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Response 19 - Family Soup


Dear Alan

Thanks for your appreciative words about the film I put together for the review conversation. I’m annoyed with all the little flaws that it has (synch problems, inattentive framing etc) but as you said it was made in a busy week. And yes, I also feel the parameters did something fun to the material and that the outcome reveals many aspects of our collaboration.

And thank you for Task 19 ‘Family Poetics’ and the opportunity to consider our individual values, procedures and tastes as a way to identify a shared poetics. I promised you that for responding to this task, I would lay bare my moments of doubt and insecurities and I hope by the end of this response you feel I have done so.

Individual poetics?

We often discuss – both in our individual work and at the dinner table – the values and tastes from which we create work/write. My first obstacle for this task was to determine Lisa’s poetics. Do you even have your own set of values, tastes and procedures when you’re five years old? I tried to answer this my asking myself: what elements come together when Alan/Marie/Lisa produce or play? I did a quick brainstorm (non-exhaustive) of what I perceive each of our poetics to be:

I deliberately took a crude and simplistic viewpoint in the representations of my and your criteria. I realise these lists are completely unfair to both of us: we both operate on a continuum between process/product, between in agreement/provocation and how/what. But I thought it was interesting to state this and hold them up against each other as a way to refine, debate and discuss this position. Lisa’s list I created from what type of play she enjoys and how she engages with these games. I am not sure I would define this list as ‘poetics’. Below is an image that exhibits a collage of three pieces of work: one from each of us. I will leave it up to the viewer to assess whether the pieces correspond to the list of poetics criteria above.

Marie / Alan / Lisa

Shared poetics?

Now, does our family have a shared poetics, a set of values, tastes and procedures that we share in ‘creative family activity’ and does this go beyond any differences in our individual poetics?

In my pursuit to figure this out I decided to do some ‘material thinking’ by doing: engaging in some joint family creativity in order to figure out what form that creativity would take. I decided to get Alan and Lisa to assist me in re-enacting the iconic ‘mirror scene’ from the Marx Brothers’ film Duck Soup with some improvisation and a few props. This clip is a family favourite and I immediately came to think of this as a suggestion of what could represent a ‘family poetics’. The re-enactment failed though. The footage produced seemed a poor version of a brilliant piece of absurd slapstick comedy, with a grumpy five-year-old and some well-meaning dilettante parents. The footage didn’t seem to represent our family poetics so I was at loss as how to get closer to a shared poetics.

In desperation on Sunday night I brought out the drawing/painting I used to represent my own work (shown as the first image in the collage above taken from Response 11, 'People/writing'). I thought that perhaps the problem with the re-enactment of the ‘mirror scene’ was that it was not the content of the clip that was a shared joy but the format of it. What if the answer was to engage in the same piece of work, but in different stages? On this thought I got first Lisa, then Alan and – on Lisa’s suggestion – all three of us at once, to re-work the drawing I had made. This is an image of the three stages of drawing:


In the end I looked back at your response to Task 18 ‘Yoga Mind Map Revisited’ and realised that the image I used for the individual should have been from your response 18 ‘Archive Fever’. The last sequence of images are very aesthetically pleasing and very you!! And of course my embarrassing admittance here is that unlike the poetics I have attributed to you in the list above, these images are all about the ‘in-between’ and process and deliberately following parameters. I will leave my response above as it is (in the 11th hour of posting it for the website) and hope that you will forgive my crudeness and take it as an opportunity to keep the dialogue about our poetics open and in constant development.

See here for next task.