This entry is taken from ELO Showcase curator statement by Dene Grigar. See the original entry here.
Lacy Cunningham and Justin Talbott’s “Cannibal Dreams: Anatomy Study No. 1” experiments with hypertext poetry and net art. Unlike many works from these two genres that involve complex structures and rich media environments, this poem offers a simple interface comprised only of words from a 23-line passage from John P. Bilezikian, Lawrence G. Raisz, and Gideon A. Rodan’s Principles of Bone Biology (2002) that hyperlink to the poetic words produced by the two authors. Clicking on any of the 28 words and phrases from those found in the scientific explanation about the relationship between bone and human health takes the reader to a line or lines of the poem that, itself, explores human relationships—or rather, the health of one particular human relationship. While the title suggests a study of anatomy, the passage that forms the basis of the poem focuses specifically on the skeletal system, the organ that provides the structure and support for so many other organs in our body. Without bone, we are nothing more than a spineless creature, an invertebrate that resides at the low end of the food chain able to be devoured by other animals. The scientists’ passage ends with the cheery, “Enjoy the book. We enjoyed editing it for you.” Clicking on “you,” the sole word in the passage’s final line, takes the reader to the six final lines of the poem. It’s a very dark ending that suggests great damage suffered in the relationship between the speaker and lover. The reader learns that the speaker’s “spine,” for example, is comprised of fragile “teacups” and so “clatter[s],” that the lover is “discordant” and that the “centre” or central nervous system that the spine houses, perhaps for both speaker and lover, “cannot hold.” The result of this situation is cannibalization, for we learn that “the storm eats the shore.” This degradation of bone, of the structure that love provides, entails great loss and takes the reader back to the theme of disease the scientists discuss in their passage. Thus, “Cannibal Dreams: Anatomy Study No. 1” provides us with a study of a relationship gone bad, juxtaposing the body that can be studied as a fact of nature with human emotions, which cannot be easily mapped by science. Even trying to do so is merely a pipe dream.