Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Meta-Novel: The Reinvention of the Novel for the 21st Century

I am about to embark on a new project, one which gives rise to a completely new art form: The Meta-Novel.

Since the 18th century, the novel has held an important place in culture, as one of the most preeminent artistic forms, gifting us with works such as: Ulysses, The Grapes of Wrath, Tropic of Cancer, and A Clockwork Orange, works which both distilled the quintessence of our times and brought about a seismic paradigm shift in our cultural landscape.

More recently, John Barth, in his influential and controversial essay: The Literature of Exhaustion, announced the death of the novel.

My project, challenges the concept of writing as exclusively being a representation of language through graphic means. It instead posits a form of "writing" which is inclusive of the systems of proto-writing, ideographic, and mnemonic symbols, as well as conventionally encoded linguistic utterance, while also adopting new means, modalities and registers outside of what is traditionally thought of as written expression.

The Meta-Novel is a form of "writing" that moves in a protean way through various artistic mediums and disciplines, adopting these forms as a virus adopts a host vessel, before moving onto the next one in a new shape or structure. It is a work that is constantly evolving and metamorphosing, expressing, divining, and interrogating itself.

The Meta-Novel will utilize mail art, poster art, land art, robotics, telematic art, bio art, live performance, thought experiments, virtual reality, theater, film, music, painting, and interactive media, traversing and inhabiting a myriad of forms and conceptual territories in order to achieve it aims.

My work will explode the idea of the novel, fracturing it into a web of shards or fragments, while at the same time, allowing the novel as a form to sustain its structural integrity and durability, as a unifying ideological construct and vehicle for storytelling. In this way, The Meta-Novel is simultaneously blown apart and whole, alive and dead, existing in a quantum state of superposition, before collapsing into the singular reality of each of its chosen forms.

Both traditional and experimental media will function as a vehicle for the storytelling, propelling the characters, concepts, and themes, through a metabolic chain of narrative, where the energy generated by the death of the previous chapter will fuel the birth of the next. This Meta-narrative, this Ur-text, will, in a variety of structural configurations, elemental forms, and artistic media, revisit, reorchestrate, and reprise the central concerns of the work itself.

The Meta-Novel will be comprised of 360 "chapters," each chapter explored in a new medium or form, the 360th final chapter, bringing the narrative cycle to a close, as the Ouroboros, the cosmic serpent devouring its tail, simultaneously destroying and giving birth to itself.

Possible configurations for several of the chapters are: actors improvising in real time, their dialogue being captured by voice to text software which writes it into the novel; the study of the effect of chemical reactions on biological systems on both the micro and macro level (for example: petri dish and marsh ecosystem) the shifts in biological architecture influencing the structure of the textual material; a performance work near Te Reinga and Te Po - The Leaping Place of the soul and the Underworld, in the Maori system of belief; a chapter that is an olfactory museum composed entirely of scents; a sculpture of salt likeness of the author dissolving in the sea; moving images by myself, New Zealand artist Paul Amlehn, projected onto sculptures by Swiss artist Paul Amlehn (1867-1931) on the facade of the Musee d'Art et d'Histoire in Geneva; a chapter sent via telepathy to receivers in multiple countries each of whom transcribes the text allowing it to morph into various permutations; and the final chapter of the work placed on a microchip and implanted in the author's body (mine), where it will remain, until my death. At the demise of the author the bio-chip will be removed from the vessel of the body in a ritual ceremony, the final chapter of the work revealed, and the art cycle of The Meta-Novel complete itself.

The Meta-Novel is a new form for the new century. It is a work that has a correlative in the Greek deity Proteus, who, according to Jung, is both a symbol of the unconscious and the perfection of the art. The Meta-Novel is the fulfillment of the notion Wagner proposed in his The Artwork of the Future, of a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art. It is at once an open laboratory; a functioning organism; a ritual space; an alchemical vessel; and a prosthesis of the unconscious. Ultimately, The Meta-Novel is a work which addresses and seeks to answer the fundamental questions of our existence: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?