1 Dec

5th International Video Poetry Festival
55 VIDEO ARTISTS & POETS FROM 21 COUNTRIES
6 HOURS SHOW
SATURDAY10/12 STARTS 20.00

GREECE
H. Bozini + P. Papadopoulos | Th. Panou | Y. Deliveis
F. Averbach (Void Network) T. Kapouranis | A. Chatziioannidi
Ch. Sakellaridis | V. Velli | Y. Lianos (Lokatola Collective)
S. Oikonomidis |Demi Sam (Group Avgo) | K. Shabanova

THAILAND
R. Nurfarida

INDIA
S. Singh

MEXICO
P. R. Aranda | C. Bustamante

AUSTRIA
V. Sebert

VENEZUELA
A. M. Giner

BOLIVIA
L. Sellars

SOUTH KOREA
F. Harvor

ARMENIA
E. Boghosian

IRAN
M. Fathollahi

CANADA
S. Otter | M. Depatie | V. LeBlanc | D. H. Dugas

GERMANY
S. Wiegner

ITALY
P. Chiesa-S. Cinematografica
F. Gironi+G. Daverio | F. Bonfatti

ENGLAND
D. Douglas | C. Cameron | B. Dickinson | E. Cay
M. Piatek | A. Cook | O. Smith | J. L. Ugarte| D. Taylor | M. Lland

USA
S. Chang | H. Dewbery | S. Negus | H. Gray | M. Mullins
H. P. Moon | C. St. Onge | R. Anderson | T. Becker

RUSSIA
T. Moshkova | C. Preobrazhenskaya

ARGENTINA
L. Focarazzo

BELGIUM
P. Bogaert & J. Peeters

AUSTRALIA
M. Goldberg | I. Gibbins

SPAIN
Is. Martin | C. Moreno

SWITZERLAND
A. Prundaru

O καιρός της Τέχνης πέρασε πια. Το θέμα τώρα είναι να πραγματώσουμε
την Τέχνη, να κατασκευάσουμε αποτελεσματικά και σε όλα τα επίπεδα της ζωής ό,τι παλιότερα υποχρεωτικά
παρέμενε μια καλλιτεχνική αυταπάτη ή μια ανάμνηση που ο άνθρωπος ονειρευόταν ή συντηρούσε μονόπλευρα.
Δεν μπορούμε να πραγματώσουμε την Τέχνη παρά καταργώντας την. Ωστόσο, θα πρέπει να αντιταχτούμε
στην σημερινή κατάσταση της κοινωνίας, που καταργεί την Τέχνη αντικαθιστώντας την με την αυτόματη κίνηση
ενός θεάματος ακόμα πιο ιεραρχικού και παθητικού.Μπορούμε να καταργήσουμε την Τέχνη μόνο αν την πραγματώσουμε

organised by +the Institue [for Experimental Arts]
supported by Void Network

ΠΛΗΡΟΦΟΡΙΕΣ
http://theinstitute.info/?p=1488
FB EVENT
https://www.facebook.com/events/216056028835833/?active_tab=discussion

18 Nov

I presented an abridged French version of this talk at the Université de Moncton, on September 27, 2016. The talk was part of Visible/Invisible, a collaborative project with Daniel H. Dugas, Symposium d’art/nature September 22 – October 2, 2016.

Visible and Almost invisible : negotiating the impossible
September 21, 2016

How I came to the Symposium d’art/nature and the Parc Écologique du Millénaire, Moncton, or what can an artist do to draw attention to the acceleration of climate change.

COLLABORATION
When Daniel and I began to collaborate in 1990, we had each been working as artists for several years. To identify our collaborative partnership, we adopted the working name: Limit(E) productions which we continued to use for several years. We produced the multifaceted video installation: Transitory, during the time when we were earning our MFA’s at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1991-93.

The installation involved a mulberry tree that was reconstructed and preserved. Above the tree, slides of colorized leaves were projected onto a circular reflector. A monitor built into the tree played a program of colorized leaves blowing in the wind. A talking car alarm with the sensor embedded into the tree warned viewers to ‘step back’ if they come too close. We created this work to represent an extreme infringement on nature and to protest the directions that developing technology appeared to be forging upon the human spirit. It seemed that we were entering a time period of tightened restraints on both the natural world and human culture.

We simultaneously produced the video series In Transit during the 1991-93 time period. We used a cut and paste method of uniting individual inputs of writing, video, sound and music. In Transit was an in extremis take on the time period and the culture of the early 1990’sin this high-density American city. Along with all of the great things happening in the city, Chicago was experiencing increased levels of violent crime rates. The statistics included 928 persons murdered in 1991 and 943 persons in 1992, before dropping to 856 in 1993, the year we graduated.

Our individual and collaborative projects continue to evolve. The concerns often move between public / private, and how technology structures influence and carry messages of change and growth. At the heart of our activities is an interest in the ways that economic, political, and sociocultural factors trickle down to infiltrate all aspects of human society. We work from a holistic point of view and a desire to establish a rapport between what is experienced and what is imagined; ideas that emerge to see the light of day, and those that remain below the surface.

MARKETING CONCEPTS OF VISIBILITY / INVISIBILITY

Much has been said about mirrors, about visibility and Invisibility, but while looking for points of discussion for this project, I was thinking of the idea that when we look into a mirror, we expect to see ourselves looking back. I was thinking about some of the work of Belgian surrealist artist Artist Réne Magritte when I came across a website with this portrait that I, at first, mistook for a spinoff of his work.

After reading through the highlights of the homepage:

YOU HAVE THE CHOICE TO TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR DESTINY –
WE CAN HELP YOU GET THERE IN STYLE

WE CAN HELP YOUR LAB STAND OUT IN A CROWD

WE CAN HELP YOUR BUSINESS

CRUSH THE COMPETITION !

I decided that the image looks more like Kevin Bacon as Hollow Man, in a very lame science fiction-horror thriller from the year 2000. And finding the site reminded me of the love / hate relationship I have with MARKETING.

Because we live in a time in history, and a place in the world where marketing RULES, we are constantly pitted against of the narrowing of opportunities and diversity. In all fields of interest, we are encouraged to specialize and to competitively advertise that specialty. The downside is that specialization sometimes implies that persons working through life in a variety of ways; changing course and hovering in some of the less travelled pathways, are perceived as not working seriously enough. Hope might lie in the prospect of parallel tracks where all aspects of human concerns might be addressed. Suspension of adherence to the forced pressure of specialized market economies would be required, to achieve a holistic environment.

WORKING IN THE INTERSTICE

In the early 1970’s, Artist Gordon Matta-Clark believed in stepping back to take a more careful look at where the progress of continued growth was taking us. His work during that time period continues to hold value. Trained as an architect, instead of building, he worked as a performer, photographer, and sculptor. His practice was diverse. He was probably most well known for making cuts in condemned buildings. While these cuts created spacial artworks in their own right, they also drew attention to environmental development in urban centres. For the Biennale de Paris,1975, he created the Conical Intersect, an antimonument. The construction of the then-controversial Centre Georges Pompidou necessitated the destruction of two 17th century historic buildings that had survived the two world wars. Cutting a large cone-shaped hole, at a forty-five-degree angle through the condemned townhouses, Matta-Clark directed the view from inside the buildings toward the site of the Pompidou. From the street view, it was possible to look back through, up into the skeleton of the townhouses.

While Gordon Matta-Clark used the destruction of whole architectures as a basis for his work in critiquing urban gentrification, the Earth Artists of the 1960’s and 70’s worked within landscapes to make monumental impact.

EARTH ARTISTS

Dennis Oppenheim was an American conceptual artist, performance artistearth artist, sculptor and photographer. While still a student, Gordon Matta-Clark worked with Dennis Oppenheim on his Annual Rings,1968. The project is described as inspired by the annual rings of tree growth. Pathways were shoveled in the snow on either side of the frozen waterway dividing the Unites States and Canada, and their time zones. Drawing attention to national and temporal man-made boundaries through this ephemeral work, Oppenheimer questioned the relative values of ordering systems that we live by.

Having died in 1973, Robert Smithson is remembered for his use of photography in relation to sculpture and land art. The Spiral Jetty, 1970 and the documentary film based on its construction are considered to be his signature work. Constructed on the Northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake, Utah, the sculpture is built of mud, salt crystals and basalt rock. Since the initial construction of Spiral Jetty, questions regarding proposed changes in land use in the area surrounding the sculpture and preservation of the sculpture have fueled a debate. The sculpture is sometimes visible and sometimes submerged, depending upon the water level of the Great Salt Lake.

The earth artists monumental sculptures of the 1960’s and 70’s artists continue to bring back the question of what should an artist do? In many cases, what the artists were doing by creating monumental works that were visible from the air, amounted to being not much different than massive land displacement projects carried out through mining and urban development.

So there is a question / controversy of ‘should artists engage in the same destruction of environments as heavy industries, even if they have the power and the economy to do so?’

Michael Heizer continues to create his work City in Garden City, Nevada. While Heizer defends City as a monumental reference to ancient land use that showcases and preserves the landscape, it also presents a highly controversial question, ‘Should artists, regardless of justification, be granted the right to create large-scale permanent sculptures in pristine landscapes?’

Within the second wave of earth artists that opened up in the 1980’s, there began to be a more kind appreciation of environment. Wheatfield, A Confrontation, 1982 by SOHO based artist Agnes Denes involved the transformation of two acres of land in Lower Manhattan into a wheat field. The field was in the Battery Park landfill and in the shadow of the Twin Towers, with the New York Stock Exchange looming just outside. Denes had said that her idea was to create “an intrusion of the country into the metropolis, in the world’s richest real estate.” During the course of this project, Denes cleaned trash from the site, brought in topsoil, planted, harvested and exhibited a wheat crop. The seeds from the wheat were then spread around the world to be planted. Denes’ project brought attention to many issues and instigated discussions. Controversy lurks even within this earth artist project as the transportation of seeds falls into one of the characteristics of the Anthropocene, that of introducing invasive species. But Denes was early in the wave of artists trying to effect a positive difference through the work of repurposing and restoring damaged land.

In 2016, what is there that qualifies as untouched nature? After talking around all of the angles, I return to how I have come to be here at the Symposium d’art/nature. One way to begin approaching contemporary issues of climate change and the need to somehow slow the growth of environmental destruction is to internalize it.

When Daniel and I carried out research in the Florida Everglades, for the month of July 2014, it had a mesmerizing effect. We returned to Moncton to build the FLOW: Big Waters project from the research material. As the project continued until March 1, 2016 when we launched the sound walks, we continued to be in the Everglades. In other words, the transformative ‘nature’ of nature continued to surround us. Since that time, our work has been screened at several Miami venues, in Bristol, UK and in Sao Paulo, BR at the FILE 2015.

In March 2015, we presented at the AnthropoScene: Art and Nature in a Manufactured Era Conference, Coral Gables, FL through the University of Miami. A curated program of our FLOW: Big Waters videos was included in the Exhibition at the Abess Centre. We also participated in a panel discussion and conducted a Visible / Invisible workshop. To prepare for the trip, we did a version of the exercise featuring Moncton’s big snow.

DISCUSSING / DECLARING THE ANTHROPOCENE – BY WAY OF BACKGROUND AS THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES …

In 2002, Paul Crutzen proposed the term Anthropocene to designate a new geological era characterized by the impact of human activities on the environment. The beginning is proposed to be the mid-twentieth century when the first nuclear bomb was exploded in the Alamogordo Desert, New Mexico on July 16, 1945. Following that event and subsequent nuclear explosions, a layer of carbon isotope fallout was detected. With the invention of modern construction / manufacturing materials, layers of concrete, plastic and metals were added to the earth’s crust. Human induced migration / displacement of animals through habitat destruction and changes to the atmosphere causing temperature changes and increased evaporation evidence further, that there are rapid changes to the planet itself. (e.g. earth moving; mining; trawling; animal, plant, transport of bacterial and viral organisms through accident, travel and trade.)

In 2015, the Anthropocene Working Group, at the University of Leicester, UK was tasked with studying the factors and making a decision of whether to declare that human activity has created this new era on earth. Their 2016 announcement has changed from asking whether we have transitioned into an age that humans have built – to declaring how its beginning can be marked. One difficulty in declaring beyond doubt, that the planet has entered a new geological era, is the fact that there is no clear line of strata to unearth and to date as was the reliable procedure in the past. However, it is generally agreed that there is an accelerated rate of change to the planet itself, and that this has been the result of human actions.

VISIBLE / INVISIBLE THE IMPOSSIBLE NEGOTIATION: SEEING / NOT SEEING

This time, the conversation begins with experiments in the impossible negotiation of creating almost invisibility from visible passage in a green space.

Science tells us that the existence of visibility and invisibility at the same time is not possible. In the world of glass, it is said that we do not create clarity in the process, instead, we mask the opacity of the material.

To be seen or not seen seems simple enough, until we start to look more closely at the concept of seeing. Then we start recognize that we can miss part of the picture as our ways of seeing often start with expectations and experience; what we think we will see, or what we would like, or not like to see. In terms of the art world, ways of seeing have been and continue to form opening points of many discussions and studies.

Through our project Visible / Invisible, we are working to create invisibility within plain sight, that is to say that no one is going away, everyone continues to exist and to co-exist in multifaceted planes of the software project. Rather than creating true invisibility, we are masking visibility by superimposing another layer overtop of the spect-actor. One reason for creating this ‘imperfect’ invisibility is that concepts of visibility and invisibility open endless possibilities for discussion. We hope to get out to enjoy the outdoor space and to generate opportunities for discussion and reflection on where we stand in the proposed declaration of the Anthropocene.

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. In another way of seeing it, as our world is not only a mirror but a multifaceted environment, it might be possible to complete the bigger picture, by changing a detail.

What can an artist or any one person working in any chosen field do in the middle of landslide changes to environmental baselines? Why this exercise? If the playground is big, it is not infinite. Our project Visible / Invisible presents an existentialist game where the spec-actors can re-define their presence and rapport with the world.

Valerie LeBlanc

NOTES

Boal, A., (1992). Games for Actors and Non-Actors, Second Edition, (Trans. Adrian Jackson). Routledge, London and New York.

Deleuze, G., Guattari, F., (1987) Milles plateaux (A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia). (Trans. Brian Massumi). University of Minneapolis Press, MN.

Dugas, D. , LeBlanc, V. (Spring 2016). FLOW: Big Waters, Billie, Undercurrents in Atlantic Canadian Visual Art, Volume 1 / ISSUE 2. (Co-Editors: Terry Graff, director/CEO and chief curator), Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, NB, pp 6 – 19.

Krause, B. (2012). The Great Animal Orchestra, Finding the origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places, Back Bay Books, Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, NY.

Louvel, L. (2011). Poetics of the Iconotext. Université de Poitiers, France. (Ed. Karen Jacobs. Trans. Laurence Petit.) Ashgate Publishing Limited, Farnham, Surrey, UK.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1959). Le visible et l’invisible, [The Visible and the Invisible]. . (Ed. Claude Lefort., Alphonso Lingis, Trans. 1968). Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL.

Morris, E. (2011). Seeing is Believing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography), Penguin Books, New York, NY.

Websites (accessed: September 26, 2016)

Marketing

Gordon Matta-Clark, Conical Intersect (1975)

Dennis Oppenheim, Annual Rings (1968)

Smithson, Robert, Spiral Jetty (1970)

Alberta Oil Sands

Michael Heizer, City (1972 – ongoing)

Agnes Denes, Wheat field, a Confrontation (1982)

 

18 Nov

Cultural Flotsam (2016) and Monocultural Stutter (2015) will be playing at the 5th International Video Poetry Festival in Athens (Winter 2016) as well as Illumination (2016) – a collaboration with Daniel H. Dugas.

film-poetry-athens-wp

About Void Network and +the Institute [for Experimental Arts]

The yearly International Video Poetry Festival 2016 will be held for the fifth time in Athens, Greece. Approximately 2500 people attended the festival last year.

There will be two different zones of the festival. The first zone will include video poems, visual poems, short film poems and cinematic poetry by artists from all over the world (America, Asia, Europe, Africa). The second zone will include cross-platform collaborations of sound producers and music groups with poets and visual artists in live improvisations.

The International Video Poetry Festival 2016 attempts to create an open public space for the creative expression of all tendencies and streams of contemporary visual poetry.

12 Nov

My video ‘Cultural Flotsam’ has been curated by Marc Mercier into the 29th Instants Vidéo Festival, Marseille, France. The program is being shown live from on VisualcontainerTV: http://www.visualcontainer.net/

Visual Container TV 24h/24 du 11 novembre au 4 décembre www.visualcontainer.net

Les œuvres seront aussi visibles à la Cartonnerie du 10 au 13 novembre

Stato d’Urgenza Poetica 2

Strukturalizm / Structuralism (3’ – 2016) / Róża Duda (Pologne)
The wind here is very soothing (8’ – 2014) / Draga Jovanovic (Serbie/Canada)
Cultural Flotsam (1’59 – 2016) / Valerie LeBlanc (Canada)
Floating illusion (3’ – 2015) / Chuang Yu-Ju (Taïwan)
I Want To Be Like You (5’45 – 2016) / Dagmar Schürrer (Autriche/Allemagne)
Space Laika (1’18 – 2016) / Egle Vismante (Lituanie/France)
Pietà (8’ – 2007) / konstantinos-antonios goutos / theFlâneu® (Grèce)
La Chambre de Monsieur Tatischeff (5’41 – 2016) / Quelven (France)
Insomnia (5’ – 2015) / Ivetta Kang, Kevin Park & Matthew Wolkow (Corée du Sud/Canada)
Nous sommes B.L.U.S.H. (3’27 – 2015) / Le collectif BLUSH (Québec)
Channel Swimmer (1’17 – 2015) / Jane Glennie (GB)
Thoughts like a wave (4’ – 2016) / Henry Gwiazda (USA)
Hive (Ruche) (4’ – 2014) / Duygu Nazlı Akova (Turquie)
Una mina (7’35 – 2016) / María Papi (Argentine)

 

ABOUT
International Videoart WebChannel since February 2009. Visualcontainer had hosted the most international videoart festivals and curatorial projects from all over the world. Exhibitcontainer host international videoart festivals, videoart project of international videoart curators from all over the world and only on invitation

1 Nov

We were on one of two airplanes to arrive in Nairobi at around 9 p.m. Everyone was funneled into a mass waiting area that eventually led to cordoned off lines and Customs Clerks. There was no clear indication of which line you should get into but it was not a problem. Outside of the Diplomatic queue, everyone was expected to find her / his way to any desk. There, each person had to stand in front of a camera, some were totally fingerprinted, some were partially fingerprinted, and I was not printed at all.

Outside of the building, we looked for the person who was sent to meet us but saw no one. Someone suggested that we look around the corner where they said the drivers must wait. Sure enough, in the darkness of the parking lot, there were more than a hundred persons lined up along a sidewalk. They were holding small signs, waiting quietly and saying nothing. To maintain order, this was what the authorities permitted. It was a strange, unexpected and welcoming sight. Daniel and I passed through twice before seeing our names on a paper held up by one of the Kisii University Students sent to fetch us. We had already been travelling over thirty hours when the plane landed. Tired and sweating, I was working to decipher this late night welcome to Kenya. About twenty students had come along to greet the international arrivals. We joined the rest of the group on the sidewalk of the pick-up area to wait for the bus and until all of the incoming poets had arrived. There were more waits as Students were dropped off at the places where they might stay overnight and finally we checked in at the hotel around two a.m. Several of us needed to decompress and instead of going straight to the shower and to sleep, we assembled in the 24-hour hotel restaurant to eat and to talk. This late night meeting fell into a pattern of stolen moments where we, as internationally based poets haunting various time zones, met at day’s end to unwind outside of the moving feast of the Kisii University bus.

Our welcome to Kenya was a complete cultural experience in itself and to re-think it is to slip back into the exhaustion of that first night in Nairobi, and the challenge of remembering each of the Students’ Kiswahili and English names. As the days progressed and we went out on field trips, read our poems, listened to poems, songs and saw dances of more students and other local people, I realized that the closeness of the personal encounters might not be remembered with names attached. The cultural exchanges, the faces and personalities of those I met only once, or only a few times remain committed to memory and to a wish of returning for a longer stay at sometime in the future.

Monday, Oct. 3 – bus ride from Nairobi to Kisii, arrival: at Kisii Dans Hotel around midnight. Throughout the Festival, there was a lot of assembling at the Kisii University bus. Our driver, David waited patiently for minutes and hours to drive us through city traffic and over highways. When I asked him how many hours he worked everyday, he said twelve and added that if he got a good three hours of sleep a day, he was fine. We saw him maneuver through many tricky passages and he always kept his cool!

During the trip over mountains to arrive in Kisii, we made three short stops; to purchase and sample fire roasted corn, to throw the remaining corn husks to a family of baboons who waited along the highway to catch a meal, and at a market / rest area with snack foods and washrooms.

Oct. 3 – 8
Co-presentation portions of essay: FLOW: BIG WATERS as published in the billie magazine and poetry from the Everglades project (2014-2016). After the first day of presentations, I read other poetry and short stories. The schedule was changed and augmented as the days progressed. No one seemed to mind as we all had chances to read and the days stretched out longer to accommodate all of the voices we needed to hear, and to attend events that we needed were scheduled to participate in.

Other poetry readings took place on the Kisii University Campus, at the Genesis Primary Preparatory School, the St. Charles Kabeo High School and at the legendary Lake Victoria, headwaters of the White Nile. On the way to and from Lake Victoria, we passed not far from the region of Kogelo. This small village is garnering attention as it the ancestral home of Barack Obama’s father. Along the highway, we saw businesses with names that wish to identify with America – The Whitehouse Café, The Pentagon, and etc.

The Kistrech Poetry Festival was held during the Kisii University Cultural Week. On one occasion, there were some poetry readings from our group and demonstrations of various tribal songs and dances before the rains, common to this time of year, necessitated an end to the afternoon’s festivities. This was after we had the chance to see a group of Maasai nomad warriors, in red robes, perform with their staffs. The group is one of the many tribes represented in the Kisii University Student body. The view was spectacular and historic as we sat and stood in the tents surrounded by high Kisii mountain backdrops. Later that day we were treated to a special dinner at the invitation of Professor John S. Akama, Vice-Chancellor of Kisii University.

Our group, the internationally based poets from the Kistrech Poetry Festival, and Kenyan Students from the University of Kisii and Nairobi, also visited the Bogiakumu Village. We were welcomed individually into homes to learn something of the lifestyle of villagers and to talk to the families about our own countries. The home of the two women I visited was started in 2014 and is still under construction. It is a wood frame and mud construction, a very sound construction base for the area. Many villagers now forego thatched roof construction in favor of galvanized corrugated steel. This was the case of the home I visited. The most important factor is that a generous overhang guarantees that the walls stay firm and dry during the rainy season. Seeing the roof of this home made me think of the problems that skimpy roof overhangs sometimes cause in Canada.

The woman and her daughter-in-law were introduced as the owners of the home but they were not named. They showed me some of the corn crop they were drying to be ground for flour and told me that this is their only source of flour. Two Kisii Students, Mandolin and Ombui had come along to interpret anything that was not understood and everyone took part in the conversation. The women cut sugar cane growing outside of the door and we all sat chewing the cane while talking. Everyone told me that it is good for the teeth.

Oct. 9 – 10
The return trip started with a nine-hour bus ride back from Kisii to Nairobi. Usually just six hours, the ride was extended due to traffic jams on the mountain roads and in Nairobi itself. Overnight at the Nairobi hotel gave Daniel and I the chance to get a good rest before starting the pattern of long airport waits and long flights to get back home. Students Elly and Justus accompanied us on the return bus trip. It was then that I realized how much shepherding those Student Ambassadors had done for us during the festival events. There was always someone looking out for us, explaining things and introducing each of the poets with great enthusiasm.

Since returning to Canada I noticed on one news website that the Student population in Kisii is largely made up of young people commuting from rural areas. It comes as a surprise to me as they all seemed to be well informed and they project an urban image in their adaptability and manner of dressing. One thing that seems sure is that these Students worked hard to keep up with the schedule that we followed during the Festival while also commuting and studying.

Stray Observations
According to the nature of travel and its unexpected paths, participating in the Kistrech Poetry Festival, Kisii, Kenya was not something that I could ever have imagined. Even today as I look through the Festival magazine, I see images that reveal only the smallest sense of the close cultural exchanges that the event sponsored. Everything seemed to differ from the North American experience.

Throughout Kenya, many places are under construction and in Kisii, they are building more high rises. We noticed that some cement foundations looked porous and hastily constructed. One schoolteacher told us that the city is on a fault line and that there is some concern about the strength of the new towers.

Televisions in the hotel restaurants play all day and there were only a few times that I listened to the TV in the hotel room. Sometimes in the morning, if there was a bit of extra time I would put it on to listen to the news, local talk shows and, surprisingly enough, African wildlife shows were always playing. Without looking, I easily recognized that low, almost whispering voice telling the story of the wild life habits of the Serengeti’s big animals.

I visited North Africa for a month during the year after I left high school. I have always taken personal offence when people refer to Africa as a whole and not as a place made up of many individual countries and alliances. Going to East Africa has made me aware of the wish expressed by many Kenyans, to be considered as part of a coalition of countries. By that, I mean that many of the people I met spoke not firstly of Kenya, but of Africa’s place in the world as a whole.

Since leaving Kenya, I have looked in on news reports of political unrest and student protests that erupted as we were leaving. Facebook posts show armed soldiers occupying those same peaceful hallways and grounds where we met and read during the Kistrech Poetry Festival. Caught in the middle, the student-poets are fighting back with words.

There was always talk of being given Kenyan names during the visit. I was surprised when, after waiting at the hotel and speaking at length with the security guards, who originally hail from Kisii; that their co-worker, the hotel clerk, also from Kisii assigned Kenyan names to both Daniel and myself. This man who was unnamed to me has called me Kwamboka – crossover. As a Writer / Artist often working in the interstice, I’ll keep this name for my return to Kenya.

The Last Airplane In The String Of Airplanes
During my travels from Moncton, NB to Nairobi, Kenya on October first and second, 2016, my expectations were suspended and they remained suspended until I returned home. After two days of travel back from East Africa on October 10, we came in on an Air Canada Beechcraft flight from Halifax in the tail end of Hurricane Matthew. Yes, the biblical reference was not lost on me as my body shook in the passenger’s seat across the aisle from Daniel and behind two big game hunters from South Africa. Daniel and I returned home from Nairobi via London and Heathrow during the throws of a rough landing in Halifax on an Air Canada fleet Boeing 767-300.

When I saw the flight listing: Halifax – Moncton, AC7762 – BEH, I could never have guessed that we would be flying in an even smaller plane than the ones that usually land on return flights from Toronto or Montréal to Moncton. That is probably because the BEH – Beechcraft is not listed on the fleet card in the pocket of information available on most planes. (and coincidentally, not on the BEH Beechcraft) In the end, our lives were lifted up in Halifax and set back down in Moncton through the coordinated skills of the Pilot and Co-Pilot, skills that we saw them demonstrate to a science as we sat mere feet from them. They tweaked each minute control on their craft while navigating paths through radar and thick clouds. Any fear I had of ‘not making it’ was suspended by the motion sickness I experienced and my fingers continued to vibrate for an hour after landing. HAIL to the Pilot and Co-Pilot who also looked greatly relieved to have landed! And yet, another shocking detail of the flight stands out more in that memory of suspended life expectancy – the first flash of the land below revealed that all of the leaves had died. They had turned from summer green to those shades of red, orange and yellow that catalogue copywriters boastfully describe as glorious. One flash and then cloud cover hid it all from view until we touched down.

Images captions: 4th Kistrech Poetry Festival, October 3-8, 2016: Kisii University; Genesis Preparatory Primary School; Bogiamuku village; Lake Victoria; the St. Charles Kabeo High School with Beatrice Ekesa, Martin Glaz Serup, Hagar Peeters and Abel, Eric Tinsay Valles, Seth Michelson, Godspower Oboido, Erling Kittelsen, Tete Burugu, Gunnar Wærness, Sofia Eriksson, Daniel H. Dugas, Tony Mochama, Jennifer Karmin, Christopher Okemwa, Elly Omullo, Ombui Omoke, Roberto de Khalifa, Mandoline and so many others.

I would like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts and the New Brunswick Arts Board for their support. / Je remercie le Conseil des arts du Canada et le Conseil des Arts du Nouveau-Brunswick pour leur soutien.

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About Valerie LeBlanc


Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, pluri-­disciplinary artist and writer Valerie LeBlanc has worked in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Australia. Her creations travel between poetry, performance, visual and written theory. Valerie LeBlanc has been creating video poetry since the mid 1980’s, and is the creator of the MediaPackBoard (MPB), portable screening / performance device.

L’artiste pluridisciplinaire Valerie LeBlanc est vidéaste, poète, performeuse et essayiste. Son travail oscille entre le remarquable et le quotidien. Elle a exposé ses œuvres en Europe, en Australie et au Brésil. Elle crée des vidéopoèmes depuis le milieu des années 1980 et a inventé le MediaPackBoard (MPB), un appareil de projection mobile pour la performance.

Date : April 2020
Genre : Vidéopoésie/Videopoetry
Français/English

Videopoetry / Vidéopoésie

Small Walker Press

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