Reading the Stars

Monday, April 14th, 2014 by kylebickoff

Similarly to Deven and Renee, I will discuss my visit to Counterpath and my experience at Stephanie Strickland’s and Eric Baus’ reading on 14 April 2014. As Deven has described, Baus’ talk prefaced Strickland’s—he prepared the audience for a sonic interpretation of the work. I might call his interpretation a ‘close reading’ of audio, yet he describes it as ‘distant listening.’ Moreover, this is not to be confused with already described fields such as ‘distant reading,’ which focus on using analytical data to study text. Baus, as opener, prepared the audience in an unexpected way for a subsequent ‘close/distant listening’ experience with Strickland’s performance.

Strickland read first from the text of Dragon Logic, then the recently published V : WaveTercets / Losing L’una. The latter work was presented to the audience via projected iPad app. In the dark room and among the silent audience, I was most drawn to the stars and constellations ‘created’ before the viewer’s eyes. Strickland’s app drew up connections, linked words, and created textual ‘associations’ in this starfield. When I use the word association, I use it to recall the term that Latour and Moretti employ when discussing network theory. I felt that within this vast starfield, the audience felt a sense disorientation—when constellations (familiar and new) are created, the audience regains a sense of location. Such associations within this grid, and within a created set of associations, lend clear structure in the work for the viewer. When such constellations were created, Strickland subsequently read them aloud—her voice audibly expressed these associations, yet remained silent when associations faded away. I invoke network theory here to suggest that this manner of ‘close reading’ the text might allow the audience to create a cohesive narrative. I believe there to be no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to interpret her text, but I find this approach to be a helpful roadmap to reading the stars.

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One comment on “Reading the Stars

  1. dparker90 says:

    I like how you put it – “when constellations are created, the audience regains a sense of location.” That was true of my experience as well (not that I was able to articulate it in my post) but I’d also add that the seemingly random positioning and sporadic appearance of the constellations made me think about arbitrariness of language. As the words appeared and faded across the wide expanse of the screen, the poem collapsed some of the reverence we usually feel in respect to poetic language – words appeared at random and disappeared just as quickly. In some cases, Strickland didn’t read lines that appeared, making me wonder if we as viewers were supposed to acknowledge them and count them as part of the poem. Although the constellations gave me some sense of my own position as listener/viewer, as you say, its accompanied by the feeling that language – in which we usually invest a degree of reverence, especially the poetic – is just a small blip in a universe of possibilities.

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