Hypertext '08: Alan Bigelow, American Ghosts: from Concept to Completion

Alan Bigelow discusses his art installations featuring the short-form Flash genre. In his introduction, he stated that he doesn’t think that he writes hypertext, and spoke with hope of a future in which new media authors know what terms to apply to their work.

The opening screen of his American Ghosts refers to a “webyarn,” but he also suggests “net art,” calling himself a “mid-career artist” because he’s been working in this form for about 8 years.

Bigelow says he tends to give his readers limited choices, because he doesn’t want the reader to struggle through the narrative.  Refers to interactive choices in his works, Love Is and MyNovel.org and IPledge.org.  Spoke of the value of securing domain names since they draw traffic.

While American Ghosts played, I laughed out loud at the Paul Revere clip.  After the work ended, Alan discussed the inspiration for the work, with American archetypes from the revolutionary era reimagined in terms of their 20th-century counterparts.  After the five indiidual clips play, we see a final unified clip that punches the final message. (It’s a nice effect… descrbing it would be meaningless… just spend 5 or so minues looking at all the American Ghosts clip.) 

Referred to the Steven Kurtz debacle as an inpspiration for his work — a reason to resond.

Notes that he produces only 3-4 pieces a year… “tortuously slow” — hard to compete against companies, Hollywood, that sees the revenue potential for the short interactve form.

Mark aks Alan to go back to when he was first producing American Ghosts, and asks… what do you want?  What is the “American Ghosts” you could do if you had unlimited resources?

Alan answered by gesturing at his laptop… he would have produced exactly the same thing he showed us.

Mark notes then.. why, then, worry about what big industry is doing?

Alan notes — blogs get readers because there’s new content every day, but Flash artists don’t do that.  Without the constant generation of new content, it’s hard to build an audience.

Steve notes that Flash is changing… it’s an “empty space.” He asks, “what is it about the texture of the Flash enviroment” that draws Alan?

Alan identifies himself as a writer, not a programmer… calls Flash intuitive.  “It doesn’t hurt that it’s 97% penetration in browsers,” so it’s “a good bet for longevity.”    Trying to design his works to display on an iPhone.

Alan invoked the example of Jason Nelson, as an artist reworking the cultural material of games.

Alan walked the audience briefly through the Flash source file, listing the tools he uses to create his work.

Mark asked Alan to “talk a little bit about why this is the right medium for your politcal message.”  Alan called his art work his “private” way to present his opinions… noted his discomfort when server logs indicate that someone from a government organization is viewing his work.  Identifies himself as a writer, says “I got bored with writing on paper.”

Mark probed for an external motivation… beyond personal inclination — what is the general motivation?

Alan responded… “As an artist, I work instinctively. I don’t do a lot of self-examination…. The less self-examination, the better.”

Susan Gibb turned the question around — “How does this particular medium inspire you?”

Alan — excoted by the possibilites of Flash.  “Always a challenge, and it’s always intersting.”