Transmedia Narrative: Modes of Digital Scholarship and Design Across Public Space

This panel will explore the diverse approaches and working methodologies for designing transmedia narrative experiences across a variety of public spaces by showcasing selected projects from Labyrinth’s repertoire of interactive cultural histories and by presenting emerging works produced by collaborators and members of the Labyrinth initiative.
Sunday, 18 September, 2011 - 09:00 - 10:30
Chair Person: 
Kristy Kang
Rosemary Comella
Andreas Kratky
The Labyrinth Project Research Initiative
Installation view of “Tracing the Decay of Fiction: Encounters with a Film by Pat O’Neill”
Excerpt from “Tracing the Decay of Fiction: Encounters with a Film by Pat O’Neill”
Excerpt from “Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles 1920-1986”
Excerpt from “Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles 1920-1986”

Chair: Kristy H.A. Kang

This panel will present a body of work by media artists, scholars and collaborators who comprise The Labyrinth Project – a Los Angeles based research initiative on interactive narrative at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Under the direction of cultural theorist Marsha Kinder since 1997, Labyrinth has been working at the pressure point between theory and practice. With media artists Rosemary Comella, Kristy H.A. Kang and Scott Mahoy working as creative directors, Labyrinth been producing award-winning multimedia projects that juxtapose fictional and historical narrative in provocative ways. In the process, Labyrinth has pioneered a new form of digital scholarship combining archival cultural history and artistic practice. Their “database documentaries” animate the archive and make history come alive for a wide range of audiences across the public sphere.

Labyrinth designs their interactive works as transmedia networks—installations, DVD-ROMs, and websites. Their projects appear not only in cyberspace but also in the networked public spaces of museums, science centers, and other public venues.

Labyrinth’s projects all grow out of broad, multi-tiered collaborations with artists, scholars, scientists, students, archivists, museums and cultural institutions. In the process, Labyrinth has developed three signature genres: the digital city symphony that explores urban space through layers of time; the interactive memoir that probes the networked memories and lived experience of complex individuals; and interactive science education that explores the interplay between biology and culture and the respective representation systems of art and science. Several of their works combine these genres.

This panel will explore the diverse approaches and working methodologies for designing transmedia narrative experiences across a variety of public spaces by showcasing selected projects from Labyrinth’s repertoire of interactive cultural histories and by presenting emerging works produced by collaborators and members of the Labyrinth initiative.

Paper Abstracts

Looking for What Underpins: An Analysis of “Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles” & a new project

by Rosemary Comella

According to the sociologist Henri Lefebvre: “Social space cannot be adequately accounted for either by nature (climate, site) or by its previous history.” The inadequacy of going back through a region or city’s history, to discover its underpinnings, in order to explain its current state, is at the heart of Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, 1920-1986 (2003), an interactive DVD-ROM produced at Labyrinth in collaboration with Norman M. Klein, Andreas Kratky and myself as directors. With these inadequacies in mind, I intend to unravel how Bleeding Through tries to re-present the forces of daily life and the social imaginary that influenced downtown Los Angeles and its nearby neighborhoods that at one time fed its center. Additionally, I will speak about my own personal “digital city symphony” that I am currently developing that deals with issues of a working class neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Representations of Place and Identity: Tracing the Narrative Spaces of Los Angeles’ Koreatown

by Kristy H.A. Kang

Nicknamed the “L.A. District of Seoul City” Los Angeles’ Koreatown is an example of a place that is both local and global.  It provides a case study of how a sense of place is understood by  its transnational and ethnically diverse local inhabitants the majority of whom are not Korean but Latino. It can be viewed from multiple perspectives and embodies multiple identities that are simultaneously a source of richness and conflict. Social scientist Doreen Massey articulates this conception stating, “what gives a place its specificity is not some long internalized history but the fact that it is constructed out of a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus.” Koreatown is a place with accumulated layers of memory and history weaving a complex network of social and cultural relationships.  This paper will explore the production of immigrant space and its relationship with other representations of Los Angeles’ history, looking at a particular site of historical memory – The Ambassador Hotel – which is the subject of an interactive project produced by the Labyrinth Project and filmmaker Pat O’Neill - Tracing the Decay of Fiction: Encounters with a Film by Pat O’Neill.  This project juxtaposes archival history with fictional narrative to create a virtual exploration of the layers of time, memory and history embedded in the Ambassador and its surrounding neighborhood, now known as Koreatown.

The Birth of Memory from the Spirit of the Machine

by Andreas Kratky

The computer is a machine of the future – not only do we still attach to it the connotation of technological sophistication and future orientation, also in its function as an information processing machine it only deals with the present, calculating towards to future. Being solely aware of its current state and the transition rules of how to move towards the next state the computer is an inherently amnesic machine. The memory complement to this information processor is the database, adding the option to store data and keep them shielded from the ongoing memory erasure. But as it is part of the regime of the present the database offers its records as co-present, eliminating the notion of the past as a time vector spanning different chronological instances from past, to future.

The proposed paper explores how the project “Bleeding Through – Layers of Los Angeles 1920-1986” uses the presence-structure of the machine to construct an allegory of the process of remembering and the erasure of memory in the interplay of personal recollection and collective memory. Inspired by Norman Klein’s “History of Forgetting” we devised a process within which elements from the past endlessly fold upon themselves in a virtual navigation through Downtown Los Angeles. Using signifying chains following the concept of Markov chains we are devising a mechanism that touches on the subconscious processes of meaning creation described by Jacques Lacan.

Bios of the Participants

Rosemary Comella

Rosemary Comella, currently a PhD student in a media arts practice program at USC, is a new media artist with a background in the visual arts, in particular interface design, photography and video. Since 2000 she has been working as a researcher, project director, interface designer and programmer at the Labyrinth Project. At Labyrinth, she developed the main interface for Tracing the Decay of Fiction: Encounters with a Film by Pat O’Neill, a collaborative project between experimental filmmaker Pat O'Neill, Kristy H.A. Kang and the Labyrinth team, and she helped direct The Danube Exodus: The Rippling Current of the River, an interactive installation with filmmaker Peter Forgács. She directed and served as photographer for Cultivating Pasadena: From Roses to Redevelopment, an installation and DVD-ROM, including catalog, exhibited at the Pasadena Museum of California Art in 2005. Comella is currently creative director for Jewish Homegrown History: Immigration, Identity and Intermarriage, a public on-line archive and multi-screen museum installation where users are invited to practice their own historiography by inserting their own histories and memories—using text, photographs and video—into the contents of the website. This user content becomes interwoven with previously published histories and newly uploaded scholar contributions.

Kristy H.A. Kang

Kristy H.A. Kang is an award winning Korean-American media artist and educator at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Media Arts and Practice. Ms. Kang has lectured and taught multimedia workshops internationally at universities in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.  Since 1997, she has been a Creative Director with The Labyrinth Project research initiative on interactive narrative and digital scholarship at USC.  Contributing her background in digital arts and animation, she has served as project director and designer on a range of collaborative projects at Labyrinth. These works have been exhibited internationally and received numerous awards including the Jury Award for New Forms at the 2004 Sundance Online Film Festival which she received as co-director with filmmaker Carroll Parrot Blue and The Labyrinth Project for The Dawn at My Back:Memoir of a Black Texas Upbringing–an interactive memoir which explores the cultural history of race in Houston by juxtaposing official histories with Blue’s personal narrative and family archives. 

Kang was the director of Labyrinth’s two science visualization projects A Tale of Two MAO Genes: Exploring the Biology and Culture of Aggression and Anxiety, a collaboration with molecular biologist Jean Chen Shih, which is being used as a model for interactive science education at USC and universities in China and Taiwan, and Three Winters in the Sun: Einstein in California – an interactive installation about Albert Einstein exhibited at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Among Labyrinth’s projects on the city Kang co-directed are The Danube Exodus: The Rippling Currents of the River, a cinematic installation with Hungarian documentary filmmaker Peter Forgács which premiered at The Getty Center, and Tracing the Decay of Fiction: Encounters with a Film by Pat O’NeillO’Neill–an exploration of the Ambassador Hotel and it’s surrounding neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles..  Kang’s research interests include spatial and mobile narrative, digital humanities and transnational media studies between the U.S. and East Asia.

Andreas Kratky

Andreas Kratky, born in Berlin, lives and works in Berlin and Los Angeles. He studied visual communication, fine arts, and philosophy in the Humboldt University, the University of the Arts in Berlin, the Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the University of Paris 1, Pantheon-Sorbonne. Andreas Kratky is a media artist and visiting assistant professor in the Interactive Media Division of the School for Cinematic Arts of the University of Southern California. His work comprises several award winning projects like “That’s Kyogen”, the interactive installation and DVD “Bleeding Through – Layers of Los Angeles 1920-1986”, the algorithmic cinema system “Soft Cinema”, and the interactive costume projection in the opera “The Jew of Malta”. His work has been shown internationally in Europe, the USA and Japan in institutions like the ICA in London, ICC in Tokyo, HDKW in Berlin, Centre George Pompidou in Paris, or RedCAT in Los Angeles. His current work comprises the interactive installation “The Imaginary Twentieth Century” and “Venture to the Interior”.

Previously Andreas Kratky has worked in the ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, where he was the head of the Multimedia Studio. He also worked as a member of the research initiative “Labyrinth Project”, an organized research unit of the University of Southern California, where he designed the installation and interactive DVD “Three Winters in the Sun – Einstein in California”. Working with the research initiative “Anarchive”, an organized research unit of the University of Paris 1, Pantheon-Sorbonne, he designed the interactive DVD “Title TK” in collaboration with the French theorist and video artist Thierry Kuntzel. Besides numerous works published as interactive media on DVD and in art catalogues, Kratky has published various texts on his research work in human computer interaction, interface design, and the didactic use of interactive media. Kratky has won several awards for his work and held residencies in the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, and the Baltic Center for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead, UK