“Lotus Blossom” is an electronic literature work created by multicultural artist group based in Seoul, Korea called Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (YHCHI). Their signature opening countdown gives old film-like cinematic factor and their text-based movies synchronize words and music using Flash animation with amazing precision. Clusters of words used are quite direct and aggressive yet serve ironical ambiguity while they move in a rapid motion. Without any instruction, control, or option, YHCHI’s work “exerts a dictatorial stranglehold on the reader.”(Yoo, “Intercultural Medium Literature Digital-Interview with YHCHI”)
A secret travel plan to the capital of North Korea is cancelled so the narrator walks into underground arcades since he cannot afford to go to French Riviera nor can he go to Haewoondae, on a rainy day. As he walks down the stairs, he meets a cleaning lady who hands over a black trash bag and offers him a “PURE GIFT.” As the lady transfers garbage from a trash can to the bag that the narrator is holding, the two strangers dig deep into a philosophical analysis. The narrator marvels at the lady’s insightful claims as they empty out a trash can in Seoul.
Six-minute text-animation, “Lotus Blossom,” uses fast-beat Bebop also named “Lotus Blossom” by Kenny Dorham as background music, which was recorded on album called “Alone Together – The Best of the Mercury Years.” This work mainly uses black and white text and background and a few emphasized phrases flash repeatedly in different colors. With strong beats, Monaco-font texts orchestrate simple and bold utterance of cry, doubt, awe, question, sarcasm, and mockery. Alternating between black and white in background color effectively delivers a visual expression of “DIM AND FLICKERING FLUORESCENT STRIP LIGHTING.” Because it continues apace, readers are not allowed to have time to grasp the details. Yet, in the midst of this frantic pace, this narrative fiction, also possibly classified as a movie, delivers powerful remarks.
“Lotus Blossom” makes many references to French philosopher Jacques Derrida through random words and phrases. An example of his idea of deconstruction is explained. The narrator tackles on how deconstruction differs from destruction by comparing how “MATTER IN SEOUL, JUST 5 MINUTES BY MISSILE FROM THE NORTH” can be destructed instantly “KABLOOM!” and how Seoul can be deconstructed into “WATER, PORTLAND CEMENT, GRAVEL, STEEL RODS.” Underneath the surface, this passage deconstructs the binary of matter and s(e)oul. Soul deconstructed into body and mind, not separated, not one’s presence is absence of the other, but intermingled just like mixture of water, cement, gravel, and steel rods. “PURE GIFT” offered by the cleaning lady is another illustration Derrida’s possible and impossible aporias that “revolve around the paradoxical thought that a genuine gift cannot actually be understood to be a gift.” (Reynolds, “Jacques Derrida”) Although the cleaning lady does not expect anything in return or exchange, the narrator is holding the trash bag for her to fill it with garbage so they exchanged latent services.
YHCHI’s work displays unique voice with distinct characteristics: sarcasm and ambiguity. Combining the two, a subject for mockery in the context is not easily identifiable. YHCHI’s usual sharp criticism invariably exists in this work as well. The cleaning lady aggressively insults Derrida by using impudent remarks such as “IS HE KIDDING WITH THAT CRAP?” and mocks him for lacking in “FUNKINESS.” Their sarcasm does not stop with Derrida; it goes a step further and challenges the world of philosophy by creating a female janitor philosopher, and another step further to mock politics and war with children’s game “ROCK, SCISSORS, PAPER.” Ambiguity is another significant feature of YHCHI’s work. The gender of narrator was untold so it was assumed in this writing. “DIM AND FLICKERING FLUORESCENT STRIP LIGHTING” shows a confused state of space, neither bright nor dark. The “PURE GIFT” mentioned by the lady is also unclear whether the gift was given or not. What was her gift? Was it the garbage, the black plastic bag, or the lecture she is giving him?
The cleaning lady refers to herself as “SISYPHUS” a character from Greek mythology that was “punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.” (Wikipedia, “Sisyphus”) Her 232 trashcans are like eternal punishment placed on her and she can only watch them be filled to be emptied again. On the other hand, the work portrays her as “Lotus” that grows in muddy swamp-like environment but keeps itself clean and blossoms beautiful flowers. 232 trash cans full of “HEAVY, MESSY, DIRTY… DEATH-LIKE” garbage surrounds her life everyday but she blossoms beautifully with her profound philosophy.
Only six minutes long, “Lotus Blossom” makes for a brief reading experience, but an experience that can stretch for the reader through its referential style. Read on the screen, these references work like “implicit” or “unclickable” hyperlinks. Its dynamic intensity provides engaging experience to the readers with visual and acoustic excitement. Random words and phrases seem meaningless at first but their ambiguity provokes a curiosity of readers and compels to search for clarity. A reader is led to a gigantic hypertext called “World Wide Web” and clicks on “unclickables:” “LOTUS,” “DERRIDA,” “DECONSTRUCTION,” “PURE GIFT,” “SEOUL” and so on. Short is not necessarily an absence of duration or length, at least for this “implicit-hypertext” fiction called “LOTUS BLOSSOM.”