Sunday, 2 March 2014

Creating and recreating

A performance of poetry can be a space for creating and recreating meaning collaboratively. If the point of art is to create a dialogue, the performance of poetry can be seen as a dialogue in which those who attend contribute as much as to any emerging meaning, be it shared or not, as the poet who recites. Performance art promotes the complicity of audiences in events and has, in that way, informed the way I think about the performance of poetry.

Artist Jane Brucker (left) at work in Alford.
This all fell in place during my winter residency at Scottish Sculpture Workshop this winter when I spoke with director Nuno Sacramento about art as creating spaces for making and sharing and with American artist Jane Brucker about her performance art project Unravel. Through her project Jane hopes to assist people to let go and expand the way they think, for example, about the tension patterns in their bodies. Since starting this project, a range of artists has collaborated with Jane to create Unravelling performances. During her stay at SSW she invited me to write a poem.

As the road meandered through Donside on the way to Lumsden and the low winter sun lit the snow on the hills and made the river glisten, I tended to listen to a recording by actor Paul Scofield of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. To be fair, I probably only half-listened, moving in and out of really paying attention depending on the condition of the road. The recording became a soundtrack for my journey, the cadencing of the voice a mesmarising soundscape interspersed with words repeated at intervals to anchor my thoughts.

Last week Jane and I held an Unravel event with two knitters and several passers-by at the shop Alba Yarn in Alford. After an introduction on letting go, each participant started unravelling one piece of knitting and eventually rolled up the yarn into a ball. While they were doing so a silence unfolded during which I read the series of poems I called Meditation, once straight through and then in a different order to create new narrative and meaning. After finishing my reading the silence continued. What stood out for me in the discussion that ensued eventually was the idea that the timbre of my voice and the rhythm and cadences inherent in the poem, did helped participants to let go. Without this soundscape, however, they would have continued their thoughts as usual.

Though our time at SSW is over, Jane and I hope to continue our collaboration over the next year or two. In the nearer future, however, I hope to continue developing my methodology of performing  my poems in ways that encourage the creation and recreation of meaning collaboratively.

Here two extracts from Meditation:

Few – the words
I use to portray
The craft of a creator;
The knitting needle
Like the quill I write with
Expressing the habit of hands.
Many – the meanings
Expressed through those words;
Like a collage of colours
A knitter can choose from;
Meanings through words
Arranged and arranging
Created and creating.

Creating and recreating
Are both the seed of creation
And creation germinating in unravelling.
If all creation is becoming
All creation unfolds.
What might be seen as one act
Unfolds as performance.
Creating and recreating,
The end a new beginning
In the play of time.

Copyright text, poem and image Petra Vergunst

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