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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

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
How to Take a Surrealist Photo

How to Take a Surrealist Photo

Maybe the lens makes a better Photoshop. But every surrealist photo I have made is like writing a poem with a camera. These are those techniques. Each of the images will pop up in a new window.

I started taking unusual photos using a large boxy Kodak digital camera in 2001. I found ways to take cool photos that made lights move, blur, bend and contort. It was quite a learning experience. Almost 20 years later, my techniques have not changed much since then. So, what are these techniques?

<h2Chris Girard PhD’s Photo Surrealism 101

Low shutter speed

Low shutter speeds are probably my favorite effect. It works on speeds ranging from 1/40 of a second and slower. It’s like creating a movie on a static piece of film. You could either effect the photo with movement from the camera, or it could be a combination of movement from wind, electricity and water.



The more out of focus, the better. The way to get this effect is with an out-of-focus telephoto lens to create a super blurry effect. Shampoo from 2005 is a good example using an out-of-focus telephoto lens. It was minimal, with warm and simple white walls from an ugly tungsten light that frame the shampoo and bath products around it.



Black space, which comes from under-exposure and shadows, create minimalism. It creates it in a photo composition by moving the eye towards the lightness surrounded by dark shapes. I found it works really well with scenes that have severe ranges of bright light and dark shadows.



Blending layers makes the best surrealist photo without a camera. There is an option on Photoshop’s layers to create double and triple exposures. They show the lightest and darkest parts blending into the other lightest parts, to create a feel of a reflective and three dimensional glass.


Photo Crops

Writing can dissolve in the way a sign is cropped and creates a meta-narrative and sub-text within that larger sign.



Posted by Chris Girard in Photo, Projects

LIKED: Set of 20 Twitter / Twaiku Poems

LIKED is a chronological selection of 400 Twitter or twaiku poems by Chris(toph) Girard and published by DEATH-SPIRAL. The poems were written and posted on my Twitter handle @Christop between 2011 and 2017. Twenty poems are featured on each set of 20 pamphlets in a hand-numbered facsimile edition of 20. Some of the ‘twaiku’ forms from LIKED include haiku, senryu (the dark haiku), tanka (5 line with rules), gogyohka (5 line freeform), sextet (6 line) and quatrain (4 line) poems. Each type of poem is labeled in its hashtag form. Some are not.

The 20 poems in 20 pamphlets (20 x 20 = 400 poems total) in a limited edition of 20 offers almost the entire oeuvre of poetry that I have written this decade. There is very little poetry that I have otherwise written, let alone published in the 2010s.

Oeuvre — maybe I am some patrician garbage poet like Robert Lowell. Unlike all the real modern American poetry that has been published in extremely ephemeral and endangered forms, all of mine is exclusively or overly attainable. I don’t even have most of it on my computer. But like all those John Wieners pamphlets that were probably not issued in runs of even twenty, whoever the followers of @Christop on Twitter that did ‘like’ them number in less than four or five. Mostly ones, according to Mark So.

twaiku twaiku

Mark So, publisher of DEATH-SPIRAL, compiled 400 of the 1001 tweets published in those eight years, thinks my Twitter poems are beautiful. He thought this way of making them available is beautiful in an oddly suitable way:

I live in a small world, and very fortunate that you have been in it, in part because it made me encounter these poems in a manner I never would have otherwise. I wanted to celebrate their small miracle in the way that I know how. Would you be any less upset if I’d lovingly made just one printout and given it to you? Because I felt that was the nature of the gift, to spend time with them and draw them out of the internet and onto paper, in the world.

Mark So, 2018


The entire set of 20 pamphlets are available here and from DEATH-SPIRAL.

Shipping is included with the price! US shipping only. For international shipping, please correspond with You can request any one booklet for $2 plus shipping by messaging the editor and publisher via email at  mark_so [at] hotmail [dot] com through or through Twitter @_mark_so_.

All proceeds go to the general upkeep and the printing of the next DEATH-SPIRAL!

Posted by Chris Girard in Poetry & Writing, Projects

VOTE4ART Winner: Hacking an App

Tectonic Trees was a winner of Artbox Projects’ VOTE4ART mobile app. Artbox Projects, a booth hosted by Art Spectrum and Red Dot Miami during Art Basel displayed Tectonic Trees twice an hour on their television screen. Art Basel is a massive event for artists that happens in Miami during the first week of December. And it holds many events like Art Spectrum and Red Dot that are spread out through Miami and Miami Beach. While I am very happy to have participated in this event and submit my artwork to the mobile app, watch out for Artbox Projects!

Artbox Projects accept thousands of artists’ submissions for their booth! And displays thousands of these artwork submissions on a single television screen. Hence, they made a LOT of money. Displaying artwork as a slideshow on one tv means that it takes about 30 minutes for the artwork to appear again.


Chris Girard, VOTE4ART winner, at Artbox Projects during Art Basel.

The above photo by Scott Redinger-Libolt / RedPhoto shows an artist who came all the way from Italy and I getting to know each other very well as we were both waiting on the couch for our artworks to appear. I thought maybe there was some type of random algorithm function but it seems to just be ordered by the last name of each of the artist, kind of… I was waiting for Girard to appear, but somehow the order of the artworks began with those with the last letter H. Her last name began with T, so she was done in 15 minutes.


The VOTE4ART app, which doesn’t exist now, was displayed at the very front of the Artbox Projects booth during the Art Spectrum and Red Dot event. The app offers a similar feature to the actual installation. It’s a slideshow of photos and users can vote for their favorites. So I downloaded the app and submitted my artwork. I was determined to make up the money I spent on submitting my application and the flight, and win.

Tectonic Trees won. How so? Well I hope that it’s because it’s a pretty killer photograph. But not really. I promoted VOTE4ART on my Twitter handle @Christop early and told my coworkers to download the app early. But I also hacked the app because nobody is going to continuously vote. The app was a pretty cool and simple idea, but you can make an unlimited amount of user accounts from fake email addresses. You get three votes once a day on each account. And people vote. The slideshow interface of the app works makes it very difficult to see everything. It takes a longer and longer time to go through everything as more and more people submit. I suggest that anyone else who wants to win $500 to do this early. That $500 I got went to recuperating that fraudulent art ‘experience’ of having this photograph displayed two times an hour from Artbox.Projects. Here is the winner announcement and the thousands of likes on VOTE4ART’s Facebook page.

Tectonic Trees can be purchased as a high resolution downloadable photo here.

Posted by Chris Girard in Photo, Projects
Questions to a(n Answerless) Specter: Collage Poems

Questions to a(n Answerless) Specter: Collage Poems

Self-published book of collage poems Questions to an Answerless Specter is a three and ½ poem book that I wrote for good old fashioned physical distribution. The journey begins at Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park and ends at a live reading at some guy’s house in West Hollywood. Composer and conceptual artist Mark So has incorporated my reading of the poems into a cassette recording while giving me a blow job at his studio in the Royal Lake Apartments in Pico Union.

Here is a downloadable and foldable book in printable PDF form.

Or here is the page and a half in its entirety:

?’s to an Answerless Specter

Extinction is our reverse engineering


Soon followed by
and realized she
outside the fertile house
smiled, and have his hands answered
hearing the entire door
front mumbled abby
replied over and about
looking smiled again

Her parents
stuttering, seeing her john
house is sighed
breathing mouth grinned
thinking of the abbey john
his hands had given him

Tell her husband!
Tell her husband
trying to be very good alive
said son is a jake
promise me, very much

Observe john
pulled the same thing over
and again upon hearing of the warm
coat john
his hands stopped talking about

Chain trouble so fountainhead
replied the prayer
standing erect
tail at the end of our stick
plain over, drawn across
sprightly high

and gnocchi, weewee
struck the coat
john jane
squelching at water

Argon Flash

whistle, go off, raise a ghost
item abstain from common height
coupled with innards

Abate and abide
plaque sky
placate however flood
the creator
slip ship,
with scrimshaw
up the itch knee
this-that readying
mimicking volition

Animal baby, cells of crisis
solo decorate be
cause to hit
great water with ensemble
from the bottom of the feet
to the top of the head
a derelict


This rain has nothing to do
with sustainability, it is about rain

No more rhyme nor euphony
to eliminate the numeric distinction
of generic-specific relations
reflections is not the plural of reflection
in-between the pathos of nature
sundry of pains, joy

Upheld by youth, a great king
of being to the subhuman
no mesmeric outcome for a shift-shaft
tract becomes deliberate act, other

The height of distance
induces no distance
versatile earnest
forced upon the
withdrawal of plenty
periphery, jeering however as pleasurable
reckoning, a
wide nut
among them
to induce stature

Happiness is unknown
un-indiscretion with innards
cavity bordered, botched
and coupled
with logs burning, no discord
not a moment too soon, to overturn
the lost world

0 that ends with 0
begins the   from end
to end to read the __________ the
that reiterates it’s its

Posted by Chris Girard in Poetry & Writing, Projects

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

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

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