‘Dennis Cooper’s second novel composed of animated gifs shows him progressively in command of the gif-fiction hybrid medium he first invented in 2015 with his novel Zac’s Haunted House and its more expansive follow up, the short works collection Zac’s Control Panel. In Zac’s Freight Elevator, Cooper’s employment of the gif as a language-like material is increasingly complex, poetic, and thrills-packed on the surface level, while, at the same time, offering adventurous readers a more bounteous, clear-cut, and easily accessible narrative.’ — Kiddiepunk Press
Download ZFE for free or view it online here.
HOW DENNIS COOPER TURNS GIFS INTO FICTION
This novel made of GIFs is kind of terrifying
DENNIS COOPER, BOUCLES GORE
Review: Zac’s Haunted House by Dennis Cooper
A Partial GIF Review Of Dennis Cooper’s New GIF Novel ‘Zac’s Haunted House’
“Zac’s Haunted House” by Dennis Cooper: A Novel Entirely in GIFs
This Novel Is Made Entirely of Terrifying GIFs
Dennis Cooper’s Haunted HTML Novel
Dennis Cooper’s GIF Novel Gives New Meaning to the Word Novel
IN A STATE OF CONFUSION AND BEING LUCID AS I CAN: JOYELLE MCSWEENEY INTERVIEWS DENNIS COOPER
ZAC’S CONTROL PANEL BY DENNIS COOPER by Nicholas Rys
Le premier GIF-roman est signé Dennis Cooper
An American Novelist Wrote a Book Entirely Out of GIFs
Après le récit en textos et le thriller en tweets, un roman en GIF animés
Dennis Cooper’s strangest “novel” yet is written entirely with gifs
ON A LU LE PREMIER ROMAN ECRIT EN GIFS
If You Write A Novel In GIFs, Is It Still A Novel?
Esta novela hecha en GIFs puede ser tu próxima historia favorita de terror
Aus Untergrund und Parallelwelt
A Re-Invenção de Dennis Cooper
ZAC’S CONTROL PANEL
ZAC’S HAUNTED HOUSE
Violations: An Evening of Interpretive Readings of Dennis Cooper’s GIF Novels convenes a small handful of author Cooper’s closest friends, allies, and artists whose work he admires to imagine what it might mean to “read aloud” from these GIF texts. Cooper will emcee the evening, and a discussion will follow the readings.
The lineup for this evening includes:
Chris Cochrane with Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Niall Jones
The presenting artists work across a spectrum of practices and include poets, musicians, choreographers, and dancers. While the program seeks to draw attention to the vulnerability of artworks produced through social media, it will also celebrate the highly anticipated release of Cooper’s third GIF novel, Zac’s Freight Elevator (on Kiddiepunk Press), which was temporarily lost when the blog was deleted. Each artist has been invited to choose material from any of the three GIF books and do whatever they’d like with that content so as to perform a “reading” of it—in whatever sense they interpret such a task.
Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for New Museum members.
Some background on Cooper’s ordeal with Google was provided in a recent Change.org petition: “On June 27th, 2016, the blog and personal Gmail account of writer and artist Dennis Cooper were deleted by Google for reasons that the company has failed to disclose, beyond a generic reference to a terms of service violation. This apparent act of censorship has met with widespread disbelief and outrage, and has been covered by Roxane Gay in the New York Times, by The New Yorker, PEN America, The Guardian, artnet, Artforum, and other publications around the world. For over a decade, Cooper’s blog was a central Internet gathering place for fans of underground, subversive, queer, and experimental art and writing. It was a place of community and mutual support for an array of readers, writers, and artists, queer and straight, young and old.” Only after the Change.org petition and pressure from the publication of the articles mentioned above did Google finally agree to meet with Cooper’s lawyers; they subsequently released his content back to him earlier this fall. Cooper has since reestablished his blog at denniscooperblog.com.
“Violations” is a response to Google’s recent deletion of author Dennis Cooper’s blog (for “violations of terms of service,” without further explanation), and a celebration of the innovations in writing represented by a series of GIF novels he drafted there. In a recent article for the New Yorker concerning the Google controversy, Jennifer Krasinski described Cooper’s approach to these novels: “Thinking of [GIFs] as language, Cooper places them together, stacking them or opposing them to create a story—and, in so doing, effectively forging a new form of fiction.” While the contents of Cooper’s blog were eventually returned by Google, the situation prompts urgent reflection on the borderlines of trust, interpretation, and freedoms of speech at stake between users of social media and the corporations who provide such services.
Co-presented with PEN America as part of New Museum’s Fall 2016 R&D Season: DEMOCRACY
14 unused sentences
Blake Butler: What gave you the idea of writing a novel using only animated GIFs?
Dennis Cooper: The GIF novel evolved from this thing I was doing on my blog where I would create these tall stacks of images — maybe 70 to 120 of them — that illustrated a particular theme or idea. I began introducing GIFs into the stacks, and then I became so interested in GIFs that I started making all-GIF stacks. That’s when I started to notice all these really curious, unexpected things were happening in them and between them when they were combined.
So I started experimenting with that, trying to create really deliberate effects and to organize the accidental things that were happening. Finally, I got the idea to make fiction pieces out of them. That idea excited me, partly because, as much I love writing language-based novels, I’ve always wanted to submerge the story/characters/plot much deeper within the novels’ structures than I’ve been able to. The closest I’ve gotten was with The Marbled Swarm where the immediate story and characters are just templates of and secret entrances to this whole substructural world existing inside the novel. But they were still there, hogging the novel’s top level.
With a GIF novel, I could see the possibility of those things being built on the bottom, and that the structure and style and trickery in which they were imbedded could be the dominant aspect.
BB: It’s kind of strange how distinctly ‘readable’ the chain of GIFs in the novel is, despite being all image-based. How did you begin to construct the feel of a story underlying the organization of those stacks?
DC: I think the animated GIF is a super rich thing, mostly unintentionally? For the novel, I thought of them as these crazy visual sentences. But unlike text sentences, they do all the imaginative work for you. They render you really passive. They just juggle with your eyesight, and you’re basically left battling their aggressive, looped, fireworks-level dumb, hypnotizing effects to see the images and the mini-stories/actions they contextualize. I think, ultimately, they’re mostly rhythms, or they reduce their imagery and activity, etc. to illustrative components of these really strict rhythmic patterns that turn the eye into an ear in a way.
My idea is that if you make a novel out of them, the visuals in the individual GIFs can serve double duty in the same way that the instrumentation and vocals in music samples do. They become just the texture of the loop’s rhythm, and that somehow seems to isolate the GIFs’ content from their source material. When you combine and juxtapose the stacks, if you do it carefully, you can break or disrupt their individual rhythms in a way that makes their imagery either rise to the surface or become abstractions. Basically, you can then use their content and appearance as sets and actors and cinematography in a fiction. They can hold their references, if you organize them to do so, and you can use those associations to create short cuts to some idea or emotion you want to get across, or they can become quite malleable and daydream-like, or you can empty them until they’re just motions that are as neutral as a text.
The really exciting thing for me is that the narratives can be as unrealistic or abstract or senseless or trivial or abject or unreadable as you want, and they will always remain inherently pleasurable.
BB: You are a super intense mapper and organizer with your novels, so I was constantly looking for keys to the system, things that linked the project throughout. Is the inspiration of these thru-ways all gut, or gut at first and then figuring the gut out and building outward? Or something else entirely?
DC: It started with a series of motifs or even of things I wanted to use. For instance, I initially wanted there to be a through-line involving earth moving equipment. So I just set off in search of related GIFs. Basically, I just did what I think you can only do—use keywords plus the words “animated GIF” in a general Google image search, and also on Giphy, Tumblr, etc. And then I would add in adjectives to try to get into the less public recesses where GIFs reside. There weren’t very many interesting earth moving equipment GIFs, but I found other motifs in the garbage that ended up contextualized in that category, and those were useful and ended up mutating the original motif. It’s not really very different than the way I write text novels because I always construct dense subsystems in my novels involving motifs and images that work together via what I call “internal rhyming” of different sorts. The main difference formally is just that you’re limited by online resources with a GIF novel rather than being limited by your imagination when it’s text.
Long story short, making the novel involved a weird and excitingly difficult combination of working in an extremely planned out way and also kind of in an extremely intuitive way too. Sometimes gut came first, sometimes it was the opposite, and often it was simultaneous. This form is really new to me, so talking about it feels quite raw.
Di Mattia Coletti: You shrugged off the written word in favour of image-based works: was that a conscious effort on your part? A statement, perhaps – a final act of distrust towards verbal language?
DC: Ah, kind of. But I mean, I’m not really abandoning literature, I’m working on a text novel right now. The things is, I’ve always been a writer – I always wanted to be a writer – but I’ve always been frustrated with the limitations of it. There are many things in fiction that I’m not interested in – I’m not interested in plot, I’m not interested in stories, I’m not interested in character-develpment stuff. I’ve always used those things as devices. I did a book a few years ago called The Marbled Swarm and I was extremely happy with it, because it was the first time that I was ever really able to take the plot and story and characters and really submerge them; so they’re not on the surface, they’re not the main thing, it’s like a very complicated puzzle. And it felt like I had reached a sort of peak with it, so I needed to take a break.
I got very excited about GIFs and started working really hard and then finally came out with Zac’s Haunted House. I liked it, but I felt I could go further with it, so I started working and came out with Zac’s Control Panel; which I think it’s better, I think the pieces in there are much more sophisticated. It’s not a novel, they’re short stories, poems, documentaries…
DMC: In which way(s) is Zac’s Control Panel an improvement on its predecessor?
DC: With Zac’s Haunted House I was still figuring out what worked and what didn’t work. I feel it has a bit of a punk quality, because I was still in the process of figuring out how the visual thing worked – it’s assaultive, it has little things going on, things falling and rising, I tried to think of it as an elevator falling; it doesn’t have rest, it doesn’t have beauty. With Zac’s Control Panel I started working with things that were more subtle, just about beauty and poetry, and I realised that I could do it without bringing in the transgressive material – I do use it sometimes but some of them are actually very simple, like this one is about the wind, it’s just like how the wind works. So for me they have a much broader range, and what’s going on between the gifs is much more carefully finessed. And I was hoping to keep going on with them – I still make them, they still interest me – but I think I’ve gone almost as far as I could go with it, which is a bit disappointing, but there’s only so much you can do with gifs. I’m working on a new gif novel, Zac’s Freight Elevator, and it’s the best work I’ve managed with the material yet, and I think that will probably be it as far as working seriously as a writer with gif. I mean seemingly, but who knows.
DMC: Are they harder to control than words?
DC: You can’t change gifs – well I guess you can, but I can’t – so I was able to just completely concentrate on organising and editing, not generating. I mean, I had ideas, each one of those was generated by an idea, I would search for particular things, I would think “I want this” and I would search and search and search, but very often I couldn’t find it and I found something kind of like it and then I’d have to completely reinvent what I had planned to do because I couldn’t find the gif, the gif didn’t exist. So it’s a very complicated process in terms of constructing and making them work, because I’m not able to rely on an original idea that can stick, I have to constantly keep revising the way I want to do it. I’m a slave to the gifs.
TESSERACT: -teaser- réappropriation du projet Zac’s Haunted House par Dennis Cooper.
p.s. Hey. Today’s the day my new GIF novel is born. I swear it’s fucking awesome, and it’s totally free, so, even if you don’t end up thinking it’s awesome 🙁 at least you can get it and decide what you think for nothing. So, do that? Thank you.