Tuesday, 2/14/23, 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. PST
Live on YouTube: https://youtube.com/c/electronicliteraturelab
Twitter: #ELitLab
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/electronicliteraturelab
In person on the WSUV campus, VCLS 3

Join us for the Live Stream Performance by Rob Swigart, who will read from the two works he published with Eastgate Systems, Inc.: Directions (1994) and Down Time (2000). Both will be read via the CD-ROM on the Mac G3 iMac “Tangerine” running System Software 9.2 held in Grigar’s personal collection.

The event is hosted by the Electronic Literature Lab at Washington State University Vancouver and moderated by the lab’s Director, Dene Grigar.

About the Works

Directions (1994), subtitled “A quasi-sentimental pseudo-scientific hyperpoem,” is a collection of hypertextual poems created on the HyperCard platform and published on CD-ROM in the The Eastgate Quarterly Review of Hypertext, Volume 1, Number 4, along with Giuliano Franco’s historical-scholarly hypertext, Quam Artem Exerceas?. The interface involves an “Elemental Table of Directions” that serves as the central space from which readers move through the poems expressed throughout as words, images, animations, and sound. The “directions” appear at a specific junction in the reading experience and include:

1: “death beside a river / loss of appetite / blood at the statue’s feet”
2: “lost in the return / without mooring”
3: “ripples destroy memory / tracing regrets / She never met her  / husband”
4: “The glyph of connection / No way out / The brittle sound of / decay”
5: “Only down offers no / hope. She has / descended and will not / return.”

The number five pertains to the sides of a pyramid, concepts that sit at the core of the work. At the heart of Directions is the suggestion that the choices (or directions) we make (go) have repercussions, both personal and cosmic.

Down Time, subtitled “Takes of the Computer Age,” is a collection of 21 stories published in 2000 on CD-ROM that experiments with Macromedia Director as a publishing platform. Its interface includes a navigation menu where readers can control volume and movement. Readers also can experience the work silently or hear the author narrate it for them via a Sound On/Off mode. The annotation mode makes it possible for readers to click on hyperlinked words in the stories and evoke a dialog box that explains the word. 

The stories are woven together into a tight fabric of characters and settings. In much like ensemble films at the time, Magnolia (1999), Pulp Fiction (1994), and later Crash (2004), Down Time‘s characters cross paths, showing up in various stories as a friend or lover, family member or neighbor. Additionally, coherence is achieved thematically through computer terminology that emerged at the start of the digital age when “glitch,” “database,” “default” and other concepts were entering the public sphere. In a frank and unvarnished style Swigart recounts deaths, divorces, and drives to live, recounting experiences the people navigating through this new and strange world. Their story is still ours.

About the Author

Author of 14 novels, many works of short fiction and poetry, two computer games, and many other forms of writing over his lifetime, Rob Swigart taught at San Jose University for 35 years and served as Scholar at the Stanford University Archaeology Center. The focus of his work has been archeology and ancient cultures. Readers of Directions will notice references to the cultures and mythologies of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Asia, and Latin America cultures and mythologies. Down Time also weaves these ideas through the characters, Robert and Becky.