Entanglements: an exploration of the digital literary work FISHNETSTOCKINGS

Meaning Submerged and Unmoored


FISHNETSTOCKINGS stages the oceanic entanglements between depth (e.g., racial blackness) and surface (e.g., silhouette/stereotype) in a way that encourages us to read markers of identity not as information itself, but as the result of information processing. To do so, the installation enables participants to experience signifying systems, or our systems of meaning-making, in and as an immersive environment. The ocean’s capacity for bending and warping light often makes it difficult to orient oneself when submerged. Distance, direction, color, and speed are experienced relative to one’s position within the water column and it is only by coordinating information from each element that one’s perspective becomes meaningful [See “Introduction: Entanglement, Environment, Matter, and Meaning”]. The same object seen from above, for instance, can appear entirely in silhouette when seen from below, which frustrates the process of identification until multiple points of reference can be gathered and evaluated. In this register, the object’s identifying characteristics emerge as products of meaning-making rather than referents with predetermined or self-evident significance. This phenomenon is reproduced within the space of the installation through its productive confusion of light, sound, image, and text. While Andersen’s fairy tale provides an initial source of meaning, this meaning quickly becomes dislocated or better yet unmoored from its narrative origins as participants recode the mermaid by remixing the components of the text. The mermaid may have been revealed as a “racist fish” in the afterlife of slavery, but FISHNETSTOCKINGS effectively “extends the productive force of codes beyond [the mermaid’s history] to include the signifying processes by which the technologies produce text” (Hayles 46). To recover the mermaid’s transgressive possibilities, we must attend to whatever meanings (re)surface as a result of our deep dive into these signifying processes.

This page has paths: