from New Media Art (Taschen)

Reena Jana and Mark Tribe

As the Internet first gained global popularity in the mid 1990s, some cultural theorists argued that it was part of a new kind of virtual space (sometimes called cyberspace) that we enter as disembodied subjects whose indentities are malleable and disguisable. Our bodies are left behind along with our genders, races, and ethnicities. In this new environments, the cyberpundits suggested, our flesh-and-blood bodies don't register because they aren't visible. If a teenage girl could masquerade as a balding middle-aged man, or vice versa, it seemed that the old rules of identity politics no longer applied.

Others contended that our embodied indentities follow us onto the Internet, and that categories such as female, white, or hispanic were every bit as real online as off. In The Pink of Stealth, color takes on multiple meanings within the context of how race is perceived. The color pink, in particular, becomes a sign for whiteness in this multilayered project, which combines an online hypertext work, a Web-based video game, and an audio mix that is availble online as an MP3 and also on DVD in surround sound.

The hypertext conveys the story of a man, Mark, and a woman, Randi, whose races are never revealed, although Mark is described as a sophisticate who likes to drink, and Randi a woman with a "less than rosy" life who has "color in her cheeks." Randi seeks a wealthy mate who is able to provide a "red-blooded, blue-eyed heir." This may or may not be Mark, who wishes to see Randi's "true colors." The plot unfolds in a non-linear way through five variations, each revealing only a few fragments of the text. Each numbered variation opens in a pop-up window against a different shade of pink. The fifth variation shows the following text fragments scattered across the screen over a light-pink background: "a/strange/time/in a crowd/of/ hunters" . Like the other variations, this one strings together words and phrases from the text to form a new sentence, unveiling a stealthily encoded meaning.

The Pink of Stealth also includes an animated game, Foxhunt, in which a fox is chased by a hound and a brown-skinned figure on horseback, dressed in the uniform of an English country gentleman-hunter. The game is accompanied by the sound of two mbiras (African thumb pianos). The mbiras appear again in the sound mix, along with a fox whistle and a recording of the entire hypertext piece spoken sequentially in a female narrator's voice. The narrative ends with the phrase, "each wondered how it felt to be a fox." Points accrue at the top of the screen next to the words "uneatable" and "unspeakable," referencing a quote from A Woman of No Importance, Oscar Wilde's play about hidden identity and Victorian society--one of several wide-ranging literary and filmic references that also include Pretty in Pink, the 1980s teen-movie about a rich boy dating a poor girl. In The Pink of Stealth, the Obadikes weave such diverse sources together to explore the relationship between the language of color and the complexities of race and class.

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