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Labyrinths

multi-linear stroy-telling made in association with darkstar of hyperdub records

Labyrinths started from a series of simple questions: What is the space of a story? Could you visualise this space? Could you travel through it? Could you move forward and backwards through a story's parts, characters and places? This project asks these questions of the stories we watch in film, imagining not the three-dimensional, mathematical form of space, but the narrative space every story produces.

Labyrinths is a software suite that acts as a platform for musicians and film-makers to structure, then perform, hypertextual works of film in real-time. Drawing on the modernist form of multi-linear narration, it aims to bridge the gap between online hypertexts (such as the world wide web) and live video performance.

To demonstrate the software, we have created an animated film entitled Aidy's Girl Is A Computer based on the music of Hyperdub recording artist Darkstar. Directed alongside Darkstar, the film explores the emotional relationship between two machinic beings. Written in four chapters, and divided into over 300 individual animations, Aidy's Girl Is A Computer encapsulates a simple one-dimensional story but, taking place within the mind of the protagonist, is fragmented and redrawn through memory and time.

The word 'hypertextual' implies a text that refers to more than itself. It's prefix 'hyper' comes from the Greek, meaning 'above, beyond or outside.' Hypertextuality has a long history in literature with it's roots in many of the art movements emerging at the beginning of the 20th century. In a more populist understanding, hypertext refers to a work of text that is connected to similar works through interconnecting hyperlinks. These hyperlinks, commonly referred to as links, are connections available to a reader through their engagement with a hypertext. Espen J. Aarseth, in his book Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, calls the system of interaction between the reader and the text ergodic. Appropriating the term from physics, he defines ergodic literature as literature where 'nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text' (Aarseth 1). When a reader decides to follow or not follow a link embedded within a text, they are making a consequential action that affects their understanding of the text's narrative structure. These decisions are nontrivial and are required to complete the reading of the text that they are part of.

Faucault says that any chunk of hypertext 'is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network...[a] network of references' (Landlow 3). Seeing the text as a network model rejects the notion of centre or organisational focus. The single linearity is no longer central, with multi-linearity or anti-linearity the new structural basis. Landlow likens the anti-linearity of the web to 'a matrix of independent but cross-referential discourses which the reader is invited to enter more or less at random' (Landlow 38).

Combining the event model provided by MIDI input, the compositional structure of Ableton Live, the modernist form of multi-linear narration and the live aspect of VJ performance, Labyrinths provides a platform for electronic musicians to exhibit multi-linear films in real-time alongside their musical performance. It is a navigation tool for the space of the story.

Aidy's Girl Is A Computer is the film we created to test and showcase the software. The storyline is based on the upcoming full length album by Darkstar of Hyperdub Records and descirbes the relationship between two machinic beings. Drawing influence from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and the original Darkstar film of 1978, actions and emotions are personified by the interactions between the separate and disparate elements of the mechanical world. Wires wrapping around each represent emotional bonds, sparks signify lust and mechanical elements faltering represent the collapse of the relationship.

There are four sections plotted in the film. The opening section deals with the two characters' first encounter and the desires/lust involved. The next section explores the happiness of the relationship and the mutual feeling of love. Part three is the relationship falling apart and eventually breaking up. The final section is the emotional rebirth of the protagonist, ready to start anew at the beginning of the story with a new relationship.

These four parts encapsulate the simple one-dimensionality of the story but, taking place within the mind of the protagonist, are fragmented and redrawn through memories and time. The labyrinth can start from any point within the relationship cycle and move from memory to memory; to the present and the past. By Labyrinths' movement through narrative space-time, multiple representations of the film and music are cast upon the audience, enveloping them in the fabric of the story.

 

Design and Direction: sembler
Programming: sembler
Music: Darkstar (Hyperdub Records)
Made with After Effects, Cinema4D and openFrameworks

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