Surface Reading The Upside Down Chandelier: Interface “Mastery” and Feminism
This essay compares the literary interfaces of one artwork, The Upside Down Chandelier [UDC], in two settings: a large-scale installation taking up a gallery room, and in a browser window. UDC is a generative, multimedia artwork authored in Flash by four women electronic literature artists using four spoken languages. It uses the same code base for both settings. The installation’s embodied and site-specific context at the gallery created multiple vantages from which to “read” the work’s design and purpose. In browser, UDC’s words are the only point of access. The reader’s urge to decode the words in Slovak, Hungarian, German and English nudges UDC into digital literature rather than digital art because readers seek literary meaning in the randomly generated text-image juxtapositions. This essay considers the lifespan of a digital artwork as it moves from installation to browser. It considers women’s labor history and the materiality of code production. It considers the role of Google Translate and Search as a for-profit digital commons that the author used to make literary sense of UDC in browser form. Mistranslations operate as “ghosts in the machine” that prompt reflection on the goal of “mastery” in reading digital literary works.
Berens, K. (2017). "Surface Reading The Upside Down Chandelier: Interface “Mastery” and Feminism" in Hayles, K. #womentechlit (Computing literature, volume 8) (M. Mencía, Ed.). Morgantown, WV: Computing Literature.