Dadaventuras (2004)

The award-winning project Dadaventuras (2004) is an “experiment in aleatory narrative” by Chris Joseph in collaboration with the artist Maria Colino. The project intertwines Spanish-language literature with the modernist art movement in the tradition of Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp and others: Don Quijote meets Dada. Such it creates artistic adventures in mada (portmanteau of ‘multimedia dada‘) that perform and produce various effects and affects of alienation: by staging a dialogue between the leading narratives of Siglo de Oro, avant-garde and contemporary culture as well as by combining Digital multimedia variety with Dadaist formal complexity.

Dadaventuras is a composition of images and texts leading its recipient into an interplay of semantic appropriation and loss of control. The main screen offers three options of interaction with the project’s visual part: either the reader passively observes how, at a steady pace, a random combination of pictures or parts of pictures – enlarged or in original size – forms into one big image; or s/he modifies the combinatory rhythm by clicking into the central image field to add new parts to the picture; or s/he actively causes a new picture to build up choosing from one of ten ‘visual pretexts’ on both sides of the central image field. However, the choice of pretexts still is a semantic game of chance: only sometimes actual parts of the chosen images are then presented in the main field – at times, other pictures out of a total of 66 are quoted instead.

In addition, various text fragments leave their traces in each image: speech bubbles with words, sometimes only letters. They refer to eight texts and background narratives that are accessible via an icon on the main screen. The selection draws a line from a 15th century Catalan song to 17th century works by Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Pedro Calderón de la Barca, to early 20th century artists such as Federico García Lorca and Francis Picabia via Jorge Luis Borges to, finally, a song by Julio Iglesias that refers back to the beginning of the genealogy. Again, the recipient has three options to interact with these texts: s/he may either just read the canonical source texts, alter them by adding or deleting parts (thus building on the very idea of Borges’ library of babel) or play with a ‘Spanglish’ mashup of all of them titled ‘original’. The creative ones may opt for ‘la marcha real’ (the real way) and open an empty text field to come up with an entirely new text. Each of the texts can then be ‘played’ in the project’s visual part, thus performing the semantic tension, transition and translation between image and text.

These two ways of engaging with the project either starting with the images or the text is complemented by an – admittedly a little hidden – instruction screen that provides some orientation in the project’s complex net of references and possibilities. Resembling an adobe flash diagram it visualizes and structures the three-step hermeneutical spiral that the reading process engages the reader in. Stylistic parallelisms and interplays between multiple perspectives and different points of vision shall get the recipient involved in dada aventuras (adventures in dada). Evoking a fragmentation of form and an ambiguation of the relation between a wor(l)d’s materiality and concept they promote the recipient’s analytical approach to reality and more self-reflexive ways of reading. Those formal irritations transform stories of Spanish origin to form the dada venturas (future given). The aleatory interplay of stories, scenes, frames and narratives creates hybrid wor(l)ds and signs between different languages and sign systems. A Spanglish confusion of English and Spanish and a conjunction of fragmented scriptures and cartoonish pictures in the style of graphic novels finally signifies the reader as the actual ‘other’ of the dialogue: dad aventuras (you give adventures) is the project’s implicit imperative.

Review: Ulrike Küchler