Fiona Doxas Interviews Aaron Angello about Poemedia
1.) Was this project—like the one in 2010—made up of 150 8.5" x 11" sheets of paper with 300 total poems and fragments printed on the papers?
-This time there were about 200 pieces of paper- 400 poems.
2.) Where did you obtain the poems and fragments that were used in the project?
-Erin and I wrote all of the poems. A lot of the work is sourced from our own manuscripts, and about a third was written specifically for the project.
3.) Were these the same poems and fragments used in the 2010 project?
-I'd say about half of the poems were recycled from the last time we did the show.
4.) What happened to the poems that viewers wrote and turned in when they exited the project?
-We were entering them into the video software as we received them. It was probably difficult for the audience to read them because of the nature of projecting on several "screens," but they were immediately incorporated into the video projection. We wanted the audience/reader to be a creator as well.
5.) How did you choose the songs, audio interviews, nature sounds, and poetry readings that were played during the project?
-We had a large bank of songs and sounds in a library that we could choose from at any time. These were being mixed in a dj software, but spontaneously. We were really trying to improvise. Then I had several live streams of talk radio that I could mix in at any time. Pretty much anytime you heard talking (that wasn't poetry being read) it was live. I was playing a lot of conservative talk radio. And finally, audience members could read poetry into the microphone that was opposite us, and I would capture their voice, loop it, digitally manipulate it, and so on.
6.) How did you decide what color lights were up at any one time?
-There were no lights. All of the light was from the video projection. For the most part, it was colorful imagery that was constantly shifting.
7.) What inspired you two to create Poemedia?
-We initially asked ourselves, how does poetry function in a media-saturated environment. The original idea was to print one poem on a poster-sized board and hang it in the middle of a small room. I would then have 8 or 10 radios surrounding it, each tuned to a different station. The "reader" would read the poem in that environment and confront the fact that we are always surrounded by media. Then it just kind of developed until we were creating and manipulating video and sound, there were a lot of printed poems - Poemedia evolved from that simple idea.
8.) Why did you two "re-release" the Poemedia in 2014?
-There were a number of things we did differently this time around. In 2010, we were hidden, not on the floor. We wanted to change that, to be on the same level as the audience/readers. I like exploring the idea of play between artist and viewer. I like creating an environment where the audience is a viewer, but also a creator. And, in Poemedia, the audience members are a part of the work itself. They, like the poems, are screens that receive the video throw. Poemedia isn't Poemedia if there are no people in it. That's also why we wanted to incorporate the audience members' voices and writing into the piece. We wanted Poemedia to be an organism in which the boundaries between artist and viewer, between individual and group, between people and other people, and between human and technology were shown to be much more illusory than we generally take them for.
SO to answer your question, we brought Poemedia back because we felt we could bring elements to it that weren't there in 2010 that would better explore the things I've mentioned above.
9.) Why combine projections, lighting, poetry, and audio recordings—how do you think this combination affects the viewer's interpretation of the poetry? Or is this multimedia approach supposed to refocus the audience's attention from the poetry to some other aspect of the project such as the emotions it evokes?
-There are countless answers to this question, and they're all probably wrong. First of all, we didn't go into this with expectations regarding audience reaction. We hoped the audience would react to it in some way, but there certainly isn't a "correct" reaction to the work. Some people are agitated by it, others find it meditative. Some find the poetry takes on new associative meaning when accompanied by the media artifacts - the brain makes connections between the video image or sound or spoken word and the poem that wouldn't otherwise have been made.
We used multiple expressions of media simultaneously for a number of reasons. First, we liked the aesthetic, we like how the thing looks and sounds. Also, we were highlighting the very real fact that we are always surrounded by massive amounts of media. We are always surrounded by screens, by sounds, by information. Poetry, on the other hand, is still often thought of as something one experiences in quite, in solitude, in a state of contemplation. And there's some truth in that. We just wanted to see what happens to poetry when you're hyper-aware of all that other stuff.
And finally, as I touched on above, we wanted to create a space in which multiple bodies, human and non-human, could share one intensity, could realize their connection to everything and everyone else.