I have come to my choice for an E-Lit review mostly out of frustration. As many of my classmates were remarkably quick to identify and select for themselves pieces worthy of deep exploration and consideration, I found myself somewhat adrift amongst a body of foreign and challenging pieces. My experiences with most of these pieces, the ones that didn’t require some software download, were the same. So much of E-Lit is just so, alienating. Like, its working so hard to distinguish itself, both as E-Lit and within that community, that it neglects the basic tenants of storytelling, of communication. The “reader” is being hooked into participation. We’re not even being dared to try and unravel a mystery by an alluring narrator. What its most like is being scoffed at by new wave art kids who laugh at your struggles to “get it.” They could care if we get it or not. Our comprehension is not their problem. They have been faithful to their artistic vision.
I am not advertising for compromise in art, in any of its forms. I do however feel that art, if it is meant to say something, should make an effort to communicate clearly with its audience. In the case of E-Lit this is very literally a user interface. It has been my feeling in general, with some notable exceptions, that E-Lit shrugs off this requirement of art, or at least does not consider it. The fact has to be considered that E-Lit was born in a time in which many things we find clunky and difficult now were actually nuanced and exciting, as the internet and various programming languages grew popular and accessible. Still, my search through them led me through what felt like circus funhouse of frustrating and unnavigable mirrors.
As in all times of trouble, I returned time and again to Star Wars. This time, its was maybe more part of the problem than the solution. In Star Wars, one letter at a time, the artists has literally set, presumably every character and space of the screenplay for A New Hope in a flash animation, complete with corresponding typewriter sounds. I kept coming back to this because I felt like I must have something in common with this creator, who has tried to make new art out of something I have loved for so long. But what I found again and again was that this was nothing. While yes it is technically Star Wars, reduced to like a molecular level, there’s nothing to it to be explored; its just noise and letters and punctuation. So I kept leaving it behind to find something better. But what I found was, to a degree, most of this stuff is just noise and letters. The exceptions here stand out because there is more to them than noise and flashing images. The awkward threesome flash game and spooky angel website, these things asked more of the reader than to sit uncomfortably and be assaulted by stimuli of the creator’s choosing. They stood out to us because they offered complexity that was deep without being impossible to unfold. There were finite moves to be made, rather than just taking stabs in the dark.
So I came back to Star Wars, and I realized that this offered an opportunity to discuss not just this piece, but all pieces. I let the flash run for a long time, more than once, and I realized that if I didn’t know what to expect, if my heartbeat didn’t quicken a little as I waited to see the letters flash, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” that this would be that much more challenging for me to absorb in any meaningful way. I went to the rest of the internet to see if I had missed something, but what I found was disheartening. A bunch of other reviewers were content to congratulate the artist, Brian Kim Stefans, on how well he really brought the reader into the experience of George Lucas typing out character by character the screenplay for his iconic film, to which I called shenanigans. One person had the sense to comment on the fact that George would have had to have sat there and typed continuously without changing the paper or pausing to think about his next word for this to actually mimic his experience.
The thing is, this doesn’t have anything to do with the writer’s experience of creating Star Wars. It doesn’t mimic the processes of creation and invention in the slightest. It could well be a transcription of the day’s stock ticker for as well as it duplicates the process of creative writing. If it has any kind of meaning at all, it might, at a stretch, be to examine the subatomic structure of a work as massive an epic as Star Wars, which takes place across a galaxy and is characterized by lasers and an exploding planet. That juxtaposition is worth examining if anything is. Like getting really, really close to a work of pointillism or mosaic and looking at the individual components to give scale to the larger complete work.