3 Feb

*Please note that in this document, she / her are used to represent everyone.

To create or not to create, there are times when it seems the wiser decision would be to resist creative inclinations.

For many years I struggled with leaving painting and sculpture as a preoccupation. I wanted to get out of the studio, away from the smell of paint and the sawdust. I wanted to meet and interact with people and the culture outside of my door. And I wanted to work with other artists. Throughout that time, I continued to write: accounts of dreams, particular short passages and occasionally, I wrote essays. Sometimes, I wrote passages into painting and sculpture and buried them under additional layers. Eventually I decided that working with moving pictures was a way to create works that spoke to people and invited dialogue. At that time, I also saw that this form of creation required interactive teamwork. Eventually I made the transition to moving pictures and found that this form of activity helped me to accomplish my goals as an artist. Later, I decided that I preferred video and sound creation over the encumberment of film creation apparatus. My work evolved similarly to my earlier plastic arts in the form of writing texts and layering them within elements of visuals and audio. At first I called the works mood videos. Later, I decided that they were better described as videopoems.

Throughout all of those transitional times, I continued to gather and to clarify my philosophies through writing. In the late 1990’s, my practice expanded to include website creation. That permitted publishing images and writing. Essentially, at that time, the theatre and the walls of the gallery and even the public space expanded outward through the screens of home computer when audiences became able to log onto the Internet. From there, work presented through websites was then able to potentially reach an expanded audience. I enjoyed the freedom of exposure that those early web events permitted and I have a history of publishing works and leaving them out their for sharing.[1]

Since the flourishing of social media, I continue to enjoy exchanging my work through virtual networks. Sending video works to festivals has become far easier and exchanging this work in many internationally curated venues continues to be a satisfying way of idea exchange shared by artists and thinkers around the world. I do not always get paid for sharing my work, but sometimes I do.

Festivals based on the multi-modal creative technique of videopoetry are popping up all over. While the list on Dave Bonta’s Moving Poems site is not exhaustive, it does offer links to many well-known festivals.[2] This form of presenting offers a wide range of solutions for idea presentation through word, music and / or sound with visuals / moving pictures or still photographs to satisfy communication between creators and audiences. Essentially, creators are able to combine techniques of the seven arts with techniques of the seven liberal arts. The results are time-based artworks that travel from the viewer / receiver into the thoughtscape of audiences of one or more persons over the Internet, through personal computers, or in gallery and theatre settings. Although the work satisfies the goals of an increasing number of creators, videopoetry is not in the list of works qualifying under Literature by the Canada Council for the Arts Guidelines.[3] Neither is writing that is published on websites.

A look at the guidelines for two calls for poetry reveals that works published on the Internet are indeed classified as published by both organizations. Under the Eligibility Rules for the Montreal International Poetry Prize competition, it is clearly stated: (under Publication Defined) that any work that has appeared on the Internet or in print, or has been broadcast in any format is considered published and is therefore ineligible for the Montreal prize.[4] Granta -The Magazine of New Writing states in their current call for submissions: We only publish original material, i.e. first-ever publication. We cannot run a piece that has already appeared on the web or elsewhere in print. … [5] The calls for work by both the Montreal International Poetry Prize competition and Granta Magazine appear to put forward a case for including the Internet as a valid publishing venue in the 21st century. Although formats are developed and evolve over time, the principle of exchanging ideas within communities persists. As documented as the history of the world, our human development includes sharing spoken and written language. One problem that seems to persist and occasionally holds up the free flow of ideas and invention is the recognition by funding bodies that we might expect to support the process.

The structure through which the Canada Council for the Arts currently executes its mandate [6], through pre-screening, requires applicants to prove profiles for pre-approved access to funding competitions, brings questions to mind. For example, if a visual artist aspired to create through the written word, why would it not be possible for that person to qualify by presenting examples of proposed texts along with visual examples proving dedication and peer-judged success? (i.e. exhibition history) Why make it necessary for individuals to navigate through a bureaucratic maze of permissions? The Canada Council: Arts in a Digital World Conference, scheduled for the Ides of March in Montréal, is proposing to bring a discussion about the transition and transformation of the Canadian arts sector to thrive in the digital era. I sincerely hope that under the umbrella topic – aspirations of artists, legitimizing Internet publishing for liberating, empowering and sharing will be given status worthy of its market share and weight in the worldwide cultural mosaic.

The sheer number of books published each year is daunting to a writer in search of an editor. The temptation to self-publish promises the chance to move forward without being blocked. The website of the Association of Canadian Publishers states:

Approximately 10,000 books are published each year in Canada, almost all of which are initiated by publishers. Publishing firms take calculated financial risks every time they publish a book, laying out money for the editing, marketing and production of a book before the book earns any sales. Most publishing houses are inundated with unsolicited manuscripts on a regular basis, so becoming a successfully published writer takes a lot of determination, research, and a little luck.[7]

Claiming visibility through words is a personal freedom and arguably an extension of the human condition but having those words sanctioned is another gauntlet to run. In the end, when you get past the questions of whether a piece of writing is technically well written and whether it has been edited by other than the writer and her colleagues, the questions remain of whether it proves its point(s) and ultimately, is it any good at all?

Unresolved:

Going ahead with discernment to publish online or store your words in a file, does self-publishing leave you nowhere in the world?

When a person decides that she could say something, which authorities decide that she cannot?

As artists, risk taking goes with the territory. So if an author puts her original work out on the Internet, what are the consequences?

At best: someone who the reads texts, sees the visuals, listens to a soundwork or views a video might show further interest by inviting the creator to take part in a festival, or – to publish in book form.

At worst: The right to witness, and the right to author is something in the world, but if you are not carried by an editor outside of your friends or colleagues, it might seem that you are in Limbo. Topping that, if the Canada Council for the Arts does not recognize publishing on the web and / or the texts in videopoetry, you might have to face the fact that the rug is being pulled out from under you just when you start to think that your creative work and your philosophies are giving you legs to stand on.

– Valerie LeBlanc-Feb-2-2017

[1] http://www.timetravelinthismoment.com/

http://basicbruegel.com/purplefireworks/purplefireworks.htm

[2] List of poetry video festival sites posted on Dave Bonta’s Moving Poems:

http://movingpoems.com/poetry-film-festivals/

[3] http://canadacouncil.ca/glossary/fields-of-practice

[4] http://montrealprize.com/competition/rules/

[5] https://granta.submittable.com/submit

[6] www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canada-council-for-the-arts/

The Canada Council for the Arts, located in Ottawa, is the federal government’s principal instrument for supporting the arts. The Council’s mandate from the Parliament of Canada is “to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts.”

[7] http://publishers.ca/index.php/get-published

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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. In the fall of 2012, she published her play The Raft, through Basic Bruegel Editions.

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