The readers were J.R. Carpenter, Erin Mouré, and Lance Olsen.
J.R. Carpenter began with a great feminist essay about women and technology from xxxboîte. She then presented a new multimedia work that incorporated google maps and videos (that she filmed & edited) with the text. It was a great reading.
Erin Mouré always gives a fabulous performance. There was a bit of a technical snag; Mouré's earing was jangling against her mic, and a tech guy disrupted the performance to fix it. But she handled the situation with good humour, and gave an animated reading from her new book O Resplandor. i really wish her reading was longer.
The order was unfortunate. The last presentation wiped the previous ones very much from my mind, because it was so upsetting. i apologize for talking so briefly about two amazing poets, and dedicating so much space to the third.
MILD TRIGGER WARNING FOR THE REST OF THIS POST
Lance Olsen's presentation was a video collaboration based on his novel Head in Flames about the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. i won't link to Olsen's site, because he is an artist who seems to consider being offensive the same as being "cutting edge," a reactionary posture against progressive movements. The video was scenes from van Gogh's film Submission which is a fictional account of abused Muslim women. The film is graphic, sexualized, and exoticized: the woman (one actress plays all the characters) are wearing a see-through chador, except when she is writhing on the ground covered in open whip wounds. It looks like porn, with lots of intense shots focusing on the curve of the stomach and the space between the breasts. What i found most disturbing was that Olsen and his collaborator chose to erase the woman's voice, inserting Olsen reading his novel as the soundtrack. If the point of the film was originally to give voice to abused women in Islam, that point was entirely lost. Olsen's voice itself was hard to follow, becoming mostly background noise. The only line i heard clearly was something along the lines of "stop whining like a woman." Interesting choice of words, considering that women are often silenced, and that a woman telling a story of physical abuse is not whining at all. Sure, the novel was not written specifically to be juxtaposed with the film (as far as i know), but a little bit of consideration is in order here. Women are often silenced; abused women and minority women even more so (these groups are not meant to be mutually inclusive or exclusive; they overlap, but not always).
i don't know if Olsen's novel is any different, but the presentation was misogynistic and racist. It plays directly into western fantasies of what a Muslim woman is or should be. It offers womens' bodies as objects to be gazed upon, their suffering as titillation for the viewer.
The audience was given no time to respond to the video. No Q & A was scheduled for this reading. i wish one had been; i would have liked to question Olsen directly. i'm writing this in a state of tired rage. i get the impression that the video is provocative simply because it can be.
To counter all this regressive violence, i'm going to suggest heading over to Shakesville, which is progressive, feminist, and a safe space.