TEXT | SOUND | IMAGE: An Introduction
Devon Hodges for the editorial collective
 
In Image-Music-Text, published in 1977, Roland Barthes heralds the arrival of the Text, a plural, unstable, multi-dimensional space that "plays" itself (162). The title of this issue of ://english matters, "Text-Image-Sound," pays homage to Barthes’s proleptic vision; in describing the Text, Barthes seems to have anticipated the networked, multisensory experience we call "multimedia." "The metaphor of the Text," he writes, "is that of the network" [his emphasis] (161).

Barthes celebrates the dynamic, combinatory possibilities of the Text, possibilities that have found dramatic realization thanks to electronic technologies. In multimedia, the text, once locked to the page, is unfixed. Typography, images, and sound (the building up of sound may itself produce a text) can easily be made to undergo repeated transformations and juxtapositions. But that, of course, is not the whole story. If the new media offer innovative aesthetic experiences, these same technologies also bind readers to machines with enhanced powers of surveillance. The network, as Barthes could not have known, is much more than a staging ground for the Text.

The multimedia projects featured in our gallery do not avoid a reckoning with the darker side of digital culture. For example, in Gail Scott White and Kirby Malone’s multimedia performance piece, Silence and Darkness,the power of cellular technologies to facilitate communication is shown to come at a price: the separation of the voice from a body that is increasingly mechanized and commodified. Maternal Exposure,an installation created by artist, Monica Bock and poet, Zofia Burr, contemplates maternal nurturing, and while at first glance the work may not seem anxious about new technologies, Bock writes that she conceives of the project as "resisting our slide into what has been called a post-biological future." Not fully at home in the new media, nor desiring to be, both Silence and Darkness and Maternal Exposure are archived only incompletely in this issue. To experience these projects fully, audiences must go to other places—the gallery and the theatre.

Other exhibits in this issue are designed to be viewed online. The hypermedia works created by Aviva Christy, Rod Smith, Dean Taciuch, Steven Weinberger explore the poetic poetic possibilities for bringing together electronic words, images, and sounds. How does hypermedia change poetic form? How does reading change as poems become interactive and words visibly flow on the page? Are the reader's emotions oscillating along with the words and sounds? How do these multimedia poems transform older traditions of picture-poems?

Explore, question, and interact with this issue. "The Text," writes Barthes, "asks from the reader a practical collaboration" (163).