, contests, and dissemination of events, but also sharing best.practices, artifacts, and experiences working in these arenas. My plan for the festival is to invite artists from the Southern Baltic region, and beyond, to participate in the festival with works that foreground performance in physical and virtual space. I hope to represent a variety of performance practices and media, including sound artists, dancers, visual media, musicians, and mixed-media theater.

large fisherman statue

Moby-sized fisherman statue at Blekinge Museum archives in Rosenholm, along with Telling the Baltic artists and story-collectors

At the core of the festival will be the “(Re-)Mixed-up & (Re-)Mediated Moby-Dick Marathon Reading.”  Similar to, and yet significantly different from, a traditional marathon reading, we will include a non-stop live reading of the novel from key sites in Karlskrona inspired by “Moby” settings.

ship hanging in Admirality Church, Kalrksrona

Ships hang from the ceiling in the old wooden Admirality Church (Amiralitetskyrkan) in Karlskrona

(As a town situated on the sea with a long-naval history, this is not so difficult really. We don’t have whales, but we have old wooden churches with ships inside, giant Moby-sized fishermen, and lots of water and shore line to inspire pantheistic musings. )

twitter team

Twitter Team onboard the Charles W. Morgan sends updates and pop culture references.

But our marathon also will be punctuated with skype-readings from participants in global locations, social media reflections, artistic media “renderings” of content, and other public interventions and performances that accompany the reading. In Mystic,  there was a twitter team on hand to “tweet” updates and references, but we hope to extend substantially  the use of social and other media at our event.

Melville “himself” showed up to read the epilogue

The reading is intended as an extension of many of the goals articulated in the “(Re-) Mapping Moby Project.” My research there is focused on exploring textual innovation, new interpretive strategies, and media production through a critical awareness of embodied performance. By “staging” the novel in our mediated marathon, I hope to draw attention to the ways in which mixed media practices can offer methods for knowing-differently, for coming to a deeper onto-epistemological understanding of “texts” and media  (to borrow  a term from Karen Barad and her reflections on posthumanist performativity) . As impacted as I was by the purity, density, and sheer volume of Melville’s words when I listened to them read aloud during the marathon in Mystic, I felt too there was another dimension of connectedness that might be offered to the “reader” if she were to become even more fully immersed in the text through a variety of other creative renderings.

After all, the body of the whale, in all its fleshy layered-ness, in all its blank-page whiteness, offers multitudinous possibilities for representation…

Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color; and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows- a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink? (–“The Whiteness of the Whale,” Moby-Dick)

papier mache whale

Marathon readers and museum visitors help construct a papier mache Moby in the shipyard throughout the reading: an other kind of material remix

Other organic bodies too (human, cellular, textual, and tactile), in tandem with their  motile and sensory properties, can be foregrounded in the mixed media experiences we create. In my current Moby-work, I draw historical parallels to Melville’s radical review of 19th century techno-culture and the methods he uses to deliberately rework the nature of textuality and the body (of the whale) in his Romantic quest narrative. The white whale, an elusive and yet enormous un-presence in the aesthetics of Melville’s work is an earlier example of material augmentation referenced in the contemporary digital work we are creating. The use of augmented reality, social media, and live-action in combination with other media interventions in the text, is key to investigating how mixed media

papier mache Moby

all whales, eventually, are white….

experiences can revolutionize material methods for (re-) experiencing traditional literary narratives. Moby-Dick as an inspirational base text is already radical and materially eccentric, begging the reader to take narrative risks, and so I am heeding the call, and into the swirling center I go, round and round, “slowly, drawn towards the closing vortex.” Send me a life-buoy coffin. Or maybe just a Rachel-like rescue vessel. Or maybe just some cake…

The “Great White Cake,” served at the end of the marathon reading in Mystic to celebrate Melville’s Birthday

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(s)AND and (Re-) Mapping Moby: Video Descriptions

art line logoVideos describing  the “(s)AND” and “(Re-)Mapping Moby” projects, for which I am serving as a project leader, are now currently available online. (See links below.)

Both are collaborative projects that I am developing as part of my research at my home institution, Blekinge Tekniska Högskola,  within the Art Line framework. Collectively, they explore embodied modes of expression operating in performative mixed media practices. I am working together with researchers in the Augmented Environments Laboratory at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ga, USA, in the Computer Science department at Malmo Högskola in Sweden, and with independent artists elsewhere in Sweden and the Baltic region. Constructed with a variety of media types (visual, textual, audio, live performance) these artifacts serve to redistribute and construct material mediascapes and ecosystems that exploit sensory expressiveness in/with the body. They are creative/critical experiments that allow my collaborators and I to develop experiences and interfaces to support mixed-mediated performance:

In the “(s)AND” project, we explore the physical landscape around Nida, Lithuania and the Blekinge region of Sweden and their local histories with a focus on shifting sites of narrative location and mediated story-telling. (Hence the project title which alludes to “sand” as a physical property characterized by it shifting nature, at the border between solid land and liquid water, as well as the additive possibilities (and) that such shifting allows when we imagine its stories: If borders shift, then what, one may ask, is lost or gained as the renegotiation occurs? What are the Baltic stories held within, washed away, and re-deposited in the iconic sANDs and dunes of Nida and the rocky shores, runes, and petroglyphs of Blekinge. And how do they exemplify all stories as historically liquid, immense, secret, and yet, intimate when one participates with them?  The project uses hand-held touch screens to access augmented reality and other media content comprised of photographs, video and audio from (and inspired by) the unique landscape locations. Intended to be exhibited across media platforms  and contexts users will be able to access (to “touch”) the abstract narratives  in an installation setting, as well as via a smart phone “app” and a live/media performance. (View video online for more details.)

In the“(re-)Mapping Moby” project, we explore a classic literary novel (Herman Melville’s 1851 Moby-Dick), in conversation with contemporary digital mapping and mixed reality media technologies. Using the literary text as an inspirational base text, we are  exploring ways to re-map the novel to reveal the liquid borders at the heart of its narrative form. Moby-Dick as the base text for this project is not an arbitrary choice. Melville’s revolutionary Romantic text foregrounds the intimate self-reflexive nature of a sea journey of self-discovery that continually presents its narrative and fictional content—an adventurous quest for an elusive object of desire, the white whale—as  a material metaphor for literary production in an ambiguous (“shifty”) aesthetic tradition driven by innovation and progress. The work on this project involves constructing a digital map interface linked to social networking sites, geo-tagging applications, and corresponding augmented reality tools developed for mobile and desktop web browser experiences. The map will be constructed based on locations and stories identified in the novel, but re-located onto the city spaces of Karlskrona, Sweden, where I now live and work. Users will access the content, inspired by the novel, by performing tasks, creating media content, and walking through the city-spaces of a small naval village in Sweden.  Purposely distant and dis-located from the original text,  the location in Sweden nonetheless draws the user into the narrative through a performative mixed-media experience sustained by the experience we (re-)map. (View video online for more details.)

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