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Hypertext authoring in the context of fine art practive.

Dick Whall
Head of Fine Art
Coventry University

Edgar Allan Poe's Man of the Crowd "gazes through the window [of the coffee house]n before, as Baudelaire2 observes "hurl[ing] pursuit of an unknown, half-glimpsed countenance...", where, with the skill and ease of the flaneur, he perambulates "through as it were an immense reservoir of electrical energyn. In 'Some Motifs in Baudelaire', Benjamin3 suggests that the flaneur is an accomplice, who, as Arendt4 believes, "purposelessly strolls and receives the message".

Documentum de transmutatio is the title of a PhD research project registered in 1992 with Coventry University; it is also the title of an art-work that is installed within the digital environment of hypertext.

The principal focus for the research is located within the field of fine art practice and is based upon the author's own creative work, where this forms, as a point of origin and reference, a significant part of the intellectual enquiry.

The work is founded upon the belief that the methods involving the conceptual and spatio-structural assembly of gallery-circumscribed art-installation are analogous with those employed in authoring hypertext. The hypothesis for the research project involves two assertions, namely that transmutation of elements selected from art-installation, into the digital environment of HyperCard 2.0v2 is practicable, and that transmutation does not lead to a loss of characterisation. For research degree purposes (and not fine art purposes), the work is required to conform to the usual scholarly conventions; to be clearly presented in relation to the argument of a written thesis and set in its relevant theoretical, historical and critical context.

The research has been conducted in the studio of the artist/researcher on 'bottom-end' low-cost hardware involving an Apple Macintosh Classic, a OneScanner, a d2 170 external hard-disk and an Apple StyleWriter 11. Software employed for the generation of the art- hyperdocument has included HyperCard 2.0v2, HyperScan 2.0.1, MacWrite 11 (l.lvl) and MacPaint 2.0. The project has been assisted by a Research Grant from the Coventry School of Art and Design of Coventry University.

Documentum de transmutatio ( 1992-1994) is an art- installation authored and assembled within the digital environment of HyperCard 2.0v2, consisting of fourteen conjoined stacks drawing upon 23,000K of disk space.

The following ideas have prompted the research project. It is believed that

The gallery-circumscribed installation employed as the source from which the digital art-work has been constructed is L'Appareil pedaqoqique avec ses apanaqes, or the eniqma machine toqether with its bombs, (Whall D 1969-1994). This is an on-going heterogeneous art-installation, conceived as a life-work, sensitive to pedagogical oscillation and responsive to the theoretical and critical discourse surrounding fine art practice. L'Appareil has been exhibited in gallery spaces in the UK/EU and overseas throughout the past three decades.

Transmutational method in the instance of the fine art research project has involved a radical revision and change of morphology and structure. Where sculptural components, drawings, photographs, maps and geological specimens for example, have been searched within the archive of L'Appareil, and as a consequence of digital conversion, the material has been transmogrified and re-located within the environment of hypertext.

Initially it was considered necessary to capture two drawings selected from the archive of L'Appareil. The first entitled Cultural Sedimentation 841mm x 594mm (4.1981) employs cartographical conventions to descibe a section of an appropriated symbol5 for the concept of transference or correspondence. The second, entitled Planarmetrical Drawinq 1330mm lOOOmm (1984) features the same line of correspondence, but in this drawing the diagrammatisation describes the delineation of a sculptural component entitled Lonq Line 7620mm (9.1979). This element is observed to traverse a plan6 representing the "landscapismn' or ground-work for the installation. The Rready-made Lonq Line was included within the installation as an object-sign for the symbol for the concept of transference. The sign was aligned spatially and referentially to con]oin the designated points [A] and [B]8 within the English landscape.

The process of capturing the two drawings (whose scales are different) utilised photocopies made from the originals, where a quadrant grid was superimposed upon the replica (actual size) photocopy and 'windows' measuring 181mm x 120mm were cut and subsequently captured (HyperScan) for assembly as a simulated pan within HyperCard 2.0v2. Clearly the original drawings could not have been used for this purpose without subjectinq them to irrevocable damaqe.

The orientation of the two drawings within the overall schema, the positioning of the superimposed window-sized quadrant grid upon the drawings, and the direction of the line of transference [A]-[B] described by the two drawings, were determined by the scale of 1: 50 000.

An extension of the section of line [Al-[Bl within the Cultural Sedimentation drawing was projected to point [A] and to point [B], where OS maps were used to provide information for scanning purposes. The planarmetrical representation of line [A]-[B], with point [A] synchronised to coincide with the geo-cartographical representation of the line of transference at [A], was then extended beyond the (northern) boundary of the Planarmetrical Drawinq to meet with point [B] (the co-ordinates for which were previously determined by the Cultural Sedimentation drawing extension). The extension to the Planarmetricla Drawinq was achieved by capturing sections of the object-sign Lonq Line (a lenqth of black cord).

With locations [A] and [B] defined, there followed the introduction and construction of a further conjunction [A]- [B] "tendling] towards [a] pure geometrical line without thickness".

Fig.1 (p6) features a wall-assembly of photocopy material and hard-copy, comprising 391 windows (181mm x 120mm) and containing the three [A]-[B] pathways (geo-cartographical, planarmetrical and geometrical). A palimpsest occurs where each of the three lines of transference coincide at [A] window A3, and [B] window P-17. Fig.l also features a replica sculpture (resin and glass fibre) entitled Apple Macintosh Plus Frame (1992), and in addition a MacPlus PC (supporting the Documentum de transmutatio hypertext) and the artist/researcher posturinq as a wayfarer.

The Schema of lines of transference, 416.3cm x 204.0cm, (11.1992-7.1994) Fig.l (p6) functions as a wall-guide; a navigational aid for the reader-wayfarer.

Fig.2 (p6) features a miniaturised on-line navigational aid in which the three lines of transference constitute the "geographic and geological landscapism", and where, in the case of the digitised installation, this represents the platform upon which the rhizomatous linking model is assembled.

A system-controlled scripted simulated pan was written for each of the three [A]-[B] configurations. Interactive (reader-controlled) inter-line cross-over links were introduced between the three lines of transference. Interactive rapid-track and through-way scripts, and a turn-around orientational capability was also introduced. The orientational options will be observed to facilitate traversa, of a kind analogous to that experienced by the visitor to the gallery-circumscribed assembly of L'Appareil.

Fig.3 (p8) features an on-line simplified diagram of the Schema of lines of transference, in which 'pylons' supporting "context information''l๘and data nodes have been assembled. The cross-way, turn-around, pan and "context informationtt trigger points are identified on routes 2 and 3. It will be observed that there is a navigator aid (p6) trigger, and a change of mode trigger for each of the three routes. The orientational options, text node [A] and text node [B] triggers are opened in Fig.4 (p8).

Fig.4 (p8) features the same diagram as Fig.3 with pop-up boxes containing the orientational options, the text-node links and cross-references. A diagram representing each of the modes of transference (each of the three routes) has been installed, each with pop-up boxes identifying the

Each mode of transference enables different orientational options, but each mode of transference facilitates access to the same collection of data nodes associated with [A] and [B]. From the diagram featured at the bottom of p8, it will be observed that each of the texts triggered from [A] are cross-referenced within the group of text nodes associated with [A], and each text triggered from [B] is similarly cross-referenced within the collection of text nodes associated with [B]. The transference texts associated with lA] and [B] are cross-referenced. All texts may be accessed from all modes of transference. Additional exampler texts may be accessed from Route 1 and Route 2 at v[1] and v[23, and [vi[1] and vi[2] respectively.

In addition to the 12,000 word exampler textll (consisting of quotations, each with a comparative critical evaluation) associated with [A] and [B], the context information also contains photographic nodes, map and chart nodes, and geological specimen nodes. All are cross-referenced with specific points on the lines that form the "landscapism" or schema of transference, and also with the contents of the text nodes.

[A]-[B] the appropriated symbol for the concept of transference originated as a path for the conveyance of [b]l2 excavated at tB] to [A].

Fig.5 (plO) features a specimen of [b] located within the P-17 window containing [B] and a representation of a palimpsest of lines of transference conjoined at [B]. An impression of [b] (following a scripted 'wait' of 5 seconds) is conveyed by the reader/wayfarer along [B]-tA] to [A] along one of the three modes of transference by employing one or other of the orientational preferences' 3.

Fig.6 (pll) features window H2, a detail from the Planar- metrical Drawinq, illustrating in plan (see footnote 6) the termination pointl4 of the Lonq Line caused by the spatio- physical limitations of the gallery. The art-hypertext enables the Lonq Line to be extended in order to achieve its full length [A]-[B].

The method and form of assembly that enables the projection of point [A] through the incident involving termination (at H2) to [B3 is quite obviously advantaged by the dematerial- ised environment of hypertext. [A] is projected as a line of transference through the Corner Incident to reach [B], enabling the conveyance of an impression of tb] along [B]-[A] to [A].

In the gallery-circumscribed model, irrespective of whether transference is obstructed, the narrative that determines the spatial orientation of the line and the conceptual correlation of that line with other elements within the installation, has always remained obscured. However, as a consequence of the significance attributed to the use of metapherein'5 in the installation that is located in hyperspace, it will be recognised how the characteristic of passagel 6 is given additional prominence. In the digitised installation a collection of scripts involving objects, message passing paths and handlers" are employed initially to prescribe and then to facilitate the multiplicity of actions, correspondences, succession of graphical appearances and the cross-referencing of materials. In the electronic assembly, passage might similarly be observed to be the primary contributory factor that influences the illusion of flaneriel8 for the wayfarer.