Navigating a New World

For next week’s e-lit pieces, I navigated through Redshift and Portalmetal by micha cardenas and RedRidinghood by Donna Leishman. Unfortunately, try as I might, I couldn’t get the latter to work properly in any capacity, so my writing will focus solely in the former.

Redshift and Portalmetal operated through hypertext links, asking the viewer to click on highlighted phrases and make choices as to how to navigate through the piece. In a sense it reminds me of pick-your-own-adventure novels, it allowed me to make several choices, loop back accordingly to previous excerpts and has a definite ending (I assume, seeing as cardenas talked about her intention by that point).

Navigation and the interface was simple. I moved from one text to another, getting a better grasp of the narrative and selecting what I wanted next. I was accompanied by the sounds of car engines and loud winds, and with the use of headphones it amplified my immersion into the piece. I highly recommend doing so.

Going off this point, this piece utilizes extensive use of videos. Clips of highways passing, someone standing in both snowing cities and deserted canyons. They created juxtapositions and reflected their environment well. I wanted to understand more of the performative aspect of the performance, I’ve always had an interest in dance and interpretive movement, but alas it is also my weakest category to inspect so I can only vaguely speculate. Nonetheless I felt the written parts of the story were more important.

As for the narrative, it appeared straightforward in execution but hid a deeper layer of understanding. I was a traveler migrating to either the ‘planet that never rains’ or the ‘ice moon’, which made me assume that I was leaving Earth. Reading the statement earlier, it did mention the use of space travel so I kept my mindset in the realm of science fiction. I arrived at the ice moon first, but found myself returning back to the beginning of the narrative. I thought I took a wrong turn somewhere and went back into in, picking another option. I made it a point not to explore every single option as I wanted the story to feel like my own, and in life you don’t get redos. I arrived at the planet that never rains and from there I arrived at the ‘end title’ I mentioned earlier.

I chose not to discuss further on the main narrative (because I assume we all will), because there were some components that I wanted to write about. Namely the use of space travel.

As the statement says, we are travelers embarking on a trip across the stars to find a new home. While this is true, it doesn’t feel like that. In fact, they planet that never rains and the ice moon are pretty much locations we have back on Earth. We have many dried areas and cold environments, so how is that any different from the planets we are escaping to? cardenas makes it known that climate change is the most important part of the story, so with this in mind I imagine we in the story are trapped in an endless pursuit of finding something that is ‘normal’. But no matter where we go, everything ends up the same way as the world we left behind. It creates a powerful statement that humans bring dangerous changes to our world, and we cannot escape the destruction we cause. Every planet sounds alien in concept, so does that mean our planet now is alien to us? The fact that I ‘looped’ around in the story helps cement that feeling for me.

Travelling is crucial to making the piece feel alive. With the use of diegetic sounds and moving imagery, I felt I was wandering around aimlessly looking for meaning. I arrived at certain spots, but I couldn’t say I felt comfortable doing so, that something was missing within and I aimed to find it. Actually, this feeling reminds me of one of my favorite poems from Mark Strand. In Keeping Things Whole, he writes:

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.

When I walk

I part the air

and always

the air moves in

to fill the spaces

where my body’s been.

We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.

The act of moving gave me a sense of belonging somewhere, filling whatever void was there before I got there. Redshift and Portalmetal resonated with me emotionally because I felt as lost and empty as the narrator. I feel like I’m just going through the motions watching the world unfold around me, not being able to make sense of it or feel welcome by it.

The ending page was powerful, with cardenas’s intention with the piece (honoring native peoples of the Anishnabe, Mississauga, New Credit and Grassy Narrows territories) and their alienation of the world that they belong in. I unfortunately didn’t think of them as I read this piece, but reading this one page made me reevaluate this piece in general and gave me a new lens to observe it with.

In conclusion, Redshift and Portalmetal is a fantastic and gripping piece that made me think hard about the world we live in and our intentions of moving elsewhere instead of addressing our issues. The execution and content speak volumes for the ability hypertext reading has and I hope that people become more aware of the medium. I’m still a bit upset I couldn’t read RedRidingHood, but all I can do is move forward and keep things whole.

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