Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Animating "Electronic Corpse: Poems From A Digital Salon"

As much as I enjoy making and creating my own work, I love being an artist in community.  And sometimes, I can't stand it that not everybody knows about every massively inspiring creation I encounter in my own life.   

It was that same need to create, collaborate and build community that inspired a non-profit, I co-founded and ran with Christiane Leach, Sun Crumbs.  Back in those days, when I encountered incredible artists, the first thing I did was scheme about a way to get them to present in Pittsburgh.  Christiane and I eventually shut down Sun Crumbs because funders were more interested in changing our vision to meet their own objectives and models. 

A few years ago, I decided to stop asking permission to do my art work.  I applied for very few grants. When I did apply, I presented the work as I saw it within, rather than as a list of objectives funders laid out before me.  Needless to say, I went unfunded more than I went funded.  Not surprisingly, my work was more supported abroad than at home in Pittsburgh.  

Living in London, brought about a tremendous inner freedom. My time spent at Historic Royal Palaces, University Of East London and City Lit College made me vibrate due to the positive reinforcement for being honest within my own artwork.  All of these experiences lead me to artist residencies and retreats.  

When I returned home to Pittsburgh, I made a conscious decision to no longer ask permission to create and produce.  I was simply going to do it.  So, I produced my one woman show, "She Diva Died. & Come Again?"  I realized, that changes in technology would free me to pursue my own work in community with other artists.  With all of this in mind, I began The Svaha Paradox Salon which responds with agility to under-exposed artists whose voices are marginalized due to the way in which they are performed in the minds of the dominant culture. And together, we share the results with audiences. 

Svaha Paradox Salon resumes where the Sun Crumbs left off in 2003 to seek out artists whose exceptional work requires support from non-traditional sources. Svaha Paradox Salon provides the encouragement necessary to complete these projects.

In 2012, I noticed M. Ayodele Heath was hosting digital salons on Facebook.   Inspired by the early 20th century French surrealist parlor game, Exquisite Corpse, M Ayodele Heath was offering group poetry writing exercises. (Syllabic Sundays, Metaphoric Mondays, Wildcard Wednesdays, and Free Verse Fridays).   I asked him, how he was archiving these.  He had thought about it.  I (and other participants) encouraged him to do more than think about it.  Then, I asked him if he'd be willing to let The Svaha Paradox Salon make this project our first book.  

To date, over 130 of these exercises have been created by poets of all experiences and geographies – from state poet laureates to the casual journaler; from South Carolina to South Korea to South Africa. We've selected the best.  The poems in Electronic Corpse: Poems From A Digital Salon reflect the way in which social media has transformed the ability of artists to engage with each other regardless of physical constraints or externally driven outcomes. 

It’s a truly unique and layered book.  The anthology has two sections: the collaborative poems and poems from the most frequent contributors.  The reason we are publishing individual poems is our hope that by seeing the individual poem, the determined reader might excavate that poet's voice within the larger voice of the group.  Almost like a soloist in a choral piece.

The most  important part of this anthology is for archival reasons.  Unlike pre-digital artistic communities, there will be no cocktail napkins or scrawled notebook pages to reconstruct the ways in which artistic communities engage.  In regards to social media - entire conversations can be lost if one person deletes their account.  This book archives one digital salon over the period of a year.

Making art and building arts community is truly amazing in the Digital Era.  Some days, I wonder if the same tools had been available in 1998, whether Electronic Corpse: Poems From A Digital Salon would be the twentieth anthology I've produced.  Regardless, I am happy to start somewhere.  This book feels like one of the many reasons I showed up for this life. 

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