These questions are further complicated by the actual text that comes to absorb your form when standing still (see caption under first image). In “bring my brain to a stop the inception of sedation is needed for the waves to break and the spin to reduce,” it seems like the text is telling us to not just keep our bodies still, but our minds as well. The text is asking us for a sedation of cognitive and physical functioning so that the words themselves take shape and have power over us. The spin reduction part of that line seems more like a technical explanation of how the words spin in place before stopping, but the wave-breaking phrase could have a larger place in the project. If we have to stand still for waves to break, our still form works as the object that the waves break against. This again goes back to the idea of sedation or a paralysis of body and mind so that the words can show their full effect (so that, like waves, they can wash over us).
Staying still also has the cool experience of shaping the text to have a very particular form. The words morph into your silhouette when you’re motionless; they don’t rearrange themselves into very structured lines and stanzas like a traditional poem. Yet the way in which the words and letters rearrange themselves to fit someone’s figure reminds me quite strongly of poetry. Maybe Utterback intends to show poetry as organic and amorphous, though it’s still only a material object that requires us to be still to read it.
I’m not exactly sure what to make of the way that moving disrupts this poetic form and that the words react negatively to a person’s movement. It’s very much like we physically break the waves ourselves and the words move around like water. The video demonstration says that movement is part of the piece’s statement on a fast-paced culture in which we can only appreciate text when we slow down. That interpretation, while it may or may not be from the creator herself, seems to not take into account the whole project. A possibility I’ve considered is that, by letting ourselves have too much power over words or ignoring word choice, the words themselves begin to lose meaning and scramble themselves up into nonsense. I’m not sure how much I like that interpretation, considering that having the skill to use words effectively is quite valuable in our culture. I guess I have a certain agenda, however, in wanting to like this piece more than I do because I feel like its interactivity is way cooler than the ideas it is attempting to convey.
One last thing. I was drawn to this piece for two reasons: the first because it reminded me of another installation art piece that MoMA had two years ago called the Rain Room (its original debut was in London in 2012). In this exhibit, motion-sensitive sprinklers would imitate a continuous rainfall. Whenever the sprinklers would sense someone underneath them, however, they would stop “raining.” The viewers, then, could walk around in the Rain Room environment, watching rain all around them but not being rained on themselves. Part of my interpretation of Standing Still may be influenced by how the Rain Room gave viewers the experience of feeling powerful, almost godlike or aloof in this weird form of weather control. So my analysis is a little tainted in terms of seeing Standing Still as a power shift between ourselves and the words on the screen.
The second reason is because we’ve been talking about how multisensory and experiential many interactive literature texts are, so I’ve been struggling with how to incorporate touch and movement into these texts (specifically dance, considering that embodiment is an important concept, and because music and other audio elements are included in many texts). This project seems to stand as an obstacle towards those efforts, but I’ll keep searching.