Performing the Spoken Word Archive Event – October 12th, 2012

Posted by deanna

Friday October 12, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.
H-110, Henry F. Hall Building, Concordia University
1455 De Maisonneuve Street West
Montreal, QC

On October 12th, 2012, the SpokenWeb team held its first event in the “Performing the Spoken Word Archive” series, with readings from George Bowering and David McFadden. There were approximately 70 people in attendance.

Doors for the event opened at 6:00 P.M. so that audience members could peruse the exhibits that were set up inside H-110. Initially we had planned to have these in the lobby of the hall building, but Hospitality Concordia had some restrictions as to what could be displayed outside the venue. In the end, this worked to our advantage, as it allowed us to creatively use the space and create a much warmer, more vibrant atmosphere. There were three components that we integrated into the space of H-110:

Photo exhibit from Concordia Archives: In this exhibit, we took photos from Concordia Archives that pertained to various aspects of the SGWU Reading Series—photos of authors who read in the series, of rooms and venues that hosted the readings (i.e. H-110, the Hall Building Art Gallery, etc.), of student life at the time of the readings, as well as some print articles from The Georgian and OP-ED that discuss the readings. Rather than have these all together on a single surface, David Ward and Prem Sooriyakumar had the great idea to distribute the photos throughout the seats of the venue, especially on the upper level, so that people could experience the space of the venue while looking at the exhibit.

Sound installation: Max and Julian Stein created a 12-channel audio installation with speakers placed within a 4×4 bookshelf, each speaker sounding a different poem from the archival readings of George Bowering and David Mcfadden. The poems were selected at random, with their sounds set to slowly fade in and out. The fading of amplitude forces listeners to tune in and out of the different sounding poems. This creates a unique, public listening environment, one that encourages a spatial and collective exploration of poetry.

Oral History Memory Clinic: Ashely Clarkson and Rebecca Pothier of the History department ran a “memory clinic” where audience members could respond to specific questions about that evening’s reading, or poetry performance in general. A section of the seats in the upper level of the venue were curtained off, making a booth in which participants could record their responses. The responses were timed to be approximately two minutes each, and were filmed using an HD camcorder. There were 10 recorded responses in total.

Jason Camlot opened the night by introducing SpokenWeb and discussing the evolution of the project from digitization to its current format on the Web. Deanna Fong introduced George Bowering, who read for approximately 40 minutes with clips from the 1974 archival audio interspersed throughout his live reading. George read some poems from his forthcoming Mansfield Press book Teeth, as well as an excerpt from his new release Pinboy (Cormorant Books, 2012). David McFadden was introduced by Stuart Ross, and read selections from his latest book What’s the Score? (Mansfield Press, 2012) and Why Are You So Sad (Insomniac Press, 2007) among others, alongside clips from his 1971 reading.

Panel Discussion:
After the reading, the authors joined Stuart Ross, Jason Camlot and Darren Wershler for a panel discussion on the poetry reading series and literary recordings. Several audience members, including Celyn Harding-Jones (a former SpokenWeb team member) and Howard Fink (a former organizer of the SGWU Poetry Reading Series) asked questions to the panel. The event concluded with a book signing.

The event was well-documented in several media, including still photographs taken by Katie Sehl (featured in this post), a selection of close-up video of the readings and audience reactions taken by Rebecca Pothier, audio recording using a flash recorder, and a Spreecast, which was broadcast live online during the event.

The spreecast can be found here:

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