The whiplashed, pulped and bloodied back of the soldier of culture—of the “little man,” the government clerk, the raznochinets, the baptized Jew, the intelligent whom the crowd drags to the Fontanka River to be drowned—is the price of initiation into history, into letherature.
—Alexander Skidan, “On the Use and Abuse of Letherburg for Life,” Words Without Borders (translated by Our Swimmer)
Poetry in the Age of Total Communication
Let us sing the surface of the song.
Since the mid-nineties, the Riga-based textual group Orbit (Orbita) has accompanied its poetic performances with electronic music and video/slide projections. Midway between multimedia installations and techno parties, these performances produce a sensorimotor effect. Listeners (who are also viewers) are plunged not into a lexical-melodic flow, as they would be at a traditional reading, but into a cybernetic-machinic plasma. The group’s printed output displays the same tendency. The first issue of the almanac Orbit (2000) already gravitated towards synaesthesia. It was amply supplied with photographs, which subordinated the texts to their visual logic. The second issue was packaged as a CD-ROM that presented listeners with a “soundscape of Riga in the year 2000”—techno mixes by DJs and fragments of Internet acoustic projects. It was telling that when this high-tech product (which requires special equipment for playback) was presented in Petersburg, the venue was not a literary club, but the Pro Arte Institute, a citadel of contemporary art that serves as an incubator for the city’s young artists, curators, gallerists, and other art scenesters. Continue reading “Alexander Skidan: Poetry in the Age of Total Communication”