Retina Soybean was originally created in 1993 as a comic strip
. It is made of drawings in ball point pen on paper by Dan Vena
, with words written by John Morton
. The text usually "makes no sense," by conventional terms. The implied intonation of the words, when pronounced properly, seems logical and relevant to the (sometimes strange) situations the characters of Retina Soybean find themselves in. The comic was something that was initially invented just so Morton/Vena could entertain themselves, but it has evolved over the years into some sort of indescribable and indecipherable conceptual art
project. The transition from simple diversion to art happened when Retina Soybean entered a public context. For lack of a better method, Morton/Vena chose to distribute Retina Soybean "graffiti
style," hanging the comics up on walls in public spaces as flyers, or sliding them under people's door like Chinese menus
. Dan Vena, who spent three years of his life driving back and forth across the country on tour with the band Phish
, spread the weird word from coast to coast. While student-ing at Bard College
, John Morton infiltrated the minds of innocent liberal arts college students with the weirdness
. Eventually, an underground grassroots network, based on the Retina Soybean mailing list, helped to spread the un-understandable good word across the globe.
RS met with some resistance in its early days at Bard, though. Many students took an anti kind of stance towards this new thing that was disrupting their field of vision. Was it was because they could not understand it, and so felt threatened by it (to not understand is a bad thing for a youngster trying to fit themselves into the world)? Or was it because Retina Soybean did not fall within the parameters of what was a stylistically acceptable way to express oneself? We may never know the answer, but those kids certainly did react negatively. This reaction provided RS with something extremely valuable, however: an audience. The authors were able to play off of this dynamic, and the whole thing took a turn into the realm of social experimentation and propaganda. Eventually, as the older kids graduated, and the newer kids showed up, Retina Soybean was no longer the source of controversy, but a part of Bard's experiential landscape.
In 1997, when Morton/Vena left the Bard College area and relocated to different parts of the Northeastern United States, RS lost its public forum. But Retina Soybean continues to live on, evolving further into... what?