Individual Work
Blue Velvet: Re-dressing New Orleans in Katrina's Wake

“Blue Velvet” is an attempt to address the historical and ideological forces at play during Hurricane Katrina's flooding of New Orleans in 2005. Written by Goldberg, with the assistance of Hristova and the interface design of Loyer, it is billed in the Author's Statement as a triumph of collaboration and associational, vectoral writing—both elements noted by Goldberg to be lacking in academic humanities discourse. Loyer plays on the sometimes fuzzy nature associations in his Designer's Statement, claiming that interactive media has more in common with music than film, and noting that the project “initially suffered from overconnectedness” among the terms in its database. The database, whose terms are more transparently accessible in the included “Index,” is organized by a backbone of 24 “Arguments” written by Goldberg, which take the form of polemics about the causative political and cultural factors in the disaster.

The main work itself, however, is less about the raw content of the database than the connecting and connotative power of that content when taken together in relational context. The multilayered interface, which takes the skyline of a flooded city as its visual inspiration, repeats the vector of the disaster itself: key terms taken from the “Arguments” float along the top, cloud-like, and a downpour of associated words falls out when they are moused over, revealing related ideological terms (e.g “neo-conservatism”) floating about the sky in a blood-red font. Once these terms are clicked on, the word dives into the calmly pulsating waves below, sometimes dragging houses floating on top along with them. As the word descends, it shifts into progressively more visceral plays on itself, as the water around turns ever murkier. At the bottom, the text of Goldberg's arguments can be read, along with related visuals from Katrina's media coverage, historical events, and statistics. As more arguments are navigated through, more of them appear in the sky once the user elects to return to the surface. This progressive revelation is tied to a repeated sinking into the ugly human and ecological cost of the disaster.