Individual Work

Tatuaje by Rodolfo Jm, Leonardo Aranda, Gabriela Gordillo, et al. is a transmedial novel published in 2014 and based on HTML5, PHP and JavaScript. The screen is divided in two main parts: on the left side we find the story itself made as a private diary—day by day—with hypertexts to experiment different narrative formats, and on the right side we can accumulate all the information we have found in specific tabs—maps, images, mails, calls, messages, archives—as the search progresses. Using many web-based tools such as email and Google Maps, text messages, sounds, and videos, the novel encourages the reader to reach their own adventure with an aesthetic that recalls the nineties by its typography, technological possibilities, and colors.

As for the narrative, Tatuaje is set in Mexico Distrito Federal, where a private investigator accepts a job that consists of searching for Melquíades, a gypsy who has his business in the historic Sonora Market. This market, traditionally associated with magic and esotericism, forms the opening backdrop to a story that will have references to the Day of the Dead, San La Muerte, and to different places on the map of the Mexican capital in order to find Melquíades. Melquíades is also the name of one of the gypsies that used to visit Macondo, in Gabriel García Marquez’ famous novel Cien años de soledad. With this intertext, Tatuaje takes position in the Latin American zone. As the novel unfolds, the story keeps confusing reality and dreams that emulate nightmares in 3D.

Two aspects are remarkable in this work: on the one hand, it seems to assert that identity is plural, showing different traditions such as Judaism, Hinduism, occultism, aboriginal cultures, etc.; on the other hand, we find the use of current technologies to decrypt the identity of the characters browsing the web, sending messages, and using tools such as Google Maps. These ways of transmitting information evoke cases of mail art that attempt to divert the official message into the networks that encode it. In both ways, the reminiscences of a multicultural territory and the possibilities that technological development opens up, gesture towards the heterogenic and souterrain construction that constitutes (and substitutes) the national Mexican culture.

At the same time, in this transmedial novel, we can observe how technology permeates the life of the investigator: in order to be able to carry out the search it is essential for him—as well as for the reader/user on the other side of the screen—to have the aforementioned transmedial tools. At the same time, it is to be noted that the clandestine professions that, since time immemorial, have existed outside the national law—as in the case of Melquíades, a gypsy and a shaman—have a remarkable importance.

So, these secret characteristics that precede the construction of the Mexican nation coexist with the latest technology produced during a supranational period, which signals a moment subsequent to that of the idea of nation. Also, Sonora Market is home to illegal practices of shamanism and occultism that have tried to be rationalized or eradicated through modern calculus, but have not totally disappeared. Actually, these practices have been preserved in an economic circuit of non-legislated but still legitimate forms of work. Finally, nomadism is characteristic of gypsies or Jewish people that have been exiled once and again, producing a historical exodus that has left marks on the bodies of that population: tattoos, ritual symbols, hidden languages, and footprints.

All these characteristics lead to a common language, located in Mexican territory: “El lenguaje es un virus (que tiene su origen en México) Verás. En este otro monitor llevo las estadísticas de las infecciones que está generando el spam de los sueños. No es preciso, pero aun así sabemos que se ha vuelto viral, ha salido de México” (Jm, Aranda, Gordillo, et al.) (“Language is a virus (that has origin in Mexico). You´ll see. On this other screen, I have the statistics of the infections generated by the dream´s spam. It is not exact, but still we know that has become viral, it has left Mexico” [Our translation]).

Is it possible for the political discourse to be “cured” from the language of multiple identities that live together in Mexico? Is the Mexican nation an attempt to bring together the diversity of technological (futuristic) but iconographic (traditional) codes that the investigator seeks to decipher, by means of a political language? In this piece of work, we see the feedback loop mechanically reproduced: an occult language—the one of identity dreams—becomes an epidemic in the Mexican imagery, expanding the phenomena through new technologies that make it possible (GPS, internet, etc.). In this direction, the public sphere appears full of “tattoos” expanding the virus which can be comprehended by the readers/users because they share the alphabetical language, Mexican and located.

Author statement: 
Tatuaje is a born-digital short story, created in a lab carried out at Centro de Cultura Digital in Mexico City. The development, design, writing, and programming of this transmedial short story is thanks to a great team of writers, illustrators, designers, and engineers. Tatuaje is a work designed specifically for digital platforms, interweaving myths emerged and disseminated on the Web. The design refers to 90s web design, a graphic aesthetic only present on the Internet. The work itself turns the media into its own language.