Year created:



Surf through this web adaptation of J.G. Ballard's HIGH RISE. High : Rise was a project created for Robert Ascher's Visual Anthropology class at Cornell University during Spring 1998. The purpose of the project was to profile a person, real or fictional, through a visual medium. By choosing the World Wide Web as my medium, the project's conceptual framework parallels the philosophical aspect of J. G. Ballard's 1975 novel, High-Rise, from which this project was loosely adapted from. Ballard's novel served not only as a socio-cultural commentary on the state of the human condition in an environment accelerated by technology, but it was also the starting point to which I began a theoretical discourse on the ideology of progress and what that meant for us as a culture at the end of the twentieth century. Technology has always been the emblem of human advancement and civilization, and throughout history, it has become the signifier of progress, enlightenment, and power for a nation or a group of people. Ballard's novel fundamentally questions this notion of forward movement by suggesting that man lives in an illusion of "civilization" created by technology's phantasmagoric appeal. My project documents the protagonist's experience in a high-rise building during a period of about three months. The trajectory of the narrative and concept of the project is always upward. One is forced to read upward and navigation is entirely limited to the upward movement. This forced habit is antithetical to our natural visual orientation to read top-down and the constant requirement to reorient oneself when a new sentence flashes on the screen simultaneously question both the user's dependence on this kind of technology for the unveiling of the narrative and the protagonist's transformation in relation to the building. The layering of the text throughout the narrative progression becomes chaotic and disorderly - the threat of a text that is unfamiliar, threatening, and resistant to knowledge is also something I consider as a pivoting point to not just the narrative mapping of this project but also to the web as a tool of text-based communication. The text begins singularly but becomes congested and disorienting; knowledge becomes multiplied and in a sense distracted by the technology. Isabel Chang