10 TRIES, 100 POEMS (TAKE 6) :: ORR MENIROM :: FIELD NOTES :: FAKE NEWS, VIDEO POETRY, AND EVIDENTIARY REALISM @ DIGITAL engAGEment
This Field Notes entry marks the sixth installment of 10 Tries, 100 Poems, a Field Notes mini-series where poets document their participation in experimental workshops that use poetry as a means of resistance to contemporary forms of distraction, deception, and distortion. In collaboration with 10 Tries, 100 Poems series founder Alexandra Juhasz, moving image artist Orr Menirom combines experimental videography and poetry-writing methods, Digital Media Literacy and Evidentiary Realist logic, to create a sort of “digital Rorschach test” to help participants comprehend and combat the influence of Fake News culture on their cognitive and perceptual practices. Read more about 10 Tries, 100 Poems in the Series Introduction. [2018 series editor: Adrian Silbernagel]
In February 2018, I was a participant at the Ammerman Center at Connecticut College Symposium for Arts and Technology. My conference presentation featured a short video, entitled Clinton and Sanders Looking at the World and Naming Things for the First Time. The form of this work is hard to define: the act of showing it at an academic conference changed it from an artwork into something different — a video-essay of sorts.
The goal of the presentation was to offer the viewer an empirical experience of how the language of digital media is constructed, and how it influences cognition and perception. Perhaps for that reason, when I participated in the #100hardtruths-#fakenews workshop, which was held over lunch in one of Connecticut College’s conference rooms, I related to the project’s position toward “radical media literacy,” in the words of Alex Juhasz, the media scholar and founder of the project.
Alex describes her work as an engagement “with participants in place-based, word-bound expressions of individuals’ and communities’ truths about social media, fake news, and post-truth outside of the indexical, evidentiary traditions that currently bind us and the technologies that are built upon, reinforce and monetize such expression.”
The first part of the workshop was led by Kyle Booten, a writer and scholar who read his short text Psychotechnologies of Care, Algorithms of Attention. This was followed by an introduction to the #100hardtruths-#fakenews primer. The participants then engaged in producing an algorithmic poem.
Following this initial meeting in Connecticut, Alex and I continued a conversation that developed into the 9th iteration of the 100hardtruths project: a Fake News + Video Poetry Workshop, which we presented at a media conference held in NYC, DIGITAL engAGEment: Media. Literate. #activist.
When planning my section of the workshop, I took into consideration elements from Alex’s and Kyle’s presentation, incorporating them with ideas which I have been chewing on in my own work as a visual artist.
As Booten notes, one of the goals of social media, the advertising industries, and other new-media psychotechnologies is to monopolize our attention and impact our sense of realness and falsehood. Given that, to use Booten’s words, “many of the proposed antidotes to mendacious digital media come from the technological and ideological milieu of digital media itself…[whereas] Poetry, from ‘the valley of its making,’ does not generally traffic in Silicon Valley solutionism…” (Psychologies of Care, Algorithms of Attention), how can artmaking serve as a space in which attention is recovered and re-claimed?
In the 9th iteration of the workshop, Fake News + Video Poetry, Alex and I worked with the participants to provide the conditions which can generate specifically the sort of space where people who are neither poets nor video artists can attend, recover, and reclaim a sense of the real through shared artmaking.
In the workshop, we screened my video Clinton and Sanders Looking at the World and Naming Things for the First Time. I discussed some of the ideas explored in the video, in particular how the language of new media influences cognitive and political perception.
My video is based on a CNN debate that took place in 2016 between the democratic presidential candidates. I removed the visuals of the debate and replaced them with self-shot, alternative footage. Now the words of the politicians, carved out of their crafted speeches, are used to describe plants, animals and natural phenomena. The candidates’ voices distort into a digital, robotic dialog, turning the debate into a Rorschach test onto which viewers can project their own thoughts and associations.
The form of this digital Rorschach is hard to define. It is something between a video poem and an essay. During our discussion of these formal choices, I connected to #hardtruth #25 from the #100hardtruths-#fakenews primer:
Evidence of the opaque and intricate apparatus of our reality is needed. Evidentiary Realism focuses on artworks that prioritize formal aspects of visual language and mediums; diverging from journalism and reportage, they strive to provoke visual pleasure and emotional responses. In particular, these artists (who use these methods?) also theoretically articulate the aesthetic, social, and documentary functions of their mediums in relation to the subject matter they investigate. Some of the evidentiary realist works break down visibility to abstraction to underline the limits of seeing, while others use figuration or synthesis to enhance insight. The encoded information and nuanced details behind the works point to large, highly complex realities that come into focus through the factual evidence shown. Yet these enigmatic and seductive works serve as evidence of the opaque and intricate apparatus of our reality.(Evidentiary Realism exhibition, Curated and organized by Paolo Cirio, NOME Gallery + Fridman Gallery)
My video work includes the incorporation of found footage as a way to reflect upon our changing perception of reality and fiction. In the second part of the workshop, which followed this method, Alex tied the discussion back to the #100hardtruths project. The participants produced Exquisite Corpse poems, using a combination of found and written text. We chose this writing method as a path toward shared Evidentiary Realism. The participants selected texts and images and separated them from their everyday contexts/functions, writing them into the poems. In so doing, they practiced abstraction —a practice which, following the logic of Evidentiary Realism, serves as a means of understanding the limitation of one’s own vision of reality. The form of each poem was determined by the participants’ response to each other’s writing and to the found materials. The final poems can be read as a documentation of these interactions.
10 Exquisite Corpse poems were rendered by a group of twelve diverse participants. The workshop concluded in a group reading of our poems. Here are three of our poems, along with the original sources of some of their “found” contents, for your consideration:
Sources / Hardtruths
Follow the links to read other installments of 10 Tries, 100 Poems:
Orr Menirom’s moving image work examines the relations between media, reality and perception. She was an artist in residence at the Jan Van Eyck Academy (2016–17) and at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2016). She holds an MFA from the Film, Video, New Media and Animation Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. Her work has shown at venues including the International Film Festival Rotterdam (NL), Tel-Aviv Museum of Art ( IL), Aspect/Ratio Gallery (IL), Expo Chicago (IL), Chicago Underground Film Festival (IL), Busan International Video Art Festival (KR), Des Moines Art Center (IA), De Fabriek (NL), Rixc Center for New Media Culture (LT), the Nightingale Cinema (IL), Chicago Filmmakers (IL), Iowa City International Documentary Film Festival (IA) and the Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology (CT).