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
35mm Mirror Selfie, Haircut at Paul Mitchell The School Salon, 2007

35mm Mirror Selfie, Haircut at Paul Mitchell The School Salon, 2007

Paul Mitchell The School Costa Mesa
$ Cosmetology Schools, Hair Salons
3309 Hyland Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

I have seen the best minds of my generation graduate from Paul Mitchell. None of whom currently style hair at a salon per se but all of whom have interesting life stories to share involving rock ‘n’ roll, Brooklyn, turntables, Basquiat, Polynesia, nipple rings, and first marriages.

Twenty novice scissors have cut my hair throughout the years. I wore a long mullet, a faux hawk and variations of mop-top and shoulder-length hair. None of my haircuts were ever horrible but that’s possible because I’m not very attached to hair. I quote one stylist-in-training: “as they say the difference between a good and a bad haircut is two weeks.” It’s also difficult to butcher a textured haircut. I tell my stylists to go wild and if anything, they shy away from the point cutting. Some take me up on it.

Phase one or novice level is $10 and phase two is $15. Hair dyeing is $25 or more depending on how much dye is needed. Tipping is also nice. If you want purposefully uneven hair with a razor or point cut, reconsider the extra five dollars on phase two as it is almost impossible to mess up hair that’s supposed to look wild with texture. Phase two is good if you want your hair done in about an hour as phase one can stretch beyond an hour-and-a-half. By the way, phase two stylists simultaneously work at the phase one section too. So you can get a more advanced student cutting your hair for cheaper.

The only problem I’ve ever had was not from the students but from one arrogant teacher. Long story. She nearly kicked me out with dye on my head after I told her to go away.

Useful:Funny:Cool: 5


Posted by Chris Girard in Selfies
Other Humans: Strange Documentary Photos

Other Humans: Strange Documentary Photos

Even as an introvert, it was easy to meet people.

I am very attracted to people who lead strange and interesting lives. My friends didn’t have regular jobs at the time. I didn’t have a regular job. I have only ever been invited to weird weddings. I have connected well with people through social networking. I have met many others through music venues, like Koo’s Cafe, in the early 2000s. There are people everywhere. But I can only photograph people that I connect with. I failed a photojournalism class because I couldn’t connect with people. (Here’s to you for keeping your high ratio of graduating professional photojournalists intact, Ken Kobre.) 

Now, I’m a videographer.

I have been a videographer at the Echoplex since a darkwave New Years Eve night for Part Time Punks fated me to figure out how to do it. So now I work more with video and film than with photography. Los Angeles is a film city. I work as a videographer at The Echo and The Echoplex in Los Angeles and film many iconic musical groups under the umbrella of Live Nation. 

Clan of Xymox plays at The Echoplex on March 8th, four days before its closure. You can see the faithful ATEM control panel and video screens beside the band.
City Morgue had a very heavy show two days before The Echoplex shut down. I couldn't ask for a better last show to record. There was a massive amount of stage diving and dancing; more than any other show I've recorded in a while.

I filmed and recorded Clan of Xymox on March 8th, 2020 and City Morgue on March 10th, 2020 – days before COVID-19 stopped everything on March 12th, 2020. Each of the bands featured from these shows have been recorded, live streamed on at least eleven Samsung Smart TVs throughout the venue and the video recordings are saved on the video’s external hard drive at the Echoplex. 

I’m at least happy to witness two amazing and very different bands, one well-established goth rock/dark wave group and one powerful up-and-coming hip hop group, play at our venue on the last days before everything came to a halt. These last few days at the Echoplex sum up what I love about this venue – it offers an incredible and wide range of shows that come each week.

I sadly would have been the person live streaming and filming the Anti-Flag show at the Echoplex on Saturday, May 16th. Maybe one day it will happen.

Sister Nancy at The Echoplex
This is a picture of renowned Reggae singer Sister Nancy performing behind my massive multi-camera video displays using ATEM in 2019.
This is Jimmy of Jimmy Eat World at Emo Nite LA at the Echoplex in 2019.
Posted by Chris Girard in Documentary, Photo, Projects

All But Dissertation / Todo menos la tesis

All But Dissertation (ABD) is an Edgar Allan Poe inspired story (and dirge) offered in Spanish and English. Santa Cruz is haunted by an earthquake and my dead radical ex-lover.

Todos menos la tesis es una historia (e endecha) inspirada en Edgar Allan Poe que se ofrece en español e inglés. Santa Cruz está embrujada por un terremoto y mi ex amante radical y muerto.

All But Dissertation

Hercules from 1958 I have lived in San Francisco before and I have visited Santa Cruz often from this city. I am now a teaching assistant and a graduate student there. As you go down the two way road from the big city, the intensely green bushes continue up the hill on top of a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The huge redwoods hide each of the buildings. There are bridges that connect each of the buildings because the campus buildings are not closely connected to each other. Within the university bubble, there is a radical political life. An hourly public bus takes the radical students back to the city center. The Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 fractured the city center and the green trees on the campus hide the destruction of the earthquake. Roads are also like tectonic plates. There are new signs in front of pale and old buildings that lean towards where the earth sinks through the faults, and where the buildings of the past, due to the lack of the structure, crumble.

On a bus to campus, I met his eyes that were staring at me. I didn’t know who he was, but I remember those blue eyes like ice that kept me hypnotized. Those blue eyes that attract and light up like a cold fire in a burning bus full of students. I barely remembered anything else, the high line of his hair under curly blond hair. The social network followed the small town from the algorithm on Facebook and made a small digital town. Quickly, through a friend of a friend, I found those eyes on Facebook.

I titled the subject of the email, Awkward, but …

How do I explain what I wrote? How do I explain the word for “awkward” in Spanish? There is not a word uncomfortable enough to describe what I want to do to you in Spanish. There is no word for “uncomfortable.” Awkward, but I want to meet you. Awkward, but I remember your eyes like a cold fire. Awkward, but I don’t believe in monogamy, do you?

But the word “awkward” broke the ice. He wanted us to meet.

The only place in the city center open until late at night for a chat was a cafeteria with fluorescent lights next to the bus stop. It was like a solitary moon in the dark night. There was no one in the dark the night we met, there was no one in the light. The cold of January night penetrated through the glass windows and the metal chairs and tables beside him. The only sound at night was the horrible noise of the bus exhaust pipes. He did not come. I waited for two hours and then went home.

I wrote to him. He apologized and said he was very busy completing a series of translations of Michel Foucault from the French. He was a radical Marxist and was finishing an experimental doctorate. My university was famous and notorious for having an abstract subject of study called “History of Consciousness” that brought radical activists from around the world. I missed Angela Davis’ Black Panther activism, who was imprisoned in the 1970s and teaches there. His disobedience did not make him famous either. He would never leave the program, unlike the famous student whose rejected dissertation was published and distributed in bookstores. It seemed that one dropped out or stayed.

I had seen a guy from the same program five years before, he was an Anarchist and not a Marxist. He was still in the program five years later because they continued to grant his student scholarships for his apartment in San Francisco. I never saw him in Santa Cruz.

I tried a second time. He invited me to his house. He lived in a guest house behind a gray single-story house, near the center of town. He had placed cut flowers around the windows and many open books. The light from the windows overwhelmed and formed silhouettes of vases with freshly decapitated flowers. His cat was very old and slept in the closet. We quickly started kissing when we entered. We walked to the shower and when I touched him, he had an orgasm almost immediately, almost a minute. As soon as he finished, it was time to leave, but I washed his dishes and slept there.

The second time we met, we talked about politics. I told him I was a Libertarian in an Afghan restaurant. I thought I only believed in autonomy. My art studies made me unconscious around me and aware of myself. His studies of post-structural philosophy made him more politically aware than self-aware. He grimaced behind my plate of chana masala. But he followed me uphill through the dense redwoods to the campus apartment and the double bed. We lay together in bed under a bright fluorescent light and stared into his eyes. The darkness of the windows at night was shaded by the thick trunks of the redwoods. They couldn’t eliminate the bright light from the eyes that wanted to leave mine. And he left.

It was a hard week. I went to boring parties hoping to see him. After he rejected my attempts to see him again, I sent him one last invitation to attend a boring art party of my classmates. I went to the guest house behind the gray house and the lights were on. I knocked on the door. He opened the door, but partially. He was sweaty and the sweat remained on his face. His mouth opened, which fell from fatigue rather than the surprise of seeing me. He smiled as if exhausted but not exhausted by me before closing the door. I walked home alone.

A few months later, the redwoods of the campus on top of the mountain whispered the music of the occupation. To accompany the occupants, the occupation inspired a night dance party in front of the buildings. Under the redwood trees, music exploded. The Anarchists and Marxists of Santa Cruz joined, the Anarchists stormed the buildings and the Marxists helped develop a plan. A graduate student building is blocked. The sofas surrounded the door to prevent the police from entering. They went up the first night, during the occupation dance party, to talk to the lookouts sleeping on the concrete slabs under the trees.

They turned off the music and went home. Under the tall whispering trees, I protected the other Marxists and Anarchists that first night while sleeping on the ground with a guy I was dating, a former student. But I didn’t sleep with him before giving him an A. The Marxists and the Anarchists were locked together when the police escorted us out of the building.

The sofas remained in front of the door for three months while the building collapsed internally. But the building collapsed internally because the Anarchists and Marxists did not get along. It was a class struggle within the broader class struggle they were fighting for. Many of the Anarchists did not go to university and lived in the city. Almost all Marxists were exclusively graduate students.

I stopped taking the bus. I got off by bicycle from the campus. In the background, the ocean felt as small as each of the small buildings. I had my unremarkable exhibition. I graduated with a degree in art. I never saw him again.

I never talked to anyone about him, even though he talked to many people about me. He described me as crazy. He described me in detail to people at parties. There was an expectation in my lovers to compare what he described with what they saw when my pants fell off. I called him a douchebag and said something about his privilege before he blocked me on Facebook. This was many years ago.

I returned to campus five years later. I was invited to give a speech among many of the alumni about my achievements. I was poor and didn’t have many achievements. I stayed in a hostel and made false receipts for airline tickets and hotels where I didn’t stay to get more money from the university. Almost all of my former classmates showed up to their own speeches. So I gave my ten-minute speech early in the morning to an audience of chairs and the cameraman.

The guy never finished his doctorate. I had nothing to say to him. As far as I knew at the time, as I walked towards the city and climbed to the top of the hill along the steep road. I saw a friend or whatever she was of his, a woman who talked too much who was also the roommate of my former student slash ex-boyfriend. She had a lovechild with a former Anarchist classmate who was still in Santa Cruz and pushed the sleeping lovechild. I didn’t smile or talk to her, but I saw the top of the baby’s bald head. It reminded me of the hairline I ran my finger through. The winding road like the baby’s blond curls went down another hill. I went towards the beach until I didn’t see the baby. I was walking towards the cold gray ocean. The still water of the beach had no emotion. There were no walruses. There were no people.

Another five years later, I got married. I told my spouse about this person. He searched his name on Google and discovered his obituary. It was hard to believe he had killed himself. He never left Santa Cruz and never left his endless doctoral studies. The creepy thing was that he died at the same time that I went to campus! I never knew.

I remember him as one of the people who stayed in Santa Cruz like the ancient redwood trees. Those blue eyes that attracted me turned into the gray ocean and the white sky of Santa Cruz. I ruled out his death for being existential and philosophical because he translated so many French philosophers. But I wondered about him. I barely remember what he said behind the redwoods because the blocked screen blocked my memory too and closed the blinds of something I didn’t want to see. I can’t remember his eyes beyond the gray of the Pacific Ocean because a dead body cannot unblock on Facebook.

Todo menos la tesis

Blurry Santa Cruz He vivido en San Francisco anteriormente y a menudo he visitado Santa Cruz desde esta ciudad. Ahora soy asistente de enseñanza y estudiante de posgrado allí. Cuando vas por el pequeño camino desde la gran ciudad, los arbustos intensamente verdes continúan hasta la colina en la cima de una montaña que domina el océano Pacífico. Las secoyas enormes esconden cada uno de los edificios. Hay puentes que conectan cada uno de los edificios porque los edificios del campus no están estrechamente conectados entre sí. Dentro de la burbuja de la universidad existe una radical vida política. Un autobús público cada hora lleva a los estudiantes radicales de vuelta al centro de la ciudad. El terremoto de Loma Prieta en 1989 fracturó el centro de la ciudad y los árboles verdes en el campus ocultan la destrucción del terremoto. Las carreteras también son como las placas tectónicas. Hay nuevas señales frente a pálidos y viejos edificios que se inclinan hacia donde la tierra se hunde por las fallas, y donde los edificios del pasado, por la falta de la estructura se desmoronan.

En un autobús al campus, me encontré con sus ojos que me miraban fijamente. No sabía quién era ella, pero recuerdo aquellos ojos azules como el hielo que me mantenían hipnotizados. Esos ojos azules que atraen y se iluminan como un fuego frío en un autobús ardiente lleno de estudiantes. Apenas recordaba otra cosa, la alta línea de su cabello, bajo el cabello rubio rizado. La red social siguió el pequeño pueblo a partir del algoritmo en Facebook e hizo un pequeño pueblo digital. Rápidamente, a través de un amigo de un amigo, encontré esos ojos en Facebook.

Titulé el asunto del correo electrónico, Incómodo, pero…

¿Cómo explico lo que escribí? ¿Cómo explico la palabra inglesa para “awkward” en español? No hay una palabra lo suficientemente incómoda como para describir lo que quiero hacerte en español. No hay una palabra para “incómodo”. Qué incómodo, pero quiero conocerte. Qué incomodo, pero recuerdo tus ojos como un fuego frío. Qué incómodo, pero yo no creo en la monogamia, ¿y tú?

Pero la palabra “incómodo” rompió el hielo. Él quería que nos conociéramos.

El único lugar en el centro de la ciudad abierto hasta altas horas de la noche para charlas informales era una cafetería con luces fluorescentes al lado de la parada del autobús. Era como la luna solitaria en la noche oscura. Había nadie en la oscuridad la noche que nos conocimos, había nadie a la luz. El frío de la noche de enero penetraba a través de las ventanas de cristal y las sillas y mesas de metal a su lado. El único sonido en la noche era el horrible ruido de los tubos de escape de los autobuses. Él no vino. Esperé dos horas y me fui a casa.

Le escribí. Se disculpó y dijo que estaba muy ocupada completando una serie de traducciones de Michel Foucault del francés. Era una Marxista radical y estaba terminando un doctorado experimental. Mi universidad era famosa y notoria por tener un tema abstracto de estudio que se llamaba “La Historia de la Conciencia” que trajo activistas radicales de todo el mundo. Extrañaba el activismo de Pantera Negra de Angela Davis, quien fue encarcelada en la década de 1970 y enseña allí. Su desobediencia tampoco la hizo famosa. Él nunca abandonaría el programa, a diferencia del famoso estudiante cuya disertación rechazada se publicó y distribuyó en librerías. Parecía que uno renunciaba o se quedaba.

Había salido con un chico del mismo programa cinco años antes, que era Anarquista y no Marxista. Él seguía en el programa cinco años más tarde porque continuaban otorgándole becas estudiantiles para su apartamento en San Francisco. Nunca la vi en Santa Cruz.

Lo intenté por segunda vez. Me invitó a su casa. Vivía en una casa de huéspedes detrás de una casa gris de un solo piso, cerca del centro del pueblo. Había colocado flores cortadas alrededor de las ventanas y muchos libros abiertos. La luz de las ventanas abrumaba y formaba siluetas de los jarrones con flores recién decapitadas. Su gato era muy viejo y dormía en el armario. Rápidamente empezamos a besarnos cuando entramos. Caminamos hacia la ducha y cuando le toqué, él tuvo un orgasmo casi inmediatamente, casi al minuto. Tan pronto como él terminó, era hora de irme, pero yo lavé sus platos y dormí allí.

La segunda vez que nos vimos, hablamos de política. Le dije que era una Libertaria en un restaurante afgano. Pensé que solo creía en la autonomía. Mis estudios de arte me hicieron inconsciente de mi alrededor y consciente de mí mismo. Sus estudios de filosofía posestructural le hicieron más políticamente consciente que consciente de sí misma. Hizo una mueca detrás de mi plato de chana masala. Pero él me siguió cuesta arriba a través de las densas secuoyas hasta el departamento del campus y la cama doble. Nos acostamos juntos en la cama debajo de una brillante luz fluorescente y le miré fijamente a los ojos. La oscuridad de las ventanas en la noche se sombreaban por los gruesos troncos de las secoyas. No podían eliminar la luz brillante de los ojos que querían dejar los míos. Y él se fue.

Fue una semana dura. Fui a fiestas aburridas con la esperanza de verle. Después de que rechazó mis intentos de volver a verle, le envié una última invitación para que asistiera a una aburrida fiesta de arte de mis compañeros. Fui a la casa de huéspedes detrás de la casa gris y las luces estaban encendidas. Llamé a la puerta. Él abrió la puerta, pero parcialmente. Estaba sudorosa y el sudor permanecía en su rostro. Su boca se abrió, que se cayó por el cansancio más que la sorpresa de verme. Él sonrió como si agotada pero no estuviera agotada por mí antes de cerrar la puerta. Caminé a casa solo.

Unos meses más tarde, las secuoyas del campus en la cima de la montaña susurraron la música de la ocupación. Para acompañar a los ocupantes, la ocupación inspiró una fiesta de baile nocturna frente a los edificios. Debajo de los árboles de secuoyas, la música estalló. Los Anarquistas Marxistas de Santa Cruz se unieron, los Anarquistas irrumpieron en los edificios y los Marxistas ayudaron a desarrollar un plan. Se bloquea un edificio de estudiantes de posgrado. Los sofás rodearon la puerta para evitar que entrara la policía. Subieron la primera noche, durante la fiesta de baile de la ocupación, para hablar con los vigías que dormían en las losas de concreto debajo de los árboles.

Apagaron la música y se fueron a casa. Debajo de los altos árboles que susurraban, protegí a los otros Marxistas y Anarquistas esa primera noche mientras dormía en el suelo con una chica con la que estaba saliendo: una antigua estudiante. Pero no me acosté con él antes de darle la A. Los Marxistas y los Anarquistas se quedaron encerrados juntos cuando la policía nos escoltó fuera del edificio.

Los sofás permanecieron frente a la puerta durante tres meses mientras el edificio se derrumbaba internamente. Pero el edificio se derrumbó internamente porque los Anarquistas y Marxistas no se llevaban bien. Fue una lucha de clases dentro de la lucha de clases más amplia por la que estaban luchando. Muchos de los Anarquistas no fueron a la universidad y vivían en la ciudad. Casi todos los Marxistas eran exclusivamente estudiantes de posgrado.

Dejé de tomar el autobús. Bajé en bicicleta desde el campus. Al fondo, el océano se sentía tan pequeño como cada uno de los pequeños edificios. Tuve mi exposición poco notable. Me gradué con una licenciatura en arte. Nunca la volví a ver.

Nunca hablé con nadie sobre él, a pesar de que habló con muchas personas sobre mí. Él me describió como loco. Él me describió en detalle a las personas en las fiestas. Había una expectativa en mis amantes por comparar lo que él describió con lo que vieron cuando se caían mis pantalones. Le llamé puta y le dije algo sobre su privilegio antes de que me bloqueara en Facebook. Esto fue hace muchos años.

Volví al campus cinco años después. Fui invitado a dar un discurso entre muchos de los exalumnos sobre mis logros. Yo era pobre y no tenía muchos logros. Me alojé en un albergue e hice recibos falsos de los billetes de avión y de los hoteles en los que no me quedé para conseguir más dinero de la universidad. Casi todos de mis antiguos compañeros de clase se presentó a sus propios discursos. Así que di mi discurso de diez minutos por la mañana temprano a una audiencia de las sillas y la camarógrafa.

El chico nunca terminó su doctorado. No tenía nada que decirle a él. Por lo que yo sabía en ese momento, mientras caminaba hacia la ciudad y subía a la cima de la colina a lo largo del camino inclinado. Vi a la amiga o lo que sea, una mujer que hablaba demasiado y al compañero de cuarto de mi ex estudiante y el ex novio. Ella todavía estaba allí también. Ella empujó el carruaje de su bebe dormido. El padre era un ex compañero de clase Anarquista. No sonreí ni hablé con ella, pero vi la parte superior de la cabeza calva del bebé. Me recordó la línea del cabello por la que pasé el dedo. La sinuosa carretera como sus rizos rubios bajaba otra colina y hacia la playa y no vi el bebe. Caminaba hacia el frío océano gris. El agua quieta de la playa no tenía emoción. No había morsas. No había gente.

Otros cinco años después, me casé. Le conté a mi esposo sobre esta persona. Buscó su nombre en Google y descubrió su esquela. Era difícil creer que se había suicidado. Nunca dejó Santa Cruz y nunca dejó sus interminables estudios de doctorado. ¡Lo espeluznante era que él murió al mismo tiempo que yo fui al campus! Nunca lo supe.

La recuerdo a él como de las personas que se quedaban en Santa Cruz como los árboles secuoyas milenarios. Esos ojos azules que me atraían se volvieron en el océano gris y el cielo blanco de Santa Cruz. Descarté su muerte por ser existencial y filosófica porque él tradujo a tantos filósofos franceses. Pero me preguntaba por él. Apenas recuerdo lo que dijo detrás de las secuoyas porque la pantalla bloqueada bloqueaba mi memoria también y cerraba las persianas de algo que no quiero ver. No puedo recordar sus ojos más allá del gris del océano Pacífico porque un cadáver no puede desbloquear en Facebook.

Posted by Chris Girard in Personal, Poetry & Writing, Projects
Web Design Manifesto: Bad Clients
Say no to commodified peace symbols, say no to draining relationships, say no to bad clients!

Web Design Manifesto: Bad Clients

There are clients who have yelled at me for wasting their time so many times that now I have developed a complex about it. I won’t work with people who yell at me ever again. Let this post serve as a for freelance or on contract web designers. Most clients are usually okay clients but some clients are bad clients. They are narcissistic, sociopathic, and sadistic; and most importantly don’t understand web design!

How to Break From Bad Clients When Desperate and Poor!

I am usually useful. But I am attractive to psychotic and sadistic people. I worked for an intimidating alpha type guy for a film production publication called Below the Line News. Patrick, this guy whom I call ‘the sociopath’ because he made it incredibly difficult to pay me but in a friendly and patronizing way. The guy strung me along for four months before my former web design teacher, who got me the job and was his primary web developer, gave me the $400 balance he owed me. Months later, I discovered he did this to a lot of people.

He casually spoke about ‘firing people’ as if bragging and constantly spoke negatively about the managing editor Doreen whom he repeatedly told me I was going to replace behind her back. Then he had me do menial tasks. He had me edit and re-edit then re-re-edit and get really involved in a strange fluff piece about me joining as this important editor to the publication. And he also got me into a dialogue with the writer about it. This was supposed to be a direct threat towards that managing editor. He had me change the bylines on articles to his friends’ names for press passes to get his friends into conventions. Like it could have been fine as I totally didn’t have to like or respect him but he didn’t pay well and he didn’t pay!

Dealing With the Narcissist

I worked with JGerard, which was some type of front business for the fashion designer, who also known as the ‘Phantom of Melrose’, who had her head so far up her ass, she physically manifested a large gut in her stomach from it. I worked for this bad client from 2016-2017. For a year, I cataloged thousands of pieces of merchandise. It was like I was working on what was a front for a store. I built an eCommerce store with an iceberg of merchandise that was never used. I posted rants and promotional things that she paid a PR company to have celebrities wear.

But that $65 t-shirt your spouse wears to bed hasn’t fallen apart…

Writing a description of the bully bad client is easier said than done. I should have shown it. I kick myself over not filming her behavior on my iPhone. If she had more human followers than robot followers on Instagram, there would be a comedic skit of her yelling on top of a soapbox about how she invented the ‘cold shoulder’ by Donna Karan. She is emphatically the inventor of holes on women’s shoulders. I didn’t even know people would claim that holes on the shoulder could be something that can be claimed – claiming a design, how old-fashioned. She would be banging on the front door of her mausoleum-like store after coming to her store from a large Uber Black yelling about the cold shoulder. She’d bang on the door of the Versace McMansion as she doesn’t open doors herself. She’d shuffle in then unpredictably yell or make an asinine comment followed by an off-putting maniacal laugh that amplifies.

One of the only webpages that was used during my year of working here was making a webpage off from a long notepad rant about how she invented the said Donna Karan cold shoulder on her iPhone. She said it must look exactly like the rant she wrote on her iPhone, like using the iPhone’s Helvetica font too. And she yelled at me when I didn’t use the same default Helvetica font on notepad!

Don’t Turn Into a Gray Rock for Boomer Trolls

The woman behind the JGerard business front is a strange combination of senile and violent. She imagined things to be in existence that never were. When she discovered her nonexistent things to be ‘missing’, she immediately pointed fingers, jumped to conclusions, and yelled inconsolably when I argued with her. It’s like they became more real to her as she yelled them into reality.

Every weekday afternoon in 2017, we sat around a rusted out and rickety round table, while she sat at the back part of the table behind piles of papers. There was a circle of chairs for cleaners, maintenance people, salespeople, hairdressers, graphic designers, and tailors. They were more or less being paid the good California $15/hour living wage like hourly workers but done like a contract worker, meaning no healthcare.

We sat on these old pleather office chairs that were flat and had holes covered by large bandanas with her peace symbols printed on them. These flat office chairs surrounded that rusted out old former display table from a former store. It was so brown and covered in a combination of dirt and rust particles that it had a sand-like texture that you couldn’t write on without creating a brown carbon copy on the opposite side of the paper. The office chairs were deplorable; they were the type of furniture that would stay in the garbage pile if left on the street. As I sat on her $40 bandana that covered this junky flat office chair for over a year, I usually wondered whether when I would be berated next by the bad client. And why was I there? I worked on the facade of an eCommerce store, adding thousands of items worth of merchandise, that was ultimately trashed for a crappy Shopify store after I quit.

But Don’t Be a Yes Man (Like Topher)!

About a decade earlier in 2009, I worked with this awful woman named Thea Farhadian as a teaching assistant for an art course she was assigned to teach at UC Santa Cruz. She didn’t know how to teach. She made wacky requests and got under people’s skin. The other teaching assistant Topher Maraffi enthusiastically called me a ‘loose cannon’ and agreed with every wacky thing she said.

Ten years later, I took Topher’s lead and agreed with whatever the JGerard lady was saying. The goth equivalent of the black Nehru suit that a 70-year-old hipster wore 50 years ago looked so great, so goth, in a way I like! But going along with someone’s reality whose reality is fried invites them to turn the table on me when I didn’t go along with her reality. In other words, it was futile to tell her anything without creating a bigger problem. This was initially due to not following hazy instructions.

The hazy and unclear yelling came out of the blue after coming up with a textured background gradient that uses a light gray instead of a medium gray. The bad client then told people I was doing ‘double work’ and threatened to not pay me however many hours the $15/hour constituted and replace me. She is a woman of short stature and has a mental complex about people not listening to her. So I knew I had to leave after she continued to lash out, berate me, threaten to replace me, or not pay me. I thought about how I was safely going to give advance notice of leaving. So I repeated her instructions about the medium gray, then I agreed and apologized for hurting her feelings.

Is Your Job Description as Elusive as Your Client’s Invisible Papers?

So the plan of quitting finally came to praxis after ultimately going along with her belief that I had misplaced her invisible papers. The bad client went berserk after festering over a pile of papers that had been left on the table next to where I sat. The pile of papers was actually size charts that had been there for a while. I had transcribed them within three hours of receiving them. I had no use for these papers since I made digital transcripts of everything. I offered them back to the seamstress Svetlana, who was computer illiterate and only transcribed by a pencil, the same day I received them. And she didn’t want them back either.

This bad client was infuriated about this pile of paper and then asked me about another series of measurements that she ‘saw’ her seamstress doing. And after telling her I never received the sizes for these garments she ‘saw’ her seamstress do, this pile of paper seemed to signify to her everything she wanted to believe had happened. Her hostility was amplified by her rage. She concluded that this pile of paper was evidence of me being careless and losing any garment size of her conjuring.

This bad client refused to believe I never received these sizes and accused me of “throwing Svetlana under the bus” when I told her that her seamstress never gave me those invisible papers. She said the seamstress, who was never asked about this, was an organized person unlike me as evidenced by this pile of paper. Mind you, I was a web designer, not an archivist of garment sizes.

She didn’t let it go and harassed me for two months about other invisible papers.

“But the ‘size charts’ aren’t there [on the table anymore],” I said.

“They’re not ‘size charts’! They’re called ‘SPECS’! ‘SPECS’!”

Breaking up With Your Bad Client: They Won’t Ever Get It, Ever…

Finally, my exit strategy came. I decided to give her a month’s notice. I had to confront a narcissist in her 60s whose mental capacity was declining or always has been marginal. She was unapologetic, defensive, and incredibly offensive when I confronted her about her behavior towards me.

Text message excerpt of narcissistic bad client.

She delivered a long self-serving philosophy about how it was my problem for being offended. I didn’t communicate well enough. I didn’t speak in clear enough sentences. But not only I didn’t speak in clear sentences, but she was also very patient in dealing with my lack of giving full sentences and not listening to her instructions for such a long time that I should be the one apologizing.


The bigger issue was I didn’t have the experience of dealing with bad clients. And while the answer is ultimately not to deal with bad clients, fire the bad client, you first have to know what a bad client is.

I wanted to help bad clients who didn’t pay. I wanted to help bad clients who threatened not to pay me. I began wanting to help the bad client behind the business front but her business lives on a separate plane of reality along with her philosophy and her invisible size charts. It was futile to say anything without creating a bigger problem, and it was an insufferable paradox to be treated like an idiot and allow it. I should have recorded at least one of her tirades on my iPhone before quitting sooner.

If you’re a web designer, you got to learn how to communicate appropriately with however your client communicates. Most clients I can just be blunt, direct, and straight-forward as a web designer. Others, you have to speak flowery. With the JGerard client, you need to be the type of person who enjoys giving around-the-clock commentary to work with her. This type of bad client loves to ask very asinine, left-field questions, and then expects a solution to a problem that nobody would ever conjure up. She’ll hold you to her stupid question until she has an equally stupid answer.

Posted by Chris Girard in Personal
Bio Sewage: The 36 Questions That Lead to Love

Bio Sewage: The 36 Questions That Lead to Love

More bio and questions on the bio portion of this webpage makes that section very long. But I really like the 36 questions questionnaire. The 36 questions by psychologist Arthur Aron provides great questions for conversation starters. As a husband, spouse and LTR person, I approve. The questionnaire is featured on an article by the New York Times in 2015.

Set I

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Judith Butler – I want to learn how to sound like a more colloquial feminist, so perhaps she may help.

  1. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

Yes, for what I do; my poetry triumphing a something like subsequent porn career.

  1. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

Yes, to expedite a process, which is usually tedious and awful.

  1. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

Going to the beach, long bike ride, writing a good poem, having passionate sex.

  1. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

A week ago – me. A month or two ago, both in jest.

  1. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

I would want the body of a 30-year-old.

  1. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

I will die by suicide or some type of accident by bike.

  1. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

One. We work to live
Two. We have sex with other people
Three. We are introverted.

  1. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

Having a family with money, physical means that gave me enough time to sort things out for myself. The emotional means weren’t there, but I am glad I am set in a more unusual way.

  1. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

I would be less around my parents, live in a city rather than the suburbs and socialize more.

  1. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

0-14 years old. Isolated childhood.
15-19 years old. Trying to find myself through others.
19-30 years old. Sorting out existential issues out through a decade’s worth of personal projects.
31 years old to current. Bringing it all together, and praxis.

This surrealist photo that was made using the areas between two blurry film negatives, one light and one dark from 2005, reminds me of yin (Christian) and yang (me).

Set II

  1. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

I would want to become fluent in foreign languages easily.

  1. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

I would change my future, so I can alter any possible consequences now.

  1. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

I would be professionally represented by an agent. I did not and do not have financial means to do it.

  1. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

I finished my doctorate.

  1. What do you value most in a friendship?

Someone who is stimulating both physically and mentally

  1. What is your most treasured memory?

The Summer of ’99 included blissful friendships, opening up to others.

  1. What is your most terrible memory?

The Fall of ’00 included me seeing all of these friendships crumble; and I dealt with a huge group of friends who turned on me.

  1. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

I would quit my job, rack up a lot of credit card debt, enjoy what I have, finish poems, get them out there.

  1. What does friendship mean to you?

A supportive and engaging companion.

  1. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

They create a home for us to enjoy for ourselves and other people.

  1. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.


  1. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

Not at all. Isolated. Unhappy childhood.

  1. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?



  1. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “


  1. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “

…my mind fully.

  1. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

I feel bad for expressing my love poorly.

  1. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

Incredible selflessness. It’s refreshing and unlike the vast majority of people I’ve ever met in Los Angeles.

“I really like your perseverance in being able to get everything set up and completely broken down. That takes a lot of strength and I admire and appreciate that about you.”

  1. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

The time will come to reflect on my stay in Madrid, soon.

  1. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

Maybe 2010 with an ex when my grandmother died. This past winter from my hatred of feeling stuck in Madrid, both to myself and to my partner.

  1. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

He has incredible perseverance.

  1. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

Racial stereotypes like this R&B event at the Echoplex in Los Angeles called 143 being called the ‘Asian Emo Night’ which is named after Emo Night. And presumptions are usually awkward.

  1. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

I got rid of your beloved antique table. I sold it on Craigslist for $50.

  1. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

Laptop. It has my body of work on it.

  1. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

My sister because she’s younger than me and sickly.

  1. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

There will be a time to share this…

Posted by Chris Girard in Personal

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

Detournement of Stop Signs – Law Series

Law Series is a type of photographic detournement. It constitutes repurposed photographs of street signs that are either cropped from their original state or framed. The change in composition alters the rules and regulations to produce other rules and regulations.

Detournement, Laws of Movement & Expression

When I was 21 years old taking art photography classes, I was interested in exhibitionism and the performance that one acts when on camera. I looked at constructs of intimacy and the clashes that it creates. I believe regulation creates the boundaries of intimacy and a change in the rules changes how one behaves. In a way, isolation forms the placement of these regulatory mechanisms. Expression isolates or ‘interiorizes’ and even alienates from these mechanisms. Outdoor NO signs clearly show these mechanisms. I lived near hundreds of these signs growing up in Orange County, California.

Photo Detournement by Chris Girard

The four scenes in each of the photo collages evolve a story by a reader who searches for correlations and patterns in scattered and ephemeral environments. California housing associations estrange these landscapes and gated communities by heavily regulating them.

External Regulation & Internal Expression?

Laguna Niguel is an inland town that borders the beach town of Laguna Beach in Orange County. I noticed when visiting my parents how many NO signs there are. Niguel Summit, which is the housing association my parents lived in the 1990s and 2000s, offers at least one NO sign for every 15 feet.

I decided to photograph all of these NO signs within a one mile perimeter from my parents’ home. It’s funny and absurd in a way to have a No Parking sign followed by a No Trespassing sign followed by a No Parking sign. This is something you wouldn’t see in most other places. Other places where I subsequently lived, like San Francisco, London or Los Angeles, do not do this.

I believe this has to do with is Laguna Niguel being a collection of privately-owned housing associations rather than a town. This phenomenon of private housing associations seems to define upper middle class living at the cusp of the 20th and 21st Centuries. These McMansions that look alike are also located next to shopping centers with the same stores. I wanted to explore how identities form and become alienated in these regulated private communities. So I made a detournement.

Photo Detournement by Chris Girard

Glass, mirrors, fog, blur and shadows symbolize intimacy. These selfies are taken indoors and reflected on glass and mirrors taken on different beds.

Posted by Chris Girard in Photo, Projects
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