Unearthing “Underbelly”

Christine Wilks’ piece “Underbelly” was truly amazing. The tie between women carving stone is an interesting one because the connection between those mining and those sculpting for art purposes is wavering. While both occupations require the same basic action, the thought and purpose (as well as the end result) of the work is vastly different. In this sense the piece make a connection with literature as well. While writing in a digital space as opposed to print is essentially the same action (making words into something) the finished product and how the reader experiences them is completely different. Also, like mining when writing for the intention of print the author is limited in what the piece can become. On the other hand a sculptor has a blank canvas that may be carved to assume any shape; much like the creation of digital literature.

The viewer is transformed into a miner themselves as they chip away at the piece discovering new snippets and gems hidden beneath the surface. At first the varying information is overwhelming, but as I continued the discoveries started to take on a rhythm. I especially liked the history and video clips included. The piece definitely makes a statement about the versatility and openness of new age media because it changes the way literature is practiced. Instead of merely reading and letting the author guide the reader through the story, “Underbelly” gives the viewer control.

The images used in “Underbelly” were something I really enjoyed as well. In some moments I felt as if there were perhaps some sexual undertones with the imagery of female reproductive organs and the repetitive sound of the video. I felt a combination of repression and empowerment. On one hand there is the sense of enslavement of the female minors performing back breaking work within the earth, but on the other is the artist expressing and freeing themselves through the creation of a sculpture. To me this progression represents the odd path the act of chipping away rock has taken, and the pride in women taking something as ugly as doing some manual labor and turning it into an art form.

With so many layers of hidden themes, and combinations of media types, “Underbelly” is a prime example of the benefits of E-literature. The creation of it opens up millions of new possibilities and collaborations between artists/authors.

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3 thoughts on “Unearthing “Underbelly”

  1. I too was overwhelmed at first when reading the piece. I am blown away by what Wilks was able to create inside the confines of the code she used (imagine what might be possible in five to ten years from now!). I felt truly inspired. This is exactly the kind of media content I’m hoping to create in the future, engaging the audience on multiple levels with whatever media best suits the story. What’s more, learning that she writes and learns her own code made me feel empowered about taking my media creation into my own hands.

  2. Yes, I agree Rachel, I loved the interactive features of “Underbelly”. That was such an inspiration and work of art! I was pleased to see how you connected the sculptors work to uncovering literature. “Unerbelly” definately had a raw, sensual element to it: which I felt fully connected pregnancy and the inner Earth. Loved it.

  3. I like how you connect the miner’s work of excavation with the work of the reader/viewer. It’s true that the reader of “Underbelly” chips away at pixels that may or may not yield up anything; then one finds an audio or vid file of the sculptor, and that’s the “valuable” bit we extract & move on. Yes, there were sexual elements in “Underbelly”: it’s one of those moments when the women in the mines aren’t distant figures from us to be pitied, but women who clearly are having sex since some of them are pregnant and having babies or miscarrying. There is still a lot in “Underbelly” there to be discovered in repeat reads. Nice work thinking about this piece, Rachel!

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