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<nettime> Last Entry: Bombay, 1st of July
Andrea Zapp on Fri, 2 Oct 1998 17:30:37 +0200 (MET DST)


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<nettime> Last Entry: Bombay, 1st of July


Last Entry: Bombay, 1st of July...

A Travel Log through Time, Space and Identity


...started as a collaborative documentary in june 1997: by
tracing back the adventures of a person whose identity and gender are
unknown - a flaneur in the cultural space of the
internet.


The project is inspired by the novel "Orlando", written by Virginia Woolf in
England in 1928, that reads like a visionary metaphor of the internet, as a
biography on a figure, man and women, traveling through time and space,
centuries and cultures. In "Orlando", kings and princesses, poets and lovers,
war and peace come and go. Extending the adventures of Orlando in the network
space and time, users worldwide as well as media artists were asked to involve
Orlando in their own sphere and bring him (or her?) into contact with other
people (or themselves?).


Last Entry: Bombay, 1st of July... creates an identity in the net by collecting
these episodes at different locations around the globe. He or she is a visitor
in the users space and cultural background, they are invited to design their
own meeting places: They can choose Orlando's gender and personal attributes
and further more their own role in this scenario.


No user - no project!


Interactivity as a collective vision is another motor in this project. The plot
or in other words Orlando's destiny is totally dependent on the users input.
The project experiments with this term in different ways:


Participation as identification - In planned contradiction to hyperfiction as a
worldwide tool to join text to text as fast and easy as possible, the user is
not only asked to add a few quick lines, but he/she has to identify necessarily
first with the whole complex and then add his/her part to the storyboard - by
designing and integrating a personal (story) room. In that sense an exchange of
the real and virtual takes place: most of the entries reveal that the
participation becomes a play with imaginations, real existences and virtual
sketches, personal dreams and thoughts - within a carefully designed scenic
location.


Mental Community  - as an addition to the collaborative effect:  by sharing the
same compagnion - Orlando - all the participants somehow have to share the same
visions and intimate thoughts in this collective diary, whilst the figure
Orlando overtakes the function of an avatar as a projection field  for  the
very personal self.

Orlando's story therefore mirrors the virtual space by establishing an intimate
platform, a residence in an artificial life, by stepping onto a stage, by
slipping into identities and virtual profiles in a networked community of
realities and fictions.


Workshop and work in progress  - when the project started, the quite intense
interactive angle seemed to be a burdon to begin with. Yet after the first
announcements and invitations in the net and its mailing lists and meeting
spots, interest was growing fast. One might see this surely in direct relation
to its literature roots - the well known Orlando Novel itself as a historical
web of an oscillating character offers a logical metaphore as a grid for the
intended dramaturgy of a virtual gender shift, myth and mystery. Most of the
reactions referred to this as an inspiring spot and therefore to a fortunate
practicality of the project - and after a while there was quite an exchange
about the possible content, design and reflective elements in the personal
rooms; even more interesting once you knew or got to know the people better and
found out more about their secrets behind the mask of Orlando.

As the entries demonstrate, the personal creative level is a very diversive
one, ranging from rather ellaborate attempts using browser techniques,
animations or video to minimalistic methods of adding snapshots, little poems
and e-mails. Besides the self organized development of identity and scenario
this is the most challenging part of the work: on the one hand suspense is
built up by how far the user might take his/her practical and conceptual
involvement and on the other hand the project is still accessible to everybody,
from all fields and interests to join and add their contribution.


Empty faces - 

and the most beautiful thoughts behind them


According to the grammatical method of an open frame, of a story line as a
growing membran, the entries show a manifold variety of linking content to
context. "Mille Viaggi" for instance, a contribution from Italy, adds to some
simple snapshots the most beautiful poetic texts and precious personal moments,
being inspired by the main topical issues like sentimental journeys, never
taken, aging and memory.  "Flashback" goes back to days spent in New York,
accompanied by a friend's poem, graphics and text being very carefully arranged
in this example, including a hidden little game: the links are at the same time
letters which form a keyword. A similar personal angle is chosen in "Memory" -
observations and diary notes by the author during a travel connection at Moscow
airport, refreshed and transported through the medium Orlando.

Other entries, like "Topography" philosphy about the self or they play in a
very graphical, metaphorical and funny angle with keywords as in "Covers" - a
little fruit scenario on an identity problem or "Thin Ice"
- a little animated flick book in the style of a silent movie about the gender
  question. A similar cinematic scenario can be found in the exhaustive online
photo story "Games", which shows quite a high level of identification with the
project, as a group of women went out to test and document in the Berlin
subculture, what it means to swap your gender and play with your identity.
Other entries go straight into the quick time movie mode, to search for Adam or
Eve - or "O"? "Wysiwyg" asks how we construct gender classification. It plays
with androgynuity - what happens when we see another person? Which parts of the
opposite body actually form a man or a woman in our conscious thought? And so
does "vacillation", one of the VR models to find in the travellog.


What's on a person's mind? - "Inter - Facial" design


As the different contributions tend to be rather multilayered already,
including many dramaturgical side steps, which are even not so easy to discover
on the first glance, the navigation system and interface of the project should
be rather clear. To avoid confusion and disorientation, therefore the emphasis
here is not so much concentrating on a second parallel network , but on
graphics forming analogies to the intention of the project. While the very
first index page, the turning cube, refers as a trailer to the issue of the
split identities and morphing characters, the main navigation page, the head
formed by faces, expresses the multileveled imagination and vision based on the
different users/personalities to be spotted behind these empty appearances. As
a consequence the map structure as the central interface is not only used for
technical reasons, but rather to refer to a topology of "mind-mapping" as a
general idea of the work. The head functions as a mental travel log, a point of
start and return, a kind of keyhole perspective even, not only to document the
paths of Orlando outside into the (net)world, but even importantly to cruise
inside the different personal facettes now being hosted in this figure - as a
circular system of the participants reflections, plans and deja-vu's within
past, present and future.

To reinforce this the documentary installation version uses a digital tableau
and pen as the tactile interface, to unfold the storyrooms through the pages of
the diary.


Because of this unpredictable action flow the project represents a patchwork of
individual ideas and presentations,  framed in an associative montage concept
as a discussion of net creativity. By combining different means of traditional
and interactive art practice - literature and legend, diary, scenic/cinematic
modellage, (digital) photography as well as browser tools and html techniques,
the project rather belongs to a net.drama category - as an open and permanently
growing process of dialogue with the user in a network of public and personal
experiences, anecdote and archetype, memories and interventions.


Andrea Zapp, Berlin 1998
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