David Clarke has created a new work of net art called Sign After the X in collaboration with Marina Roy and Graham Meisner. Sign After the X is structurally similar to some of Clark’s earlier works such as A is for Apple and 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein. The form of these works is one that Clark has been developing for some time now; A is for Apple, the first of them, was published in 2002.
The nodes or chapters/sections of these hypermedia works are done in Flash. They’re multimedia approaches to a subject. We hear a voice reading a text about Freud or Lacan or Wittgenstein or X (etc) while Clark’s animated visuals improvise with/on the text–in the sense that the visuals illustrate or explicate/explore/expand/riff/noodle on the text’s meaning. Sign After the X is organized into five categories: Mind, Body, Land, Language, and Law. Each of these contains anywhere from four to thirty nodes/Flash works.
The putative subject of Sign After the X is “the letter X and it’s multiple meanings in our culture“. And, yes, I can see it in some of the material presented. But it seems there’s more going on than that.
For instance, in the ‘Mind’ section, we encounter about thirty hypermedia works, many of which are explanatory of or exploratory of Freud’s ideas. Perhaps these are indeed related to X, but I don’t know how. However, that is not a criticism; the hypermedia works are often compelling in their voiced text and almost always are interesting in their visual nature and workings. The connection with X is not obvious and might emerge with more exploration of other parts of the work, which is unusually large for a work of net art.
Some of the hypermedia works are not so good. The reading of Coleridge’s “Kubla Kahn”, for instance. Particularly by the guy who normally reads those theorified texts. Yeesh. But many of them are fascinating and considerably more original than a bad reading of “Kubla Khan” accompanied with mild visuals. The interest of Clark’s work, to me, is in his avoiding, for the most part, such cliches of digital literary production. His background is in visual art. The individual nodes are often very polished, and that which links them, and the resulting overall shape and semantic, thematic structure, are of great interest in these fascinating works by David Clark. I don’t see anyone else exploring this sort of form in the same way Clark has been since 2002.
Also, one of the things that I find has strong energy in these works is the way Clark’s animated visuals work with the voiced text. When he’s cookin, that interplay carries the focus and energy of the work, and those very dry texts are rendered playful, even. Not that the texts themselves are playful, but the rendering is.
If you find Sign After the X of interest, you should also check out his site chemicalpictures.net for other projects and writings.