Autumn Term Artist Statement

The starting point for my practice this term was poetry. My aim is to provoke thought about what poetry is, and experiment with ways to present it. My first poem, “Ode to Autocorrect”, questions the definition of poetry. It was written by repeatedly pressing the middle button on my iPhone’s autocorrect, resulting in sentences that make little sense. The poem is incoherent, yet reflects my personality because autocorrect picks words and phrases that I use daily. I presented this poem by reciting it with an accompanying white noise soundtrack, which I used to emphasise the poem’s uncomfortable nature.

My next poem, “Cast-Iron,” is a climactic stream of consciousness with rich metaphorical imagery. The poem describes the worst and best of times, and implicitly refers to humanity’s ability to keep going even when there appears to be no hope. I presented this poem in a few different ways: firstly, by writing it in black on a long, thin piece of paper which rolled up to form a scroll – an art piece on its own, yet can be turned into a performance when rolled up and gracefully unrolled onto the floor.

The poem became a film, also called “Cast-Iron”. It consists of clips I found on YouTube that depict nature, horrifying accidents and scenes of triumph. The footage was chosen with the poem’s imagery in mind. Accompanying these is a simple, ambient musical soundtrack which I made on GarageBand using various synthesizer voices. The aim of the music is to increase the sensory impact of the film, as well as its emotional value. I recorded my own voice reading the poem aloud as part of the soundtrack. The poem becomes more positive as it progresses, so I made sure the imagery also followed this pattern.

My final piece will aim to combine all these elements, in the form of a performance. To start with I will roll out the paper scroll I made onto the floor. I will stand at one end of it and read the poem out as I walk along its length. My film will be projected onto myself, accompanied by the musical soundtrack but not my voiceover. I aim to expand the poem into a multi-media, multi-sensory event, thereby breaking the boundaries in which poetry operates. Essentially, I want to raise poetry to its maximum potential.

The artist Ann Hamilton has had a big impact on my work this term. Her practice is very much process-based and it inspired several of my experiments. Her experimentation in filming text inspired me to create the scroll. Originally, I made it just so I could film it; only after making it did I realise the scroll could be an art piece and part of a performance.

The artwork of Pipilotti Rist also influenced me. She uses colourful projections to create immersive environments, which inspired the layering of footage in my film work. Other artistic influences include Frank Wasser’s performative artist talk and Caspar Heinemann’s poetry.

Shown below is the projection & soundtrack I used for the performance.

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Poem Experiments

Above is a video representation of my poem. It displays a scroll I made, with my poem written on one line with a sharpie. This is inspired by some of Ann Hamilton’s film experimentation with text, which you can read about here. The filming process was quite difficult because I had to keep moving the text as smoothly as possible until the end, and as you can see it did collapse at the end, despite my best efforts. However, upon watching this back, I decided the collapse was actually quite effective. It was at the very end of the text anyway, so it provides a neat climax for the poem. It also reflects the random, ‘improvised’ feel of the poem.

Shown above is me unravelling the very same scroll. By accident I discovered that the scroll unravels very smoothly, creating a very fluid way to dynamically present the poem. I love the way this scroll makes the poem tangible; a physical object, and here we can see it interacting with gravity.

Final Piece – Performance

My final piece will aim to combine all the work I have done in this Autumn Term, in the form of a performance. To start with I will roll out the paper scroll I made onto the floor. I will stand at one end of it and read the poem out as I walk along its length. My film will be projected onto myself, accompanied by the musical soundtrack but not my voiceover. I aim to expand the poem into a multi-media, multi-sensory event, thereby breaking the boundaries in which poetry operates. Essentially, I want to raise poetry to its maximum potential.

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This is the scroll I’ve made.

This piece brings together the influence of all three main artists I have looked at – Caspar Heinemann, Ann Hamilton and Pipilotti Rist. Heinemann’s work inspired me to consider my poetic writing style; their disjointed, almost rambling writing style is complimented extremely well by their deadpan delivery. This is something I find fascinating to watch and would like to incorporate in my own practice. Hamilton’s practice has inspired me to consider how I gather footage, in terms of camera techniques, for my film and how I should turn my poem into an art piece rather than just a text. Rist’s unique and beautiful aesthetic helped inform the choices I made when gathering my footage. Her work also inspired me to try layering the footage on top of each other using Adobe Premiere Pro, the editing programme (by which I mean lowering the opacity of video clips and playing them at the same time as other ones, creating an almost psychedelic effect).

Above is the accompanying video – a version of “Cast-Iron” without the voiceover and with an extended intro. The long periods of pure blackness before and after mean that I can display the projection without showing any evidence of it being on Youtube; enabling for a dramatic entrance and exit.

Cast-Iron

My 2nd Poem, “Cast-Iron”:

…and here we are. Look around at the cast-iron, the crumbling brick walls, the acid rain, the black voodoo.

Life in black.

1000 kilograms.

Your lungs fill with treacle.

Your seven billion compatriots have seemingly vanished.

You’ve forgotten what the light looks like.

The crystal ball can barely contain its laughter.

But it is only in the blackest of holes we are reminded of what a nebula is.

Nuclear fusion.

Glitter.

The disco ball.

Sound that washes over you.

Stings your eyes.

Makes you shiver.

It washes into your mouth. You feel it, you taste it, you see it.

In your darkest winter, it’s the first daffodil.

In your hangover, it’s the shower.

In your gruesome nightmares, it’s waking up.

In your weakest times, it’s the power.

And it’s all that you need, and all that you know.

In our sunburnt drowning world it goes to show

There are some who see red; the wolves; the lion.

But it’s worth it for those who bring down the cast-iron.

 

This poem was written like a stream of consciousness; the process involved writing down any images that came to mind, and then refining the resulting mess into a poem. The poem is about the ability to bounce back, the reasons to not give up, the realisation that although there is a great deal of terror and suffering in the world, there are some things that are so wonderful that they are capable of restoring one’s faith in life and humanity.

I needed a way to perform the poem in an imaginative format. The subject matter is extremely visual, it conjured up images of destruction, despair, the sublime, glory, and life. It is presented as a cloud of multiple separate images with little description, because the idea was to mirror the way the human mind works: ideas are summoned with little detail but we think of them immediately, simultaneously and continuously.

I found some suitable imagery on YouTube, which was a good way to do it because it guaranteed relevant footage to be found, as the things I can realistically film are greatly limited. I found some short videos of nuclear explosions, meteorites, lightning, time-lapses of plants growing, and instead of downloading the videos I filmed my screen when watching them. This way the footage is two removes away from reality because it’s a film of a film of an event. I think the poor quality that results gives the footage a dreamlike, ‘imagined’ quality.

To add to the overall effect of the film, I used garageband to create an ambient, yet cinematic instrumental song to act as part of the soundtrack. The piece is quite simple, it consists of a few variations of a D Major chord played on various different synth voices. To incorporate the poem into the piece, I recorded myself reciting the poem on my phone using voice memos.

I then had all the footage and the soundtrack, so it was now a matter of editing the footage to fit the soundtrack. I think using the soundtrack as a starting point was an effective way to proceed because I could then select the footage that fit best to certain points in the poem, or indeed points in the music.

To edit and render the film, I used Adobe Premiere Pro, which is available in the Art Department.

GROUP CRIT

In the group feedback session, my studio group picked up on the soundtrack and described it as “cinematic” and “large”, which I was pleased with. Although people saw the effect of the found footage, it was suggested that I should perhaps include more of my own footage. The main thing people commented on was that the poem was difficult to understand, partly because the recording of it was drowned out somewhat by the music, and partly because most were concentrating much more on the video. Some suggested that I could incorporate the text itself as part of the video, so the audience could read the poem as they watched.

The artists that influenced this piece most were:

Caspar Heinemann – they inspired the writing style I adopted as well as some of the content of the poem.

Pipilotti Rist – her video installations have a dreamy, colourful and cinematic aesthetic, which influenced the footage I took and the way I edited it.

Ann Hamilton – her bizarre filming techniques such as filming a pencil close-up and filming with a camera in her mouth inspired my decision to film the YouTube videos on my screen.

Film Project: “The Giant of Illinois”

 

The starting point for this film was the song “The Giant of Illinois” by Andrew Bird.

We looked at the lyrics for some inspiration:

“The Giant of Illinois
Died of a blister on his toe

After walking all day
Through the first winters’ snow

Throwing bits of stale bread
to the last speckled doves

He never even felt,
his shoes fill with blood

Delirious with pain,
his bedroom walls began to glow

And he felt himself floating
up through falling snow

And the sky was a woman’s arms
And the sky was a woman’s arms

A boy with a clubbed foot
sat next to him at school

Once upon a summer’s day
they went walking through the woods

They spotted a sleeping swan
On the banks of a muddy stream

They stoned it with rocks
till it collapsed in the reeds

They laid out on the grass
full of chocolate and lemonade

And underneath it all
the Giant was afraid

And the sky was a woman’s arms
Oh, the sky was a woman’s arms

And the sky was a woman’s arms.”

We interpreted the “giant” mentioned in the song as some kind of animal, so we decided to film as many animals as we could find on campus. due to the presence of an enormous lake most of these turned out to be types of waterfowl, which fitted the lyrics quite well, particularly “throwing bits of stale bread to the last speckled doves” and “they spotted a sleeping swan on the banks of a muddy stream”.

Seeing as the song was the starting point and the main theme, we made sure to get at least 4 minutes & 45 seconds’ worth of footage (the length of the song). We also edited the footage to fit the rhythm of the song as best we could; we saw the song as the skeleton of the film, and the footage the flesh.

Our full video can be found below:

 

The main artists who influenced this piece of work are:

Pipilotti Rist – nature is intrinsic to her work and practice, also her work is intended to be relaxing and remedial. We intended this piece to be reminiscent of those traits, with the focus on animals in the film.

Caspar Heinemann – Heinemann’s practice seems to be centred round, or at least involving, mundane aspects of reality. Their poems are performed in mundane settings, and this film’s mostly banal imagery is on some level inspired by this.

 

Performance of “Ode to Autocorrect”

Ode to Autocorrect:

“Yes, that’s fine.

Make it a look and feel free.

Then, you have a good time to do it better.

Then go back on it then we’ll be sure to do that, and stuff like…

You did come to see me, then yeah…

I did it.

But…

I didn’t know if I could get a grip or…

Not bad, I just did not get to go see my dad.

I was meant for me.

To get there…but then…

Yeah, I’m sure they won’t do anything.

I’m sure they won’t do anything…

To get there and then we’ll see what…if we’re not doing that then we’ll be fine.

I don’t remember anything but oh dear God…I’m not going on the day of work today.

Or can I just…? I have some other news.

Oh yeah, that’s what I thought you might want.

I don’t think so.

I am heading there right around the same place. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

That’s what I thought.

Did I tell you what you did? I don’t know if I can get you to do this. I’m sorry to bother you again…today was the night but…

I think I have had an amazing day. I don’t know…what if we’re going to go?”

My aim for this poem was to criticise how regimented poetry is. Every poem seems to be contained within a field of terminology; it’s an “epic” or a “sonnet” or a “limerick” and it’s in “iambic hexameter” or “free verse” or “prose” and its “rhyme scheme” is “heroic couplets” or whatever. I believe poetry is more than that. There should not be any formulas for poetry to fit into. Poetry should be poetry. Poetry should just be the written word. Poetry should say whatever it wants to say. Of course it can rhyme if so desired, but let’s focus on what it really means. Not the terminology. There should be no poetry for the sake of poetry.

To express this, I tried to make my poem as non-poem-like as possible. To me, this meant I should make it weird, incoherent and disturbing. This is everything a ‘traditional’ poem (such as a Shakespearean sonnet) is not. It was written simply by going on my iPhone, going on Notes, and repeatedly pressing the middle button on autocorrect.

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This makes it automatically create sentences that don’t really say anything, other than words I am likely to type on a day-to-day basis. Instead of being written, this poem was spat out of a algorithm. This challenges what the process of writing poetry is. It was not a process of thinking of an idea and coming up with ways to poetically express it, it was man and machine in perfect harmony. Did I even write the poem? The poem could not have been written without my input, although it was merely the repeated pressing of a button. In any case, the poem is actually quite a personal reflection of myself, because autocorrect is predisposed to choose words and phrases that I use on a day-to-day basis, often when texting close friends and family.

The poem was a fairly straightforward process to write; the performance of it needed more consideration. To simply read it out would not make sense, I thought – the unusualness of the poem called for an unusual way to perform it.

I have been experimenting with audio pieces lately, and I thought an audio soundtrack might add an extra sensory layer to the performance. Inspired by various things, such as sci-fi movies and some parts of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” I experimented on GarageBand. Using delay effects I recorded myself clapping, let it echo continuously, and kept changing the settings of the effect – this produced some extremely alien sounds. It was great fun to make. The resulting two-minute soundtrack was an eerie, verging on horrifying thing to listen to, and I decided it would be perfect as some background noise for what I consider to be my ‘anti-poem.’

Shown below is a film of my performance of it. Note the blank, empty room and my deliberately awkward delivery. The audio quality is not very good but you may be able to hear the soundtrack and its interaction with the poem.

The main artist that influenced the poem itself and the way I performed it was Caspar Heinemann; their poems are performed to a similar-sized group of people, who are also all standing, creating a sense of even-ness. Heinemann’s delivery is often quite awkward and deadpan, which I tried to explore and replicate in this performance. The poem itself is a stream of consciousness, with what seem like many different trains of thought going on – this was inspired by Heinemann’s writing style which is very similar.