by Terri Ford & Erik Loyer
Text A Sketch
Story Problem attracted my interest for its elegance, simplicity and a relaxing soundtrack. Its beautiful surfaces drove me to look forward.
I also really enjoyed the short surrealistic text, mixing the precise and meticulous details taken from the most material and daily life, with sudden skids in the world of the fantastic or the dream1, and above all the feeling that was in the air. I mean, I found it quite whimsical, delicate & allusive, not heavy at all; with a text that fits perfectly well with the quiet & repetitive piano soundtrack.
Now I'd like to focus my attention on the performative side of this piece, which, I think, is an important aspect. Story Problem asks to be loaded, to be read by our mouse's movements. The "schizophrenic" arrow plays the text as an actor's mouth. We become interpreter and/or compiler of a script that isn't filled by a series of command lines, cycles and calls, but by simple words of natural language. Also, each viewer can save his or her own personal performances of the piece and "replay" them at will, seeing the poem unfolds under his or her very eyes, along with his or her (just) past mouse movements, hand gestures and whimsical arabesques : the text thus becoming the viewer's own personal moving abstract drawing, a new piece each time.
Reading as performance? Reader as co-writer? Though these questions don't appear to be new to us (but which one it is?), it's the first time I find them so well sketched in a little piece of flash: something brief and delicate without tons of effects and break-breath interactive graphic animations. It reminds me an old book for kids, when paper was smelling of fresh ink and drawings were a "tactile" experience; but also the iconography of "kitten" a cosmetic line on sale at Henri Bendel on the fifth: a sort of Richard Scarry2 meets body powder.
Story Problem's code is done by awards winning artist Erick Loyer, while novelist Terry Ford wrote the text. I don't usually like very much txt based pieces, but Story Problem allowed me to sit in silence for a minute, thinking about topics I've never considered. And, above all, I'll forward this link to my best friends.
1: As the French writer Michel Tournier says, "there is an unquestionable affinity between photography and surrealist painting. It is undoubtedly that great photography can combine the most extreme precision of detail - "piqué" - to a presence of the fantastic. The spirit blows on boots where not a button is missing... "(in Michel Tournier, Canada. Journal de voyage, Ed. La Presse, Ottawa, 1977, pp: 106-107.
Tournier speaks here about surrealist painting, but one can say the same about great surrealist texts like for example Nadja, by André Breton. And one gets the same feeling from the mix of strict realism and fantastic in Terri Ford's text.
N.B. The text of Story Problem by Terri Ford is reproduced below.
2 : Author and illustrator of children's books (1919-1994).
Three heads have I in Oh-hi-oh.
In Ohio three red heads have I.
If I want and need one head, yet I am of two minds,
what color is my bike, and when can I wheel home
over the smashed petals yards from the sea?
Three rinsed bras drip in the shower.
In my shower, six blue cups drip.
Are there three separate tunes? And how many stormfronts
will pass through, subside? Who would my friend be
if she was not broken?
If it's three a.m. in my white room,
In my room (I'm white), say it's three -
and I phone my arbitrage broker in Tokyo -
what time is it when the school dance ends?
How many will walk home dejected as gypsum?
What's the proportion to Giddyfoot there, hardly
dampening lawns? When does the longing end,
if it ends? What's the name of that blue?
(Thanks to the author)
To learn more about Story Problem, read the interviews with the two authors Terri Ford and Erik Loyer, by Carlo Zanni, in this issue.
Carlo Zanni (with Anne-Marie Boisvert)