Introduction by Heather Raikes

The Wave Electronic Illuminated Hypertext is a multisensory etext derived from a series of new media performances. The work explores and articulates a collection of meditations on myth, metaphor, and digital embodiment.

An interactive assemblage of images, videodance, sound, animation, iconography, and text, The Wave creates an electronic architecture of hyper-dimensional poetic language. This electronic architecture expands and redefines the dramatic text as a fluid, animated, interactive infrastructure that exists in a liminal hyperspace between text and performance. The work expands and redefines the dance as dynamic, sensate, experiential process of inner transformation integrating the mind, body, and senses in metaphorical movement.

Cumulatively, The Wave is an original "posthuman myth" derivative of Joseph Campbell's monomyth. The dancing body of a woman warrior embodies the fundamental metaphor. She encounters gods, goddesses, enigmas and archetypes, all of which are reflections of herself in virtual space. Her psyche is reflected, refracted, expanded, and transformed into vertical, virtual dimensions. She becomes a meta-body: an elusive, shape-shifting equation of light, intelligence, rupture, and complexity.

"The body is not just repositioned by new technologies but supplemented, extended, and remade into a material-information entity whose boundaries are continuously constructed and reconstructed in its interactions with instruments whose total cognitive capacity exceeds our individual knowledge." – Adalaide Morris, New Media Poetics

Finally, The Wave is an electronic exploration of the format of the illuminated manuscript, most commonly associated with poet/artist William Blake. In traditional illuminated manuscripts, gold ink was used to represent the "light of God" illuminating the text. In this work, the light is electronic and represents the force of contemporary mythic experience through the exponentially expanding apertures of the digital.

Notes on Viewing

The main navigational space for The Wave is the series of small icons across the top of the screen (see below). The open circle represents where you are in the overall progressions. The work has a linear trajectory, but can be experienced both through linear and nonlinear navigation.

Each of the 20 segments or "scenes" of The Wave consist of video, audio (with the exception of one silent scene), images, iconography, and text. When you have navigated through all of the images and text in a given scene, the lower portion of the screen will become black and the video will play to its completion. When the video is finished, you should go to the top navigation space (shown above) and click on the next icon.

The Wave consists of two narrative "threads": The Warrior On the Beach and The Journey. The icons on the lower portion of the navigational space generally correspond to The Warrior On the Beach, and the icons on the upper portion correspond to The Journey. The Warrior On the Beach is a "thought space" in which the warrior sits, meditates, and thinks. These mental constructs then give rise to experiential metaphors that unfold in The Journey. The totality of The Wave resonates between these two threads.

Introduction by Media Theorist Barry Vacker:
Heather Raikes' The Wave As Illuminated Hypertext and Imploding Media

Marshall McLuhan believed art could function as cultural "probes," capable of intuiting patterns of cultural change inherent in technological transformation. Through such artworks, theorists could decode the deeper meanings in the digital media and global networks of the "information age." Heather Raikes' The Wave is a radically unique artwork and text that makes for a provocative cultural probe. Born as a performance art trilogy now converted into an illuminated hypertext, The Wave inhabits a novel intersection of art and theory, where the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, William Gibson, and Paul Virilio (and others not mentioned here to preserve brevity) are morphed into a vision that explores the existential conditions inside the digital media and global networks. To realize the importance of Raikes' The Wave as art and text, we should briefly review the intellectual history of hypertext and digital media, both of which were born in utopian visions of global networks -- imagined to provide unlimited information via linked electronic and digital media from around the world.

In the famed 1945 essay "As We May Think," Vannevar Bush envisioned a machine called the "memex," which would organize information via association and networks rather than by index and classification. Key to the memex were "memory trails," which would link one source of information to another source, resulting in a network of interconnected information. Inspired by the memex, Douglas Engelbart developed an electronic "writing machine" in the 1960s, capable of being linked to transmit text via computers over telephone lines. By the 1970s, the memex and writing machines converged in Ted Nelson's utopian vision of "Xanadu," wherein electronic "hypertext" supposedly would make possible an interactive and nonlinear repository for the world's knowledge, accessible by anyone, anywhere in the world (Bush, Engelbart, and Nelson are discussed in Brate 2003).

From these early utopian visions to the explosion of the internet in the 1990s, numerous theorists have claimed humanity has not only entered the information age, but also the age of global networks. For example, Manual Castells (1996) sees in the information age, the rise of "the network society," while philosopher Mark Taylor (2001) sees the global network as signifying the "moment of complexity" in which humanity moves into a new type of postmodern society. Howard Bloom (2000) sees in the internet nothing less than the transformation of the "mass mind" into "the global brain." Accompanying the chorus of network theorists are the utopians of virtual reality, which theorize exiting the world of matter and bodies to enter the virtual realm of information and simulation.

Virtually all such theorists view the digital media and global networks as effecting a major transformation in the world external to the media, the very social and cultural worlds we inhabit. What makes Heather Raikes' The Wave unique is that it focuses not on information and networks transforming the external world, but rather on the conditions inside a global network of electronic light and the implications for culture and humanity. Rather than utopian or dystopian, Raikes seems more existential and epistemological, exploring not cultural change, but rather the ontological conditions of pure mediation. In so doing, Raikes is merging the ideas of McLuhan, Gibson, and Virilio.

While McLuhan's insights have long been recognized -- especially concepts such as "the medium is the message" and "the global village" -- virtually all theorists have ignored McLuhan's brief comments on light as information. For McLuhan (2003), light was "pure information" and "a medium without a message," which meant that light is the ground for all print and visual media, while electric light was the fundamental ground for all electronic media. Paul Virilio (1997) viewed the electronic media as creating a new concept of space-time, where the three-dimensional "real world" is de-realized in a two-dimensional realm of image and information, powered and conditioned by electronic light. Creator of the term "cyberspace," William Gibson envisioned this digital realm as a vast cosmos, with spiral galaxies of information as light -- "Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding (1984, 51).

Heather Raikes enters this cosmos of pure electronic light, illustrating the collisions of light sources via the hyperlinked, hypertexted networks. In a world absent matter, aglow with the reflection and refraction of pure light, the parameters of existence are both particle and wave, photon and beam, pixel and screen. Information, the product of thought and consciousness, becomes pure light, the medium for all messages of electronic networks. If McLuhan viewed the medium as the message, then Raikes seems to be saying that mediation precedes message, that information is light, and that existence and electronic media are inseparable in the information age.

Thus, hypertext and hyperlink suggest much more than writing words with computers, or global databanks of text to inform us about the world, visions which are still gazing back upon Gutenberg's invention. For Raikes, the lines between electronic text and illuminated image blur together, creating an illuminated text that, in one sense, harkens back to the elaborately illustrated manuscripts of the print era prior to photography, cinema, and electronic media. However, once the visual image itself becomes the hyperlink, the conditions will fulfill McLuhan's theory of media implosion created by the electronic transmission of information.

In Raikes' performance and text, she navigates the terrain produced by the perpetual implosion of the world in the collision of light inside the networks. McLuhan realized that the "global village" was hardly a place of social harmony, for information and image from many cultures would collide in the collapsed space-time cosmos of the electronic media networks. Inside The Wave, which is an appropriate icon for the illuminated-electronic cosmos, Raikes submerges herself and us into the realm of pure media, between pixel and print, where the particles of information collide and converge in the vast waves of electronic light. It is here that Raikes is probing the existential conditions of a reverse Big Bang, where the cosmos of cyberspace implodes with information, precisely as the universe of matter expands in all directions. Inside Gibson's cyberspace, lines of light may be receding away, but the direction of the light is toward us, converging and colliding from all directions.

As far as I know, no theorist has identified this deeply paradoxical pattern, though the Big Bang and cyberspace are both the product of electronic media technologies. Heather Raikes' The Wave senses this condition. It remains for theorists to follow the artist in probing this paradox -- an expanding universe of matter known only via an imploding cosmos of information.