Death Fugue: An Uncovering
Death Fugue: An Uncovering requires the participation of the observer to reveal the text and experience the subtext of Paul Celan’s poem through meditative gestures. Participant movements bring forth a recorded reading of Death Fugue by the poet himself, while recorded readings of the poem in various languages occur in the absence of participant movements. The installation echoes the counterpoint of the poem as a struggle between the past and future, while creating a ritual space for remembering and a corporeal way to engage with its poeticity. In an attempt to detach the reader from a textual interpretation of “Death Fugue,” this installation suggests a relationship to the poem that is both personal and communal. The structure and materials reference motifs such as ashes, the act of digging, and graves, combining both aerial and terrestrial elements.
Death Fugue: An Uncovering is presented as a poem etched onto a 4 by 4 foot sheet of raw steel that acts as a tabletop sandbox. Included in the box are 100 pounds of black and white sand. A webcam mounted above the sandbox records participant movements. The sheet of steel is placed on four speakers, with two playing an original music composition created for the installation. One hyper-directional speaker hovers above the installation and plays audio recordings of Death Fugue in 10 languages—Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish.
LabSynthe Artists: Professor Frank Dufour, Associate Professor xtine burrough, Ariel Comstock, Francis Eyth, Nathan Grande, Clayton Harper, Caleb Shafer, Yvan Tina
Death Fugue: Participatory Embodiment
On May 5, 2016, The Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies hosted readings of poems of the Holocaust from 10-2pm in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology building at UT Dallas. During this event, visitors were encouraged to collaborate beneath the lobby stairway in interacting with and creating images of their bodies with the projected text of Paul Celan’s poem, Death Fugue. xtine burrough supplied the projected text, a work of kinetic typography, facilitated the collaborations, and recorded participants as they made the text their own. The result is a communal enactment of the poem as a text that requires many bodies for its construction. Some actors used their bodies, others held the text on the petals of red roses, and some projected the text onto the bodies of others (their children, their friends, or their colleagues). Interacting with the poem in fragments elicits the temporal space of memory. In the spirit of collaboration and memory making, the artist edited the textual bodies together into a cohesive poem.
This piece was made as a younger sister to LabSynthe’s interactive installation. While the former creates a formal, shared space for uncovering, this community-building media project is additive and spontaneous. Participants in the first environment are imagined as listeners, whereas here the participant might speak the poem or engage in dialog with the artist, or others, behind the camera or holding the projector.
Death Fugue: A Collaborative Making of Digital Poetry was presented as a work in progress, conducted beneath the stairs in the ATEC atrium. A Pico projector was used to distribute the text of Celan’s poem.
Death Fugue was written by Paul Celan; English Translation by Dr. Frederick Turner and Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth; Oration by Dr. Frederick Turner; Original Music and Sound Recording by Nathan Grande; Kinetic Type, Persuader/Comforter/Sure You Can Person...and Editing by xtine