Loss of Grasp (2010)

Loss of grasp is a digital creation about the notions of grasp and control. When do we feel we have a grip on our life or not? Six scenes feature a character who is losing grip.

At the same time, this play on grasp and loss of grasp mirrors the reader’s experience of an interactive digital work.

The piece requires headphones (or loudspeakers) and a webcam (for the fifth scene).

The interaction with the piece lasts about 10 minutes.

Loss of Grasp is a project equally engaged with the loss of grasp of author, text, hero and reader. It tells the story of a man, who hit rock bottom after his wife left him and his son turned his back on him. Trying to face his current feelings of increasing disintegration, the first-person narrator looks back at the the key moments in his life: the day he met his wife, the day she left him twenty years later, the day his son told him that he is not his hero anymore. Those rejections leave him with the challenge to redefine his life as one determined not by the decisions of others but by what he chooses, feels, and believes. In six multimedia episodes, the reader joins him on this journey of losing and gaining control.

The work’s formal and material composition reflects this development creating a comparable tension between the reader’s recurrent loss and retrieval of control. As such it re-examines and re-interprets basic fictional concepts (such as what a text or a reader is) against the backdrop of a postmodern era that has been mainly concerned with their deconstruction.

Each episode employs various modes of digital interaction that challenge conventional conceptions of reading and transform the reading process into a synaesthetic experience. This already becomes apparent in the first episode. While the narrator elaborates on his belief system in written sentences, that – at least in the beginning – appear on the middle of the screen upon mouse click, the reader has to deal with the very fragility of such beliefs: increasingly, the text slips from his grasp, the cursor does not generate sentences but landscapes of colors, sounds and, at times, even disappears.

Similarly, the following episodes reenact the increasing fragmentation of the narrator’s life while challenging the relation between reader, text and other media: For instance, the wife’s picture is first created from text elements, only to dissolve into her break up note later on – leaving the reader with a blurring and diffuse cluster of text and tunes that resembles and rereads Carmen’s Habanera.

And as the story reaches its climax the son’s rejection of his father is mirrored in the text’s rejection of its reader when the sentences and words begin literally falling into pieces. At this point, the webcam literally unites the narrator’s voice and the figure of the reader into a deformed and disintegrated picture that makes it impossible to tell them apart any longer.

It is only then, beyond established fictional structures, that the sixth episode opens up a new field of narration in which the reader writes a story shaped by the digital medium he uses. An empty box, a cursor, a keyboard the use of which performs the transition from the text’s to the reader’s story-line: that is where he literally enters the text.

Review: Ulrike Küchler