Emily Dickinson Poem

Snow beneath whose chilly softness
Some that never lay
Make their first Repose this Winter
I admonish Thee

Blanket Wealthier the Neighbor
We so new bestow
Than thine acclimated Creature
Wilt Thou, Austere Snow?

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So, anyway, Iain Morrison poem in Soanyway Magazine

‘Soanyway is an online repository of words, pictures and sounds that tell stories. We interpret story broadly, considering it in relation to fact and fiction, narration or implication, and structure or a lack of it. We also regard most history, theory and critique as stories about stories.’

 

I’m happily included in the latest issue of online arts magazine Soanyway.

Soanyway, online since 2008, is currently edited by poet Claire Potter, who I had the pleasure of reading with last year. The title of the current issue is Interlingual and my poem playfully charts some of the anxieties of influence within my beloved scene here in Edinburgh.

I hope you enjoy reading the issue and discovering its many voices. Why not submit something for their next?

 

Zoe Replies (to my reply to her reply to….)

‘Sent: Monday, 30 November 2012, 15:39′

Zoe Fothergill replied to my previous email about our structure/content collaboration with some nested comments. I’ve put my highlights below and tried to avoid too much repetition of my previous mail. One of us said in this email ‘Here’s my reply to your reply to my reply to your reply from before’ which sums up the twistiness of the process!

 

In my last email I asked Zoe….

 

Iain: This raises the interesting possibility just now in my head, of a see-through artwork. Can you think of any?

Zoe: weirdly just this week i was doing a bit of research to intro a speaker and found these attached.

one example of the images Zoe found

one example of the images Zoe found

 

revealing the behind the scenes of the paintings – punching through the illusion of 2d surface in a surprisingly compelling way. this had made me think about when i’m referring to structure as content whether i’m really talking about breaking the 4th wall. bringing the audience into the how of production and i found mise-en-abyme as a phrase that might be useful to describe this. wiki in their usual way have a whole load about it. originally about painting within painting ad infinitum or mirror opposite mirror with endlessly recurring image but more recently as ‘The modern meaning of the term originates with the author André Gide who used it to describe self-reflexive embeddings in various art-forms and to describe what he himself sought in his work.[1] As examples, Gide cites both paintings such as Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez and literary forms such as Shakespeare‘s use of the “play within a play” device in Hamlet, where a theatrical company presents a performance for the characters that illuminates a thematic aspect of the play itself. This use of the term mise en abyme was picked up by scholars and popularized in the 1977 book Le récit spéculaire. Essai sur la mise en abyme by Lucien Dällenbach.[2]‘ 

it then goes on to talk about the deconstruction of process which i guess is a major preoccupation of postmodern thought. anyway here’s a link to that page if you fancy reading more. somehow i think this is getting into what i mean by the content being the structure but still not quite articulated.

 

Then Zoe continued the discussion about the difference in meaning between ‘form’ and ‘structure’….

Iain: I think what I like about ‘form’ as a word to use in this discussion is that it’s often set up as, not exactly the opposite of, but certainly the counterpart to ‘content’, so it comes out of my mouth/fingers naturally. It has a valency, history of use. Maybe that makes it too cosy to use now unthinkingly. A bit hackneyed.

Zoe: i think you hit on why i struggle with form because it has the weight of that which has gone before. it has a sort of expectation in it as a result of that which for me structure is free from. form in visual arts i think of being the visual qualities that might categorise what you are encountering. and it is what people often go to first in crits or initial interpretations – its almost the descriptive stuff defining what you see – but it is the easy stuff it’s the whatness and it shies away from the trickier howness and whyness. is structure both how and why or is semantics or meaning purely the why? mmm not sure now.

 

The exchange about artist Andrew Grassie’s painting practice, begun in this post, continued….

Iain: You say that the structure (meaning the process here?) becomes the principal subject. I’d like to hear what you think might be secondary subjects in this Grassie work too.

Zoe: there is also poking at the power structures in the art world. he put out an open call for artists to show in a trendy well sought after space which is profile raising for aspiring artists. usually artists don’t get to make that selection but is in the hands of the curators. so playing with curatorial and artists expectations about how they interact. also he put out the invite with all their names on it and so selling his work off the reputations of fellow artists whose profile might have been considerably higher than his. as you say flattening or at least considerably altering the power structures at play in quite an audacious way. questions about aura too – do you need to be in the physical presence of an artwork to experience its power or is this possible in reproduction and if so how is that altered by the fact that he makes these high art egg tempera paintings rather than presenting the photographs they are taken from. lots going on for me…

Iain: I’m interested in that initial period in which we’re wooed by the work, and the game, the puzzle, keeps you looking longer – it makes it something happening in time maybe?

Zoe: i really like your assessment here that you get drawn in by the game of structural/ process playfulness but then there has to be some meatiness on the inside to grapple with and i think he does that too. but there is a real danger in getting so caught up in the smarts of mental manoeuvring that the core around which all is framed becomes vacant and disappointing.

 

And then here Zoe responded to my wondering if we could come up with a visual/text translation game to play with this suggestion, which has now gathered steam and may turn out to be a central and fun part of the performance….

Zoe: how about we each send each other a word or maybe we just agree to start with structure or some such and then reply with an image on and on til we have a album of evolving images. or alternate between image and word/phrase/quote. i think i’d really enjoy that. what d’you reckon?

 

Zoe then picked up on this comment from me….

Iain: To say the meaning is housed in the structure implies a possible separation of the two. Maybe there are just two separate processes going on in an artwork and the trick is to manage the symbiotic relationship between them with you as the magi?

Zoe: i reckon there are at least two – well i always find way more than i can begin to master. and for me they are never separate always intimately entwined. you change one thing and it sets off a whole load of other stuff you hadn’t thought was there. but that is the fun of the fair is it not mr m!

 

A nice way to leave things for now. At the fun of the fair 🙂

My Zoe Fothergill Collaboration. The correspondence file continues!

Jan the 9th and high time I posted further links in my email chain with artist Zoe Fothergill. The last post was in November I see. Check there please if you’re at sea with what’s going on below. Basically we’re collaborating and working towards a performance lecture on structure and content.

 

Iain Morrison said:

Hi it’s me! I’ve been in writing-thinking-blogging-Zoe+Iain-land tonight. Have done lots of thinking and I’ve put one new blog up, with two more written and set to auto-publish during the week. So that means my blog should be catching up with our correspondence.

Here’s a reply to your email from the 5th November. I hope it’s interesting. I have an idea that it might be fun for us to both reply, quiz or questionnaire-style, to a series of questions about form and structure. I think, now, that we pretty-much know where we’re at with what we’re thinking of, but it might be useful to capture it for the project and could generate some interesting text. Anyway, I have some idea, but will send in a separate email. Here’s my reply to your reply to my reply from before.

So,

I thought your paragraph on the difference between structure and form was excellent. It answered a lot of the questions I had about where you see the difference. You wrote:

 

‘ok so i say structure because i think it’s far more precise.

form has many more interpretations for me.

and oed agrees so it must be right – pasted below

but maybe the more openended nature of form appeals to you more

i guess for me structure feels more inside

more understanding relations within

and form is a step remove

surveying the whole

what say you?’

 

Having looked at the OED definitions of form and structure, I think I understand a difference that form is somehow about what can be perceived visually (possibly not that different in an artwork or a poem actually), where structure takes into account the inner organisation of an artefact. So form=externally visible and structure=external and internal organisation.

This raises the interesting possibility just now in my head, of a see-through artwork. Can you think of any?

I notice that a word that comes up in both definitions is ‘arrangement’. The definition of form in the OED’s definition list that came closest to what I think I’ve been thinking of was

‘[mass noun] style, design, and arrangement in an artistic work as distinct from its content: these videos are a triumph of form over content’

I also love the idea of a ‘mass noun’. Cool!

You wonder if it’s the open-endedness of form which attracts me. I think what I like about ‘form’ as a word to use in this discussion is that it’s often set up as, not exactly the opposite of, but certainly the counterpart to ‘content’, so it comes out of my mouth/fingers naturally. It has a valency, history of use. Maybe that makes it too cosy to use now unthinkingly. A bit hackneyed.

As I think you say, the Andrew Grassie flips apparent content into a place less-important than the structure. The content doesn’t become the meaning and the structure does. What’re we left looking at? It’s more than our own perception, isn’t it? You talked about ghosts.

You say that the structure (meaning the process here?) becomes the principal subject. I’d like to hear what you think might be secondary subjects in this Grassie work too.

I can see a dance of meaning happening in his work. You’re presented with a formal question about what’s going on, how were the images generated, is it  a photo, is the content the artist’s work, no it seems so various, oh it’s a painting, hang on, I’m in the space depicted in the painting, but where have the objects gone, oh, this painting is made from the exact same view-point you would look through if the canvas were a window. Then once you’ve worked it all out, a second stage of interpretation happens. Why these works? Why has he done this? Why these materials? Questions which don’t have such straightforward answers as the formal ones. But I’m interested in that initial period in which we’re wooed by the work, and the game, the puzzle, keeps you looking longer – it makes it something happening in time maybe?

The submitted art he lets into his process seems effectively repressed and literally flattened/walked away from. I’m intrigued. Thanks for introducing me to this artist.

I can see what you mean about it possibly losing its meaning if you move it to a different venue. That’s a thing with site specific isn’t it? Cake, eating it perhaps. Did I tell you ever that I once misheard people talking about what I thought was ‘Site-Specific: The Musical’? I eventually realised that they were talking about ‘South Pacific’! I had a massive LOL about that.

I love structure/stricture. That’s a very nice sleight of word just there that you’ve introduced me to.

I’m interested in what you say about translation. I wonder if we could play some sort of translation game as a way of interrogating the ‘thisness’ of something. I wonder how we might do it with words and then also with something visual. Any thoughts?

You do read my poems very well. I was grateful to read your reponse to ‘in relation to’ that picked up elements that had interested me around the prefixed/non-prefixed (fixed?!) vocab, and I like that it had that effect of involving you in its play as it reached its conclusion(s). I wonder if sometimes the answer to the question ‘what is it about?’ has two answers: one which centres on the content and one which centres on the form/structure? So in the case of my poem I could say it’s about the extent to which you can relate to someone and which differences are insoluble, but I could also say it’s about moving forwards through a syntax structure and then unpicking what’s been created backwards to see where you end up. Maybe? Or maybe the second bit is the answer to the question ‘how does it convey its meaning?’, but I don’t think it’s that exactly. To say the meaning is housed in the structure implies a possible separation of the two. Maybe there are just two separate processes going on in an artwork and the trick is to manage the symbiotic relationship between them with you as the magi?

Iain x

Quote from Geoffrey Hill on poetry

Not that I want to sound like I doth protest too much (I don’t really get a feeling of declining interest in poetry, and even if there is a decline in interest in what some people perceive as ‘poetry proper’ the thought and the energy of people previously classified as capital P Poets will have moved, interestingly elsewhere.) but here’s a quote I quite liked from everyone’s favourite Santa Claus look-a-like, Geoffrey Hill.

Does it matter if poetry is unpopular?
Not at all: I cannot understand the contemporary clamour which insists that unless poetry is popular it is somehow failing. Poetry will survive however few its readers.

Link to Interview with Helen Cole – Director of In Between Time Festival

The team at In Between Time in Bristol are gearing up for the next of their roughly biannual festivals of all that is good, true and beautiful in performance and live art. Also a lot that is nasty, devious and downright seductive. 

Anyway, the festival offers one of my favourite frontierland experiences and I thought I’d share this interview with director Helen Cole to give you a taste of what wicked things this way come. IBT’s in February this year.