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The black and the white, reflections on fog
by Jorge Luiz Antonio (PUC SP, Brazil )
English revision by Joel Weishaus (USA)

http://digitalmedia.upd.edu.ph/

 

PINTO, Regina Célia (1999-2001). O branco e o negro com Julien Sorel, incluindo O Jogo da Neblina . RJ, cd-rom, author's edition. Bilingual text (Portuguese and English). English version by Sabrina Gledhill.

 

 


A cd-rom (compact disk read-only memory), contains data that can be read but that cannot be altered. With it the reading changes. The reader-operator takes the square plastic box, opens it, takes the disk out and puts it in the computer's CD drive. The opening and closing of the pages of a book becomes clicking with a mouse.

From this act on, two readings start: the computer's reading in order to understand the software by which the cd-rom was composed, and the reader who operates the computer with the aim of making a reading out of the printed book: "a reader who surfs on a screen, programming readings, in an evanescent universe of signs, but eternally available, on condition that he can't loose the route to get them" (Santaella 1997).

By this way it is possible to access O branco e o negro com Julien Sorel, incluindo O Jogo da Neblina 1, a cd-rom by Regina Célia Pinto. That is: O branco e o negro: reflexões sobre a neblina , according to the subtitle of the work, which is part of project called Bibliotheca das Maravilhas . 2

This is a cd-rom, and, for the Regina Célia Pinto, is an animated and interactive object-book in a digital context. Before, O Branco e o Negro was object-book, then site, and becomes cd-rom. A great inter-relation was established, including the author's project: it was inspired in The Rouge et Le Noir, Stendhal's best known French novel, and the Brazilian poem "Fog" by Nelson Ascher, and it established a dialogue with Simulacra and Simulations by Jean Baudrillard. Stendhal's novel, Ascher's poetry and Baudrillard's philosophy become artistic language by means of a relationship among images, words and sounds in a digital environment in Regina's cd-rom. Hypertextuality and interactivity is the way to contact the reader-operator through European and Brazilian cultures, world vision about human simulation, different eras (XIXth and XXth centuries, even XXIst), fictional spaces ( the virtual and "real" ones). Literature and poetry, as language arts which make connections with sound and sights in a digital environment. As Regina Célia Pinto comments, from re-reading Stendhal and Ascher, she noticed that "the point in common between the novel and the poem is the dissimulation of the human being who hides his thoughts and feelings, and the fog which also dissimulates the reality, avoiding to see clearly the landscape" . 3

On the cover, an elegant figure, with some similarity to Charlie Chaplin's most famous character dressed as being in XIXth century, seems to be on the top a white pyramid, and, on the bottom, the Infinite. While Julien Sorel, on the top of pyramid, invites the reader-operator to make a cyberspatial trip to the universe of imagination, and, also, to the digital world. An interactive and hypertextual journey, it offers a passage to the literature and poetry.

Black and white. White and negro. Red and negro. The colors we imagine, are beyond the different tones of white and black. The nuances. The go and the come. The rudeness of life in society. The intertextuality. The re-readings. The hypertextuality. Regina Celia Pinto, Marie-Henri Beyle / Stendhal 4 (1783-1842), Jean Baudrillard 5, Nelson Ascher 6. Worlds, times, spaces, countries, different authors. Images. Sounds. Movements. And the fog, the veil that makes difficult the vision of things. Many veils of life: word, image, sound, message, our own limitations, the intermediate sign, several meanings. That is why O branco e o negro can be seen as a game of digital words, images, and sounds in a hypertextual interaction. It is a net of sounds, voices, cultures, meanings in search of symbols, similarly constructed as Le Rouge et le Noir.

The game of chiaroscuro, of geometric forms, of the landscapes on the bottom, with tones of gray, all of them joined to make a work of fast and agreeable reading-access . 7

The site which originated from the cd-rom made part of the exhibition Poemas Visitados Versão Preto & Branco (Visited Poems: Black and White Version), at the Galeria SESC Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from November 22nd, 1999 to January 7th, 2000, under the curatorship of Marcelo Frazão. The cd-rom will be also presented in the II Mostra Interpoesia (2nd Interpoetry Exhibition) at the Universidade Presbiteria Mackenzie, whose curator is Wilton Azevedo, and in DMF 2001 - The Digital Media Festival, at the University of Philippines, under the curatorship of Fatima Lasay, both events coming in October, 2001.

The author, Regina Célia Pinto, born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, earned a teaching certificate in Drawing and Art at the Escola de Belas Artes of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. She has a Master's degree in Art History, in the area of Anthropology of Art / EBA, UFRJ, with the Master's thesis "Four Views In Search of a Reader, Important Women, Art and Identity". She has written a variety of academic works, presented several papers to congresses, and participated in many individual and collective art exhibitions. She taught Drawing at the Colégio Pedro II, and presently is coordinator of informaticos laboratory in the same school. Nowadays, she has been devoting herself to find a specific artistic language for computers and holding one-woman and joint exhibitions that ally the real and the virtual. She is also editing (with Marcelo Frazão and Paulo Villela) Arte on Line, an e-magazine about Art and Technology, that intends to be a democratic way to show ideas and works from all over the world that reference these issues. Her works include paintings, computer art, digital art, sites, and cd-roms. Cybercircus, with Issue Number Three of the collection. "Biblioteca das Maravilhas" will be coming soon this year.

Reginas's cd-rom can be seen as a digital re-reading of a poem, a novel and a philosophical essay. A certain relationship is established in the choice of Stendhal, which remembers Xavier de Maistre 8, recalls Lawrence Sterne 9, and brings us Machado de Assis 10 and the city of Rio de Janeiro. And also has us remember José de Alencar 11, by the tissues of the construction of a digital character. Ends of centuries and beginnings of others all done among re-readings. Analogies, allegories, the universality of art: France in the beginning of XIXth century showing characters who "present" themselves to Julien Sorel, by which the brume metaphor is re-read in Nelson Ascher's poem, on which the Baudrillard's philosophy bases the concepts of game and simulation, and these conjunctions transform themselves in a type of philosophy of living for the readers-operators of the digital world, and the literature and poetry keep alive, updated, configured in the digital environment.

As the short motion picture Rendez vous à Montréal, by Michel Bret, brings together Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart (Plaza e Tavares 1998: 50,166), O Branco e o Negro brings Julien Sorel, Stendhal's French character, and brings him for a expedition in Brazil. It gives a romantic color to the history similar to Brazilian Romantic novels, and of other countries, and "makes" the history to seem true. Regina puts some letters and dates in order to build a character as it is alive, real, existing in the XXth century. It is similar to what José de Alencar elaborated for the novel Lucíola: the prostitute's history is told by a man in a letter addressed to an old lady.

The virtual narrative of Regina brings this tone, this ambience, playing a trick on the reader-operator, making the history become a fact that existed, and it shows as a creation of the character Julien Sorel. The reader-operator who doesn't know Stendhal's book, or the Ascher's poem, can notice a scientific report of an expedition made by Julien Sorel, from 1810 to 1820, to the Serra do Mar , whose map is presented in two routes. Only a more careful look can deviate the attention to the "true" history, noticing that the route is constructed under a disguising form of a mouse.

I accessed the English version in order to see how it would behave in another language. As the cd-rom was sent to other countries, I have a rare opportunity to read a good comment from Fatima Lasay, from University of Philippines. As she hadn't read Stendhal, as I had, she interpreted the cd-rom in relation to a kind of historical Romantic novel:

I have looked at Regina's CD-ROM again today and have tried to understand it as much as I can. It is a work that I think requires a good understanding of the histories that it refers to, for instance, the expeditions of Julien Sorel and the conditions of life in his country and in Brazil in the 19th century.

To me, this is a very good approach in artistic creation - be it in poetry, sound, or image. Although they take longer to understand, I enjoy works that have a very culture-specific content or context in both creation and appreciation.

The Fog Game, although lost in many years, to me appears to be a process for Julien Sorel to understand the world and its circumstance. He makes a game, from what seem a perilous journey, in order to make sense of why people behave the way they do. It is like he has created a myth from the elements of his journey in a foreign country.

The Fog Game presented in the CD-ROM - using the interface and metaphor of dice and boardgame - to me is also an analysis and a simulation of Sorel's journey. With the Game, I feel that I am being taken into the caves and summits that Sorel has reached and at each point in the journey there is a moment of meditation about human relationships.

What is it that Sorel has been searching for?

The title, "Reflections on Fog," informs me of different meanings. It could mean that there is meditation or deep thinking occasioned by the presence of the white darkness of fog in a lonely journey. It could also mean that there is something being cast or mirrored on fog, perhaps an image or a shadow or light, which is materially impossible. But fog can diffuse light and cause what may seem a reflection. I can imagine how the linear and structured mind and imagination of the Westerner, Sorel, must be completely enamored by the occlusion of light and shadow, the dampening of his vision by the nonlinear, aural and omnipresent fog. Such a mind would seek organization and structure, to put fogs in little boxes and analyze them to the death.

Regina's CD-ROM has brought me all these experiences. It is a wonderful piece of work, Jorge, that has a very fragile and human touch not often found in many digital works. Please extend my congratulations to her! 13

From the same viewpoint, Fatima analyzed Julien Sorel as a character who transmits a symbolic message of encouragement. It is possible to notice that there is a similarity, by color and by theme, to the book and video Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story, by Richard Bach.

Also, the cd-rom stimulates a reflection: how to see objectives through the fog? One of the most important messages is the dissimulation: "the human being who hides feelings and thoughts and the fog that dissimulates reality, avoiding to see clearly the landscape" 14. The tones of white and black serve to show real and metaphorically the dissimulation and lead to a "different" thinking: the loss of other colors make keen our sense to the nuances of grayscale, and it is in this point that things become similar, confused, many times without frontiers or boundaries.

The structure of the cd-rom allows linear and nonlinear accesses: /Julien Sorel/, /Routes/, /Letters/, /Dice Analysis/, /? ...15 /, and /Exit/. The interactivity of O Branco e o Negro is composed by many dialogues, similar or different to what Fatima Lasay and I did along this review. Each reader-operator will be able to access a sequence of surprises (even the repeated ones are interesting and necessary) expressing approval of the type of scenes, or quick and fast panels. The way to follow depends on the reader-operator, only on his/her decision, similar to what this review did, or didn't do.

In /Julien Sorel/, /Routes/ and /Letters/, it is possible to notice an introduction to a partial imaginary biography and an expedition. The fragmented information seems to the reader-operator a verisimilitude and empathy: it looks like a digital Romantic historic novel, but is a work of fiction which surpasses the tissue of words, for it is presented in a digital environment, with resources such as hypertextuality and interactivity.

/Dice Analysis/ establishes a relationship between the places reached by Julien, and a list of geometrical figures. Both of them suggest a predominantly visual syntax which work as geometrical fogs; that is, the cubes made out of fog, that lead the reader-operator and the character Julien to have by this or that vision. Magnifying glasses, close vision or distant, while clearer or not, all of them avoid a clear vision of reality. And it brings to our memory A Luneta Mágica (The Magical Lens) by Joaquim Manoel de Macedo 16, a Brazilian novel that symbolizes the search for the clear vision of things and persons in the world in which we live, while the lens represents the vision formed by society, language, culture, family, etc.

/Fog Game/, a kind of second part of the cd-rom, begins with /?.../ and it is the moment of metaphors which are represented by a circle of six lozenges corresponding to six faces / numbers of a small cube for gaming. The reader-operator is free to choose the way to go.

While accessing the cd-rom, every reader-operator establishes a relationship between biographical notes about Julien Sorel with the sparse notes about places where he went to, letters he sent to two women, and the texts by Stendhal, Ascher and Baudrillard. The choice of numbers and data establishes a metaphor with Sorel's choice, a real reader-operator's choice by his/her own way, in a numerical order or not.

O Branco e o Negro: Reflexões sobre a Neblina freely uses geometrical figures (polyhedrons, cubes, rectangles, lozenges, squares, etc.) to present the veils and filters that render difficult visions of reality; but this fog / brume / veil / filter is the message that stays with the interaction of this work of digital art, which is the Regina Célia Pinto's cd-rom, for it brings us the colored lights of things paradoxically by means of the nuances of the white and the black and by the lack of its characteristic clearness. The starting point of the creation was the world of fictional words (Stendhal's literature and Ascher's poetry) which transforms into digital poetry and art, bringing together real and virtual times in a multimedia context. It is always the existent literature that promotes new creations. A virtual meeting among centuries and cultures which seem apart from countries and times, but can be united by creation, by the symbolic experience and also by virtuality. The arts, and especially literature, are the way to this knowledge. Literature, which is the fountain of all knowledge, keeps alive its multi-meanings. As Barthes said: "If, by I don't know which excess of barbarity, all our disciplines should be banished from education, except one, it is the discipline of literature that should be safe, for all the sciences are presented in the literary monument" (Barthes 1995: 18).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ARTE ON LINE. RJ, revista eletrônica. In: http://www.arteonline.arq.br
ASCHER, Nelson (1998). Neblina. In: Holanda, Heloísa Buarque de (org.), Esses poetas: uma antologia dos anos 90. RJ, Aeroplano.
BACH, Richard (1977). Fernão Capelo Gaivota. Trad. Antonio Ramos Rosa e Madalena Rosález (original inglês). RJ, Nórdica.
BAIRON, Sério (1995). Multimídia. SP, Global. (Contato Imediato).
BAUDRILLARD, Jean (1991). Simulacros e simulações. Lisboa, Relógio D'Água Editorial. BUGAY, Edson Luiz e
ULBRICHT, Vânia Ribas (2000). Hipermídia. Florianópolis, SC, Bookstore.
GALERIA SESC COPACABANA (1999). Poemas visitados versão preto & branco: catálogo. Curadoria de Marcelo Frazão. RJ, Persona Press.
SANTAELLA, Lúcia (1997). A leitura fora do livro, in: http://www.pucsp/~cos-puc/epe/mostra/santaella.htm
STENDHAL (Marie-Henri Beyle) (1971). O vermelho e o negro. Trad. De Sousa e Casemiro Fernandes (original francês). 1.ed. SP, Globo / Abril Cultural. (Os Imortais 23).

 

1 The subtitle means: The White and the Black: reflections on the Fog.

2 Biblioteca das Maravilhas means Library of Wonders.

3 Email sent by the Regina Célia Pinto to the author on September, 9th, 2001.

4 Marie-Henri Beyle (1783-1842), with the pseudonym of Stendhal, was a French writer, author of "Le Rouge et le Noir" (1830)

5 Jean Baudrillard is a famous social French philosopher, Professor Emeritus by the University of Paris, author of "Simulacra and Simulation", among several books.

6 Nelson Ascher is a Brazilian writer, critic and poet.

7 It is necessary to point out that the way we read a cd-rom is intermediated by the acess we have to do by putting the cd-rom in a computer and clicking the mouse, seeing the screen, and so on. So I preferred to name this act as reading-access.

8 Xavier de Maistre (1763-1852) pursued a military career, and wrote "Voyage around my Room", and "Nocturnal Expedition around my Room".

9 Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768) was an English writer and author of "The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman".

10 Machado de Assis (1839-1908) is the most important Brazilian writer, author of "Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas" (1881), a book that initiated the Brazilian Realism, with "O Mulato" (1881), by Aluizio Azevedo.

11 José de Alencar (1829-1877) is an important Brazilian writer. Among his vast works, like "The Guarani", "Iracema", and "Ubirajara", there are many urban novels, which presented a portrait of Brazilian society of his times, specially the city of Rio de Janeiro and many regions of Brazil: "The Lady", "Five Minutes", Lucíola, etc.

12 The Serra do Mar, a Brazilian geographic space, is a 1500 km. scarp running parallel to the Atlantic coast in Southeastern, separating the coastal strip, the littoral, from the planalto beyond, the traditional home of Brazil's coffee plantations. The mountains attain a height of 2787m, in the case of Pico de Agulhas Negras, in Itaitaia National Park, one of Brazil's highest summits. The mountain system includes a number of ranges with individual names, such as Serra da Bocaina, Serra da Mantiqueira, Serra Negra, Serra Quilombo, Serra de Paranapiacaba, Serra dos Orgaos, etc., and is not confined to the main land; the islands of the south-east coast such as Ilha Bela and Ilha Grande are part of the same range. The ecosystem supported throughout the region is known as Mata Atlantica, or Atlantic Rainforest, which originally continued up the littoral as far as Bahia; vestiges of Atlantic forest even exist in isolated areas near Natal on the northeast.

13 Email by Fatima Lasay to the author on August 28th, 2001. Fatima Lasay is industrial designer, is acquiring her master degree at the University of Philippines, and is pioneer in e-art in her country.

14 See note number 5.

15 Fog Game (O Jogo da Neblina) belongs to the part marked with /? .../.

16 Joaquim Manoel de Macedo (1820-1882) is a Brazilian writer, one of the founders of Romantic novel in Brazil and one of the creator of Brazilian theater. His most important work is "A Moreninha" ((The Little Brunette Girl), a very agreeable novel published in 1844, that became the introducer of Romantic fiction in Brazilian literature.