My final project is meant to be a self-portrait of sorts. I wanted to make something deeply personal that would hopefully turn out as a literary snapshot of myself. To do this, I utilized texts that have a special significance to me, transcribed things from life, and appropriated writings that have shaped me as a person. The blog presents three distinct pieces, all of which work together to display different aspects of my life. The first, entitled Pieces of Me, is made up of several non-literary texts that have meant something to me, like transcribed voicemails from my parents or letters from friends. For the second, Personal Appropriation, I used a selection from my favorite book (and one that I feel has shaped me the most), The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, to create a series of poems. The final one, Performance Art, plays on how important theatre and performing has been to me. The base text is three monologues that I have recently performed on stage. The pieces are hidden behind glitched photos of my face.
The blog can be found here: https://golioselfportrait.wordpress.com/
*You may have to click through to ‘older pieces’ to see all twelve posts that make up the blog.
I decided to create a ‘progressive’ self portrait to showcase how my life has changed/is changing, and so that I could have a little more opportunity to play with each text. Each piece takes on four forms (moving down a row), each slightly changed from the one before. I tried to make each incarnation polished though, so the piece could either be looked at as a whole and read top to bottom, left to right, or a reader could click through to one segment and still get a completed poem or piece of prose.
There is something narcissistic about the glitched photos that comprise the aesthetic of the blog – and that’s exactly what I was going for. After all, aren’t self portraits in themselves a tad narcissistic? I decided to embrace that aspect. It also serves as a grave reminder of the modern social landscape – most notably the ‘selfie’. In my view, there’s something inherently narcissistic about social media and everyone’s constant battle for attention. This reminder seemed like a perfect way to make commentary and to invite the reader in to read something actually deeply personal.
In-Depth: Pieces of Me
The first series is comprised of: two transcriptions of voicemails from my mom and my dad, and three letters from three different friends. These are all intimate texts to use – they are all words that were only meant for me to read/hear. This adds an essential personal element to my self portrait.
The pieces that resulted are interesting, mashing together five different voices for each poem. My favorite is definitely Part IV – each phrase seems to suggest something different, but still captures an aspect of me. One intentional choice was to leave the cursor at the end of the poem after ‘me’ to signify that the story is still being written.
In-Depth: Personal Appropriation
There is a lot of significance to the passage from Dharma Bums that I chose – it is a story of personal growth and triumph, both aspects of which I wanted to emphasize on my blog. The book has meant a lot to me over the years and changed my mindset quite a bit, so I felt like it was a good candidate to include in the self portrait. I loved how the piece was transformed. To me, each progression captured the essences of the original work. My favorite is probably Part III – I loved how it randomly ended on a declaration, “Sand in sneakers.”
In-Depth: Performance Art
Theater and performing on stage are such important aspects of who I am that I had to include them in the self portrait. Performance also represents a large portion of my connection to words – how to say them, when to say them, etc. This aspect fit in perfectly with a literary project.
The three monologues that were used as my base text are from the plays Inherit the Wind, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – the three plays I’ve most recently acted in. Each of the monologues are ones that I actually performed, so they have significance to me in that way as well. I thought it was interesting to see three such different works combined. There are touches of each, most notably the Shakespearean language from Midsummer interwoven with modern language from the other two. Part II is my favorite – it reads to me like a ‘super-monologue.’
For Pieces of Me, I started with the original texts, then used tools on TextMechanic to turn them into lines of poetry and randomize their order. I decided to do two lengthy stanzas so as to have enough base texts for the following steps. This resulted in Part II. This was then used as both the input and seed (just the first stanza) text to create a lengthy diastic poem using the online generator provided on the class blog. The result was Part III. Finally, this was made into a Markov chain using the online generator (Part IV). Documentation below.
For Personal Appropriation I wanted to get a little more hands-on with the text, so I used Padgett’s ‘waterfall’ method, with the literal book and pencil, to transform the text (Part II). This was then made into lines and randomized using tools on TextMechanic (Part III). Finally, this too, despite the brevity of it, was made into a Markov chain using the online generator (Part IV). Documentation below.
The making of Performance Art was also a little more hands on and physical. I used Brion Gysin’s cut-up method. First I printed the three monologues out on a sheet of paper and then cut them into small bits. I threw these in a bag and pulled them out one by one, typing out my results as I received them (Part II). This was then made into a diastic (without lines) using the online generator, with the text of Part II as the input and a famous line from Rosencrantz as the seed. It goes: “Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else,” which holds particular significance to a changing life as depicted in the progressive self portrait (Part III). Finally, following the pattern, this was also given the Markov chain treatment (Part IV).
One of the largest difficulties I encountered was obtained enough original text to carry the changes all the way through the series. Sometimes I limited myself by making the piece much too small in Part II or III and then having little to work with for the rest of the series. Luckily, this didn’t skew the outcome too much, and I was very happy with the end result.