T h e   L e t t e r   a n d   t h e   F l y  

based on a scene from the 1922 film, Nosferatu, by F.W. Murnau, with audio from orchestral soundtrack by Hans Erdmann.

Interactive setting and programming by Barbara Lattanzi.

This is a work of low-bandwidth cinema.

This means that the download process (approximately 10 min. with a 54k modem) is part of the experience of the work. During download, 3.2mb of text, images, and sound gradually will coalesce on your screen.

Interaction: There is only one main screen. How as well as where you move the cursor affects the images and the soundtrack. (Clicking the mouse button does nothing.)

Your interaction orchestrates image and sound. An algorithm, similar to a random coin toss, controls the text by determining whether the sequence of words progresses forward or backwards. A minute or two later, sound will be heard. If your cursor is over black, then the sound plays forward. If your cursor is over white, then the sound plays backwards. As images begin to display on screen, they will change depending upon cursor movement or stasis, as well as the cursor's relative positioning on the screen. Eventually over 250 images of tiny file size will download to your computer. Images of horses will appear as the final quarter of the movie begins to display on your screen.

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T h e   L e t t e r   a n d   t h e   F l y 

A statement in the form of 8 points.

1.Jonathon has 2 bites. He found them on his neck this morning.

These wounds attract a fly excited to either feed on the wound-pus or to use the wounds to lay its eggs.

2.Earlier, in the original film Nosferatu, a particular flower is called the "vampire of the vegetable world". It makes itself into a wound to trap a fly. Its "woundedness" is the expression of its potent agency.

More pathetically, Jonathon has now become a wound to the fly.

3.The fly reads the 2 bites as a sign - awakening an insect desire. The fly attempts to impregnate Jonathan as its carrier, an egg-carrying agent on its behalf.

4.Yet Jonathon's own expressions of desire, of bitter bitten wounded need, in a letter he is writing to Mina, makes him entirely sympathetic to us.

Mina, my beloved, don't be unhappy. Though I am far away, I love you. This is a strange country, amazing...

We just cannot believe that he is becoming fundamentally a wound, an impossibility: the medium of a fly or a vampire. This is hard to watch.

5. Jonathon whisks the fly away with the letter that he is writing. Horses flee in terror.

6. An interface is a medium and a structured absence animated over time. The most mundane avatar is my cursor on the screen - a simulacrum of the inter-actor. My symbolic representation both "knows me" and is able to substitute its own agency for mine, while giving me a stage onto which I "perform" causality and Will as strange or curious artifice.

7.My cursor puppet moves toward the representational image like a fly to a wound. I "move" the cursor and the representation responds. The representation becomes the carrier of my desire... or is that the desire of the machine?

8. The interface is the structured absence that knows me. My own projection onto it pipes the colloidal ooze into which I sink my eggs. It breathes its automaton being, almost it seems, on my behalf. As inter-actor, I vampirize the representation which vampirizes me.

Barbara Lattanzi
February 2002


Barbara Lattanzi is currently Visiting Artist in Digital Media at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. Recent exhibitions of her work include the screening of several early films as part of the 1999-2000 Museum of Modern Art series "Big As Life: An American History of 8mm Films" and the on-line exhibition of digital multimedia work as part of the Rhizome "Artbase" collection of net art. Lattanzi's ongoing collection of interactive multimedia applets, "wildernessPuppets" was included in the 9th New York Digital Salon. She presented "Muscle and Blood Piano", experimental software for live performance, at the Wisconsin Film Festival and at the "Ready to..." conference in Prague, Czech Republic. More information about her work can be accessed at at http://www.wildernesspuppets.net/.

Thanks to Anya Lewin, How2 on-line journal, and Smith College Dept. of Art.