Class Thread on Curation (Week 8)

From Grace:
Grigar, Emerson, and Barens say in one of their statements:
 “… curating an exhibit of electronic literature work is … an “authorial” act and is invested in, as Barnaby Drabble suggests, “the development of critical meaning in partnership and discussion with artists and publics” (qtd. in Graham and Cook 10). It differs, however, from the authorialness of curating media art because critical meaning for electronic literature may involve a relationship, close or in passing, with literariness… And an assumption underlying literariness is an engagement through reading. This means when exhibiting it, we must consider the public’s expectations and assumptions about kinds of engagement when someone enters a space that purports to present literature of any kind, be it print or electronic. In this regard, when devising the exhibit, we knew we would need to create an atmosphere conducive for reading and discussing works with others.”
Before planning, we must begin to establish our goals and methods for our exhibit. With that in mind, I ask you to respond to one or more of the following questions, with the goal of clarifying what kind of experience we want our visitors to have with e-lit, and how we want to go about creating that experience.
What is the fundamental meaning or experience you feel is necessary to impart to visitors of our exhibit?
What are our audience’s “expectations and assumptions about kinds of engagement when someone enters a space that purports to present literature of any kind” How will we address or expand those expectations?
How will we approach the concept of reading as it applies in our exhibit in a practical way? (will pieces be on looping video? controlled by individual visitors? “read” in groups?)
Feel free to discuss other aspects of curation that you feel are necessary at this point of the process.
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  1. I think the main thing that needs to conveyed is what the whole field of “Electronic Literature” actually means. Prior to this class, when we view videos, or video games, or even if any of the works were presented to us without context, I doubt we would draw the same conclusions about it as we do now. Just as the special art exhibits in the Met have an entire wall of context for the audience to better appreciate works (and some of those are just as ridiculous as some pieces of E-Lit that we’ve explored), a large blurb of some kind would be necessary. This could be done in a piece of E-literature, most easily in hypertext, perhaps. Otherwise, I think that a developmental history of electronic literature would be the most accessible type of exhibit. Luckily, Dr. Gibson did most of the work for us, I think. We have a convenient outline of the types of E-Literature, and what we must do as a class is to choose one or two pieces that we feel most represent each (such as the Stanley Parable for video game e-literature, perhaps) and put them in chronological order. As far as looping goes, I don’t see why these pieces shouldn’t be looped, although works where we believe the interactivity or impermanence of the piece is central to its point (such as Taroko Gorge, perhaps) should be set up so that the audience can control it as we did when we explored them individually.

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  2. I believe it is our duty to convey the genre of E-literature to the audience, while also making it engaging. We should be careful not to sacrifice the art for sake of brevity or “informational sessions”. While it is true that we ought to water down some of the pieces for the sake of the audience, we also need to be wise in the pieces we choose to present so that they are accurate representations of the genre, but also artistically pleasing or challenging in some way.
    I believe that we should choose some of the better pieces, or ones we particularly liked in class.
    I agree with Philip as far as looping is concerned. It is a fine idea where some of the pieces are concerned, however the interactive ones ought to be set up in a way that people can interact with the pieces themselves.

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  3. I agree with Phil in that a comprehensive approach is valuable, or maybe even necessary, if we’re responsible for exhibiting “E-Literature” as a whole. By it’s nature as a mix of media and genres, history and context are particularly useful to help a newcomer understand the material presented to them.

    That said, I agree with Grigar just as much, that E-Literature, by nature of it being literature, is on one level fundamentally opposed to the expectations of a curated ‘exhibit’ environment. And environment is an important term for this factor. For example, if we curated this material in stations in Buswell Library, it would be experienced very differently than if curated in Adams Hall. Or, just as much, if we simply distributed a collection as an anthology rather than a curated installation, that too would significantly affect the experience. The comprehensiveness of history and context can be addressed equally well in any of the above exhibition spaces, but the experience of the actual material will be different.

    So, then, I would argue that one of the most important considerations when curating material like this is to determine what mode of presentation best suits the response encouraged by the function of the piece itself. If the piece is heavily literary–any of the hypertext that we’ve covered, for example–then it warrants an environment that, as Grigar puts it, encourages “literariness” or a response of reading. If it’s mostly audio-visual–like bpNichol’s work that opened our class–then a looping video may be able to prompt an appropriate response. I acknowledge that Grigar may go the step further to claim that, really, a piece of E-Lit can’t be properly experience if not on the original machine/medium it was designed for, but I would argue that we fulfill our responsibility to these texts if we present them in a way that draws the visitor to engage the text in the way the text itself encourages. The curation should complement the design.

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  4. I will answer the prompt’s specific questions in the order they were presented.

    1. One of the key take-aways from our weeks with E-Lit is that ‘reading’ must expand beyond words, books, and complete sentences. Literacy is the ability to adapt to new ways of taking in an author’s information, whether it’s handling kinetic poetry, navigating a video game, or working through a hypertext with or without a map. We should select pieces that showcase new forms of exploration and text-navigation, as well as explain the ‘rules of engagement’ with these pieces and how they further the humanities.

    2. Expectations coming into this exhibit will be similar to ours when we started the class – reading is done with books, and complete thoughts, and words staying in place where they darn well ought to, gosh dang it! Of course, digital humanities and the meta-media of computers, video games, hypertext, etc. defy this sort of static reading. At first, patrons may respond defensively to strange presentations such as ‘The Mandrake Vehicles’, so we must understand that we are helping them get their floaties on before they go in the shallow end of the digital humanities pool. We aren’t trying to catch them up to us, that would take, well, all the weeks of class and discourse we’ve gone through, but we’re helping them learn the language to deal with some of these pieces and at least understand where they are working from and what they are working on.

    3. It really depends on the piece. Games like ‘The Stanley Parable’ will probably have a demo station with a little ‘How To Play’ placard with controls. Pieces like ‘Computer Poetry’ can be set on a loop with a ‘What Is Even Going On’ placard. Others will require more curator guidance, which is why we will discuss our selections in class and come to consensus on how to present them most productively.

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  5. Whenever anyone asks me what e-lit is, I find it really hard to explain exactly what it is even though we’ve spent so much time in class developing a vocabulary to be able to explain it. There are just some elements that I think need to be experienced rather than just explained. Also, a basic understanding of the different forms of e-lit and how they function should be learned from our exhibit.
    I think people would just assume they’d just go to the exhibit and read some literature, but I would really like to see people’s view of what reading really is and what literature is change a little. I think it would be effective to have an interactive portion of the exhibit where viewers could actually make their own e-lit or contribute to a work. Also we could choose some of our favorite pieces and ones that would give the best idea as to what e-lit is.

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