ARMBAR I.V. (IN A COMA): 72 OBJECTS began with a self-challenge to write one poem per day for a week. In a life where clearing space for artistic endeavors takes great deliberation, I hadn’t been writing and I wasn’t happy about it. So, I shared my wish with a poet friend and we made a pact to do it together.
I was sick with the flu at the time. But, just as I’d discovered of ash-related illness following the late-2017 fires in Los Angeles, the feverish state also revealed mystical properties of the spiritual and creative sort. I didn’t write one poem per day, as the pact required, but I did write more poems than I would have without the pact and, more importantly, a creative rhythm started to take over: I’d miss writing poems for a few days and then a flurry of poems would come for days thereafter.
syringes of sound /
In addition to writing creatively (rather than journalistically or scholarly), I craved something else: to make things with my hands other than word-strings on a computer screen. I had a desperate ache — perhaps the way a heroin addict needs a needle to the veins — to express beyond the limits of words.
Words are great, mind you; they're my #1 boo. But my fingers hungered for the pinch of violin or guitar strings beneath them; my hands hankered for the cool kiss of piano keys.
My hands also wanted pencils and pens, as they had so often in the past; they jonesed for the filth of paint.
In the past, I’d pull out instruments and a digital 8-track and sit down to compose and record strange instrumentals. With the exception of summer or winter breaks between teaching semesters, however, this was simply not going to happen, and it was equally impossible to rely upon myself to produce visual works when I’d only ever done so in the past in savant-like bursts rather than according to plan.
This is where technology stepped in to save the day.
Rather than not realize the project, I began using technology to quicken the process of creating visual renderings and soundscapes for my poems. I don’t claim to be a photographer, artist, moviemaker, or videographer; I am none of these things. And although I am a classically trained violinist and play other instruments, I don't even claim to be a musician. But I can do just enough with these mediums to bring into existence images for the videopoems that played on the movie screen of my inner eyelids, and in the concert hall of my ears.
marina abramovic /
objects & the absence of meaning
I was driving somewhere and caught the end of an NPR program in which the host was interviewing famed performance artist Marina Abramovic. She discussed her latest book and spoke of her early work, with the host making quite the kerfuffle over the "dangerous" objects included in her Rhythm 0 exhibit (1974) in which she presented herself as the canvas and let the audience members be the artists.
Included in the performance was a gun, a bullet, variety knives, and a box of razor blades. (Yes, she was cut; yes, someone put the bullet in the gun and held it to the side of her head.) But there were "gentler" objects, too: flowers and grapes and lipstick and perfume and cotton.
My mind raced about context and the extraordinary meanings that can be applied to ordinary objects, as well as the idea that none of these objects (or any others, for that matter), have inherent meaning. I knew in that moment — car windows down, breeze disastrously rearranging my ‘fro hawk — that my poems would focus on the objects used in Rhythm 0. I decided to write a poem for each object, through the lens and filter of my unique human existence and experience.
My work is not influenced by Abramovic's because I do not know the meanings applied to the objects by her spectators-cum-artists in Rhythm 0 (except for the ones she discussed in the interview). I needed a concept for the project and Abramovic provided it -- in many ways, upping the degree of difficulty on a simple self-challenge that had transformed in a single afternoon into a major project.
I turned from the road I’d been driving on and parked my car in an unexpected place — simply stunned by Abramovic’s trust in fellow humans (or willingness to push beyond fear of distrust), while my faith in others was limited to tincture-sized, inconsistent droplets. But her talk of “energy of audience” and “public” as vital instruments in her work was a point that resonated powerfully. Abramovic had named a vital element that had largely been missing from my work, and a major part of this undertaking was to change this.
risk & the single take
It is my hope that something alive and wild and raw comes across in the ARMBAR I.V. (IN A COMA) videos.
Out of necessity, many of the videos are shot live, in a single take. And with this approach comes some inherent risks -- like injury or total failure (with the latter being the most catastrophic of the possible scenarios).
In “Box of Razor Blades,” for example, I only had one chance to carve the Aquarius water-bearer symbol on my arm with a razor blade. The camera framing, lighting and other technological elements had to be good enough to get the job done right the first time because, obviously, I wouldn't be able to erase the wound and start over. But the absence of a second take fosters unmatched intensity in the first, which I hope comes across to viewers.
naming & defining
ARMBAR I.V. (IN A COMA) is titled after Marina Abramovic. It is literally her name, in anagram form. It seemed appropriate to name it after Abramovic since I am writing poems for the 72 objects she used in one of her most noted works.
Additionally, my project is about examining the meanings we apply to things and set in stone -- thereby ascribing singular meanings universally, as if we are all of one brain. Abramovic's work seems to provoke questions about human behavior, conscience, and instinctual tendencies. Mine, however, is more about questioning the labels we place on things — and, yes, people -- as well as the ways those names and definitions can limit possibility.
feral + fragile,