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CONTEXT: This week,my first instinct was to avoid making a 2D animated abstract short with shapes and colours. It was difficult because I actually found a few of the shorts from the lecture quite inspiring, I'm usually a very literal person when it comes to visuals, but I also didn't want to do something expected of me. I walked away from the lecture with 2 ideas. I would film a live action work and somehow compress/blur it into near unrecognizability or I would write an academic essay that doesn't make literal sense but plays off of the sentence structures common in such essays to comprise a several page, highly technical, academically cited work that literally doesn't mean anything. That idea got me on to writing, which is what I ended up working in. There's few things more visually abstract than images the reader must make in their own head out of their own experiences and assumptions.
Some examples of (largely) dialogue free works which have influenced me include "Desert Queen" (1997), a biography of Gertrude Bell by Janet Wallach that contains nearly no dialogue and is made up of descriptive diary entries. Many of the conversations in it took place through Arabic and Turkish translators and so Bell/Wallach describe the intentions and tones used rather than the actual words spoken. Another more intentionally abstract work which influenced my writing is Neil Gaiman's "Other People" (2006) which describes a person being sent to hell without any use of dialogue or names and references any specific events loosely enough to necessitate the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks. It's a very interactive work which would lose that viewer input totally if made into a TV show or video game.
I was also influenced by an online post on writing.stackexchange.com asking "Is it possible to write entirely abstract fiction?" This is what prompted me to take the route I did. I'll include screenshots below.
Write a short work with no dialogue, leaving the motivations, words spoken, location and characters ambiguous.
Have my friends look over it and ask them how they interpreted it.
My final work describes a verbal argument in a parking lot, remembered from the perspective of one of the arguers assuming the other's feelings and future actions. They then lose the argument and take off in a car, leaving the other with their wallet on the ground. The relationship between the characters and the contents of the argument itself are ambiguous. Some friends interpreted it as a breakup while others read them as brother and sister.
The final work is quite short. A lot of the rewriting actually made it shorter and shorter.
The work is a reflection on the arguments I've had in my life, discussing their structure and their competitive undertones. A lot of my own memories of arguments map onto it and hopefully the readers' will too.
I genuinely struggle to think of a medium as comfortable with the abstract as pure language. Worded communication necessitates the reduction of literal visuals into minimised symbols and back into visuals in the head of the reader, pulling from a lifetime observing a totally different set of images. In a very real sense, a reader is a creator.
One of the most difficult parts of this submission was reducing signifiers that compelled the reader a certain way. I read through it thinking of the characters as lovers and adjusted it, then ran through it again with them as brothers and adjusted it etc. And in the process I had to kill a lot of darlings and cut out things I liked. This made me aware of how attached I get to specific narratives once I've engaged with them. A part of a puzzle, once solved, feels wrong to dismantle. But the point was to create an unsolved puzzle. Leave intentional gaps. Something similar to watching Chewbacca talk in star wars and interpret it based only on how people react. There's a key element of engagement, of interactivity in that kind of text even if the reader can't act on the future of the story.
I really enjoyed delving into fiction writing this week, its a separate practice from my typical visual art, but one that I've spent years practicing. The skills that I learned in Animated Narratives and possible future script/story writing are advanced by little projects like this.