Simanowski: When Literature goes Multimedia

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Trost der Bilder

Trost der Bilder, was the first-prize-winner of a German competition for literature on the Internet in 1998. The title translates as "Consolation of Images", thuogh, it should actually be entitled "Consolation of Stories", since the work itself consists of several short stories which can be read by clicking on them in a table of contents. Each story comes with images, which mostly illustrate the text and are therefore hardly justified in terms of conveying a message by visualisiation. However, there is one story, where the image turns from illustration into a means of rereading the story. This story, entitled "Die Schaufensterpuppe" ("The Mannequin"), is about a man who falls in love with a mannequin. The first slide translates the following.

My friend had fallen in love with a mannequin from the winter collection from Horten. After closing he would stand in front of the window for hours no matter how cold out it was. He was aware of the strangeness of his love; however, he wanted to be near the mannequin at all costs. // One evening he hid in a changing room in the women's department. Once the light had been turned out and the room was empty, he snuck over to her. "I took her out of the window and freed her arms and legs from their unnatural position", he later told me. 

Clicking on the image we get the next file this time with the other part of the mannequin's face.

He set the mannequin onto a chair. He did not undress her. He did not touch her improperly. "I just sat in front of her and looked at her. Everybody claims that her eyes are glassy and lifeless. But she looked at me. I swear she looked at me, in a way nobody ever has looked at me." // Next day P. was discovered by the store detective. // Having determined that nothing had been stolen, the dedective did not report the incident. P was banned from the store. He now shops at a different chain. His sweetheart disappeared in March, just when the first buds emerged on the branches of cherry trees. The color of her face had peeled off; she wasn't suitable for the spring collection. 

The next file shows only one sentence: "When nature dawned she took a long beauty sleep." After this file we get a file without any text but with the mannequin's entire face. 

The point is that we get the face only for a moment. This makes the story interesting, which is otherwise rather banal and, in its last sentence, even kitschy. The predetermined disappearence of the mannequin begins the second part of the story. Those readers who hit the back button now in order to see the mannequin's face thereby betray the presence of an attraction compelling them to look again. Of course, this doesn't render them exactly the same as a man who locks himself overnight in a store in order to gaze undisturbed upon a mannequin. However, hitting the back button readers start to justify, thought unconsciously, the read action. As they imitate the character in the text, they themselves turn into the story's main character. Being in the play does not nesseccarily have to be realised by navigation or contribution. Some times, as we see here, clicking repeat is enough.  

The condition here is that language of images dispenses with the language of words. The process of imagination is limited by the use of images. Only because the mannequin is not described in words but materialized as an image can it be taken away. The deeper meaning of this piece lies in the feature of intermediality, as well as in the incorporated refresh-tag, which may amounts to an animation of the reading process.

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