May was a hectic month, full of exciting events and I am just now starting to recover! I was so busy, I had no time to write about what was going on and chose to put as many pictures as possible on Facebook instead. But now I can sit at my desk and give a proper account of the events I have been taking part in.
The first big thing I have been working on in the winter was a piece for the “Cities After Hours” Colloquium, organised by Ruth Austin at the French Department in collaboration with UCL’s Urban Lab that took place the 13th May. The conference gathered specialists of different areas to talk about the city at night. I was part of the first panel on art in/about the city.
I was very honoured when Ruth Austin suggested that I participated with a work of my own. It was a great opportunity to show one of my Oulipo inspired pieces to an audience not familiar with the Oulipo, and a real struck of luck as I was already interested in “doing something” with Olivier Salon’s poem Cri Printanier (Call of Spring), an antonymy of Paul Verlaine’s very famous Chanson d’Automne (Autumn Song). Salon transformed Verlain’s poem changing each word to it’s opposite, like when he replaced “chanson” (song) by “cri” (cry).
Verlaine’s poem describes the melancholic mood of the narrator strolling in a city. As melancholy is traditionally associated with darkness and solitude, it was perfect for “Cities After Hours”.
For my artistic work I used two Oulipian games. The first one involved I.T sofwares, Google and Systran to translate Salon’s poem. I then made Google translate Systran’s translation and I translated again the new translation with Systran this time. I did it once and once again.
I wanted to see the differences and the transformations brought to the materiality of the text by the series of translations. For that I used a second Oulipian game which comprised painting each line of the poem in black in each of the translations I obtained. This created the landscape of a city. For that I only needed to rotate these black blocks/verses by 90°. The result is what you can see here, in the picture: a city skyline silhouette at nighttime.
You can get more information on “Cities After Hours” here:
Sam Nightingale did the HistoryPin for the colloquium. It helps identify some of the locations and themes that researchers presented and gives you more links and information on their papers or works.
Listen the presentations here: