Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Opening (Sunday afternoon)

The opening was fun, if slightly chaotic. Claire and I arrived a couple of hours early to find that two of the perspex sheets had fallen down (again) and had to invent a whole new sticky-tape-inside-clips system.

Ghent is home and most of the people we know came to this opening rather than to the Brussels edition. With a poetry crowd, natural sunlight, performances and refreshments it had a whole different feel. (Mostly panic. But good panic. My new Dutch nickname is streskonijn, ‘stress bunny.’)

Some of my poetry friends were there: Luc Fierens, Dirk Vekemans and Tine Moniek as well as lots of the Logos people, but the best part was that I had never met about half the people who turned up. Some were friends of friends, but others had found the exhibition through the Literaire Lente publicity or picked up one of our flyers. Claire and I did a bit of late-night flyering in the surrounding streets on Saturday night and at least one of the neighbours came to see what we were up to. I recognised him as a customer from years back when I worked in the bookshop next to the cathedral but I didn’t know he lived nearby. The City of Ghent is amazingly supportive as well: not only in the sense that they subsidize us to put on events that are not exactly mainstream or high-profile, but also in the sense that people from the council regularly turn up to see what we’re up to. Thank you Ghent!

Lucille Calmel and Dirk Vekemans

I tried to take some pictures with lots of people on so you'd see the opening was well attended - maybe I should have stayed still for long enough to press the shutter down? And apparently I only managed to snap people I know (Yvan and Kristof from Logos, Maja, Patrick).

I left my camera over on the other side of the room during the performances – a long-standing tradition that dates all the way back to the Krikri 2002 festival. But Svend was filming so hopefully I can upload part of the film sometime. It’s a pity because Lucille in particular had an incredible physical energy during her reading: crouched on the floor with her Mac, making live recordings by scratching her fingers across the back of it and spitting on the case to make squeaky noises with her fingers, it is the best of her performances I’ve ever seen, online or off. The performance was based on Mina Loy’s Lunar Baedecker (the poem that also inspired Michelle’s work and provided the title for the exhibition). She read phrases at random from the original and the French translation, recording them live and replaying them in overlapping loops. I’ve never seen her give such a quiet performance, but at the same time it was full of restrained power, fireballs held down in the balls of her feet.

You can find Maja’s own work on her myspace, but yesterday she read pieces by other people, starting with her stunning party piece, Ernst Jandl’s bestiarium. It’s on Maja and Jelle’s Ubu page as well.

On a springtime and pond life theme, she continued with Kusano Shimpei’s 4 or 5 Tadpoles and Birthday Party from the Rothenbang, as Claire would no doubt call it, Paul Snoek’s Only for Poets...

... and finished up with a very, very cool reading of Steve McCaffery’s Positions of Sheep I and II (from Seven Pages Missing vol. 2).

I think this is the first time I’ve heard her give a performance with none of her own work, but it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed hearing poems from Poems the Millennium that I had either not read or paid no particular attention to before. Go Maja! Rumour has it she'll be improvising with angela on Thursday night as well...

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