The Enduring Ephemeral in "Carving in Possibilities"
Having already touched upon some of the resonance (the non-distinct .swf file) and dissonance (the jarring sounds and the elusive text) between the two pieces of media, I think that a discussion of Chun's enduring ephemeral may be applicable. The appearance and disappearance of the phrases on the interface as they correspond with the movement of the mouse (note the necessity of mental and physical memory to relocate a given phrase again in the same read), seems to speak directly to the ephemerality of language in digital environments, while at the same time it seeks to ground this ephemerality in the materiality of David. Also, because the piece is done in Flash and there is no way to fast-forward or rewind, you are not given boundless access to the text, you must complete your reading of the e-lit to start reading it again; there is no fast-foward or rewind or any way to start in the middle of the piece. This provides a real sense of space in time that in some ways, perhaps, is true to how memory works.
But of course there is also the fact that if you start the piece over again, you may encounter an entirely different set of phrases–furthering the sense of the ephemerality. On the other hand, there is only a limited sequence of words the piece can supply before it begins to recycle them (you may access unique sequences the first few read-throughs, but they will eventually start to repeat themselves). And while the number of sequences encoded within the file is not accessible forensically (thinking about it in this sense, perhaps the opaqueness of the file makes the phrases seem all the more ephemeral–maybe this is intentional?), the limited vocabulary of the file becomes obvious if you read through the text multiple times (as I have done). That said, the ephemeral nature of the appearing/disappearing phrases is really quite enduring, should you decide to read and re-read over and over again, while at the same time these phrases maintain their ephemerality by the way the piece forces you to start from the beginning should you want to re-read, denying you the agency to pause, fast forward, or re-wind–the slightest movement of the hand can erase the desired phrase. The only way to "keep" a given phrase is either to either stay still (and delay completion) or continue to read and re-read.
Author: Emily Smith
Word Count: 403
Word Count: 403
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