88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (To be Played with the Left Hand) by David Clark is a web-based Flash creation that explores the life and works of Austrian-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Each constellation is pictured as a possibility of thought, a labyrinth of myths, a rhetoric riddle, a musical score, or a new set of philosophical propositions. In the interactive sky of 88C, multiple associations to other multiple constellations creatively link each star into a network of interrelated stories. As the title suggests, the digital work should be “played with the Left Hand." This means that there are additional semiotic units (videos, sounds, images, texts) hidden in the metaphysical strings of the constellations that the reader can add to the narrative by means of interaction and manipulation. By discovering unexplored paths and creative unknowns, the reader encounters examples of gestural melodic manipulation that will consequently lead to the creation of visual music. The visual music produced by the secret of the Left Hand, whose notes (piano keys) are the gestural enunciation of different discourses and diverse thematics, expose the intermedial literary characteristics of the text.
88C stands as one of the digital torches of this on-going definition path within the Canadian landscape. We consider that Clark’s electronic literary work is a great example of Canadian digital poetics because (1) it proposes a labyrinth-like poetic of navigation based on a highly intellectual dialogism of media, (2) it shows the aesthetic advantages of mingling electronic literature, film, music, and philosophy, and lastly (3) it tests the aesthetic engagement of the reader by crossing click by click generic boundaries.
Clark’s net.art projects distinguish themselves because they spring and spin creation from two axes: specific objects or ideas, and facts and stories of our world. Such vivid, unifying, and defining elements produce scenarios of unexpected iconic associations, interactive storytelling, multimedia essays, and encyclopedic imagery, where the reader’s engagement with Clark’s works is driven by the dynamics of history, language, and knowledge.
In 88C, the idea of playing a musical instrument to achieve the literary, rhetoric, and artistic effects of the e-lit work brings back to us what Marie-Laure Ryan suggests in Narrative Across Media, “What counts to us as a medium is a category that truly makes a difference about what stories can be evoked or told, how they are represented, why they are communicated, and how they are experienced” (18). Following Ryan, we argue that 88C is told through a multimedia interactive night sky where the leitmotifs of music, universe, and infinity join to represent the life and works Wittgenstein. 88C is a story told through the lens of science, literature, film, music, and philosophy. It offers a new approach to philosophical thinking and metaphysical investigations using digital rhetoric practices. The constellations’ construction of meaning is shaped by interaction and manipulation where the paratextual message “to be played with the Left Hand” invites the reader to engage with the work by unraveling stories and playing language games.