The Stettheimer Salon Experience

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The Game


The Stettheimer Salon Experience: La Fête à Duchamp was originally made for the Modernist Salons Remixed event held at the Modern Literature and Culture (MLC) Research Centre in June 2017. It is a collaboration between Alexander Ross, Hannah Milliken, and Mufei Jiang. In this choose-your-own-adventure game, we re-created Marcel Duchamp’s 30th birthday party, which was hosted by the Stettheimer sisters on July 28th, 1917. Duchamp’s birthday became cemented in the lives of the sisters as one of the most important events of their salon days. Florine Stettheimer memorialized the occasion in a painting called "La Fête à Duchamp." She depicts the events of the day in a narrative art style, beginning with Duchamp’s arrival in a red convertible in the far left, to tea on the lawn in the foreground, to the evening’s conclusion under blue and green lanterns in the background. Our game recalls her episodic approach to painting by giving you the opportunity to choose your own path through an interactive story.

The ultimate aim for this project is to connect you to the salons of the past while simultaneously engaging you the present using ludic technology. There is a long history of connection between literary machines, text generators, computer programs and interactive fiction. In the Dada movement itself, co-founder Tristan Tzara held performances where he pulled lines of text out of a hat to generate poems and also pioneered a way of cutting up and juxtaposing text to create new words. In the 1970s, conversational computer programs like ELIZA/DOCTOR and SHRDLU began a long history of human-computer interaction, and became the basis for the first interactive fiction and hypertext narrative programs. Technology was a central concern for the modernist avant-garde, being a significant focus of the Futurist, Dadaist, Cubist, and Vorticist movements. In using the program Twine, which lets you make games with hypertext links, we give players the ability to make narrative choices, and by doing so, are tapping into the close connections that exist between modernism, technology, and free association through text and conversation.

The Website

Florine Stettheimer used the aesthetics of early twentieth-century commodity culture in her paintings and poetry. She took pink candy hearts, tinsel, plastic flowers, and cellophane, and made them a part of her canvas. This website is a small tribute to her aesthetics, and deliberately draws on the early digital culture of "Web 1.0" for its design. Its colorful, superficial appearance, and its use of mass digital objects, like animated GIFs, is meant to draw a further connection to the modernist foundations of digital art and culture. This website also includes a guestbook, which attendees of this salon can sign. Guestbooks were a key feature of modern salons as well as websites made during the first decade of the World Wide Web. This allows us to draw a further connection between modernist approaches to sociability and contemporary technology. By making a guestbook available during our salon event, we hope that guests will leave their mark as a memento of the time they've spent in the space we have created during our Multimodal Modernism Symposium and Soirée.