Individual Work

“Dakota” is a work of music and text, produced in Flash and viewable in a web browser, by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (YHCHI), a collaboration between Seoul-based artists Young-Hae Chang and Marc Voge. Replicating a common format for YHCHI, “Dakota” sequences flashes of text synced to the rhythm and gestures of a particular song—in this case, the frenetic “Tobi Ilu” by jazz percussionist Art Blakey.

Although the text is large and clear, black on a white background, the sequence gradually accelerates with the music until it tests the reader’s attention, reflexes, and reading comprehension. Text density increases concurrently with speed, switching between one and two lines per “flash” as the piece reaches its conclusion, requiring prescient eyes to catch without practice. Further complicating this process is the exclusion of any pause, rewind, or seek capabilities. If a reader misses something the first time around, they must either restart from the beginning or accept their loss and work to keep up with the subsequent volleys. This evasive writing style prompts an equally evasive, multiplicative reading style. Readers can take “Dakota” as a moving object, prone to motion blur and misinterpretation, and accept their first incomplete reading as complete, if they choose to accept this postmodern paradox.

However, for those equal to the challenge, effort and repetition yield substance. “Dakota” tells the story of a hard-drinking, rough-and-tumble man in America’s heartland, peeling out full-pelt on flat highways, running away from the ghost of his dead friend. He seems to fixate on the trappings of American masculinity and sexuality, of bygone days and dead celebrities, speaking to Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and in a reference to the piece’s form, Art Blakey himself.

This Americana is just one element of a greater global séance: “Dakota” is explicitly the product of “a close reading of Ezra Pound’s Cantos I and first part of II,” which is itself the product of a reading of The Odyssey’s invocation of the Muses (Flores, "I Love E-Poetry"). The minimal, slang-riddled language of “Dakota” feels like a contemporary evolution of Pound’s critique of Western literature’s high-minded inaccessibility. This is echoed in the direct tone struck by other contemporary poetic movements such as Alt-Lit.

Toward the end, “Dakota” shifts abruptly to an Eastern locale, featuring an observant narrator who may, in fact, be the author himself. This is perhaps mirroring Pound’s interpretation of Eastern language and literature by way of his Ideogrammic Method. Where Pound was taking Eastern language West, “Dakota” is taking the West back East.

Asked to describe their work’s genre in an interview for academic journal Dichtung Digital, YHCHI declined with the riposte “no use making it easy on guys like you.” Profane, aggressive, by turns populist and hostile, Dakota makes good on that statement, offering a blistering global tour by way of highways, parking lots, and other (pun-intended) haunts.