About Work in Progress
Work in Progress: Curatorial Labor in Twenty-First Century American Fiction interrogates contemporary texts that showcase forms of reading practices that feel anachronistic and laborious in times of instantaneity and short buffering times. Objects of analysis include the graphic narrative Building Stories by Chris Ware, the music album Song Reader by the indie rock artist Beck Hansen, and the computer game Kentucky Route Zero by the programming team Cardboard Computer. These texts stage their fragmentary nature and alleged “unfinishedness” as a quintessential part of both their narrative and material modus operandi.
These works in and of progress feel both contemporary and retro in the 21st century. They draw upon and work against our expectations of interactive art in the digital age, incorporating and likewise rejecting digital forms and practices. This underlines the material and narrative flexibilities of the objects, for no outcome or reading experience is the same or can be replicated. It becomes apparent that the texts presuppose a reader who invests her spare time in figuring these texts out, diagnosing a contorted work-leisure dichotomy: “working these stories out” is a significant part of the reading experience for the reader–curatorial labor. This conjures up a reader, who, as the author argues, is turned into a curator and creative entity of and in these texts, for she implements and reassembles the options made available.
Table of contents
Preface: When the internet Dropped Its Capital I
Chapter 1: Work in Progress, Curatorial Labor
Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Buildings: Chris Ware's Building Stories
Chapter 3: The Broken Record: Beck Hansen's Song Reader
Chapter 4: Kentucky Route Zero's Netherworld of Slowness
Coda: What's the Matter, Media?
“A cutting-edge reflection on what happens when new media become routine and novelty turns into convention. Work in Progress charts new ground, exploring phenomena that are very much in the process of unfolding. Moving elegantly and effortlessly from media theory to hermeneutics and back again, Rieke Jordan brings her knowledge to bear on a wide range of diverse media forms and formats. Her case studies zoom in on pop music, a graphic novel and a computer game, but the overall scope and claim of her informed and delightfully readable study is much wider - a bold and original intervention into the present.” – Ruth Mayer, Professor of American Studies, Leibniz University of Hanover, Germany
“Smart, witty, and original. Rieke Jordan's Work in Progress is a thoroughly engaging study of offline art in an online world. Anyone interested in retro mediality, digital nostalgia, and the presentness of the present will want to read this book.” – Frank Kelleter, John F. Kennedy Institute of North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
“Part media archeology, part reader-response criticism, part history of the present, part sociological diagnosis of our time, Work in Progress tells the story of three wondrous media objects that, together, raise ludic and far-reaching questions about today's popular and media culture. In her deft and fine-grained case studies, Rieke Jordan focuses not only on these objects themselves, but also and especially on the creative labor that they demand of their recipients-and on the curious position of the reader-as-curator which they conjointly endorse, and which Jordan reads as a symptom of our digital, late-capitalist contemporaneity.” – Laura Bieger, Chair of American Studies, Political Culture & Theory, University of Groningen, The Netherlands