MANY VOICES OF SAINT CATERINA OF PEDEMONTE:
Caterina of Pedemonte is meant as an experiment in digital narrative
published on a CDrom.
The mutimedia conponent is an attempt to answer questions regarding the nature of interactive participation itself, and its role in unveiling nonlinear storytelling narration.
particular and the discretional inform the whole through the participatory
intervention that activates correspondences encoded in the design.
Reflecting upon the consideration that are precisely the psychological and metaphorical factors that unfold any hermeneutical discovery, we dismiss the riductive formulation of interactivity as a simple activation of links.
We are interested in exploring interactive participation that not only reveals the various media (text, images, sound, etc.) but also works as meta-commentary, reinforcing the significance of the passage. The combination of text, images, and sound is fully integrated as a unity by the intentional or unintentional interactive mechanism, that not only activates the different components, but more importantly, creates a relationship between these components.
Saint Caterina is comprised of the many voices that compete and compliment each other to form a cacophonous retelling of her life.
The first voice the viewer encounters is that of the Catholic Church. While doing research for the Churchs Voice, we visited many web pages and books that gave accounts of the lives of different saints. Modeled after a hagiographic retelling of a saints life, this story illustrates the miracles and church related happenings in the life of Caterina. Iconographic images further demonstrate the hagiographic nature of this voice. It is nearly impossible to read the Churchs voice, as the words scroll on Saint Caterinas body because of the distortion that occurs when the words pass through the image of Saint Caterina. One must listen to the narrative, much like listening to a sermon, instead of attempting to read the passage.
voice that the viewer encounters is the Academic Voice.
This voice is based on the scholarly research that we uncovered about
anorexic mystic saints. Drawing closely on scholarship by Rudolph Bell,
we paint a picture of a saint who has been under the close scrutiny of
academic scholarship. No longer under the guise of hagiography, "living
on no food but the Blessed Sacrament" (first voice) loses its innocent
demeanor in light of modern research into anorexia and saintly behavior.
Although the research Bell and his contemporaries have completed on anorexia
and saints is compelling, we must remember that it is only one voice of
many that attempt to tell these saints stories.
The third voice that is illustrated in Saint Caterina is the Autobiographical Voice. Many of the saints that we researched wrote or through an amanuensis produced a retelling of their life. In some cases, the saints were forced to write down their stories as penance. For these saints, autobiography becomes both a way to speak on their own and also a chance for the church to attempt to speak for them. This section is divided up into two parts, as we attempt to describe the process of writing as penance and begin to introduce the voice that appears within the saints body. Writing is both a freeing tool and a punishment. The lack of vocal sound in both parts of this section illustrate the bind that is present between the churchs dictation of an autobiography and the saints true voice.
In the first part of the Autobiographical voice, the viewer encounters a disorganized array of images. As she attempts to read the autobiography, the words become distorted until the viewer takes the cursor (appearing with the word "lick") and licks the spiders from the screen, just as the first sentence of the autobiography stated: "They make me lick the spiders from the walls." (Licking spiders was an actual punishment for one of the saints that we researched for this project.) The spider appear to move frantically throughout the screen to relate the energy that the women impart on their autobiographies. The viewer takes part in the autobiographical experience as well as retains an insight to the difficult nature of the autobiographical voice.
second part of the Autobiographical Voice, examines the mystics
body in relation to her position in society and with the church. The viewer
sees an image of flesh-like links forming a wall that cannot be passed.
No matter where the viewer points the cursor, the prison remains, illustrating
how St. Caterinas body became a prison. There is no interruption in
viewing the text, in what we see one of the most personal narratives in
the piece. After examining other mystic saints biographies, a common
theme becomes how their bodies became their prisons. The body became the
only autonomous voice that the mystic saint possessed because the church
took all other means of expressing herself. The prison imagery is also very
prevalent in saints autobiographies because it is the body that separates
the human from the divine.
In the fourth
Voice, the Mystic Voice, we attempt to forfeit words altogether
and illustrate the corporeal nature of Saint Caterinas visions.
The visions for most of the mystic saints were not passive experiences,
but were gut-wrenching times of both pain and joy combined. The body becomes
a powerful metaphor to resist the churchs doctrines for Caterina.
of the Heart Voice is perhaps the most visceral of all that have come
before. The beating of a human heart appears on the page. A simple story
is related to the viewer about Caterina exchanging her heart for Christs.
The image of the heart takes Caterina back to her own body, and also brings
the viewer and Catherine to a common point in the narrative. It seems
the simplest and most direct image to portray the corporealness of the
person Caterina. The human heart becomes an image of the sacred heart,
illustrating how a simple body-part becomes immortalized by society. Then,
a narrative is read about the reacquisition of Caterinas heart back
into the church, literally explaining how the mystics voice and
body are subsumed by the many different voices that describe her story.
Caterinas heart, which is the part of the body that fought so diligently
against the churchs dictations, becomes part of a church once again.
As a relic, Caterinas heart serves both as a reminder that her bodily
voice lives on, and also the circular nature of the voice itself.