Make it Manifold: A Wordless Biography of Emily Dickinson
“You just have to make it manifold,” the young woman in Hunt MakerSpace advised me. “It’s not manifold, it doesn’t have any center axis, so you just have to go back in and make it geometrically…like, real.”
Emily Dickinson’s work has had immeasurable influence on me as a woman and an artist, and her life is shrouded in any kind of “realness” – very little is known of her, and what we do know, we know through her letters as a recluse and a few first-hand accounts of her as a child from family and friends. What we have of her that is tangible are the words she thought up behind the doors of her family home in Amherst, so on many levels, we cannot and are not supposed to have access to her.
In 2016, I developed a “wordless biography” of Dickinson as apart of Dr. Helen Burgess’s course on multimodality and composition. I used the Manifest Data (opens in new window) program developed by Luke Caldwell, Amanda Starling Gould, and the Speculative Sensation (S-1) Lab at Duke University, made available through a Creative Commons License at Bitbucket.org. The program uses tcpflow to gather the IP addresses of a user’s browsing practices. Manifest Data then parses these IP addresses and creates an .xyz file which can be imported into MeshLab or MeshMixer to create a 3D model of the browser data. Using this program, I browsed each poem of the collected works of Emily Dickinson online and created 5 3D models as a representation of her life – or at least the life in poems she chose to let us see. Each model represents the categories Dickinson’s compiler chose to organize her work with – Life, Love, Nature, Time and Eternity, and The Single Hound.
My favorite of these models, by far, is “The Single Hound,” the bottom image above. “The Single Hound” is a group of poems about Dickinson’s dog, Carlo. That he is no abstract concept, but a real material thing transduced into a non-Euclidean blob atop a pyramid gives me great joy.