Regular followers of Zoamorphosis may have noticed that the site has undergone a fairly substantial redesign over the past month. In addition to the overall look and feel of the site, there has been a fair amount of activity behind the scenes to ensure that the software that runs Zoamorphosis is as effective as possible over the coming years.
The very first article on Zoamorphosis - a short entry on Ten Blakean Novels - was posted on January 3, 2010. At that point, it was part of an early project that I'd been in discussion with among some fellow Blakeheads which became known as Blake 2.0, a reference to web 2.0 technologies that had become all the rage in the second half of the new millennium's first decade, as well as my own ongoing obsession with the reception and afterlife of Blake. The new site introduced itself as follows:
Blake 2.0 is also concerned with the ’second life’ – virtual and otherwise – of Blake, and this site offers new ways to present information about the artist’s works as well as encouraging innovative thinking about how we can engage with those original illustrations and texts.
Zoamorphosis.com is a magazine-style blog that provides updates on various uses of Blake in the arts, media, popular culture and some areas of scholarship, with news of Blake sightings in the press and elsewhere. In addition, you can follow regular posts on Twitter by going to http://twitter.com/blake2_0.
The title, Zoamorphosis, came from a paper I had presented in 2007 at a conference celebrating the 250th anniversary of Blake's birth: in "Zoamorphosis - 250 Years of Blake Mutations", I coined the word to describe what for me was the fertile means by which Blake's ideas and art were not simpy repeated but adapted and transformed by succeeding generations, becoming new life forms in a way that kept alive the spirit of Blake's reformulations of Milton and the Bible. The source of the name was Blake's description of the Four Zoas in his epic poem Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion:
And the Four Zoa’s clouded rage East & West & North & South
They change their situations, in the Universal Man.
Albion groans, he sees the Elements divide before his face.
Blake 2.0 was intended to be part of a much wider network, particulary in terms of social media and taking advantage of then relatively new platforms such as Facebook and YouTube as well as more established sites such as MySpace. The work involved in these and the evolving concept of Zoamorphosis brought in a regular contributor, Roger Whitson, with whom I wrote a book in 2013, William Blake and the Digital Humanities. Blake 2.0 as an idea also developed into an edited collection, Blake 2.0: William Blake in Twentieth-Century Art, Music and Culture, edited with Steve Clark and Tristanne Connolly. Zoamorphosis itself grew fairly rapidly, with some 100 articles within a year - most of those, it must be said, culled from an abortive wiki that I had begun work on in the days when Wikipedia had not yet colonised collaborative encyclopedias. As can be seen below, the home page for the new site was... busy:
The original logo - which still survives in one shape or another - came from splicing an image of Blake's large colour print of Newton with another of Paolozzi's large sculpture which sits outside the British Library. For me, this has always been a perfect example of a Blakean mutation - a zoamorph - taking on a life of its own.
The site continued to attract considerable attention, but it was also increasingly clear that the "everything bar the kitchen sink" approach in the screenshot above would not play nice with mobile devices (which had only been a very small part of the audience in 2010). As such, by the end of 2016 the site had been updated to a cleaner look that wold display more clearly on phones and tablets. This remained its form with very little in the way of adaptation until December 2021.
While many aspects of the original Blake 2.0 project have not lasted (the MySpace Blake Disco was but one of those to go gentle into that good night), the new version does preserve many elements. It was always important to me that Zoamorphosis was an opportunity to record news about Blake in popular culture, particularly as his status as an artist has grown if anything in the two decades that I have been working on the reception of his work as an artist. Likewise, the Arts and Culture section has grown and matured over the years, especially with articles by other contributors, and covers a wide range of elements dealing with Blake's work. Other aspects, such as the original podcasts, are being transformed into Zoavision, a series of multimedia resources.
The new, updated version of Zoamorphosis allows for considerable improvements. By taking advantage of developments in HTML5 it is possible to create a more dynamic and visually appealing interface, but one that still works across a wide range of mobile and desktop devices. The revised site is also an opportunity to shift focus, slightly, with a new section dedicated to Projects and Publications. These include projects that I am associated with in some shape or form outside of Zoamorphosis itself, such as VALA, The Journal of the Blake Society, and the international conference, Global Blake. It also includes the relaunched form of Zoavision, which will take up a lot of the forthcoming development in 2022, and new projects will be listed here over the coming years.
For those who have been following my musings on Blake since the very start - thank you. He is an artist and poet of whom I can never grow bored and who has sustained me intellectually and spiritually for many years. For those of you who are new to the site, I hope that you find much that is of interest in the articles and posts that are contained on zoamorphosis.com.