Yesterday I had the pleasure to attend the inaugural event of the P||R||O||J||E||C||T||I||O||N||S series at the Bowery Poetry Club, curated by Jeremy JF Thompson and Paolo Javier. Here is their description of the series’ mission:
This performance series presents an active intersection of moving text and moving image:
1. text moving sonically through space
2. image moving on the surface of a screen
The fundamental scenario presents one or more present persons utilizing words &/or sounds &/or movement to mediate both spatially and conceptually between images on a screen and a live audience.
Jeremy and Paolo, in keeping with their desire to innovate the possibilities of a reading series, also innovated the three intros, accompanying them with slideshows and videos. This is a laudable concept which still perhaps could use a bit of finessing (will come with time!).
Lisa Jarnot began the event with a reading from a conceptual piece she is working on and intends to work on for the next eighteen years by adding three words per day. I wondered whether the completion of the project was timed to coincide with her daughter’s reaching majority? Lisa has a fairly halting/ mumbly way of reading that I find a little annoying, but I liked the poem, which reminded me at points of Bruce Andrews’: “jive nipple kicker” “banana thigh”… etc. Apparently the video she had brought to read with didn’t work on the equipment at the BPC, so instead she looped the You Tube sensation, “Charlie Bit My Finger.” This bit of extemporaneity was extremely effective, in the defamiliarizing way that intensified repetition of familiar phenomena so often is, but also because the subtexts of the video became so apparent: pain, S & M, innocence, human orality… how the biting infant Charlie makes the other child seem somehow ancient in comparison… there was great delight in watching the expressive transformations of their faces, Charlie’s wicked innocent laughter at his brother’s pain. Some of the lines in the poem paralleled the imagery rather nicely: “gumming finger food,” for example.
Alejandro Miguel Justino Crawford went next, after an elaborate slideshow intro from Jeremy taking us on a tour of AMJC’s web exploits and documentation of performance works. This intro was very strong & rich with ideas; I remember being impressed by it, but it went too fast!, I wanted something to hold on to. Jeremy, could you sed me the text? I wrote down two words: “transmutilation” & “homophony.” The first piece AMJC read was a comment stream, stripped of names and time stamps, of various rants and opinions concerning “current affairs.” The first image was a shopping video (a shopping video? a woman explaining consumer goods) multilayered with demonic voices… with smaller screens inserted… of a volcano? The soundtrack was a melodramatic movie score, heavily orchestrated. This switched to a video-game like film of a draft induction center. Amazing punk energy in this… true political rage… not “cool commentary,” the waltz of the recruiters and the recruits… Next image was of a bird courtship ritual… the male spread out as a ghastly fake face… and this was followed by whirling dervishes and ketjak-like chanting. I was struck by the “onslaught” feeling of the piece, and the next one too, and the emotionality of its political energy.
In the next piece,“The Ballad of the Death of Spring” he played his “Vonum,” an instrument of his own design that plays VIDEO instead of piano notes. I guess that when he played chords the videos layered at different of opacity. I don’t know TV well enough to accurately describe some of the sources, but it seemed like there was a reality show about models in which one model was ferociously erating another, some sort of BBC like show on aesthetics or philosophy, an animation of raining eyes, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin, Obama, bits of speeches and statements, a field of waving grain. With an instrument like this, it seems like itwould be very easy to create something either very ambient or very cacophonous, but this was (in fact) incredibly COMPOSED, impassioned and motivated, with dynamics and Snelson-like repetitions. A mined iconic imagery and borrowed moments of intense emotional confrontation to create a piece both controlled and expressionistic. Ads for antidepressants begged the question of the social reasons for the needs for these medications. I repeat, it was not just ambient. It was a complete and brilliant work whose final lines were “complicated actions/ also have a beauty.”
The intro for Stephanie Gray (and now I forget whether it was Paolo or Jeremy who introduced her) was read over scenes from The Brat Pack… of that crazy febrile 80s dancing… the video title was “Lisztomania Brat Pack remix… but I didn’t see any Lisztomania there, which was a bit of a disappointment, as I am always up for a little Ken Russell. Stephanie’s piece was a super-8 film of signage and architectural details of old New York, fading New York, a kind of cinepoem for and about the city. Lovely framed NY moments reminded me a little of Rudy Burkhardt…or Julius Knipl. “You kept vanishing into the miasmic earshot” (did she use Luc Sante, too?) (I wonder) “Are these really better than the old Selectrics?” (disappearing technology) theme of voyeurism and provacy… impressionistic. The final image was of graffiti reading “PERCEPT” in script as poignant and fuzzy as the nature of the super-8 medium. “Some perfection is desirable” went what I think was the last line, in counterpoint/contradiction.
Her second piece seemed mainly to be slow motion imagery of light on water… funny colloquial lines and voices… and this: “I wanted to ask you if I could dive into your outtakes.
Huzzah to Paolo and Jeremy for creating the series, and to the performers for this inspiring kickstart. Danny Snelson will be performing in the June event (curators, if you are reading this, please remind me of the date and co-performers. I will be performing I think July 11… a new work I have not begun yet! Must go to Japan first, though, yep, mm hmm.
One thought on “P||R||O||J||E||C||T||I||O||N||S”
I saw Crawford perform with Danny Snelson at post_moot (Miami U, Oxford, OH) a few weeks ago and had a similar impression. There is nothing gratuitous or half-baked about the way they use technology; it was, to borrow your own words, composed, impassioned, and motivated. Their performance was almost like a punk concert: loud, fast, with a lot of political force. It seemed to elicit a different kind of response from the audience, too: a sort of spontaneous immersion rather than willed concentration, if that makes any sense. Some of it has to do with the nature of their writing – lists, catalogs, language lifted from popular culture – but the manner of presentation played a big role as well. A poetry reading can be many things and liked that one a lot.