See-Hear Artist’s Statement
My ideas about the representation of self and others in art and the relationship between art and memory are largely formed from having studied and loved photography and having been a serious amateur photographer for several years. I don’t currently make photographs as an artistic practice, but I am still deeply enamored of the medium and fascinated by the aesthetic and ethical questions raised by photography.
When Jerriod Avant invited me to do this project my husband, sons and I had just returned from a trip to Norway. It was not a good trip. I’m still not entirely sure why not. Certainly it had been beautiful. Everything looked like a photograph. And yet on the trip I felt that I couldn’t see anything, couldn’t feel, but I couldn’t explain or understand why. I had our vacation photographs, which told one story, and I had memories, which told another story. It seemed to me there was something else, something beyond memory and photographs, beyond my own experience even—what was that, how was that recorded, how could that be communicated? And, what kind of story would a poem of the trip tell? If, as Susan Sontag wrote, “the painter constructs, the photographer discloses,” what does the poet do?
A few months before going to Norway, I’d written a lecture (for the Bagley Wright Lecture Series) about how my poetics were formed in response to the genre-concerns of photography and about the photographers who had influenced me in high school and college including, Robert Frank, Dorothea Lange, William Eggleston, Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Lois Conner, and Sally Mann.
When I was looking at and/or photographing Norway, I was contemplating the space between Sontag’s statement, “A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir” and Lange’s statement, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” This project was made into that space.
Without giving “See-Hear” away—can one do anything with poems other than give them away?—the photographs I use are tourist snapshots from my trip in 2015 and photographs taken before I was born that I found (after my trip) in an album labeled “Norway 1968” in my mother’s hand. I wanted this piece to mimic the process of memory as variously and palpably as possible and asked my son, Moses Zucker Goren (16 at the time), if he could code something that involved chance, was interactive, and somehow changed and degraded. The concept evolved as we collaborated and hit various technical constraints (including the constraints of memory, vision and language). I wrote the final “script-poem” when I was able to see what the technology and his coding might produce.