Marking Transition: the Work of Neal von Flue

Abstract (in English): 

For any regular Internet user, the hyperlink has become ubiquitous, almost rendered invisible
through the frequency of its use. Trails in hypertext are meticulously laid out through the
seemingly endless streams of data, connected by links imagined as points of intersection in the
web. Links are used for reference, for navigation but also extensively in creative production, to
fashion hypertextual narratives and images. It is in this realm of electronic literature, both visual
and textual, that the function of the link shifts from the commonplace to a carrier of aesthetic

This presentation examines the aesthetic activation of the hyperlink as both an indicator of
transition and site of transformation. It is a brief exploration of the hyperlink as a signifier, a
mark both on and in the 'surface' of the digital text, through a close case study of two works by
hypercomic creator Neal von Flue.

While masked by regular use and innovative design, the hyperlink is by nature not transparent
– for it to function is has to be a self-revealing construct. The hyperlink is imagined to connect
data seamlessly, yet that is exactly what it cannot do; for it to be usable and useful, the
hyperlink needs to highlight transition as well as enable it. The link inhabits the imaginary space
between two points of data, it is positioned to be neither an object nor an action, it signifies
without being fully indexical or fully symbolic.

The discussion is located in a close analysis of von Flue hypercomics Directions – “Left”
and Halcyon Redux – Last Ditch both of which are housed on the artist’s website (, in a section titled “hypercomics”. Von Flue therefore specifically sets them up to work within the realm of hypertext as a means of cultural production. Von Flue distinguishes pedantically between ‘webcomic’ and hypercomic’: holding one as a means of distribution, the other as an intrinsically hypertextual experience that can only exist on the internet.

Von Flue uses flash to create the interactive elements in his comics. These are activated by
the reader through a link and the subsequent effect is to bring about a change in panel, view or
text, altering the comic in a way not possible without hypertext. But his use of the link extends
beyond this as well and is closely incorporated into the larger meaning of the piece. Von Flue
also uses several different types of symbols to indicate ‘hyperlink’ - highlighted text, scroll overs,
zone changes, and mouse changes, implying a considered choice of icon. As the comic is an
image and text based narrative the visual representation of the link is crucial to the final reading.

This presentation hopes to offer a point of entry into the complexities of hyperlinks in a textual/
visual art form by considering the circumstances in which they are aestheticized, and to explore
some of the characteristics of this strange liminal little creature that inhabits our screens.

(Source: Author's abstract, 2012 ELO Conference site)

The permanent URL of this page: 
Record posted by: 
Eric Dean Rasmussen