Oeuvre Under Plastic

Deena Larsen’s Flash-animated specimens, captured and preserved

Since the dawn of the personal computer, digital media forms have been revered for their many advantages over traditional media. They lend great flexibility, capacity, and versatility to any creative work, compared to limited formats like paper or canvas. However, despite not experiencing decay in the physical sense, these media come with a certain ephemerality, due to the quick turnover of various filetypes and software.

As some media forms fade into obsolescence, it’s essential to preserve works of art and literature in these media so that the public does not lose access to them. At the simplest, this involves transcribing, screenshotting, and otherwise documenting/archiving the information from the originals, so that they can be examined as raw components; this deconstruction also holds educational value for those who examine human creative processes and creations. Secondarily, this can involve reproducing the works in a way that reflects their original medium as closely as possible, through HTML and JavaScript.

In collaboration with renowned hypertext and e-literature pioneer Deena Larsen, we have preserved her body of Flash poetry and prose. The process of recreating these pieces is both a method of preserving public access to the works, and a meta-exploration of the impacts of software format turnover on the e-literature community. The result is this project, , a mixed-medium series of art pieces, each representing a reinstantiation of a singular work that was originally made in (or made use of) Flash animation.

Oeuvre Under Plastic is comprised of:

I’m Simply Saying: A kinetically sculpted poem, in fifteen movements

Carving In Possibilities: A double-sided 3D-printed puzzle

The Books (Shandean Ambles, Firefly, Tree Woman, Peace Roses, and Cut to the Flesh): A set of book-like free-form visual experiences

The collection will be displayed at the Electronic Literature Organization’s 2019 Conference.

Original works are all linked below in their respective descriptions. If your browser will not play the Flash files and instead offers them to you as downloads — which is the inaccessibility that has prompted us to recreate these pieces! — then you can download a free and safe .swf player at this website, or by Googling up any of a number of other freeware options.

I’m Simply Saying

The original poem is nine lines, featuring several variable elements embedded within the main text and at the corners of the screen. It is a “treatise on the nature of language in electronic poetry”, and an entertaining ironic dance through the complexity inherent in an attempt to articulate something simple about simplicity.

The sensation of motion is an essential part of experiencing the original work. Because of this, we decided that the best reinstantiation of the piece would be a mobile, with many interactive suspended parts, meant to be viewed from multiple directions.

There is little yet to show about the design process behind the mobile — most of it is still in verbal notes — but more pictures will arrive once the prototyping stage is completed.

Original Flash title card with description.png

Title card from the original Flash piece

Original Flash poem glance.png

An idea of the experience of the original poem

Carving In Possibilities

The original poem allows the reader to experience the sculpting of the Statue of David, by gradually sharpening the image of David’s face while reading input from various speakers about identity, intention, creation, preservation, and other themes.

In reinstantiating the piece, I wanted to preserve for the reader the sense of carving a sharper image out of a blurred one, while also preserving the free choice to experience the text in any random order. We decided the best recreation for this piece would be a puzzle, where readers flip each piece from a face with a blurry image to a face with a sharpened one; this reversibility is why the pieces are all simple symmetrical polygons. We chose 3D printing as the best medium for creating these pieces, so that the text that wraps the vertical faces of each can be negatively imprinted into each piece during the modeling process, rather than having to physically engrave cut pieces of material.

Different colors of text in the original work (and different fonts) represent the different contributing voices, and we wanted to reflect that in the new instantiation. Thus, the material from which each piece is printed will correspond to the original font colors, and the fonts are matched approximately to the styles of the original piece.

The Books

Shandean Ambles

More information coming soon! In the meantime, here’s an image from the original piece:



More information coming soon! In the meantime, here are some images from the original piece:


Tree Woman

More information coming soon! In the meantime, here are some images from the original piece and its archival documentation we’ve created:


Peace Roses

More information coming soon! In the meantime, here are some images from the original piece:


Cut to the Flesh

More information coming soon! In the meantime, here are some images from the original piece and its archival documentation we’ve created: