Alinta Krauth is an Australian new media artist and researcher of digital humanities and technology. Her practice includes projection art, interactive art, and electronic literature, and the inherent connections between these fields. She is interested in applying her art to highlight socio-political and environmental injustices, particularly with regards to climate change and environmental disruption.
Her research and practice includes interactive controllers for projection-mapped objects and pseudo-holographic projection, interactive screen-based public experiences, walking the land as proprioceptive act (The ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium), and the connection between gravity and proprioception in music listening. Her academic, literary, creative, and hybrid works have been exhibited and published globally.
Krauth recently took part in a Fulbright residency in the Moore Institute in NUI Galway, alongside Jason Nelson. Whilst in Galway, Krauth & Nelson both participated in a panel discussion during Cúirt international Festival of Literature entitled Digital Literature & Art: Interface as Creative Device. Chaired by Anne Karhio, the discussion brought together different perspectives on digital creative practice and possibilities. Krauth’s and Nelsons’ works were also exhibited in Cúirt and at the Other Codes / Cóid Eile: Digital Literatures in Context in the Moore Institute in May of this year. The Moore Institute is home to the Digital Cultures Initiative (DCI) is a forum intended to bring together all those interested in researching, supporting and creating forms of “digital culture” at NUI Galway. This follows on from the introduction of the MA in Digital cultures, and the ongoing MA in Digital Media as part of the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway.
Following on from her busy trip to Galway, I asked her some questions regarding digital literature in general and also about her own work:
Maeve Mulrennan: What is the relationship between current digital literature practice and academic research? Is there a lot of crossover/ practice-based research?
Alinta Krauth: It does vary. Digital literature can be quite embedded in an academic scene, and that means that those who create it may be considering their work’s academic applications while they create. There are also now many university students and professors across the world who study and teach the creation of digital literature in an academic sphere.
But there are also many opportunities to use these innovative writing styles to develop not just creative works, but scholarly works. And this is an area that I find quite exciting – the hybrid creative/scholarly essay. I’ve created a couple of academic articles now that have also doubled as completely interactive online works that require more from the reader – they require ‘more’ in the same way that all works of digital literature require the reader to engage multimodally, and sometimes performatively, behind the keyboard or gesture-based system. Of course there are many traditional academic journals who may baulk at this idea at present, but there are also now many in the creative industries who take it seriously, as it can add new pedagogical tools to a piece, as well as new interest from academic readers.
MM: Does the medium blend itself to a more international community?
AK: It certainly does lend itself to an international community, but not necessarily by choice. New media forms of writing have begun in small pockets all over the globe and you tend to have to put your feelers to find each other. There are now some areas of the world that seem to have developed themselves as ‘hubs’ for digital literature, but those of us who are outside of those spaces must use the Internet to connect, or attempt to create our own hub closer to home! Of course I live in rural Australia, so I’m quite secluded in that way, so I use social media and other online spaces to find that community who are geographically located elsewhere.
But it also lends itself to an international community in other, perhaps more obvious ways. For example, the interdisciplinary nature of digital literature can tend to make writers, artists, and coders from around the world reach out to each other for collaboration. And with so much digital literature being freely available on the Internet, this is not just the space where digital writers come to write, but where digital readers come to read and explore by downloading you work into their own private space or mobile space.
MM: Your work is experiences by the viewer in multiple ways: mobile devices, PCs, galleries – is creating work to be engaged with in different ways challenging?
AK: This is one of the great challenges of the medium, though perhaps it is one that won’t be there in future generations – for example, those who grow up knowing how to code in amongst their arts or writing education. Currently, there are still many electronic literature creators who were taught specifically in one area rather than with a multimedia approach. They were taught as writers or poets, or they are talented artists, or they understand how to code, or they have worked as sound designers or structure fabricators, but it can be quite hard to be brilliant at all of these things together! And at one point or another you are going to create a work that requires multiple of the above, as we’re talking about such a digital and interdisciplinary form. Thus there seems to be two paths one might generally take – to become an expert in one field (for example, as a writer), then collaborate with or pay for the services of artists and coders who will help your vision (in much the same way as a picture book is often illustrated by an illustrator and written by a writer). Or you can take the path of attempting to learn and do all or some of these parts by yourself. I’ve tended to take the second approach as I find that preferable to online collaboration. And in this way I end up being a tinkerer in a variety of areas.
Digital technology shifts and dies very rapidly, so you may be very good at a certain software or range of hardware, but your skills may only be useful for a couple of years before you need to learn something completely new. So creating works for phones, PCs, large festivals, and/or galleries is more of a necessity than it is an experiment with form these days (but of course it has opened up a fantastic realm of experimentation). This constant updating is a slightly different mind-set to the constant sense of improvement that a print writer or painter may feel in their practice. I tend to think of a digital literature practice as ‘manic practice’ rather than the ‘meditative practice’ I feel when writing on paper or painting on canvas.
There may be writers who will suggest that these other areas of electronic literature – for example the visuals, the sound, the code, the fabrication – are seen as less important than the writing itself, and that this is what sets electronic literature apart from digital art. But I tend to disagree. If you are a digital writer who attempts to create entire works by yourself rather than collaborating, you find that your practice is split quite evenly between all these functions - you tend to think like a polymath. Otherwise, if you focus on your writing and forget your other elements, you won’t create something of a high standard.Part of your job as an electronic literature creator is to create stories or poetry that lends itself to the medium that you’re creating it on – in this way the medium does tend to become the message, as McLuhan would say.
MM: What were your personal interests and highlights from your recent Fulbright research trip to NUI Galway in April this year?
AK: My husband I decided to give ourselves a few extra days in Galway to simply explore the area, as neither of us had been to Ireland before. So we had some amazing moments simply in the landscape – finding the shells of dozens of tiny crabs, being watched by a seal, talking to locals, having our faces punctured by hail storms, falling over in hail storms, laying in long grass. And of course my personal challenge: my task to find at least 10 four leaf clovers per day. Which is generally a challenge I give myself no matter where I am in the world, but the ground in Galway is particularly lush and green. And it is a challenge which I am glad to say I pretty much achieved.
It was also fantastic to be able to simply walk into a town and have space made available for our artworks as part of Cúirt International Festival of Literature. I got a very clear sense that Galway is a very culturally and artistically involved place, where almost everyone practices some sort of instrument or art form. This is something quite rare and certainly worth holding on to.
Other Codes / Cóid Eile: https://othercodes.wordpress.com/