Tuesday, August 02, 2005

in medias

I did a reading/performance recently in Melbourne, which focussed on a collaborative work I made with Annette - a long text mixed with her photos. It was prepared using PowerPoint and, this time, a soundtrack I put together using (royalty-free) samples. I was nervous about the technology, as I'd never flown a data projector before with my humble li'l iBook, but there were no probs. Well, one or two slight things which I sorted in the hour before the event.

I realise that the work, Hidden Shrines, exists in many 'performance' spaces. There's a text version, ie a poem only, in my latest book, Broken/Open, which I'm sure you all have a copy of (not). It's also available online at fusebox.

Then there was the original 2003 version, done for the c-side project, presented in a bar kind of venue with djs accompanying the visuals. There's the flash version on Annette's website with me reading over the visuals. And now a re-zooshed PP presentation with a soundtrack accompaniment composed by moi (with no voiceover, just music and visuals). I think this latest version is closest to working as I want it to. I feel quite ambivalent about the voiceover.

It was interesting to get the reaction of print-focused poets, even those with a performance bent. By using animation, the 'page' in this work is visually dynamic and the placement and movement of the text creates different moments/movements (ie. text can appear on screen and disappear in various ways) to a print page or a performance/reading in time.

The questions I was asked afterwards were along the lines of, how does it relate to the page, ie., how do you read it? I was curious that these questions would be asked and I think it relates to the continuing primacy of the fixed page in many people's minds. Whereas I see this version of Hidden Shrines as a continuing performance which I can tweak and re-edit as needed. Of course, at readings poets all tweak page poems either purposely or by mistake, and many re-jig poems when they're re-published in a book or an anthology etc so we're all engaged in ongoing 'performance' (even our voices or our pages change with circumstances). The other thing which was said, almost the opposite reaction from the same people, was that they were having to read a poem as performance - this was said favourably.

By the way, I also read from page poems as well.

I found this all fascinating. I had rather taken what I was doing for granted but I realised I shouldn't. I hope to find the time to muck about with it all a bit more. The ongoing dependence on technology which can be awkward (though it's getting less so) and expensive-ish still to hire is the main drawback. I have had similar work transferred into DVD form - cheaper and more
straightforward to 'show' - but the images become too degraded and pixillated for my liking.

I always approach each situation, as much as I can, on its own grounds. The screen is often equated with the page but it is a different space. When you add animation (ie movement) and when you add the possibilities of different media/forms interacting in that space simultaneously, you've got a whole different ball game. It is something else.

The question of origin is a whole other thing. Is origination (awful word) something that happens before the mind/imagination (or whatever) gets to the page or any other media, or does it occur with some particular medium in mind, ie a paper page?

On the other hand, writing is visual. We can tend to forget that. But bearing that in mind, I don't think it's a great shift to 'see' writing in contexts other than a fixed, ie printed page.

Another question that came up later was about reproduceability, that if there's a moving text, then is it also possible to score in text on the page?

I guess the first reaction is, why would you want to score into a text something that exists in another medium? I like to think it can work in its own context. Again, it does have a ring of the page being primary, that digital media are secondary/inferior/johnny come lately and need somehow to partake of, conform to, work around, whatever, the way a fixed page operates.

By the way, don't get me wrong, I love paper and pens (I'm a fountain pen slut) and pages and type and all the rest. I am also interested in doing some basic, almost grungy, print stuff. Almost hand done, small print, cheap and accessible. And also, at the other end, some fine art publication, focus on design and print/image/presentation as much as the text stuff. In fact, I'm beginning to think seriously about such projects and talk with people.

Poetry is pretty flexible. I'm happy to bend with it, so far as I've got the energy, curiosity and chutzpah to do it.

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