Extracted from a current work in progress:
Relations in multilinear work matter, indeed multilinear media could more accurately be described as ‘relational media’. Multilinearity is premised on allowing basic units of a work (what early hypertext theorists, partly following the example of Barthes’, have usually labelled as lexias or nodes, and what Thalhofer in his Korsakow interactive video system refers to, awkwardly, as the “Smallest Narrative Unit” or SNU) to be able to be connected, arrived at, and followed differently, where I might find a particular node from any of several others.
Relations also matter in linear media where connections between segments is affected by editing, though here once these edits are made these relations become fixed – this is perhaps the key distinction between hard and soft media. A consequence of this fixity is that content is often thought to matter more than sequence and a result of this is that many practitioners new to these forms try to make these ‘relations between’ singular rather than plural. In this case work becomes serially constrained so that multiple relations becomes this and then this, so that the problem posed by relation is reduced to one of navigation and architecture and becomes assigned to extra diegetic elements such as menu commands or navigational buttons to read the work. The significance of relation and plurality in multilinear works is simply avoided by recourse to such instrumentalism.
Relations matter because they are always multiple. Things, whether they are ideas, video sequences, or sentences always have an immensity of relations that they are situated within and by, whether realised or not, and things only come to be known to the extent that we make and actualise these relations. In my video work relation and multiplicity has been explored through variations between video windows, for example in video diptychs. These works are more interested in the simultaneous formal relations between coterminous video sequences than the ersatz multilinearity that results from serially arranged varying sequences of this and then this and then this. This latter case remains formally close to the traditional cinematographic timeline, where the task of the work is to assemble a story from a variety of parts, but the story remains a linear narrative. By pushing narrative aside and allowing videos to play together, to relate to each other programmatically, thematically, associatively and even disjunctively, is to make more forceful propositions in relation to softvideo than simply trying to solve the problem of narrative sequence. In softvideo and its relational poetics narrative is not the minimal condition or state but only one mode that could be performed. Narrative here is no longer sovereign, even though many ‘database’ defined projects privilege narrative as given. Such privileging of narrative risks being a critical and theoretical cul de sac. In such a model narrative is the privileged term, a theoretical inside, and database is merely a technical apparatus constructed around narrative as the problem. In my work I begin from different premises where simultaneity, rather than seriality, is an effort to make concrete how soft practices are about relations, that they are determined by relation and that soft systems are engines and assemblages that enable multiple relations.
, network practices