Sylvia Plath Collage Installation – Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus

Sylvia Plath Collage Installation – Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus

Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus is a multimedia installation and experiment in new media poetics that strategically re-imagines authorial identities.

Chris Girard describes the audio and video poems from the installation, 2010

These identities are particularly those from street signs and audio clips of renowned confessional poet Sylvia Plath. By presenting collaged audio and video recordings, the project radically questions the power traditionally associated with the author. Since Plath’s suicide almost 50 years ago, she continues to be cast as a depressed wife and mother. The imperatives of this role still weigh heavy upon the production of her biography and the reception of her work.

The collaging of audio and video clips reembodies Plath as an omnipresent ghost and shifts meaning away from an exclusive association with the tragically depressed, the pathologized Plath. But, instead of disembodying the writing entirely away from the author, the author now wavers productively between Plath, reader/viewer and myself. The act of shifting references away from the author’s life and intention enables the writing to become more open to alternate interpretation, more open to this new historical moment and audience.

Print Versions

The collaged audio and video poems can be experienced through watching and listening to them. Printable PDF versions of the audio and video poems can be found here for audio and here for video.

Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus, 2010, Audio Collage

Installation Details

The installation consists of audio and video collages that are created through the cutting and rearranging of prerecorded audio and video recordings of texts into sequences of connected texts that play new poems.

The audio component was collaged from the poems that Sylvia Plath read in the early 1960s entitled Lady Lazarus and The Applicant to form a new hybrid poem entitled Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus.

Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus, 2010, Video Collage

The video component was a series of video collages of texts documented near the location where Plath committed suicide in Camden, London. The installation explores how meaning shifts from the intended authors recorded on the audio, video and images to myself through the process of collaging and recording the installation objects.

Theory Alert…

While the project primarily touches on issues of authorship, embodiment and performativity, discourse surrounding digital and new media poetics shows the effect it has on the reader too. It shows how the attribution of an author by the reader becomes complicated from the instability and constantly changing state of screen-based interfaces like that of the project.

For example… Plath, an American who lived in England for only a few years, oddly spoke with a fake English accent during these readings. It suggests a construction of identity to place. The audio presents a phonetic collage of Plath’s voice from BBC recordings of her poems Lady Lazarus and The Applicant during her stay in London and a few years before her death in 1963. The fragments of audio are sliced, extracted and rearranged from individual words of her readings to produce a seamless collage of poetry.

In theoretical terms, the project explores ‘performativity’ of the ‘author function’. The ‘author function’ is a term coined by poststructural theorist Michel Foucault to describe how readers attribute certain characteristics that they believe belong to the author and ascribe them to the writing.

‘Performativity’ is a term used by philosopher Judith Butler to describe a set of actions that ascribe and predetermine a set of attributes to a subject through his or her gender, age, timeframe, nationality and race.

The performativity of the author function appropriates these characteristics of an identity and attributes the characteristics to the author. For a much longer explanation, please see Ph.D. thesis here.

Installation Process & Behind-The-Scenes…

This image shows the process of collaging words from Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus and The Applicant (bottom tracks) with SoundTrack Pro to form a new hybrid poem Lady/Applicant: The Lazarus (top track).

A poem was created based on street and storefront signs found near Plath’s former residence and place of death in Camden, London. These clips were weaved together on iMovie and inspired by experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton’s film entitled Zorns Lemma. They are composed of texts arranged in a semiotic sequence that are subservient to their visual surroundings. The cadence of sound and the sequence of visual texts from instructional and public signs filmed within a five block perimeter of 23 Fitzroy Road reflect the constraint and play of a historical moment.

The plaque images show a transformation of a historical moment to an instruction. William Butler Yeats lived in the same townhouse that Plath committed suicide in about 25 years before. Though both are noted figures, only the plaque of Yeats is shown in front of 23 Fitzroy Road. This component was included in the installation as 4×6 matte photos scattered on the floor.

Posted by Chris Girard in Code, Poetry & Writing, Projects, Video
Collaborative Video Comics with ESL Students in Spain

Collaborative Video Comics with ESL Students in Spain

I joined a tiny school in Madrid, Spain in 2018 with an English teaching organization called UCETAM and began working with an English and Art teacher named Juan Antonio Osuna. I discovered he likes working on comic book projects with his students and story comes from his creative genius. These kids are learning English and I wanted to bring my background in digital media into the mix. We immediately began to work on video projects. These videos were made by the students at Colegio Dos Parques in Madrid who provided the voices and drawings. The audio and video editing is by yours truly, Chris Girard, the English speaking and digital technology extraordinaire.

One of the projects, We Are on a Chicken Dragon, began the prior year. It is the quintessential crazy American road trip story but told from the perspective of the kids. They are riding on a half-chicken and half-dragon that’s wearing a pair of underpants from IKEA. This story is probably the most controversial for its criticism of the pervasive phenomenon in Madrid known as reggaeton.

The story goes that the second graders at Colegio Dos Parques are unhappy after a very important person from the city council tells them there there will be a reggaeton and El Puma concert on the rooftop of their school. They seek Chicken Dragon to help them to go California and convince the Red Hot Chili Peppers to play on top of their school instead. Lots of adventures happen along the way!

Watch We Are on a Chicken Dragon, 2019, on YouTube:

Another story called Story of a Caveman, began in 2017, when the kids (in third grade when the story was completed) were in first grade. It is a story about importance of friendship and the friendship that was formed between the caveman and a T-Rex. The Story of a Caveman is about a Caveman who goes on a wild adventure and befriends the T-Rex who was chasing him. They learn to help each other.

Watch The Story of a Caveman, 2019, on YouTube:

We began working on a brand new story called Manotenis. It is about a boy who discovers he has superpowers with his tennis ball hand. He discovers this after he finds a tennis ball inside the turkey during Thanksgiving. Manotenis can bounce and shoot evil villains with his tennis ball. He soon discovers that an evil villain is living in a secret lair behind the smartboard of his classroom at school. This evil villain is spying on the kids from a hidden camera inside their old fat-back television in the classroom. Can Manotenis save the day?

Watch The Shocking Stories of Manotenis (Season 1), 2019, on YouTube:

We then created a second season of Manotenis. Manotenis, the boy with a tennis ball hand, gets by with a little help from his friends. In this season, Manotenis travels to Catalonia to solve the mystery of the stolen calçots. Meanwhile, an unexpected surprise awaits him and his friends at the wild animal safari. Finally, he discovers he has a potential new friend or arch nemesis when he helps his friend get out of a very sticky situation. If Manotenis can’t save the day, can his friends?

Watch The Adventures of Manotenis and Friends (Season 2), 2020, on YouTube:

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Justificante Quilt

Justificante Fever

When I presented this project to the American Embassy in Madrid in Spring 2019, I was thinking oh man, how am I ever going to be able to get artist grants? I do worthwhile projects but I am never ever the model person to ever get grants or continue jobs.

UCETAM, this English program in Madrid run by waspy New Englanders, was at best ambivalent about what I was doing. I wasn’t doing the type of English that they ‘subtly’ pushed – getting the kids ready for the Cambridge Exams nor did I care to. And generally, the ‘work’ was a combination of tedious and a waste of time for me as reflected by my many justificantes from various medical and governmental facilities. Justificantes are Spain’s answer to a paid sick day. You get a stamped and signed form giving you a free hall pass. The school administrator, secretary or whatever she was, got tired of me and I got tired of myself for having to photograph these things.

Spare Justificante But after I went to the Dentista, Urgencia, Dermatólogo and Traumatólogo, I used this free time to work on my other projects. At the school, I usually would literally sit and stare at the class while the head of the school had me sit during her boring English classes. I already knew if I told UCETAM about how much of a big waste of my time this was, their response would be the typical “do more work on your end, talk to the teacher.”

I used the justificantes to make up for the waste of time and work with teachers and on projects that I wanted to work with. And something beautiful came out of it. Fortunately and unfortunately for the school I worked with, they double-dipped with English auxiliaries that were used as substitute teachers for the lack of teachers at the school and found an Australian woman who was over-enthusiastic about teaching. She was so enthusiastic that there was a power struggle with this head of the school’s English classes. The head of the school liked having full control over her classes but this Australian woman had a fervent desire to teach and rightfully wanted to practice. So the head of the school got what she deserved.

Anyway, I did my own thing, and it was to keep me from going insane. This is what it produced. After presenting my last justificante for the last day of school, and presenting these videos, my last word to them was, “adios!” Nobody wrote back.

Posted by Chris Girard in Projects, Video

Death Poem: Shadows/Shadows/Tomb

A New Media Death Poem

Shadow/Shadows/Tomb, a new media video collage death poem, runs tombstones on four video screens. The videos run on a program called Max/MSP/Jitter behind the interface. The poem consists of four streaming films that are systematically arranged into a box, which create a larger poem. This happens as each of the inscriptions are juxtaposed next to each other.

Shadows/Shadows/Tomb streams for over two days without looping. This video poem, despite its name, reflects how life continues on after death. Hundreds of year old tombstones show their wear and tear underneath overgrown plant life and the creatures amid them. Video recorded on my Canon 7D also shows spiderwebs, dead leaves and flies, anything that was on top of the tombstones within the cemetery.

The poem is structured on the constraint of filming objects within the cemetery. Each individual poem uses words that compositionally and grammatically fit into the area of the box it streams in. Verbs, primarily, and objects that visually correspond to the top images are placed on the top two boxes. Nouns, exclamations and other objects are placed in the bottom two boxes to end the poem.

Chris Girard Explains Shadow Shadows Tomb, 2011

Shadow Shadows Tomb, 2011, New Media/Video Collage. This above video offers a 20 minute recording of the poem.

Nunhead, Not Heptonstall

Originally, the new media collage poem was supposed to focus on the poet Sylvia Plath and not myself. The original plan I proposed was to travel to Heptonstall, West Yorkshire, where Plath’s tombstone is located. I would film engravings and inscriptions of texts on tombstones within the perimeter of the cemetery. But the filming actually took place at Nunhead Cemetery in London, which is a cemetery proximally located to where I live.

Tombstones in each respective cemetery visually look different by the way that the environment interacts with them. Religious and cultural backgrounds of the people buried are revealed through age, use of the materials, and the inscriptions left by family members. Yet the tombstones essentially look old tombstones that belong to an old cemetery. These relics of the cemetery are documented through the particles of words and surfaces filmed from my findings.

You can find an interview about this death poem with artist Claudia Crobatia at A Course in Dying.

Life and Death

Plants and trees grow over the tombstones and the sounds of people walking and children playing symbolize both death and life. The use of cemeteries as parks in London and the plant life, animals and insects that surrounds the area becomes a poem that challenges death. Lives that intertwine next to objects that signify death show the cyclical nature of death. It shows how death is not static but becomes part of an ever-changing presence. The challenge of death, for example, is to stay dead. Death is an omnipresent re-casting of historical moments mixed within the present moment. Plants and creatures that move atop of the surface of the tombs and signify an ‘afterlife’.

The poem suggests my bodily presence in terms of the ‘author function’. Allusions of the poem document my movements, choice of engravings and artifacts that I choose to film. It is located as well by its proximity to my residence near the cemetery, which is less than a half a mile away. The new media poem references myself, places myself, as a collagist, into a working role of writing a story about identity.

This process of working with identities that are constructed after death became an important part of my research focus. Shadow/Shadows/Tomb illustrates this process through the use of a technology that is considered new media. The poem is categorized as a new media poem as the video clips run film clips in endlessly different combinations from a single location. It becomes a poem about my own identity based upon my proximity.

This proximity incorporates where I lived at the time, Brockley, London SE42JJ, to create this poem. This further goes to allude about how my identity, which is a construct of the reader, never stays the same. The proliferation of an author is as always a construct of the reader, and is therefore indistinguishable to attributes given to other authors. The role that is constructed for me will be ever-changing and wavering like with how Shadow Shadows Tomb is constructed, and meaning will endlessly change.

Nunhead Cemetery Tombstones

The Max/MSP/Jitter patch streams each of the four boxes or screens with film clips.

Max/MSP/Jitter Streams Simultaneous Video Clips

Shadow Shadows Tomb incorporates new media technology into the poem with the use of the video codes that run on a Max/MSP/Jitter patch. Constantly changing screens with a poem that figuratively never ends suggest that meaning could be determined on the process itself. Four video clips are executed and encoded on Max/MSP/Jitter to run on a loop that constantly changes. An awareness that this poem will not begin for a while becomes apparent after one spends time with it. Each of the four displays play a hand-picked selection of 12 to 15 videoclips that separately run 12, 13, 14 and 15 six second video clips. And each of the displays runs a different number of video clips. This is because two or more of the displays would otherwise constantly play the same words and objects on the screen in repetition.

An idea of this poem is for it to constantly show a different sequence of images to have unexpected and very surprising results. The poem will show different combinations of words, objects and creatures for 54.6 hours or 2.275 days before repeating itself. I calculated this by multiplying the clips together. I then multiplied this result by six seconds to calculate the total number of seconds how long it will play before combinations begin to duplicate again. I then divided the total length in seconds by 60 to calculate the minutes and divided again by 60 to calculate the hours and divided again by 24 to calculate the days.

The individual images become familiar when they constantly appear and reappear. There are a total of 54 film stills. The four displays combined with words, creatures or scenes will show different sequences for over two days. Each of the screens individually run a poem on loop as well. Changing word combinations elude to a death poem by its proximity. It changes scenes in this filmed cemetery that familiarizes the viewer. Ambient sounds, which are combined from each of the four scenes, resonate the familiarity of this location. Children playing, birds chirping and people walking over leaves show a familiar resonance of life within the proximity of the cemetery.

Evidences of life in the streaming poem make the poem more fluidly composed with the rhythm that it carries. They contextualize its British location of the cemetery as the type of fauna and accents are distinctly heard within the perimeters of these grounds. The ambient sounds imply that death is as present as life. It becomes lifelike with the sounds that reverberate its presence.

Posted by Chris Girard in Poetry & Writing, Projects, Video
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Poem

Hollywood Forever Cemetery Poem


This tombstone Poem is a video poem taken at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (also known as Hollywood Memorial Park) by Chris Girard. The film constitutes engravings found on tombstones of public figures and celebrities made in December 2010. It was tentatively entitled Forever, Forever, Forever due to the overwhelming number of words “forever” found on these tombstones. The video poem was subsequently collaged and sequenced into a poem based on the words found and filmed. The ambient sounds reflect the surprising quietness of the celebrity-filled cemetery in the middle of a busy weekday Los Angeles. The film is an exploration of the omnipresence of historical moments signified by tombstones and the words that provide their description.



rain rest


day hunt
ray way
we grow
strong war


young graves
end art


forever forever


mother you
cut herr
line ask
eternal inch
of eternity


beloved birth
black castle


Printable version of poem.

Posted by Chris Girard in Poetry & Writing, Projects, Video

A John Berryman Collage Poem – Henry’s Body

Henry’s Body: A Thousand Hacks is an audio collage poem made from the all the words taken from poet John Berryman’s reading of his poem Dream Song 29. The project consists of an audio collage from a 1970s recording of confessional poet John Berryman’s drunken reading of his poem Dream Song 29. It was cut up using SoundTrack Pro.

This poem, also known as Poész, constitutes part of a collaborative project with Algerian artist and fellow MFA in Digital Arts and New Media at UC Santa Cruz cohort Lyés Belhocine. Stanzas of the collaged poem are randomized by MAX/MSP/Jitter to sequentially play audio in five and seven syllables.

Henry’s Body: A Thousand Hacks

Click hereto view the PDF version of how I organized the text collage of John Berryman’s Dream Song 29.

This two minute video of the poetry reading offers you to listen to the cut-up poem and read my iteration of the audio collage of John Berryman’s reading of Dream Song 29 from 2009.

This is a screenshot of the MAX/MSP/Jitter program that was built to play the stanzas on multiple speakers.

Posted by Chris Girard in Poetry & Writing, Projects, Video
2000s Hardcore Documentary: Strength Through Song

2000s Hardcore Documentary: Strength Through Song

Strength Through Song is a hardcore documentary produced in 2006 of straight edge and vegan band members. They are members of hardcore and metal bands Grey Skull and Owen Hart touring the San Francisco Bay Area in the city of Oakland.


Strength Through Song is also available from Vimeo here.


Touring Hardcore and Metal Bands…

Strength Through Song is a three minute hardcore documentary. It showcases two touring anarcho-punk and hardcore bands, Greyskull and Owen Hart. The two bands, at the time when this was photographed and recorded in late 2005, were composed of vegan and straight edge anarcho-punks from Washington.

The bands, which toured an Oakland home that hosted clusters of political bands from around the country on a makeshift stage inside a murky basement. Greyskull and Owen Hart are two touring metallic hardcore bands composed primarily of younger generation musicians who are spreading their personal yet powerful lyrics.

The radical lyrics from both bands are confrontational. The bands discuss animal rights, class, racism and sexuality but stimulate these general topics in punk by tying in their own personal experiences and struggles.

Back Story…

I graduated with a Journalism degree in 2006. I found my interest in collage by writing news articles. There is a process of collaging quotes and information to make an article. Since I did a major that had a relatively oppressive view on writing, I decided to pursue digital media. I worked on photo-documentaries with audio clips and photography to complement the writing instead.

I created multimedia documentaries with a large boxy Marantz digital audio recorder in 2005. It was considered state of the art at the time. I also used a Canon Rebel SLR digital camera. This was one of the earlier works that I am particularly proud of. It won no “best of the week” awards or accolade. It showed a transitive moment and no story arc.

Posted by Chris Girard in Projects, Video