Work in Progress: Curatorial Labor in Twenty-First-Century American Fiction (Thinking Media) (Paperback)
Work in Progress: Curatorial Labor in Twenty-First Century American Fiction interrogates contemporary texts that showcase forms of reading practices that feel anachronistic and laborious in times of instantaneity and short buffering times. Objects of analysis include the graphic narrative Building Stories by Chris Ware, the music album Song Reader by the indie rock artist Beck Hansen, and the computer game Kentucky Route Zero by the programming team Cardboard Computer. These texts stage their fragmentary nature and alleged "unfinishedness" as a quintessential part of both their narrative and material modus operandi.These works in and of progress feel both contemporary and retro in the 21st century. They draw upon and work against our expectations of interactive art in the digital age, incorporating and likewise rejecting digital forms and practices. This underlines the material and narrative flexibilities of the objects, for no outcome or reading experience is the same or can be replicated. It becomes apparent that the texts presuppose a reader who invests her spare time in figuring these texts out, diagnosing a contorted work-leisure dichotomy: "working these stories out" is a significant part of the reading experience for the reader-curatorial labor. This conjures up a reader, who, as the author argues, is turned into a curator and creative entity of and in these texts, for she implements and reassembles the options made available.
Rieke Jordan is Assistant Professor at the Department of English and American Studies at Goethe-University Frankfurt, Germany.