Over the last 8 months I’ve been slowly tinkering away on a personal project set within a large flooded cave environment. It’s a concept I’ve had floating around (literally) in my head for years but never quite found the right time or technology to bring to life.
The idea goes way back to 1998 and a series of experimental digital text/art ‘drawings’ I produced in an early version of Photoshop. Although the drawings don’t look anything remotely like they’re situated in a damp cavern, it’s the use of multiple layers of silhouetted, partially-visible/clipped and visual text that sparked the concept.
Last year, I started playing around with some initial assets and techniques that might trigger me to finally pull my finger out and start work on this weird and somewhat vague ‘Water Cave’ concept – but it wasn’t until I met an Indian friend of mine for the first time – Shanmugapriya, doctoral scholar of Digital Culture and Indian Electronic Literature – at the ELO conference in Porto last year, where we discussed the idea of a metaphorical, multiple-language work, that the vision for the project formed a more solid shape.
Another key factor in the mix was discovering the accomplished and compelling work of artist/musician Alex Rushfirth who’s track ‘The Wooden Man’ – which Alex told me is simply “an acoustic guitar plugged into an effects unit/looper” – perfectly suits the Water Cave’s raw, experimental and stripped-back nature. Play the trailer at the top of this post to hear The Wooden Man blended into the cave’s emerging use of claustrophobic audio and sound FX.
This is a return to Dreaming Methods more abstract roots; it’s a massive-scale ‘exhibition’-like environment where language becomes intertwined with naturally textured rock surfaces. Taking inspiration from some of our earlier works such as Dim O’Gauble (from 2006, requires Flash Player), the project is not really a game: navigation is straight-forward and so far limited to a series of simple choices – in this case, which tunnel, passageway or underwater chamber you wish to explore next.
Based loosely on a short poem about rediscovering your identity and finding hope against all odds, the text has been spontaneously written into its environment, and translated into Tamil by Shanmugapriya. Pressing the space bar at any point in the work swaps out the English language for Tamil – or vice versa – the shapes of each language offering different aesthetics and interpretations.
In its current development state, Thanner Kuhai (Water Cave) is a wonderful playground for experimenting with visual language. It has no release date yet, but has been selected for exhibition at ELO 2018 in Montreal later this year.
You can find out more at www.dreamingmethods.com/thanner-kuhai and leave us your email address or Twitter handle if you want to know when it’s out.