Abstract (in English): 

Push aside the thick, dark curtain, step across the cables on the floor and you'll find yourself standing on a white floor with white screens in front of you and to each of your sides. Above you are projectors and speakers. You're given a pair of goggles and a glove. You put them on and wait for Screen to begin. The space darkens. A voice begins to read: "In a world of illusions, we hold ourselves in place by memories." In the dark there is nothing for you to do but listen.

Screen is a literary work that can only be experienced in a Cave. In a Cave, images -- or in the case of Screen, words -- are projected on all three walls and on the floor. When you stand in the Cave wearing goggles, you experience the projected images as a three dimensional space in which you can move around. The goggles and glove allow the Cave to track your position, so you can control the environment by moving your body and your hand.

Light over the sill of an unshaded
bedroom window, into a woman's eyes.
She turns away, slips half back under sleep.

Words cover the three screens in the Cave and are read aloud as you follow them with your eyes. Each wall's words describe a double moment in time, a woman or a man remembering and feeling the memory slip away, hidden by the present.

She uncurls her arm,
reaches back to lay her hand across
his thigh, to welcome him home,
but touches only a ridge of sheet, 
sun warmed, empty.

"We hold ourselves in place by memories," the first voice reads to you in the dark. These narrated memories refuse to stay still. After the voices have read the text aloud the words start to peel off the walls. You can try to catch them with your gloved hand, and for a while you may succeed in forcing them back where they belong, but before too long the words crash all around you. This experience in virtual reality is very different from the Holodeck vision of total immersion in a make-believe world. Screen does not attempt to replicate a real-world environment, but instead immerses the user in a reflexive literary representation, one in which words and narrative remain predominant.

Screen was created collaboratively by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Andrew McClain, Shawn Greenlee, Robert Coover, and Josh Carroll. They developed the piece in the Cave Writing Workshop at Brown University, which is led by Robert Coover. In December we visited the Cave and were able to experience several works created in the workshop, including Screen, as well as Vesper Stockwell, Dmitri Lemmerman, et al's "This is Just a Place," an interpretation of a poem by A.R. Ammons; "Hypertable;" and a work in progress, set in a local flat. After the Cave demo, we spoke with Joshua Carroll, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, and Robert Coover. The interview is divided into three sections: in the first we discuss the specific experience of collaborating on Screen with Josh and Noah, in the second Robert Coover discusses the Cave writing workshops in the context of his experience teaching electronic writing at Brown, and in the third we discuss Screen with Noah in the context of his other work in electronic writing.

(Source: Introduction to the interview at The Iowa Review Web)

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Scott Rettberg