In Dan Waber and Jason Pimble’s “I, You, We,” (2005) “The viewer is inside a kind of cube, an infinite cube that can be rotated endlessly without returning to the same view. Between I and you and we flows a river of verbs. The piece can be manipulated by clicking or dragging, or will move on its own if left still for a few moments” (Electronic Literature Collection 1). While this “infinite cube” might present something of a shock to a reader used to the conventions of print, the eponymous “characters” of the work (i.e., “I,” “You,” and “We”) are extremely suggestive in terms of perspective.
The word “I” is ochre-colored and located at the origin of the work, which is to say the dead center of the three-dimensional “cube.” This “I” does not move, even when the reader grabs the text as instructed, and spins the cube for all it’s worth. In contrast, the word “you” is multiple, blue, and shrinks and grows in size as the cube oscillates, occupying both foreground and background, at some points even seeming to loom larger than the “I,” but always, ultimately, fading away while the “I” remains. This leaves “we” in an interesting position. Like “you,” the word “we” is multiple, occurring nearly twice as many times as the word “you” in any of its lines of distribution. The instances of “we,” however, are lighter than those of “I” and “you”; they have a light, yellow-green hue, which never achieves full saturation. Since the words come in and out of prominence according to both size and color saturation, the word “we” never appears in the foreground. The final word type to appear in “I, You, We” is not indicated at all in the title of the work, but it is what provides the link that allows us to put these titular words within syntactical relation: verbs. Verbs as various as “gallop,” “leapfrog,” “confirm,” “zig-zag,” “blossom,” “leach,” “loot,” and “oscillate” fade in and out of prominence as the processes of “I, You, We” unfold. With these links in place, the piece allows the reader to construct a seemingly infinite set of sentences: I grasp you. We repulse you. I rouse you. We fail you.
By putting the “I,” “you,” and “we” into various subject positions, this piece has something to demonstrate in terms of perspective. In some important ways, the piece presses the authority of first-person perspective by showing perspectives in flux, both visually, in that the “you” and “we” words are in continuous motion, as well as syntactically, since the “river of verbs” in some cases allows the reader to re-position subjects as objects, and objects as subjects. With that said, however, the dominance of the “I” is unmistakable. While there are rows and rows of the words “you” and “we,” there is only one “I,” and because this “I” is the axis upon which all the others rotate—as objects, actions, and potential (but never fully actualized) subjects, this piece is an excellent visual abstraction of first-person perspective.