This was originally translated from a French poem, then collaged, then written, then rewritten in 2003 to 2005. Then republished again in 2010 and 2017. The results were originally made as a script for an experimental documentary that was never filmed. In 2005, the poem was self-published into a zine and copies were distributed to bookstores in San Francisco like Dog Eared and Modern Times Books.
Years later, I found the zines collecting dust in a box and began to look through the few paper copies I have left, and decided to publish it online.
I embedded into the poem the filmic directions of the original script that have never been included before as an interactive element of the poem. Like TRY ME., revealing the process of how the poem was envisioned through hyperlinks is an important part of the interaction with the poem. I also included all of the surrealist photography I photographed, scanned from a film scanner and incorporated into the paper version of zine. The black lines in some of the photo series denote the spaces between negative images.
While the primary mode of experiencing the collaged audio and video poems is through watching and listening to them, printable PDF versions of the audio and video poems can be found here for audio and here for video.
Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus, 2009-10, Video Collage
Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus, 2009-10, Audio Collage
Chris Girard describes the audio and video poems from the installation.
Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus is a multimedia installation and experiment in new media poetics that strategically re-imagines the authorial identity of renowned confessional poet Sylvia Plath. By presenting collaged audio and video recordings, the project radically questions the power traditionally associated with the author. Since Plath’s suicide almost 50 years ago, she continues to be cast as a depressed wife and mother, the imperatives of this role still weighing heavy upon the production of her biography and the reception of her work. The collaging of audio and video clips reembodies Plath as an omnipresent ghost and shifts meaning away from an exclusive association with the tragically depressed, the pathologized Plath. But, instead of disembodying the writing entirely away from the author, the author now wavers productively between Plath, reader/viewer and myself. The act of shifting references away from the author’s life and intention enables the writing to become more open to alternate interpretation, more open to this new historical moment and audience.
The installation consists of audio and video collages that are created through the cutting and rearranging of prerecorded audio and video recordings of texts into sequences of connected texts that play new poems. The audio component was collaged from the poems that Sylvia Plath read in the early 1960s entitled Lady Lazarus and The Applicant to form a new hybrid poem entitled Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus. The video component was a series of video collages of texts documented near the location where Plath committed suicide in Camden, London. The installation explores how meaning shifts from the intended authors recorded on the audio, video and images to myself through the process of collaging and recording the installation objects. While the project primarily touches on issues of authorship, embodiment and performativity, discourse surrounding digital and new media poetics shows how the attribution of an author by the reader becomes complicated from the instability and constantly changing state of screen-based interfaces like that of the project.
In theoretical terms, the project explores ‘performativity’ of the ‘author function’. The ‘author function’ is a term coined by poststructural theorist Michel Foucault to describe how readers attribute certain characteristics that they believe belong to the author and ascribe them to the writing. ‘Performativity’ is a term used by philosopher Judith Butler to describe a set of actions that ascribe and predetermine a set of attributes to a subject through his or her gender, age, timeframe, nationality and race. The performativity of the author function appropriates these characteristics of an identity and attributes the characteristics to the author.
This image shows the process of collaging words from Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus and The Applicant (bottom tracks) with SoundTrack Pro to form a new hybrid poem Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus (top track).
Plath, an American who lived in England for only a few years, oddly spoke with a fake English accent during these readings, which suggests a construction of identity to place. The audio presents a phonetic collage of Plath’s voice from BBC recordings of her poems Lady Lazarus and The Applicant during her stay in London and a few years before her death in 1963. The fragments of audio are sliced, extracted and rearranged from individual words of her readings to produce a seamless collage of poetry.
A poem was created based on street and storefront signs found near Plath’s former residence and place of death in Camden, London. These woven clips on iMovie, inspired by experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton’s film entitled Zorns Lemma, are composed of texts arranged in a semiotic sequence subservient to their visual surroundings. The cadence of sound and the sequence of visual texts from instructional and public signs filmed within a five block perimeter of 23 Fitzroy Road reflect the constraint and play of a historical moment.
The plaque images show a transformation of a historical moment to an instruction. William Butler Yeats lived in the same townhouse that Plath committed suicide in about 25 years before. Though both are noted figures, only the plaque of Yeats is shown in front of 23 Fitzroy Road. This component was included in the installation as 4×6 matte photos scattered on the floor.
You can download the Max/MSP/Jitter patch here: gestalt.zip (12.6 MB)
In order to play it, you may download a free trial of Max/MSP/Jitter on the Cycling ’74 downloads page, here. If you’re not interested in creating your own projects with Max/MSP/Jitter, you may also download Max Runtime which is freeware that doesn’t include editing capabilities. Max Runtime is on the right hand side of the downloads page, under "Extras."
When I first was introduced to Max during a demonstration for a DANM orientation in early 2008, I was enraptured by the architectural structure of white boxes and cables. I relish the memory because I don’t remember anything else about the program nor what it was supposed to do. At the forefront of what I still find interesting about Max/MSP is still this visual aspect of code. The code is set in a myriad of uniform and white rectangles interwoven to form an architectural substructure of boxes connected to cables or black lines to a hierarchical box that represents the focal point of Max/MSP. About 200 predefined object codes not only mimic the visual and aesthetic interface of Max, but function as a poem and run the program that streams poetry. The elements of this project like the sound filter and the background color visually demonstrate how the evolving imagery can be interwoven into poetry.
The fragments of code function with the power to output and edit another a program that streams poetry through a structure of cables that connect to make noise. In other words, what I did was collage the objects with other objects and connect some objects within the poem to external outputs. The code is edited to run in slow motion with a filter to further obstruct the voice into an inaudible one so the sound aids in the inflection of the visual poem and not distracts it. I wove together predefined object codes in an attempt to create a seamless collage to mimic a visual and an aesthetic interface like Max that will function as a poem and also run a program.
The playback with media unfolds provocative allusions to programming from a slow disjointed poem and reflects the absurdity of which the object the code is creating. All of the words that constitute the poem are from about 200 predefined object codes. The rest of the project is digital kitsch. The elements of this project like the sound filter and the background color are not necessary but demonstrate how it can be interwoven into poetry.
I believe that Max/MSP could be provocative within the context of what the viewer is not supposed to see, hear nor interact with. The visual perspective of Max/MSP is troublesome because as a visual tool, the systematic and architectural structures of the boxes are more visually appealing to me than function of boxes as output. The ease of using Max/MSP is through its visuals; the visual layout of Max/MSP offers similarities to futurist poetry over a century ago in terms of direction and output. Futurist poets explored the ways of reading poetry similar to a current of electricity flowing in several directions. The cables that intermingle and connect to several boxes in different directions function similar to a Futurist poem.
As the poem entitled Gestalt reads from left to right and downward with each line break, the cables that connect this conservative poem are simultaneously traversing from the poem to the output. Gestalt is an object code and also means a collection of entities that creates a unified concept, which is greater than the sum of its parts. How poetry and code can fundamentally be explored through its semantic structure is with the connection of words as symbols for commands that have the power to create a representation of programming as poetry.
I believe Max/MSP excels with music and music with the aid of external electronics but I am left unconvinced that the program is suitable for dialectically accomplishing more than the equivalent of a computer screensaver. I was advised to implement in my poetry in a colorful 3D display of traveling text in standing gravity with point perspective. I thought about the dancing sentence and how it could be written with so many codes is really limiting to the exploration of text itself. While the dancing sentence follows a serious digital kitsch movement in interactive poetics, which pokes fun at mainstream Internet culture and its overuse of bright neon colors and revolving texts, this kind of enticement hardly warrants me ever using this code. What I tried to accomplish with Max was show the aesthetics of code and partly by the absurdity of how the interface of this program isn’t used or shown in art.
The processing project is a representation of evolving poetry cutups from the first two stanzas of the hybrid I collaged from Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus and The Applicant. The random evolution of text represents how the poem was created – and could be recreated. Similarly, the evolving imagery is a visual representation of poetry in its composition and movement. Each box represents a single still image as part of a series like film stills to a moving image. The random fading in and out of imagery is to show a visual connection between the compositions of the imagery. The inspiration for the cutup, which I created on Soundtrack Pro and used as the audio for Max/MSP, and imagery, is filmmaker Hollis Frampton. Hollis Frampton inspires me because his video cutups, specifically from his film Palindrome, represent a fragmentation of frame stills to achieve a dialectic result, like poetry, between each still. What he did in Palindrome was weave the ends of several filmstrips to create an abstract film of different shapes. How his cutup inspired my cutup is that they both represent a disembodiment of its original form.
(If the book doesn’t fit the whole screen, a smaller version is available here.)
TRY ME. is a series of poems translated from spam, or unsolicited junk email, collected over an eight month period and collaged with embedded passages of literature in the spam. Literary excerpts include J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
A lexical anagram is the attempted constraint made in the process of collaging the poems in TRY ME. If an anagram is the rearrangement of letters from a given word or phrase to another, then a lexical anagram is the rearrangement of a lexicon (or words) from a given body of text to another. The original spam emails are rearranged and collaged with the embedded literature to form a new and hybrid poem.
The way that TRY ME. is interactive is that there are a series of hyperlinks which change the context of the poem. You click on things, and the poem changes. There is also blinking text and text which moves throughout the page with the primary text to alter how the poem is read. The poems are in chronological order, taken from when the spam was retrieved in 2006.
Click here to view PDF version of one iteration of the text collage of John Berryman’s Dream Song 29.
Click play on the above video to listen to and read one iteration of the audio collage of John Berryman’s reading of Dream Song 29.
Henry’s Heart, also known as Poész, was a collaborative project executed with artist and fellow Digital Arts and New Media cohort Lyés Belhocine. The project consists of an audio collage from confessional poet John Berryman’s drunken reading of his poem Dream Song 29. Stanzas of the collaged poem are randomized by MAX/MSP to sequentially play audio in five and seven syllables.
Click here or on the above image to view PDF version of the 64-Page chapbook. (2.4 MB)
Ten and One Left
Ten and One Left is a series of eleven-line poems collaged from personal blogs and other internet sources. Like tags that are often embedded into pages, the poems were then reposted onto social reviewing websites including Yelp.
Eleven is a symbol for the imperfect and yet is a symmetrical number that has a symbolic relationship with the exterior like an outsider and the spectacle of a crowd. The number eleven is derived from the old english word Endleofan literally means ten and one left or the base of one plus a second element. While the poems are subservient to a number of lines, they explore obstruction by the illustration and exposure of public texts. The texts which inspire the set of poems are read by a plural audience to experience a feeling of homogenized familiarity. The feeling of disconnection resounds in the subsequent poem by evoking a thought or emotion set in false pretenses. The struggle to make ephemeral texts durable by collaging a lyrical cadence of paradoxes.
I graduated with a Journalism degree in 2006 and found my interest in collage through writing news articles since they’re mostly collages of quotes and information. Doing a major that had a relatively oppressive view on writing, I decided to pursue digital media and collage audio clips and photography instead.
I created multimedia documentaries with a Marantz audio recorder and a Canon digital camera. One of the earlier works that I am particularly proud of was one that won no “best of the week” awards or accolade. It was ephemeral, not journalistic, nor did it have a story arc but it was one I was the most proud of. This was Strength Through Song.
Strength Through Song is a three minute documentary or audio slideshow which showcases two touring anarcho-punk and hardcore bands, Greyskull and Owen Hart. The two bands, at the time when this was photographed and recorded in late 2005, were composed vegan and straight edge anarcho-punks from Washington.
The bands, which toured an Oakland home that hosted clusters of political bands from around the country on a makeshift stage inside a murky basement. Greyskull and Owen Hart are two touring metallic hardcore bands composed primarily of younger generation musicians who are spreading their personal yet powerful lyrics.
The radical lyrics from both bands are confrontational; the bands discuss animal rights, class, racism and sexuality but stimulate these general topics in punk by tying in their own personal experiences and struggles.