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Contributed by Patricia Zimmermann on 03/18/2004
Be sure to mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 23, when Carroll Parrott Blue reads and screens from her new book and DVD-ROM, The Dawn at My Back, an interactive autobiography and history of growing up black in Texas. It mixes memoir, film history, political history, mass culture analysis, and digital interfaces to create a visually and aurally compelling immersion in racialized memory and history.
The DVD-ROM was a collaborative project with the internationally recognized and cutting-edge digital think tank to explore interactive narrative, the Labyrinth Project at the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California. It was produced with a collaborative team of artists, engineers, film theorists, and designers. It has most recently been featured at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and other major international festivals this spring.
Building on Carroll Parrott Blue's compelling written memoir and enriching it with video documentation, interviews, and animations, this DVD-ROM makes her personal story and the historical background come to life. It works both as a companion to the book and as a stand-alone, interactive memoir.
Featuring voice-overs by Blue and by actors Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, and Debbie Allen, as well as moving testimonies from Black Houstonians, the narrative unfolds through a gospel-like layering of voices and music and a quilting of vivid photographs and movies. Users navigate through the mindscapes of Blue's "Homeland" and "Hell," where they find traces of the people, buildings, media images, and events that shaped the community's struggle against racism and Blue's development as an artist. As users gain a deeper understanding of how this personal story is interwoven within the broader cultural history, like Blue, they reach the "Dawn." Here they gain access to a uniquely patterned quilt that documents their own personal pathway through this labyrinthine narrative field.
"The result is evocative. The Dawn at My Back succeeds in capturing the specificities of time, place, and personal experience, while telescoping out to form a critique of American nostalgia and sentiment during the last century. It is a compelling experiment with the memoirist's art, insisting on new connections between history and memory, to discover how these function in the mind's inner scrapbook, and the DVDs of our dreams" writes critic Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, in Black Issues Book Review.
We encourage all faculty to feel free to bring their classes to both the morning reading and screening and the afternoon master class on digital documentary to explore this new art form of the DVD-ROM digital interface for multilinear writing and image-making.
Just show up. There's plenty of room in Park 220, and great projection, and sound to boot!