The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Please welcome to the newly terrifying world … Zac’s Freight Elevator (Kiddiepunk Press)

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‘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.

 

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Linkage

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

 

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Frozen Samples

 

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Event

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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:
M. Lamar
Dorothea Lasky
Yvonne Meier
Aki Onda
Richard Hell
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

 

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14 unused sentences

 

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Composite Interview

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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.

 

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TESSERACT: -teaser- réappropriation du projet Zac’s Haunted House par Dennis Cooper.

 

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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.

21 Comments

  1. David Ehrenstein

    Lovely stuff, Dennis!

    And Boy Howdy Do We Need it NOW!

  2. Mark Gluth

    Hey Dennis, I can’t really concentrate too we’ll right now, but I can’t wait to check out Zac’s Freight Elevator. Hope yer well. Total love tossed in your general direction.

  3. B.R.Y.

    Hello Dennis,
    Very thankful to have this after the nightmare of last night/this morning. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! I think this is my favorite of you .gif books (though I am still very partial to “34 Gusts”). Chapter 2 (particularly the choppy ocean water/drowning sentence) just guts me. I also really love the composition for hospital room stabbing in Chapter 5. Hope you are well, best wishes.
    -Benjamin

  4. Tosh Berman

    Great. I shall download it later today. Congrats!

  5. Bill

    The excerpts look great, Dennis and Zac. Look forward to spending time with it later. I’m still amazed that you don’t do your own gif generation and editing.

    Yes, it’s a new world indeed.

    Bill

  6. New Juche

    Downloaded this afternoon, will read it tomorrow. Very exciting.

  7. h

    Hey Dennis, thank you for sharing this with us. I think it’s awesome. Wonder why you made a weak statement about it. Don’t know why you’re humbling your work for no reason. Have a beautiful day, wherever you are, x

  8. Sypha

    Hey Dennis, congratulations on your new GIF novel. I finished viewing it just a few minutes ago. I was going to say that this one seemed more playful and lighthearted than the earlier ones, until I reached chapter 5 and the inevitable bloodshed, ha ha (though now that I think about it, the other 2 might have started off somewhat benign and gotten progressively gorier as they went along). I liked all the meteor imagery in chapter 2. As usual many of the juxtapositions are quite clever, but for me one of the tangential pleasures is trying to identify the source material (always funny how Justin Bieber and random Game of Thrones characters manage to worm their way into these things). I’m guessing the Harry Styles cameos in chapters 4 and 6 are a bone tossed to our Misa, and I’m going to pretend that the “Les Miserables” one in the last chapter was an Easter egg intended for me. 😉

  9. Slatted Light

    I can’t wait to get started on this! I need to make some time to tell you a bit about my thoughts and feels on your GIF work (as well as your film!) Especially thrilled for this release given it’s near-death experience. Lots of love to you, Dennis. I know it’s a very confusing and scary-seeming moment right now. Though liable to be ugly in a lot of ways, I think we’re going to find this “victory” actually ends up contradicting a lot of our expectations of disaster except chiefly for the GOP and the Right themselves, but it remains for reality to bear out that prediction, and I can imagine it’s a dark day for you right now. Lots of love, my friend and comrade.

  10. Jamie

    Hey Dennis.
    I hope that you’re safe & well & enjoying your trip as much as you can.
    This post is great. I’m working now, but really excited to get home & download the fuck out of this new tome (if I can call it that?). Those static shots of the gif pieces look really amazing too. And is that a DC gif? So cool!
    Super love to you!
    Jamie

  11. _Black_Acrylic

    I’m hyped up about this, and will read in full tomorrow. Cannot wait to so, of course.

    Re last night’s result, in the UK we had the Scotland No vote, then the Conservative victory, then Brexit. And now this looks like being the worst of the lot. It really is, isn’t it?

  12. Damien Ark

    Dennis, thanks for being the light to this totally fucked up nightmarish day in a world that’s already enough of a nightmare. Ch 2/3 are totally my favorite, but they’re all great. I’ll probably ‘read’ it some more in the coming months. I actually revisited the other ones for fun as well, which is nice since they’re there for free and I don’t even have to find it under my bed or hidden in a stuffed bookshelf.

    <3

  13. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Congratulations! I’ll get at it this weekend for sure.

    Sypha’s too nice, no?

    But yes, Harry…gulp.

    Hope things are well with you.

  14. Misanthrope

    Armando, I hope you see this. Just saw the trailer for Manchester by the Sea the other day and really want to see it. Thanks for that bit of yours about it. I kind of love Casey Affleck. Great actor, imo.

  15. Kyler

    Really enjoyed this, Dennis, as my evening activity while the protesters were out protesting. Part of me wanted to be with them, but it was good to be home with your great art. You help to make this world a little less terrifying. Thanks, see you hopefully on 11/16.

  16. hyperbolic_plain

    Dennis, Wow. This is fucking awesome! I hadn’t paid close attention to your GIF novels until this. Aside from the large scale things you’re doing in it, there are these really interesting parts that focus in on how movement and signs work together. One thing that immediately caught my attention was the pair of tiny pieces of Chapter 1 that are structured roughly as [sun / flying thing / horizon line]. They depict similar scenes, but are so different in terms of movement. Really interesting. One really cool thing that the GIFs do that text doesn’t, which never occurred to me before, is to make physical limits hyper present. Like thought keeps running smack into physical reality, which doesn’t happen with text. Don’t know if that makes sense. The piano in Chapter 6 really got me, at the end of all the percussion in the previous chapters. I love how Chapters 1 and 6 juxtapose. I also love the intoxicated bodies chapter… Chapter 3, specifically how it functions as a transition. Chapter 2 is still very confusing to me. I have to look at it again and think more about it.

  17. Armando

    hey, man,

    thank u so incredibly much for this beautiful gift admist these darkest of times. cant thank u enough. just downloaded it. im more old-fashioned & technophobic than the Great Woody Allen, so i still struggle with gif novels, but i try my best, & of course ur works always out of this world & amazin & incredible & gorgeous & surprisin. thank u so much, man. /hug/.

    im heartbroken. ive always loved ur country so so so much. always. ever since i had a conscience. it and its people deserve so much motherfuckin better. its just a tragedy of literally global proportions. as i said, the beginnin of the ends finally here.

    its so bad monacos so expensive. its really the only place id really, actually gladly move 2 now that my life-long dream 2 1 day live in ur great, great countrys utterly & completely dead & buried. oh well. it wouldnt b called life if it werent meaningless & full of shit & misery.

    hope ure still havin as good as possible a time in nyc. wish so bad i could b there & attend ur events…

    good day; good luck,

    lots of love & hugs,

    ur friend,

    armando.

  18. MANCY

    So very excited to escape into this over the weekend. Monumental. Xo

  19. Raymond

    I downloaded Zac’s Freight Elevator just after lunch and have spent the last hour looking at the first chapter. I decided to make a little ‘cinema’ (ie I put my coat over my head) for myself to experience it in – can recommend this! I love it Dennis. Somehow the other gif novels have come into focus for me more also.

  20. B

    Catching up on old posts now…I’m blown away by this work Dennis, really. It is a stretching of the written/visual word in a way that feels in equal parts beyond me and wonderfully accessible. I’m throughly looking forward to the reading event on Monday! Unfortunately (and sort of fortunately?) I also have a screening of a film I was in early last year on the same night, but I will definitely catch the first part of the evening.

    Bear

  21. Tanner

    i turned zac’s haunted house into a “movie” the other day just for fun. it was pretty painstaking haha. but the result is pretty hypnotic i think too.

    https://youtu.be/R2zxRVN72mY

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