Multimedia art installation (2016)
Remembering the Dead is a multimedia art installation that memorializes mass shooting victims by displaying and speaking their names. Engagement is sought through hearing and reflection. The intent is to draw attention to the loss of human life by gun homicide and move thinking toward realistic solutions to this and other forms of violence.
Remembering the Dead is a multimedia memorial to victims of mass shootings in the United States. The work is, at its heart, a virtual memorial, accessible at any time through a dedicated website.
The work is contextualized as a physical installation by a wooden display cabinet, reminiscent of both a bullet and a tombstone. This cabinet supports a computer, a speaker, and a monitor. The monitor rests in a bed of empty brass bullet casings, each representing a life taken.
Whether physical or virtual, Remembering the Dead displays on a screen the name, age, place and date of death of mass shooting victims. Concurrently, using text-to-speech technology, the name of each victim is spoken. After its display, the name of each victim is added to a memorial list in the screen's background. Another name is displayed and spoken. The process continues, eternally. With each name displayed, the list grows longer. With each name spoken, the loss of human life becomes more tangible. Permanence of the victims' memories is sought through hearing and reflection. The intent is to assure memories of these victims will not fade.
O Absalom! Central to our act of faithful memory is the naming of the dead. John Barber's Remembering the Dead: Northern Ireland recites the full list from the Time of Troubles. Each name is then recorded on the screen, making a carpet of permanence in the darkness. A powerful and stunning piece.
— M.D. Coverley
(author of Califia and Egypt: The Book of Going Forth by Day)
Any writer listening for the dead to speak, can only hear them with an open heart. John Barber has such a heart, and it beats authentically throughout his work Remembering the Dead as John catalogues the horrific human loss of the troubles in Northern Ireland.
— Michael J. Maguire
(author of Promise and Bob Casio's Dead Cameraman)
Remembering the Dead evokes respect for those killed by gun violence. Such work is necessary in our contemporary society.
— Myriam Watthee-Delmotte, Brussels, Belgium
Exhibitions / Publications / Broadcasts
iDEAS 2017: Art and Inclusivity in the Digital Age
The University of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C.
06-07 October 2017
Curated by Dena Eber and Jon Malis
Exhibition in conjunction with the the International Digital Media and Arts Association (iDMAa) conference. iDMAa serves educators, practitioners, scholars, and organizations with interests in digital media.
"Ses souvenir des mortes." bleuOrange: Revue de Littérature Hypermédiatique 09 December 2016.
peer reviewed publication
Myriam Watthee-Delmotte, Brussels, Belgium, wrote, in her editorial, that the work evokes respect for those killed by gun violence, and that such work is necessary in our contemporary society.
Hyperrhiz 15 Fall 2016
juried online exhibition
Hyperrhiz is an international, peer reviewed online journal specializing in new media criticism and electronic literature.
17-18 November 2016
You/I: User Interfaces & Reader Experience
Paul Watkins Gallery
Winona State University, Winona, Minnesota
22 September - 14 October 2016
Curated by Dene Grigar
Each of the nine works invited for this exhibition were selected to express the unique ways in which interfaces can impact reader experience and the relationship readers have with the stories told through them.
Garden of Reflection Gallery
juried sound art installation
Irish Sound Science and Technology Association International Festival and Conference on Sound in the Arts, Science and Technology
Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland
7-9 September 2016
The most recent mass shooting was 5 November 2017, at First Baptist Church, Sutherland, Texas. In approximately 15 seconds, twenty six people were reported killed. Fewer people were shot to death in Japan in the past five year. This mass shooting follows just one month after another in Las Vegas that saw fifty eight people gunned down. Why so many mass shootings in America? The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns (What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer, Max Fisher and Josh Keller. New York Times, November 7, 2017).
On average, eighty-seven people are killed by firearms daily in the United States.  The annual numbers of gun fatalities are also staggering: 33,599 in 2014; 10.54 deaths per 100,000 people.  Gun and motor vehicle deaths, the leading non-medical cause of death, are both roughly 30,000 people per year (Ingraham 2015, "Guns Are Now Killing"). 
Still, when a mass shooting occurs, when several people are killed at the same time or in the same place, there is brief outrage that innocent people are killed while living their daily lives. But, the focus quickly shifts from victims to perpetrator(s) as the media divines motivation, mental state, or ideology.
"Mass shootings" are defined by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as gun fatalities with four or more victims, not including the perpetrator. 
On 1 October 2015, ten people were shot and killed at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. I teach at a university in Washington, close enough that the local news media sent reporters to the scene. Certainly it was close enough to make me think, "What if this happened on my campus and the people killed where people I knew, or with whom my life intersected?"
Writing in The Huffington Post, Nick Wing said this shooting was the forty-fifth school shooting of the year, the one hundred and forty second since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 (Wing 2015, "There Have Been 45 Shootings"). 
In another, linked, article by Wing, he led with a provocative headline: "Guns Kill An Average of 36 People Every Day, And The Nation Doesn't Even Blink." Devastating as they are, school shootings deaths are small, compared to those who die in other shootings around the county each day. These victims are not high profile, and they die without much attention outside their own communities (Wing 2015, "Guns Kill An Average").
Perhaps we have grown calloused about gun homicides. They happen daily, are reported so matter-of-factly (if at all), and are brushed aside so quickly by passionate interpretations of the United States Constitution led by a very powerful lobbying organization, that the deaths of thousands of people each year through gun violence seems, somehow, surreal, distant, and impersonal.
Sometimes it helps to conceptualize gun homicides in the United States against those in other countries. For example, twenty-seven people were killed by guns in America on Christmas Day 2015 (Ingraham 2015; Gun Violence Archive). This single day total is comparable to annual gun homicides in Britain or Australia. Or, equal to the total annual gun homicides for Austria, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Estonia, Bermuda, Hong Kong, and Iceland combined.
Following the mass shooting at Umpqua Community Colleg,e I felt compelled to make some response, to bear witness to their deaths. I conceptualized Remembering the Dead as a work that would display victims' names and other information on computer screens. I began with the names of victims of the Umpqua Community College mass shooting, but quickly decided to bear witness to all people around the country killed in gun homicides in 2015. Not accidental deaths, or suicides, or officer involved shootings. Those statistics are counted elsewhere.  Instead, the original iteration of Remembering the Dead focused on people killed by intentional gun homicides.
How to find information about gun homicide victims in the United States for the year 2015? Some cities and organizations track current gun homicides, but this information is not centralized or easily available. Gun Violence Archive provides centralized information, but only for the past three days. . Lacking a robust resource, it is difficult to gather information regarding victims of gun homicides across America. To meet this challenge, I custom-designed Internet searches focused on news reports of shooting deaths. I followed the leads provided in these reports to collect the information needed. This was a recursive and labor intensive methodology. Some days there were no deaths. Other days there were several. I cannot be certain that I identified every victim. 
Despite these difficulties, by collecting and curating the names and other information of people killed by guns in 2015, I hoped to increase awareness, and prompt others to speak out against the continued violence and loss of humanity.
Nearly two years later, while exhibiting Remembering the Dead at an international exhibition in Washington, D.C., I changed the focus of this work. At the time, the horror of another mass shooting, this one at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, was not yet a week old. I realized that as I had been inspired by the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College to begin the work, I was now inspired by another mass shooting to focus the work. Instead of trying to collect and curate information about every gun homicide victim, I would concentrate on victims of mass shootings.
This change in focus was not meant as disrespect for all the other gun homicide victims. Instead, I felt the shift in focus could help to draw attention to the now prevalent reality throughout our nation that anyone, anywhere, anytime could be a mass shooting victim. Whether in a shopping mall, a church, a school, a business, or an entertainment venue, people are targets.
The original work is now called Remembering the Dead: 2015, given its focus to recall the victims of gun homicides in 2015. The new iteration of Remembering the Dead recalls the victims of mass shootings by displaying and speaking their names as part of an ongoing, and unfortunately, continually updated memorial.
In conceptualizing Remembering the Dead, I was inspired by Ray Bradbury, George Bush, Jr., Jacque Derrida, and the concept of two kinds of death.
In his novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury describes a dystopian future where books are outlawed and burned. People memorize and recite entire books so that their ideas will not be lost.
A similar commitment was suggested in response to the ban by President George W. Bush's, Jr.'s administration and the U.S. Department of Defense against photographing coffins of those killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, The Iraq War, 2003-2010, in which more than 4,000 U.S. troops were killed. The ban on photographs of coffins was overturned in December 2009.  During this time, I recall a blog post that encouraged each citizen to memorize the names of three individuals killed in Iraq and use them whenever possible. Those killed would not be forgotten. Jacob H. Allcott, Alessandro Carbonaro, David J. Grames Sanchez . . .
Jacque Derrida says, "I am always overwhelmed when I hear the voice of someone who is dead, as I am not when I see an image or a photograph of the dead person. . . . I can also be touched, presently, by the recorded speech of someone who is dead. I can, here and now, be affected by a voice from beyond the grave. . . . A miracle of technology" (Derrida 2001, 70-72).
As to why this is so, Derrida explains, "[Recording] is reproduction as re-production [emphasis in original], of life itself, and the production is archived as the source, not as an image. . . . Life itself can be archived and spectralized in its self-affection, because one knows that when someone speaks he affects himself, whereas when someone presents himself to be seen he does not necessarily see himself. In the voice, self-affection itself is (supposedly) recorded and communicated. And this supposition forms the essential thread of our listening" (Derrida 2001, 71).
Extrapolating Martin Heidegger's concept of Dasien, or human existence as involvement with a world of objects, Derrida says what matters is the hearing [his emphasis] of the voice for "this hearing could not open Dasein for 'its ownmost potentiality-for-Being,' if hearing were not first the hearing of this voice, the exemplary metonymy of the friend that each Dasein bears close itself" (Heidegger 1962; Derrida 1993, 164).
There is much to unpack in these statements, but we might summarize them thus: Through recordings, past events and people are no longer spectral voices. They come to life, to presence, to the present. There is perhaps no more fundamental vocal self-affection than for one to speak his or her name. We can be affected by vocal recordings of those dead or radically absent. In their absence, we can speak the names of the dead, creating connection and remembrance. Such recordings can touch us in the present, as a voice from beyond the grave (Derrida 2001, 70-72).
Remembering the Dead also draws from two concepts of death: physical and memory. With physical death the body ceases to function; the person is no longer among the living. With memory death, when survivors no longer remember the deceased, that person no longer exists. Respite from memory death is sought through community service, creative works, and family descendants, something to evoke the name of the dead among the living. Through such endeavors, the deceased goes forward in time. As long as we remember the names of the dead, we remember their loss and sacrifice.
By speaking the names of mass shooting victims, Remembering the Dead speaks to what is lost to gun homicides in America: humanity, lives, achievements, dreams, and aspirations of sons and daughters, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, friends, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandsons and granddaughters, grandmothers and grandfathers. 
Fit Within Larger Notion of Aesthetics
Physical memorials to victims of wars, natural disasters, accidents, or natural causes commonly display the names of those who died. These memorials are designed to create conceptual and social spaces in which the living can recall and reflect upon the dead. Such memorials must be visited in person, however, and sometimes there are access challenges. Physical memorials are also difficult to update, may lack from regular maintenance, and may be removed. Remembering the Dead creates and extends an autonomous zone through the sound of speaking each victim's name aloud, thus prompting new perceptual, phenomenological, and sensory engagements with this space and the act of remembrance. In this temporary space, permanence is sought through hearing and reflection. Through our engagement with this work we assert the humanity of these victims.
I use custom-designed Internet searches focused on news reports of mass shooting deaths to collect names of victims and other information. This information is saved in a database from which the display is generated.
Remembering the Dead: Mass Shootings
Archival web site
The current version of this work. Remembers and recalls victims of mass shootings across the country.
Remembering the Dead: 2015
Archival web site
The original iteration of this project. Remembers and recalls victims of gun homicides, including mass shootings, during 2015. Inspired by a mass shooting on 1 October 2015 where ten people were shot and killed at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
Remembering the Dead: 2015 (French translation)
Archival web site
The original work, in French translation, as "Ses souvenir des mortes." bleuOrange: Revue de Littérature Hypermédiatique 09 December 2016. Myriam Watthee-Delmotte, Brussels, Belgium, wrote, in her editorial, that the work evokes respect for those killed by gun violence, and that such work is necessary in our contemporary society.
Remembering the Dead: Northern Ireland
Archival web site
remembers and recalls the nearly 3,600 men, women, and children killed during the Troubles (also known as the Northern Ireland Conflict), a violent political conflict focused on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, late 1960s-early 2000s. The conflict was focused primarily in Northern Ireland, but spilled over into parts of the Republic of Ireland, England, and Europe. 
This work was inspired by a vist to Derry, Northern Ireland, in September 2016. While there I walked the Bogside area where, on Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, twenty six unarmed people were shot by British military troops during a civil rights march. Many were shot while fleeing the soldiers or trying to help the wounded. Fourteen died. Bloody Sunday was significant not only as the single largest shooting incident during the Troubles, but because these civilian citizens where shot in full view of the public and press by state forces. The house gable end with "You are now entering Free Derry" painted upon it, the commemorative murals painted on other building walls, and the monument at the site of the killings are powerful reminders of the struggles there. The Museum of Free Derry focuses on the civil rights struggle and events, including Bloody Sunday, in Derry during the 1970s. Remembering the Dead: Northern Ireland is published as a dedicated web site by New Binary Press, Cork, Ireland.
How to remember those killed? Physical memorials to victims of wars, natural disasters, accidents, or natural causes commonly display the names of those who died. These memorials are designed to create conceptual and social spaces in which the living can recall and reflect upon the dead. Such memorials must be visited in person, however, and sometimes there are access challenges. Physical memorials are also difficult to update, may lack from regular maintenance, and may be removed. How could I make a memorial to those killed by gun violence more accessible, more immediate, and more engaging?
I conceptualized Remembering the Dead as a multimedia work centered on a website available to anyone with Internet connection. Names of victims are displayed on computer screens. Additionally, speaking the names of these victims creates a conceptual and social space in which the living can recall and reflect upon the dead. This prompts new perceptual, phenomenological, and sensory engagements with the space and act of remembrance. In this temporary space, permanence is sought through listening and reflection. Through our engagement with this work we assert the humanity of these victims.
This combination of sound, technology, and culture promotes a community of remembering and commerce for the intent of promoting social justice. I have three desired outcomes for Remembering the Dead. First, accounting. By collecting and curating victims' names and other information, I hope to promote contemporary, comprehensive record keeping of gun homicides in America. Second, awareness. Through the act of listening and reflection, I hope to increase awareness of these victims, their lives and achievements, as people rather than statistics. And, third, activism. By sharing this information in a responsible manner, I hope to prompt others to speak out against this continued violence and loss of humanity.
By speaking the names of victims, Remembering the Dead speaks to what is lost to gun homicides in America: humanity, lives, achievements, dreams, and aspirations of sons and daughters, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, friends, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandsons and granddaughters, grandmothers and grandfathers.
 While many more people are killed by other means, these numbers for gun related deaths are reported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Fatal injury Reports, National and Regional, 1999-2014". See also "FastStats, Assault or Homicide" at the CDC website. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reports an average of eighty-six gun homicide victims each day. Thirty-one are murdered, fifty-five commit suicide, two are killed accidentally, one by police intervention, and one from unknown intention. Obviously, these averages are subject to statistical and/or rhetorical manipulation. FactCheck.org seeks to examine the rhetoric and how it squares with the facts, while offering broader context in which to frame the debate. See Robert Farley's "Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts" (20 December 2012).
 This number includes accidents, home invasion/armed robbery, defense, suicides, homicides, mass shootings, and officer involved incidents. "States with Weak Gun Laws and Higher Gun Ownership Lead Nation in Gun Deaths, New Data for 2014 Confirms", Violence Policy Center, 4 January 2016. Admirably filling the void of verified data related to gun injuries and fatalities of all types, Gun Violence Archive tracks and provides source data for shooting deaths and incidents, 2014-present.
 True, motor vehicle and gun deaths are different. Motor vehicle deaths are generally accidental. Gun deaths are generally intentional, whether you kill yourself or someone else. Still, gun deaths outnumber motor vehicle deaths in twenty-one states and the District of Columbia. See "Gun Deaths Surpass Motor Vehicle Deaths in 21 States and the District of Columbia" Violence Policy Center, 11 January 2016. See also Ingraham (2015, "Guns Are Now Killing").
 "Mass shootings" are defined by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation as gun fatalities with four or more victims, not including the perpretrator. Data regarding mass shootings are created by local police and collated by the FBI in Supplemental Homicide Reports for each year (although FBI reports for 2012 and 2013 have not been released). However, police reports may not be provided, or may provide incomplete information. For example, Florida does not report to the FBI; the District of Columbia and Nebraska only started doing so in 2009. And murders on American Indian reservations, college campuses and military bases may not be included. To fill such gaps, "Behind the bloodshed: The untold story of America's mass killings" undertaken by USA TODAY, uses local news reports and official records to provide an index of mass killings in America. This report also expands the coverage to "mass killings" and includes fatalities from all types of weapons, thus adding diversity to our understanding of this type of crime. This USA TODAY interactive report is continually updated and clarifies errors in FBI reports and adds information not included. See the excellent timeline of verified U.S. mass killings, 2006-2015. Gun Violence Archive (www.gunviolence.org) tracks mass shootings and provides information through their website. Information about mass shootings in 2015 is available here. Individual cities attempt to track their gun fatalities, from single homicides to mass shootings. See "2015 Baltimore City Homicides/Murders—List and Map", "2015 Omaha homicides", and "N.O. Crime in 2015: Fewer shootings, more deaths". Chicago tracks its homicides daily. See "Homicide Watch Chicago". "Chicago shooting victims," maintained by The Chicago Tribune, tracks daily shootings, fatal and not; provides year-to-date and monthly totals compared to 2015.
 Wing's information source was Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit group pushing for reforms to reduce national gun violence. The Everytown for Gun Safety website notes a total of 183 school shootings since 2013, an average of nearly one per week.
 See "The Counted: Tracking People Killed by the Police in the United States." The Guardian. An investigation into the true number of people killed by law enforcement, who they were, and how they died. See also "The Counted: People Killed by the Police in the US." The Guardian provides a searchable, interactive database of officer involved shootings for 2015 and 2016. Pictures and biographies of the victims. A year-long study by The Washington Post found police shot and killed 984 people in the United States in 2015, more than twice the previously reported number of fatal shootings. The Post undertook the study, and compiled a database, something no government agency had done. See Kindy, Kimberly and Marc Fisher. "More than 900 people have been fatally shot by police officers in 2015." The Washington Post 26 December 2015. See also "People shot dead by police this year" The Washington Post for current, interactive data regarding officer involved gun fatalities across the country. This database is based on news reports, public records, Internet databases and original reporting. A number of data filters are selectable for each state. Gun Violence Archive notes 4,363 officer involved incidents (3,214 for 2014) not all of which led to fatalities. Gun Violence Archive also tracks and provides source data for officer involved shootings for 2016. Source data is provided. See also Historical Violence Database maintained by the Criminal Justice Research Center at The Ohio State University.
 Gun Violence Archive collects and validates information regarding gun violence and crime incidents from 1,500 sources daily. These incidents and their source data are available at the organization's website. Data related to gun injuries and fatalities of all types is verified, with source data for shooting deaths and incidents, 2014-present.
 Several data sources and recursive fact checking are utilized to document the names of gun homicide victims in this project. Still, some names remain unknown. Naming these victims "unidentified" does not signify disrespect, but rather every attempt to honor.
 In 2004, the Seattle Times published the first photograph taken of coffins of soldiers killed in Iraq being shipped back to the United States. Tami Silico, a female military contractor, took the photograph at an airport in Kuwait. When published, her photograph sparked a national debate over whether not showing images of Iraq War dead manipulated public opinion or protected family privacy. Tami Silicio's Official Website provides a copy of her photograph, as well as information about its provenance and impact.
 See Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives by Gary Younge. (Younge 2016). Younge chronicles the ten gun deaths across America within the twenty-four hour time span on calendar date 23 November 2013. As Younge says, "the median age is 17.5; the average age is 14.3 . . . But these were not necessarily all the gun deaths of young people that day. They were all the gun deaths I found. I found them through Internet searches and on news websites that tracked gun deaths on a daily basis. There was no other way. . . .These are the gun deaths that I found that got reported." Suicides are not included. "Unless these tragedies are emblematic of some broader issue—online bullying, academic pressure, or a mass shooting—they are generally not reported. . . . So more children and teens were almost certainly shot that day. These are just the ones we know about" (Younge 2016, xxi-xxii).
 The dates and deaths associated with the Troubles may vary. For example, David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney and Chris Thornton set the total deaths at 3,638, from 1966-2000. They index, chronicle, and provide an obituary for each person in their book Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died As A Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. (Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1999. ISBN 10: 184018227X ISBN 13: 9781840182279). The CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) Web Service and its Malcolm Sutton: An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland website provides information about 3,532 individuals killed between 14 July 1969-31 December 2001. This website is revised and updated from Sutton's book Bear In Mind These Dead: An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland 1969-1993. (Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, ISBN 0-9514229-4-4, out of print). A related, draft list, at the same website provides information for the years 2002-present.
Derrida, Jacques. 2001. "Above all, no journalists!" In Religion and Media, edited by Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber, pp. 56-93. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Derrida, Jacques. 1993. "Heidegger's Ear: Philopolemology." In Reading Heidegger, edited by J. Sallis, 163-220. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.
Gun Violence Archive. Available http://www.gunviolencearchive.org
Heidegger, Martin. 1962. Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper & Row.
Ingraham, Christopher. 2015. "27 Americans were shot and killed on Christmas day". The Washington Post December 28.
Ingraham Christopher. 2015. "Guns Are Now Killing As Many People As Cars in the U.S." The Washington Post December 17.
Younge, Gary. 2016. Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives. New York: Nation Books.
Wing, Nick. 2015. "There Have Been 45 Shootings At Schools So Far This Year." Huffington Post, 1 October.
Wing, Nick. 2015. "Guns Kill An Average Of 36 People Every Day, And The Nation Doesn't Even Blink." Huffington Post, 1 October.
Conceptual design and research: John F. Barber
Additional research: Ryan House
Coding: Greg Philbrook
Cabinetry: Jim Boesel
Remembering the Dead is available for gallery installation. It ships nationally and internationally via UPS, DHL, and FedEx. For European exhibitions, the empty brass shell casings are not allowed for import. They may be packed in checked luggage.
The work consists of a wooden kiosk containing a computer, twelve-inch monitor, and speaker. The monitor rests in a bed of empty bullet shells. Contents are web-based. Internet connection and 110 volt AC power required. Dimensions: 65.5"/166.37 cm height x 24"/60.96 cm width x 13.5"/34.29 cm depth. Shipping container: 46"/116 cm length x 28"/71 cm width x 19"/48 cm height. Weight: 135 pounds/61 kilograms.
Hewitt, Scott. "Enduring Rememberance." The Columbian 8 January 2017, D6.
Available online as WSUV Teacher Creates Cyberspace Memorial for Gun Violence Victims." The Columbian 8 January 2017.
Watthee-Delmotte, Myriam. "La création hypermédiatique: des ritualités alternatives pour gérer les morts violentes." In bleuOrange: Revue de Littérature Hypermédiatique 09 December 2016.
If humanity is to bury its dead, it is because it is also the only living species to symbolize it. Continually, by gestures, sentences, images, selected sounds, the human being transforms the dead corpse and manages the painful question of mortality. The need for a place and time devoted to the understanding of death, inseparable from the need for an interrogation of meaning, characterizes the human species and has generated various ritual forms, sometimes institutionalized, sometimes savage, but always linked to the desire to carry collectively the reality of death. Hypermedia creations also play their part in this process, as evidenced by this issue of BleuOrange devoted to violent deaths.
The hypermediatic literature is in this respect at the point of convergence of two dynamics. On one hand, literature and the arts have always permitted the understanding of what is not necessarily assumed by the institution during the official ceremonies of funerals or commemorative ceremonies, which often complicate individual emotion in frameworks of rationality, even bureaucratization of death, in particular by a compartmentalization of time. On the other hand, since its invention, the computer medium has been the place of concurrent initiatives to the mortuary rites instituted to institute parallel ritualities, directly managed by the bereaved in the cyberspace that is familiar to them daily; Virtual cemeteries (the first being Michael Kibbee's World Wide Cemetery in 1995, www.cemetery.org), memorial sites, and specific pages on social networks such as Facebook or Myspace.
Creation in a digital medium offers, in comparison with printed texts or traditional works of art, the possibility of answering two fundamental desires with regard to the management of death: on the one hand the personalization of the mortuary rites (Roberge, 2015, p.183), and, on the other hand, the concern for publicity characteristic of the current concept of the community (Heinich, 2012). Indeed, in the context of screen writings, "ritual activity then passes through the private sphere as well as the public sphere" (Gamba, 2015, 209). Because the particularity of numerical functioning is that socialization can function there bottom up: individual needs can meet collective concerns; They are born in a singular way and then virtually aggregate around shared values.
This is the aim of the four creations of this dossier, each one in its own way, addressing the violence of death while offering a common discourse on the difficulty of mourning, and in this respect weaving a particular link between dead and alive.
Remembering the Dead, by John Barber, performs a gesture of funeral commemoration by making the names of people killed by gunfire in America during the years 2015 and 2016 appear audibly and visually. This list will unfortunately be updated. These are not accidental deaths or suicides, but intentional homicides, listing the date, place, and identity of the victims. A piece of commemoration, this work proposes a strategy of memory extension, a sort of memorial indefinitely offered to its re-updating with every new visit of the website by a viewer. The modalities may reflect the practices traditionally associated with homage to soldiers who died in war. Thus the ritual of the "Last Post" which takes place daily under the vaults of the Menin Gate at Ypres, covered with the names of the soldiers; or the Books of Remembrance kept in the Peace Tower of the Parliament in Ottawa, which contains the names of the 66,655 people who lost their lives during the First World War and 44,893 victims of the Second World War. A page of these books is shot every day. The French National Archives recently put online the censuses of the victims of the conflict carried out for each commune after the war. One can also think of the Wall of the Names of Jerusalem, on which are engraved the identities of 76,000 Jews deported within the framework of the Nazi plan of extermination. One can also think of the "patchwork of names", a rite that appeared in 1987 in the gay community of San Francisco to remember the dead of AIDS (bereaved people make a common patchwork with squares of cloth that bear the names of their dead, Which is on display at World AIDS Day, and disseminated on the internet (www.aidsquilt.org).
The common thread between these official commemorations and Barber's work resides in the call to the consciousness of the human disaster only by statistical effect: in the United States, there are as many deaths as those linked to automobile accidents, Approximately 30,000 per year; Just on Christmas Day 2015, 37 people were intentionally killed. As a consequence, the work is a call to a system of values, an explicit invitation to tolerance, and an implicit consideration of what human life has that is sacred. But Remembering the Dead also offers everything else, namely the personal inquiry of each victim: how much time are we willing to devote to this memorial work, which stops when the user decides, leaving in the shade and in the forgetfulness of thousands of sacrificed individuals? Interrupting the ceremonial of memory, the viewer contributes virtually to the effacement and the nihilation of the victims; Can he blame the indifference of politics to real violence?
Paroles gelées also proposes, for its part, an accountability of the user, this time in a playful form. Everything begins with a literary allusion, namely an episode in Rabelais's Quart-book, which tells that at the end of the battle between the Arismapians and the Nephelibates, the sounds of the fight froze in the air, Is only in the season of the redoubt they have melted, releasing the cries of men and horses. Françoise Chambefort creates an interactive animation where the user chooses to let pass or not color bubbles. If it touches them, they let out sound fragments that testify to recent wars and attacks. The origin of the sound and the date of the event appear stealthily on the screen: Burma May 2012, Lybia August 2014, Syria July 2015, USA December 2015, Belgium March 2016, etc. In addition to the memorial side and the awareness of the power of violence in the contemporary horizon, one activates here the perception of its uninterrupted permanence since the 16th century, which makes the Internet user a close relation to Rabelais (with corollary the valorization of the literature that transcends the epochs). And it is by assimilation to a playful structure (a game of capture of balls) that the Internet user is stopped, because the actions that he will pose will be charged with meaning: how far can he tolerate to intervene in his own space traces of tragedies that tear the world apart? None of his gestures can be innocent. The frozen words make him a being involved.
Death rites are the property of the survivors and are addressed to them as much, if not more, than to the disappeared. Pierre Baudry points out in this connection that the current trend is rather the "restraint" of the deceased with oneself than separation (Baudry 1995: 20). In this sense, Summertime sadness of Marie Darsigny and this is how you will die of Jason Nelson both operate an exercise of familiarization with death by euphemization. The first proposes a montage that relies on the recycling of memorial traces, advocating the non-closure of cultural objects and their indefinite revival possible; The second involves the simulation of self-death. In both cases, what is at stake is the virtual transgression of the limits of time and space that cyberspace authorizes.
These various hypermediatic creations are so many propositions in shifting from the usual modes of the commemorative relation to death. They are distinguished from literature, and literary Tombs among others (Watthee-Delmotte, 2012), because of their procedural dimension: the Internet user is called to take an active part in the work of memory and it is very concretely, by the Gestures that he takes, that he takes part in the elaboration of the meaning. Alone in front of the screen, responsible for his reading gestures, he is also connected to a virtual community of mourners in which he is called to place himself axiologically: what position does he decide to grant To the victims of violent deaths? What values does it implement itself? Thus the reading of these works is not neutral, but symbolically charged, for it participates in the alternative ritualities that hypermediatic space offers in managing the secular question of violent deaths.