The Writing’s Literally on the Wall

So no, it’s not a portent of imminent doom. I just did something cool.

This weekend in Essex Junction, Vermont, I’m participating as a “contributing artist” in a town festival called steAmfest, organized and brought to Essex Junction by Essex Hub for Women and Business. Nothing like this has ever been done before in the area, and the event’s first year in Essex Junction is going to be mindblowingly fantastic. Through the theme “The Art of Disruption”, steAmfest 2017 uses a showcase of art and exhibitions that highlight what happens when we experience the STEM fields though the lens of Art and Aesthetics. It’s a brilliant idea, no matter where it’s incorporated.

I was simply looking forward to being a spectator during steAmfest, and then I had an impromptu conversation with one of the founders of Essex Hub for Women and Business (also a co-manager for steAmfest) and one of the festival’s participating artists. It came down to, “Kathrin, why haven’t you submitted anything to the festival?” and “How can we make some of your writing a part of steAmfest?”

The light bulb exploded. Yes, writing is technically an art. Yes, my upcoming novel “Sleepwater Beat” is Science Fiction (so two of the STEM fields, science and technology, already covered). Yes, the novel’s main character is a woman (and so am I… which adds bonus points toward the current and ongoing dialogue of closing the gender gap in these STEM fields). No, I couldn’t just exhibit the novel and expect people to sit and read it, but I could offer an excerpt in a way not normally delivered.

So as it turns out, I printed out a selection from “Sleepwater Beat” on paper—my favorite medium for reading fiction. Then I filmed a short clip of that paper, nothing more, on my iPhone—some peoples’ favorite medium for reading fiction (or on a device of some sort). Then I looped it and projected it onto a wall in one of the spaces on the art-hop map of steAmfest. An excerpt from a novel (totally art) about science and technology, projected as an exhibit (most definitely art) using science and technology. How cool.

steAmfest 2017 starts tonight at 4:00 pm EST, and while I can’t bring it to you (though if you’re in the area, you should totally stop by!), I’ve included below the statement I wrote for my exhibit, followed by the short clip of my “recorded writing”.

The coolest thing I take away from all this? Writing doesn’t sit in its own world, isolated and excluded, a separate being from visual or interactive arts in all ways. Arts and Aesthetics—used to understand countless intricacies about the world around us and our interactions as human beings—and the STEM fields are not mutually exclusive. Plus, there’s more than one way to promote a book.

As an author, I’ve always considered writing to be technically “of the arts”, though visual arts themselves I quite happily leave to others far more skilled than myself, with no hard feelings. But with steAmfest’s “The Art of Disruption” theme and the huge array of contributing exhibits to this festival, I quickly understood that words themselves, no matter how they are presented, can be used as artfully and with just as much disruption as any other visual or interactive work.

‘Next Page’ is an excerpt from my upcoming novel “Sleepwater Beat”, a Sci-Fi spectacle with LGBTQ elements, reminiscent of Stieg Larson’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ meeting ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘X-Men’. The novel itself is disruptive enough, where the literal power of storytelling is both visceral and illegal; where private companies buy out the government, steering the directives of pharmacological research to monopolize the technology/social-media/pharmaceutical-engineering knot; where people are persecuted not for their sexual orientation, race, gender, or economic status but instead for how they can literally change others with their words. Peppered among these themes are fictional, highly biased, journalistic interludes, one of which is projected on this wall.

Not only are science and technology fundamental elements of the Sci-Fi genre itself, but they have been critical in forming this exhibit. Tree turned to paper. Printed ink. The iPhone I used to film one page. This projector and the fine-line details of every angle. Each position of the corners and the light and the space between small and large.

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