Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Imaginary 20th Century: An "Interactive Wunder-Roman" : Guest Post by Norman M. Klein

Our good friend Norman Klein--author of the amazing The Vatican to Vegas: A History of Special Effects--has partnered with Cal Arts' Margo Bistis to create what he calls an "interactive wunder-roman" entitled The Imaginary 20th Century. Following is a guest post by Norman detailing this impressive and characteristically eccentric project; You can also find out more by clicking here.
In 1816, a letter by the philosopher Friedrich Schelling describes a novel that runs on wooden and iron gears, propelled by a river, like an early industrial loom. He called it a wunder-roman. This year, an interactive wunder-roman has been published online, and may be the largest archival novel to date-- of rare print curiosities-- certainly the largest in story form that can be navigated as if one were operating a giant machine. Here is an introduction:

According to legend, in 1902, a woman named Carrie, while traveling through Europe, selects four men to seduce her, each with a version of the coming century. Inevitably, the future always spills off course. We navigate through the suitors’ worlds; follow Carrie on her travels; discover what she and her lovers forgot to notice. In 1917, Carrie’s uncle sets up a massive archive of her life. For decades, Uncle Harry had worked for the oligarchs of Los Angeles erasing crimes that might prove embarrassing. Thus, as he often explains, seduction is a form of espionage. In 2004, this archive was unearthed in Los Angeles. 

The Imaginary 20th Century is a tale of seduction as well as espionage; of archiving and the transitive poetics of excavation. Featuring a narrated media archive of 2,200 rare images with a companion ebook, The Imaginary 20th Century is a collaborative work by Norman M. Klein and Margo Bistis, and published by the media museum ZKM.  With their team of artists and designers, the authors have reinvented Schelling’s wunder-roman as online narrative engine, where fact and fiction split off and return to each other to the story in a unique form.

You can visit at,
  1. The Imaginary 20th Century, ebook cover.
  2. The Imaginary 20th Century, media archive, image cluster in chapter 3.2
  3. The Imaginary 20th Century, media archive, 1.2 chapter map

No comments: