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  • Corrina Espinosa

Electronic Literature: a bird's eye view

Fig. 1

The electronic literature collection is published by the Electronic Literature Organizaion (ELO), both as an online platform and in print, which provides viewers a unique viewing experience to encounter various types of digital/electronic/interactive literature. The ELO was founded in 1999 and currently has 3 Volumes of fantastic and extraordinary electronic works available for view. This discussion will be a quick bird's eye view of the works available and will be focused on these five specific pieces of literature from the first volume in the ELO's electronic literature collection: My Body by Shelley Jackson, Six Sex Scenes by Adrienne Eisen, Distance by Tina Laporta, Sunshine 69 by Bob Arellano, and Red Riding Hood by Donna Leischman.

My Body

In this first piece of electronic literature, artist Shelley Jackson invites us to explore her body in various ways. Our first encounter is visual, an anatomical map of her body is labeled with hyper-links which take us on a journey through a diary style, semi-autobiographical exploration of her body, sexuality and here most private, deepest sense of self. This piece turns viewer into voyeur by allowing her most private thoughts and feelings to be exploited link by link. Select a part of her naked body, click on it, and be rewarded by the excitement attained only by the revealing of another dark and titillating secret. She blurs the line between fact and fiction with stories told in a first person perspective that feels as real as it does raw and uninhibited as well as ridiculously fabricated and dramatically over exaggerated. Jackson creates visual illusions that are truly believable, despite their laughable absurdity in nature. She delivers everyword with a straight faced tone, never breaking character for a convincing result that is a gleaming example of what I like to call the decpeption aesthetic. That is, lying through your teeth in your artwork and never ever owning up to it.

"My vagina has very long and sticky lips and sometimes I would stroll pantyless through a store in a short skirt, brushing nonchalantly against the merchandise, and come out with valuable items stuck to me. I always felt these goods were mine by right, as they had attached themselves to me like burrs without my deliberate intervention, though once, when I began dragging a whole sofabed out the door behind me, I was hard put to explain this reasoning to the manager; but his embarrassment won the day for me, and in the end I even prevailed on him to help me load the sofabed into my car." --From the Vagina section of the body

Six Sex Scenes

Six Sex Scenes is another diary styled piece of electronic literature. Much like Jackson's My Body, artist Adrienne Eisen invites us to navigate our way click by click through some of her most intimate thoughts, memories and moments of her life. However, unlike Jackson's articulations, there is no sense of ridiculousness, with Eisen there is only a sense of the genuine. We get to know her from the perspective of her most private and darkest self. Her seemingly autobiographical piece is revealing in her most intimate relationships, including her mother, father, brother and her lover, Andy. Some of the scenes are lighthearted-- memories of playing with a sled with her brother, while others are down right horrific-- an intensely creepy encounter in the dressing room with her father.

"I want to show him that I'm not scared of anything anymore, so I stand there, and he moves his head closer and closer, until his lips are on mine, and his tongue is in my mouth. I've done this before, with boys, and I want to make sure Dad can tell that I know what I'm doing. I move my tongue with his, and wrap my arms around him. I press my breasts against him, and he moans softly . Then I bite his tongue. Hard, so it bleeds."Ow!" He says. He moves his head away from me. "What's wrong?" he says.I'm silent for a few seconds, thinking. I move my arms across his back and up to his head. "I don't ever want to see you do this with Mom again. Do you understand?" He understands."--taken from the "on my fifteenth birthday" entry


In this piece the artist takes a totally different route at investigating similar themes on intimacy and relationships. Instead of inviting us into her diary, La Porta allows viewers to go through as series of screenshots take through real life encounters with other people via online social media (early versions of Skype like applications) with accompanying captions which describe the lack of authenticity and the emotional emptiness of the pseudo-social online encounters. Though more visual, LaPorta's literary experience is far less intimate than the two artists discussed previously, which in a way drives home the point of the artwork that online socialization lacks in comparison with in person encounters.

Sunshine 69

Bob Arellano's Sunshine 69 is exactly what it sounds like: a confusing and poetic ride through the subconscious as bizarre as any psychedelic trip induced by LSD or mushrooms...except this is electronic literature, of course. Arellano has created the first chemical-fee, choose your own adventure style trip through the strange and unknown! Viewers have the option to thumb through a calendar to "travel back and forth in SUNSHINE '69 time," a map to "navigate the SUNSHINE '69 setting: the San Francisco Bay Area," a "suitcase" filled with characters to "try on some SUNSHINE '69 points of view: Orange Sunshine, Lucifer, Mick and Keith, to name a few," and a "dail" to "choose a SUNSHINE '69 8-track tape, and listen to RealAudio tunes while you cruise."

As the viewer begins to navigate their way through this fictitious world it becomes quickly apparent that the transition through the proverbial looking glass has certainly occurred. The language is nothing short of strange, there are made up words, obscure metaphors and links to provide equally strange definitions and explanations. In other words, all of the obscurities are explained and clarified with more obscurities. The dialogues between the characters are odd, hilarious and quite raunchy at times.

6 "And they were both ravished before Sade, bopping in all the bandwidths and orifices of the Lard (The lord 'n' lube of the Lowly Babble.) shameless. 7 And they had no child, because that Doris was sparing, and they both were now gel-dipping in rears. 8 And it came to gas, that while he sex-accuted the electrician's orifice by George in the order of his curse", -- From The Gobspill of St. Puke, Chapter 1, 6-8

Red Riding Hood

This is another choose your own adventure style rendering of the old familiar tale with a few very unfamiliar twists. In this flash animation Donna Leischman allows the viewers to take a visual journey from the perspective of Little Red Riding Hood in a contemporary city of sky scrapers. Our little heroine encounters a sketchy character on her walk and then passes out on the lawn. The viewer is then given a choice to wake her up or let her dream. In the image on the top left we see Red encounter the sketchy dude, in the image on bottom right, we see Red in a "wake up" scenario where she finds herself pregnant and being held at gunpoint by her captor. There are different outcomes for each choice, some are trippy, others are violent, all fit the theme of this discussion in their superb bizarre and unique nature.

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