Artist Matt Sheridan Smith presents his project “You Can’t See Any Such Thing,” published by Triple Canopy on February 18, 2016.
“A psychic, here to help a band of helpless country policemen. This isn’t how you thought your life would end up. It’s very hot. You cover your nose and mouth against the dry air and take in the scene around you through watery eyes. The Cyclist’s corpse lies on the side of the road. There’s a pool of dried blood. When the townspeople learned of your gift, you knew it was just a matter of time, you saw it coming yourself, the knock on the door, the police captain’s nervous appeal for help. You couldn’t refuse. This is not really how the gift, how the vision works. But you agreed to come. To look.”
This is the scene that a player encounters as she ventures along a dusty road in “You Can’t See Any Such Thing,” a new interactive fiction by artist Matt Sheridan Smith. The digital project entwines the biographies of four characters—a Royal Air Force pilot, a Tour de France cyclist, a Grand Dame of Champagne, and a mysterious Hollywood actress named Katie—who first appeared in a 2011 exhibition by Smith and have since been major preoccupations. “You Can’t See Any Such Thing,” which is freed from the exhibition as referent, reminds us that in spite of the unprecedented proliferation and circulation of images today, power is still largely consolidated in and through writing—whether via code that creates a body of intellectual property, legislation that protects it, hacking that subverts it, or news that narrates it. “Interactive fiction resembles a riddle,” Smith writes. “We reach the point of greatest fascination at the very moment at which the riddle, or fiction, threatens to undo itself. We are happiest at the limits of the game.”
For Are We Still in the Game?, Smith will speak about his five-year exploration of these characters and guide the audience through the “game,” which entails a three-way symbiotic writing process that involves player, author, and software environment. “You Can’t See Any Such Thing” has recently been written about by technologist Emily Short, Isobel Harbison in Rhizome, and Jonathon Sturgeon in Flavorwire. Sturgeon describes the work as a “historical avant-garde-damaged ghost story, one that is as likely to quote Lil Wayne as it is to enjoinder the reader with bits of original surrealist prose poetry.”
Smith’s project was published as part of “It Speaks of Others,” Triple Canopy’s nineteenth issue, which is devoted to the consideration of objects and objectivity. He’ll speak about his work with Triple Canopy director Peter J. Russo.
- Matt Sheridan Smith is an artist living and working in Los Angeles. He is represented by Hannah Hoffman Gallery, galeria kaufmann repetto, and mother’s tankstation.