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{Wed 5 October 2011}   About Art Accelerating Art
Art Accelerating Art

We had the first rehearsal yesterday for this performance to be held at the Saatchi Gallery 13-16 October. I met John Angel Rodriguez, curator, and the deep-voiced James Honey and string-master Jamie Romain of A Band of Buriers. The band’s “alternative folk” music is absolutely mesmerising – it was gorgeous to hear it filling the large spaces of the gallery.

The idea is to investigate how audience appreciation of The Shape of Things to Come exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery is affected when music and poetry are performed in response to sculpture. Elinros Henriksdottir asked me to select and perform some poetry in response to certain works and invited A Band of Buriers to do the same in music. Unfortunately, a long-standing personal commitment prevents me from being there for two of the four days of the performances, so I will not perform, but instead I have arranged for three wonderful performers to do it instead: Rosalie Jorda, Gisele Edwards and Gabby Meadows. I am still involved as Project Assistant and will be going to the rehearsals and to the first and possibly the second performance.

The poems to be performed are the “Introduction” and “Earth’s Answer” from William Blake’s Songs of Experience, and my own Smooth Red Woman. The latter is really just a textual spec for a digital poem I intend to make, about thoughts triggered by a beautiful red marble sculpture I saw in Italy, so I didn’t think of it as a final version, but it does seem amazingly relevant in the context of the particular sculptures we’ll be using it to comment on. It particularly raises questions around how women’s responses to art may differ from men’s. All three poems sound amazing in the voices of the three female performers. It’s heartening to feel that themes so personal to me can be shared by and communicated through other women.

If this idea of using some art forms to enhance your experience of another art form appeals to you, or you know someone who might be intrigued by it, everyone in the Art Accelerating Art team would appreciate it if you would Like this post and spread the word via social media!



{Mon 3 October 2011}   Art Accelerating Art
Art Accelerating Art

Hello, hello, my long-languishing blog (and my very occasional readers)! I love you, I really do, and think of you constantly…. well, a bit inconstantly, it’s true, but I do hold you in my heart. It’s just been an incredibly busy year, with three main themes occupying my energies:

  1. Writing content and building an exciting commercial website for RealCorp Luxembourg; as well as ongoing training, consultancy, blogging and other writing for them and for other clients.
  2. Volunteering for Poet in the City as Social Media Manager: creating a WordPress blog and an internal Social Media Wiki on PBWorks, teaching social media workshops, encouraging a mixed bag of users to contribute on the blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, assisting with a bid for Nesta’s Digital R&D Fund, and writing a spec to revamp the main Poet in the City website (project on hold for now). I also managed the Poetry and the State event at Amnesty International and assisted with several other events.
  3. Buying a house in France…. more on that later, when I can get my head around the fact that it’s actually happening!

All this has meant that I haven’t had much time for personal creative projects, so I was surprised and thrilled to be approached by the sylph-like Elinros Henriksdotter, after my reading of Shakespeare at the Poet in the City “Dog Days” Drop-In, to particpate in a wonderful four-day initiative (13-16 Oct) to use poetry and music to enhance the experience of sculpture: “Art Accelerating Art”.

(Update 05/10/11: I’ve moved the chunk on Art Accelerating Art to a separate post).



Looking beyond libraries for learning

In a recent Poet in the City post, Lockie McKinnon muses on the assumption by some people (led in this instance by economist Dambisa Moyo) that society can get along fine without the arts as long as we focus on science.  Lockie argues passionately that, despite the current regime of cuts, we must retain art as an equal partner with science. Although science may offer us water and food, our motivation for life itself and our understanding of ourselves comes from the arts (not his words, but this is what I understand from the example Lockie gives of Alberto Manguel’s Colombian villagers in The Library at Night choosing the Iliad as the one book that they refused to return to the travelling library). He finishes with an appeal to join a local library to oppose cuts.

I’ve been thinking about this post and wondering why, when I wholeheartedly agree that we cannot contemplate life or society without art, I felt hesitant about committing to the libraries campaign.

Today in The Independent, Mary Dejevksy asserts that “our view of libraries is sepia-tinted” and I knew, considering my own behaviour, that this is true.

Despite being a keen reader, and definitely old enough to know how important libraries have been in encouraging reading, I never use them. The last time I went into my local library to find a book (which they didn’t have, but did order for me), was 2001, I think.  Since then, I’ve never encountered a “finding” challenge that I couldn’t solve using the Internet. The process is much quicker and entirely under my control. I can read reviews to help me determine whether to take my search any further; I can find summaries, excerpts or entire texts that sometimes supply all I need, depending on the reason for my search. Many great books are free, for example, via Project Gutenberg, and if I decide to buy a book, I can usually find it at a reasonable price. Definitions, interpretations, background and context are literally at my fingertips via links or online search, while I read, wherever I’m reading. Travel-wise, the convenience of instant download and reading books on my Kindle or iPhone is unparalleled. The books cost less than they do in hard copy, I don’t have to carry the extra kilos, and I don’t have to return them to anyone on time.

Of course, I’m aware of the digital divide and I know that, right now, reading devices are still relatively expensive, but digital reading will inevitably become ubiquitous as prices go down and it fits better into our busy lives. It also opens wonderful new possibilities for narrative, as witness these collections from the Electronic Literature Organisation: Volume 1 and the recently published Volume 2. One of my favourite digital poets is Peter Howard, whose e-poems use digital facilities in a non-trivial way to support and/or convey the poems’ intent, and manage to be aesthetic at the same time (surprise, complexity, intelligibility and beauty are a rare combination  in the still-nascent world of e-poetry). See, for example, A Poppy. He is also a master of pace and comic timing, which many digital poets are not (yet). See Xylo and Portrait of the Artist.

As we navigate the explosion of data on the web, I believe that there will always be a role for reading guides or facilitators, people who inspire and encourage us to read, experts who not only curate directories of literature and suggest what to read, but also teach us how to engage with what we read, and to read critically, so that we grow through these encounters, but I doubt whether libraries as we currently know them are optimally suited to this task.

For anyone interested in pursuing this topic, The Institute for the Future of the Book is a great resource and their blog if:book addresses developments in reading. You can also find new thoughts on the evolution of the creation and consumption of communications across all media on Transliteracy.com.



{Wed 12 January 2011}   Reblog: Story Gardens of Holon
Happy New Year!

New Year, new start… well, that’s what January’s for, no? Due to (lots of lovely) work (for which I am very grateful) and an extraordinary amount of travelling, family visiting and hosting in different countries, six months have whizzed by. Well, here I am again, full of fresh passion and resolve!

One of my new roles this year is Social Media Manager for Poet in the City (PinC). I have begun facilitating the organisation’s presence on various social media platforms, including the new Poet in the City Blog. The engagement with social media involves a learning curve for all Poet in the City volunteers, including myself, so I am looking forward to that, and also to introducing PinC’s very large audience to some of the best digital poetry.

Mindful of my own slow and sometimes reluctant journey from being entirely text-bound to enjoying the delights of digital literature, I would also love to see more transliterate discussion here on TiaTalk, so I’ll start by reposting a piece I wrote for www.transliteracy.com. This was published on 29 December 2010 — sandwiched between two humongously extended public holiday weekends in the midst of the festive season, this date was probably not the best time for anyone to read it, so I’m giving it another go here. Please let me know what you think!

Reblog: Story Gardens of Holon: 3-D, immersive, interactive, social and offline

During our MA studies, it was suggested that digital storytelling is non-linear whereas text-based storytelling is linear, and that engaging with online stories is immersive, active, interactive and social, as opposed to offline reading which is less immersive, relatively passive and often solitary.

Those of us who since childhood have known the pleasures of immersing ourselves in a book, imagining our own versions of scenes described, placing ourselves in characters’ shoes, and engaging our friends in repeated acting out of the stories in our own gardens or living rooms (accepting with good or bad humour the inevitable story variations that arise when actors, props and locations do not exquisitely reflect the text), initially found it hard to accept these distinctions.

In one online discussion with classmates, I said,

I was quite startled to realise that … new media art might be defined by non-linear narratives. Is it always a requirement that the reader not be offered, or be able to choose not to follow, a linear storyline? … when I think about the interactive possibilities of the new media, I can see ways to engage the reader and enable them to contribute, but still have them follow a narrative chosen by the writer.

I went on to say,

I think of the non-linear approach as more ‘poetic’, in the sense of the genre of poetry. The best way to engage with this kind of work is in a meditative frame of mind, where one takes the time to dwell with sounds, images and associations and follow these imaginatively. A poem may, of course, have a strong narrative structure, but much of the pleasure if offers is found ‘along the way’, before one reaches the conclusion or the resolution of any ‘plot’. Even in a linear story, attempts to evoke the emotions and perceptions of characters or of the reader may create ‘poetic’ moments during the story. If one maximizes these moments and reduces the linking narrative, even to the point where it is implied rather than described, one may produce a relatively ‘non-linear’ story (although the idea of story inevitably contains linearity).  I suppose that this is my perception of how Inanimate Alice works. There is a linear chronology, but this is suggested rather than detailed, and my experience as the reader is of poetic moments at intervals along that chronology.

This was my limited view of new media’s potential at the time and, of course, it turned out that there was some sense in what our teachers were saying and we learned to identify and value the different kind of immersion, as well as the relative autonomy, creative freedom and social discourse offered to the reader by many online stories.

However, I still felt that these comparisons, necessary though they might be, could devalue the power of text-based stories. I longed to hold on to them while still embracing video games, MMOGs, cross-media narratives and all the other online possibilities… I did not want the new literacies to supplant the old.  Thus, I was delighted when a recent visit to a Story Garden (“Gan Sipur”) in Israel suggested a way of creating and maintaining a transliterate approach to the enjoyment of stories.

Holon, a large city south of and adjacent to Tel Aviv, has 31 of these Story Gardens. Along with the Children’s Museum, the Mediatheque Cultural Center and various other youth-friendly initiatives, they contribute to Holon’s growing reputation as a “children’s city”. Hana Herzman, managing director of Holon Municipality, and Moti Sasson, Mayor of Holon, are credited with originating and driving the development of the Story Gardens project. They explain the concept further in this video:

Story Gardens of Holon (view on YouTube)

In other words, Story Gardens are landscaped sculpture installations where the sculptures are characters, objects or abstract representations of thoughts and emotions from well-loved children’s stories.

Each garden (there may be several within a park) is a visually identifiable, cohesive space for one particular story, but offering unlimited points of access and egress.  A path suggests the author’s original linear progress through the story, but nothing prevents the experiencer from being attracted to or seeking out alternative routes through the story.

Thematic and aesthetic cohesion for a particular story is established by having one sculptor per story, so only one artist works with a particular writer or text to interpret that story, but these unique story gardens are then united by tasteful, spacious landscaping in and between each “storyverse”, as though an editor had placed them in an anthology. See some more examples in Yair Karelic’s photos here:

Holon’s Story Gardens (1 of 2)

Holon’s Story Gardens (2 of 2)

Besides the simple pleasures of experiencing the gardens themselves, from an analytical point of view, the collaborative creation and the confluence of literacies here is wonderful.  In creating a story garden, an author’s text is interpreted by a selection committee, a sculptor, and architects, environmental planners and engineers (often in live discussion with the author), and then re-interpreted with great satisfaction by teachers, parents, grandparents and, most importantly, by the children at whom the entire exercise is aimed.  And taking transliteracy a step further… some of the stories have even morphed their way into the world of philately through photos of the sculptures!

And the text is never far from the story experience, despite its outdoor, 3-D, immersive, flexible and very social nature: apparently the most popular books in Holon are those featured in the Story Gardens. They are borrowed from the Mediatheque library and are taken to the gardens to be read aloud or home to be enjoyed again, by parents, teachers and children.

In a recent wide-ranging post, Reading in the Digital Age or Reading How We’ve Always Read, Kassia Krozser of Booksquare muses most engagingly on the technological developments required to facilitate social reading in the online environment, but what struck me is her assertion that reading has been a social activity for much longer than it has been a solitary one. She reminds us that

Social reading is normal reading. …  Even after the invention of the Gutenberg press, the possession of books was outside the reach of most people. …. The tradition of people reading to each other remains alive and well. …  It wasn’t until mass market books became available that reading, as we know it, was identified as a (almost-solely) solitary activity (overall literacy rates had to catch up as well, but that’s another issue).

I sometimes think of reading as “story absorption” to remind myself that stories were not always bound in books, but I am also glad that, at this point in the evolution of storytelling, when “wreading” happens in a Story Garden (because analysis, comment, reinterpretation and embellishment are inevitable parts of creation and of play), texts may still be part of the discussion.



{Mon 23 November 2009}   What is Transliteracy?
What is Transliteracy?

Well, theoretically, I should know the answer to this question as this is what I studied in my MA over the past year. I have now graduated (with distinction) with an MA in Creative Writing and New Media from De Montfort University… but I’m still asking!

The term was introduced to the UK by Professor Sue Thomas and she and some other new media gurus have worked long and hard to refine the following definition:

Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

It’s a good definition that covers a lot, but its implications and ramifications lead to further questions. See my post on Transliteracy.com for some of these.

I ended the post with a link to a video about a fascinating artwork that future generations may hold to be a significant transliterate artefact.

I’d love to discuss all this, so please feel free to comment either here on TiaTalk or on Transliteracy.com.



{Thu 7 May 2009}   Watercolour E-Poem
Watercolour

So… it took a while, but this poem is now more than text! To experience it you’ll need Adobe Flash Player, preferably v9 or v10, and to turn on your sound.

Click the image to view the poem full screen:

gold-watercolour-on-black

The [Respond] button at the end of the poem will bring you back here to comment or offer a poem of your own.

Alternatively, why not respond by creating your own version of Watercolour? Grab the word cloud below, go to http://www.wordle.net, paste it in and have a blast! If you like the result, supply a link to the Wordle version in your comment.

Notes:

  1. Wordle gives greater weight to words that occur more often. If you want some words to appear bigger than others, copy and repeat those words a few times in the word cloud, e.g. repeating “jazz jazz jazz” and “pizzazz pizzazz pizzazz” and “imagine imagine imagine imagine imagine” could produce a Wordle like this: Watercolour imagine jazz pizzazz.
  2. Wordle strips out common words like “of” and “the” unless you change settings via the Language menu.

Word cloud for Wordling:

Watercolour primaries pounce on the primitive page usurping space with bizarre pizzazz opposing waves squall and break brim-brilliant crests crash create a jazz of chaos interference drags a screaming thread of blue through careless orange splotches tia azulay raging red gobbles new green panicking through cooling pools of sulphur a purple pulse breathes whirls of fire willing them to swirl against caking air to savage expectations flay the fair and even strokes of intent with edges of the depths fan water into flame with split-atomic spatterings of aquamarine and shame shatterings of line design all reason Oh Image imagine Imagination’s breathing Ruwach



{Wed 18 February 2009}   Watercolour revisited
Watercolour revisited

It’s amazing how a fresh project and the smallest amount of feedback can help one to see old work with new eyes. I’m working on my first e-poem – a conversion of an existing paper-based one. Discussion in the E-Poetry module of the MA made me realise that some of the poem’s “argument” had never made its way from my head to the page. In trying to describe my first experience with watercolour painting, which challenged all sorts of preconceptions I’d held about the medium, I was so focused on my emotional response that I hadn’t given a clear enough picture of the activity to justify my response.

I’ve brought back some structures (layout, punctuation) that I used in earlier versions, but also introduced a few new words, including a whole new line, and deleted some unnecessary ones. I’m pleased with the textual result now (the e- bit is still to come), although in two minds about the title – should I revert to the original title of “Watercolour”, or retain “Primeval Watercolour”?

You can see one of the many earlier versions here, if you’re interested, but here’s the latest version:

Watercolour

Primaries pounce
on the primitive page,
usurping space with bizarre pizzazz;
opposing waves squall and break,
brim-brilliant crests crash,
create a jazz of chaos:
interference drags a screaming thread of blue
across careless orange splotches;
raging red gobbles new green;
panicking through cooling pools of sulphur,
a purple pulse breathes whirls of fire,
willing them to swirl against caking air,
to savage expectations, flay the fair
and even strokes of intent
with edges of the depths,
fan water into flame
with split-atomic spatterings
of aquamarine and shame,
shatterings
of line, design, all reason—

Oh, Image, imagine
Imagination’s breathing:
Ruwach!

Update 12Aug09: See the digital version of this poem here.



Peacock and Roses on Mainau Island

Well, I don’t usually blog about cycling or holidays, but that’s possibly because I don’t do enough of either! A recent experience has renewed my desire to use muscles other than the grey one and to go to wonderful faraway places in the real world rather than just in Cyberspace! We recently returned from a lovely holiday that I would highly recommend to anyone.

First, I spent ten days with friends in the beautiful city of Lausanne on Lac Leman, Switzerland. They live in a large-windowed, spacious and gracious apartment where they made me very comfortable while I attended a French refresher course at the Institut Richelieu. More of that later.

Actually, we spent the first night at my friends’ wooden chalet apartment in the old village of Evolène. Within an hour or so of our arrival, during a walk around the village, I was privileged to see the fairly disturbing ritual of “Le Combat des Reines”, literally, “The Battle of the Queens”. This is an orchestrated contest between cows to establish leadership of the herd prior to the climb to summer pastures. I was told that it was developed by farmers who observed the natural instinct among this breed of cows to establish hierarchy with a show of force in spring every year. Although they don’t usually hurt each other too badly, on occasion the damage can be severe. Thus, it is thought better to get the battle over with in a controlled situation rather than when the cows are already up the mountain and further away from assistance. I was doubtful about this, until I saw that one of the cows that had recently been headbutting with the best of them actually had a stream of blood pumping from her nostril. Obviously, her opponent’s horn had more than just grazed her. It was rather weird to see blood spurting over the green field grass and to sense the aggro in the air amongst these large female bovine beasties. My comfy stereotype of plump and placid Daisy patiently chewing her way through a peaceful field of buttercups was challenged, to say the least. There’s more background at http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A9rens_(race_bovine) and http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combats_de_reines. Anyway, this was a very visceral reminder that I was in a different place and a great way to start a holiday full of things that I don’t usually do!

The following morning, we walked up to the Ferpècle Glacier. Well, we walked up to a point on the mountain where we could see where the glacier used to be. It was as far as the trail went and my friend told me that in her youth that was where the ice began. Now, one can see in the distance, higher up, the walls of the two separate glaciers that used to join at this point. Definitely a moment for some global warming pondering, amidst the beauty and the silence.

Read the rest of this entry »



Oh happy days! Not one, but two poetry-relevant articles amongst all the bad news in the past few days.

First, I was interested to see this ancient debate revived: John Walsh asks “Is there a link between madness and creativity?” in The Independent. See http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2361028.ece for the full article. The sentence “The idea of creativity as divine afflatus, the breath of God, turns easily into the divine fire, that ignites the imagination but consumes the thinker” particularly caught my eye, because it refers to the mad wonder of creativity and creation that I tried to express in my poem Primeval Watercolour, which is about my surprised discovery in my first watercolour painting lesson of how unpredictable and how intense the colours could be (I had previously thought that watercolour painting was all about delicate, faded, impressionistic landscapes!).

As my poem reflects, the experience made me think of the Judaeo-Christian myth of creation out of formlessness, in particular Genesis 1:1-2: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

By the way, while thinking about this again today, I found this beautifully written exegesis, “Making sense of Genesis 1” by Rikki E. Watts ( http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Bible-Science/6-02Watts.html), which urges the reader to be conscious not only of the worldview brought to the text by its original, Hebrew-speaking, hearers and readers, but also of the writer-reader “contract” that requires the reader to recognise the conventions of genre in determining what kind of truth is being conveyed. The writer asserts that Genesis 1 is poetic and refers to Blake’s burning tiger to suggest a possible approach for interpretation. There is also a good brief overview of other creation myths to support the general argument. One to bookmark, I’d say.

Secondly, I was excited to read “The lost joy of ‘difficult’ poetry” by Roy Hattersley in the Mail&Guardian here:
http://www.chico.mweb.co.za/art/2007/2007mar/070316-poetry.html which contains thoughts related to those expressed in my post Poetry’s Potential and my Comment on my poem On deciding not to marry a priest. Unfortunately, I don’t have time today to summarise any more, but I’m noting the link here for future reference.



{Wed 28 February 2007}   Leadership

Last night I was browsing through some of my thought-blurts and almost-poems and found this picture-poem combination. I recalled that I had been in a workshop where I made the picture first in response to some classical music (unfortunately, I forget which now) and then the poem in response to the picture. One of the things I couldn’t decide was which way up I preferred the picture, so that’s part of the theme!

One day this may become a standalone poem, but it needs further development. There’s just something about it that I like… I hope there’s enough here to catch your imagination too.

Sword of Damocles AboveSword of Damocles

Leadership

Am I emergent or exhumed,
Birthed or rebirthed,
Now dangling below,
Now arched above
Damocles’ sword?

With hair root-startled
And sucked-in stomach,
Breath whisked away
By words yet unformed,
Briefly balanced,
But naked,
In thought’s blue waters,

Is it with rhythm and poise
Or by sweet accident
That I somersault
(am catapulted)
over today’s death?

Do I swim under that sword,
Or is it beneath me?
Is this my dagger that I see before me?
No matter.
Tomorrow, a thousand deaths await me.



et cetera