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Genre-bending artists kick off international reading series

Artists Sandy Baldwin and Caroline Bergvall performed excerpts from their most famous literary works to a group of undergraduates, graduate students and professors who crowded into the intimate McCormack Family Theater Monday evening.

Baldwin, director of the Center for Literary Computing and associate professor of English at West Virginia University, said he preferred to call his works "emissions" or "states of information" that are "fuzzy, unbound." He performed two such emissions, "The Pilgrims Continue Their Journey" and "The Profanity Glossary." Both featured Baldwin reading his own poetry over a projection of videos and sounds taken from computer games, which he said he uses as "scores" for his work.

Caroline Bergvall, a French-Norwegian writer and artist visiting from London, began by playing an audio recording of her work "Ride." In the piece, she reads a poem that manipulates the sounds of words to form a connection between "riding" and "writing." The backdrop for the piece is the sound of her hand writing the words.

Bergvall also read three works in which she interacts with Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales." The first, entitled "The Host Tale," is a compilation of the references to food and drink in the book , Bergvall said.

In another Chaucer-related work, Bergvall drew on lyrics from various popular songs, including Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and Kelis's "Milkshake" in order to explore the interaction between the Middle English of The Canterbury Tales and contemporary English.

The event was the first of a semester-long series of readings that will bring scholars and artists from around the world to add "an international perspective" to Brown's existing Literary Arts programs, said John Cayley, visiting professor in the department. Adam Veal GS, who hosted the event along with Cayley and Claire Donato GS, said Bergvall was the inspiration for the event. He said he and Donato read her work, "Fig," in Cayley's class, LITR 1230J: "Writing Material Differences."

"We took a liking to "Fig," and John suggested that we apply for a grant," Veal said. "It was a long and complicated process, but it came off."

The reading was  funded by a University Graduate International Colloquia Grant, Cayley said.

Veal said he and Donato were drawn to "the way in which (Bergval) treats language as artifice."

Miguel Morales '10, who came to the reading, said he "needed time to digest" what he had seen, but thought it was "interesting." He said he particularly appreciated the way Bergvall interacted with The Canterbury Tales and "tried to incorporate her own voice into the text itself."

"What I liked most was, it took me a while to get on her wavelength, but once I did she made the text come alive in a new way," Morales said.


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