Hucklefine Defined


Kiosk for the exhibition of "Hucklefine"

Early in 1990 I completed a "HyperNovella", executed in Apple's HyperCard for the Macintosh computer, as a contribution to the exploration of desktop hypermedia as an artist-generated ("fine arts") medium. Hucklefine is an illustrated reworking of Mark Twain's 1885 Huckleberry Finn in what seems a proper form for a hundred and five years later.
A reading of Huckleberry Finn produced a few words or motifs from each chapter, a subjective aide-memoire, a funhouse-mirror Cliff's Notes. These motifs or phrases were used or updated through contemporary analogies to be developed into single-paragraph Hucklefine chapters. The prose was shaped into episodic chunks to fit a field occupying half of the Macintosh screen.


Randomness of chapter order interested me, and randomness was used in the cut-up novels by William Burroughs, Kathy Acker and Harold Nourse. Marcel Duchamp and Brian Eno have experimented with forms of it in the visual arts and music. At first I was content with a "Go Any Card" button after a fixed title card. Renowed HyperTalk hacker Mike Larkin developed a script for Hucklefine that randomly displays one of its forty-three chapters paired with a randomly chosen illustration. The order and design of each single-screen chapter is thus never the same twice. He also suggested the method of each chapter's appearance--the visual effects--be random as well. He also created a "mileage" indicator, a row of dots approaching a candle, by which the reader knows porportionately how far into the stack she is. A candle to lead you through the caverns of the story.

For Hucklefine's content I looked to Huckleberry Finn. Regarded by the academic canon as America's greatest novel, the American roadapple road epic tradition began with this rather strange yarn of escape from drunken fathers, faked disappearances of children, travelling confidence men, talentless tent shows, cross-dressing, clan fueds and a near-lynching. More disturbing than Poe's morbidity, Huckleberry Finn becomes irradiated by hero Huck's growing concious distrust of the American strangeness, "the peculiar institution" of slavery and the race relations that have followed it. I have set my Hucklefine lightly into an interracial landscape of pop musicians, an arena Black and White have both defined themselves with arresting sound and image and intermingled in American culture.

In Hucklefine I also allude to the highly choreographed novel Hopscotch by Nobel laureate Julio Cortazar, who claimed its 155 chapters could be read in linear order, or in the alternate one he provided. Italo Calvino described a literary form with multiple short, dense narratives emerging from multiple beginnings as an "open encyclopedia" or "hyper novel", in one of his Six Memos for the Next Millenium (Harvard, 1988).

Hucklefine's visual imagery sometimes relies on its own randomness for the connections, the reverberations of meaning, even before that of its relation to the text. The illustrations to Hucklefine are collages as well, each image passed before the eye of the Apple Scanner before any further manipulation. The landscape of art (and by extension, the Arts) becoming more collage-like was compared to a bulletin board in John Berger's Ways of Seeing (Penguin, 1974) in discussion of the effect of industrial-scale proliferation of art imagery. The Apple Scanner and cut-and-paste capabilities HyperCard further the collage aesthetic.

When Apple's Bill Atkinson conceptualized--and with his team realized--the desktop Hypermedia HyperCard, Bill had just extended his graphic communications builder MacPaint over the time-space continuum, right? HyperCard was soon employed in the creation of interactive children's fiction by Amanda Goodenough. More ornate works by others developed in HyperCard--like Manhole and Cosmic Osmo--showed hyperliterature to be a cousin in the lineage of the"total" multisensory work of art that went from ornate Wagnerian opera a century ago to manifest itself in this century--sometimes at great corporte cost--in the cinema. Many cinematic choices were put in the hands of the spectator in the 1980's, in electronically interactive pieces by artists Lynn Hershman and Stephen Wilson and interactive literature by Edinburgh's Gordon Howell. The culmination of this process in the near future could be all-encompassing virtual realities, now solving problems of space and structure before moving on to surfaces. Will they soon be brimming with a plethora of imagery like Flaubert's Temptation of Saint Anthony?

Yet there is also a critical response to new computer spaces. Cyberpunk might be defined as an antiauthoritarian attitude to issues of the computer-human interface. I look forward to HyperLiterary forms that contain its acerbic social content and appreciation of collage inerited from Punk Rock. Links and webs of association and juxtaposition forge inclusive Right Brain generalist epiphanies that inevitably subvert the status quo. Be inspired to connect the unconnected, the philosophically unconnectible, every scripted stitch in the potential fabric of meaning. Confined only to the computer, hypermedia is a tempest in a CPU teapot. Artists of the 1990's, call for the Hypermediation of Modern Life!

-- 4/1/90



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