By Samantha Mullins
Imagine a world where words are 3-dimensional. A world where one could wander and explore inside a poem. Jason Nelson did, and he turned his imagination into reality. At least virtual reality.
Nelson, a professor at Australia’s Griffith University, visited Siena Heights University Feb. 1, presenting a blend of off-beat, satirical poetry with interactive digital imaging, animation and sounds, bringing viewers into a whole new dimension of imagination.
Nelson’s unique works have been featured in more than 50 galleries worldwide. He visited Siena Heights after an invitation by long-time friend and colleague Davin Heckman, an English faculty member at Siena.
"I'm trying new experimental interfaces to change the way people browse the web," Nelson said. During his presentation, Nelson demonstrated to students many of his works featured on his website, www.secrettechnology.com.
A few of the works act like sort of a poetic soundboard, with different video clips from television commercials, or "Star Trek," connected to short poetic phrases. The twist is the viewer must use his or her computer keyboard to activate the sequences, and create their own sequences based on the order they hit the keys. This way, the viewer is not using the mouse as the primary navigating tool, but rather, the keyboard.
As Nelson navigated through, he showed students how he likes to "hide" things within his works, hoping that viewers will look hard enough to find them. He told a story of one particular "hidden treasure" he'd forgotten he'd hidden. Suddenly, he started getting strange emails from hundreds of different people – but all with the same subject. He treated the messages like SPAM email, not knowing what was going on. It turned out that his “forgotten treasure” was a statement saying he would pay $10 to anyone who found it, and sent him an email with the given subject in it.
"I seriously thought nobody would ever find this thing,” Nelson said. “I hid it so well even I forgot where it was!"
Nelson apologized to his fans, even sending postcards to a few especially angry people.
A practical joker who likes to hide "traps" in his work, Nelson said, “If a link says 'a trap,' then, most likely, it is a trap. You would be surprised at how many people actually click on links that say 'a virus,' and contract a (harmless) virus that changes their screen saver, or something. It's hysterical.”
Another medium he's tried is what he calls "digital improvisation." For this method, he look around, sees what materials he has to work with, presses "record," and improvises a story on the spot, using whatever is in the vicinity.
"The whole idea is that it's totally unrehearsed and totally unedited,” he said. “I get one shot, that's it, and I just keep whatever I come up within the few short minutes I have."
Nelson is constantly expanding his horizons, proving there are no limits to creativity. For example, he said he is interested in even writing fiction based on random GPS coordinates.
“As an artist, you have to continually alter how you understand yourself, and the world around you,” Nelson said.