Combining text, sound, and visuals, Isaís Herrero’s La casa sota el temps (The house below time) is an interactive work that defies neat categorization, employing techniques and conventions from myriad genres of electronic literature as it invites us to reflect on weighty themes such as being, consciousness, fate, space, time, and reality. Advancing through a series of pages in a ludic fashion via hyperlinks, the reader must explore various spaces that are at once metaphorical and real (houses, rooms, the brain, computers) in order to enter the final room. Notably heterogeneous in their design and evincing a rich diversity of influences, including the use of montage, kinetic poetry, concrete poetry, and hypertext, the individual pages together comprise an experience that, in the words of the author, is “designed and programmed to immerse the reader in a virtual space.” In this way, La casa sota el temps resembles an exploration video game with a narrative that vaguely guides its users through an expansive, heterogeneous world, encouraging us to be conscious of our experience in this digital space and reflect on the unbounded capacity of the mind to think and create.
On the introductory page, the user must read a series of paragraphs, each of which muses about the creation of the world and then obliges the user to select a word from a list. The final paragraph welcomes the reader to La casa sota el temps, instructing us in Catalan to, “Explore with the spirit of a child. A powerful magnetic force challenges you and will bring you along in a thousand small pieces. How curious is life in this mad space where anything could happen.” Advancing from this page via a hyperlink, we are then led to a pair of pages with various graphics, both animated and still, including stars, charts, locusts, and the brain. Next, upon clicking on a link, a video begins, rapidly showing the user a bewildering series of images, brought together in a fast montage that flashes and overlaps visuals on screen as a 90s-era rave song plays in the background. After making our way through these introductory pages, the user must follow directions on the screen and click on a door labeled “efecte” (“effect”) to be taken, via a Google Maps video segue, to the house, where we are instructed to enter all eight rooms before being allowed to enter the “mysterious room.” Although the user may visit the rooms in any order, what is ostensibly the first room one should enter directly addresses the reader, welcoming us to the house and giving general instructions: “The house below time. Interact with the 8 rooms. Each 1 will resolves a fundamental state of consciousness. Only once you have completed this entire trajectory you will be able to open the door the Staircase of Mystery.” With four rooms on one side of the house and four on the other, the user first must enter the house and then navigate to a specific room, each of which is not a standard room, but instead a unique digital space with multiple hyperlinks, images, and texts that reflect on the major themes of the work. Upon entering the mysterious room, the user sees a strange, hobbled-together machine and a text (this time in Castilian, not Catalan) that explicitly obliges us to consider our interactions with machines and, ironically, requests that we insert our name into this strange machine. Finally, upon clicking on a link with the Catalan word for “end,” we are taken to a sort of computer-graphic Shangri-La – replete with idyllic mountains and a distant waterfall – with a message eventually appearing that tells us to “Design eternity” and offers a g-mail address with the name of the work.