English 214 vs Babel

The third (and final) virtual collaboration of the 2009 edition of the E-Lit Forum has reached the Q + A stage.  Our third contributor to this year’s E-Lit Forum is Chris Joseph/Babel.

We began this afternoon’s class by rewatching Babel + Escha’s  “Urbanalities”.   The screening was followed by an extended rambling but often suggestive group meditation on the piece and Chris’s most excellent post from 30 October 2009.

Here are the questions that emerged from the discussion:

1. Could you comment further on your sense of the storyline that links the chapters/poems together?

2.    If you decided to make “Urbanalities” a “closed” poem/story that did not vary from viewing to viewing, what would remain similar in this alternate version of the piece?

3.    Why did you choose to adopt a feminine perspective in “Urbanalities”?

4.    Are the grids and clocks symbolic of the human attempt to mediate and control the natural world and the natural rhythms?

5.    How do you conceive of decay/destruction of the natural environment as being visually or textually  linked to the decay/destruction of community/connectedness in  “Urbanalities”?

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2 responses to “English 214 vs Babel

  1. Thanks for your very interesting questions – my answers below…

    1. Could you comment further on your sense of the storyline that links the chapters/poems together?

    The story is clearly very loosely defined, but I think it involves a woman who lives and works in a contemporary city (‘City’), with all the paranoia, stress and darkness that this involves (‘River’/’Busy Day’,’Red Light’), but also the joy and light (‘Dance’). She meets someone (‘Bar’) and then begins (or debates whether to begin) a relationship with that person, with all the choices and issues that encompassed in that (‘Sex/Conception’/’Chicken/Egg’).

    2. If you decided to make “Urbanalities” a “closed” poem/story that did not vary from viewing to viewing, what would remain similar in this alternate version of the piece?

    The basic look of each scene would remain completely as it is, but the text would be much more carefully considered to create one particular ‘poem’ in each scene, and a poem overall. In some scenes the images would need to be very thought out – ‘Bar’ for example chooses images from many possible options, so fixing particular visuals would be tricky. Two scenes – ‘Dance’ and ‘Chicken/Egg’ wouldn’t change at all in a closed version as they are already fixed.

    3. Why did you choose to adopt a feminine perspective in “Urbanalities”?

    This is a difficult question! I don’t remember consciously deciding at any point that it would have a feminine perspective: it really came from the scenes themselves, which seem to align themselves much more to a feminine than to a masculine viewpoint – particularly ‘Busy Day’ and ‘Dance’. But it might also have been a consequence of working with Escha’s vocal tracks while creating the music – the female vocals are obviously much more suggestive of a feminine perspective.

    4. Are the grids and clocks symbolic of the human attempt to mediate and control the natural world and the natural rhythms?

    Yes, exactly! I think part of the essence of the city is this attempt to control ‘nature’, for good or bad. Clocks are our ubiquitous tool for controlling one the most basic rhythms in nature – seasons, day and night – but they moved beyond that to regulating international time (important for trading), and beyond that to regulating human time, which is (I think) much more necessary for industry than for us as individuals.

    5. How do you conceive of decay/destruction of the natural environment as being visually or textually linked to the decay/destruction of community/connectedness in “Urbanalities”?

    I think most of the scenes contain either a visual or textual element that might be considered a cause of decay or destruction, whether this element is actually realised or not within the scene. In ‘City’ for example the ever-shifting cityscape suggests the constant commercially-influenced changes, but there is also the river – water being a much more destructive power in the long term – and then the text beneath it, which is about the cycles of construction/destruction/reconstruction. The decay is possibly most apparent in ‘Red Light’ – text is difficult to read, images are hard to see – which suggests a moral decay as well as (or as a result of?) the destruction of personal connectedness. ‘River’, ‘Bar’ and ‘Sex/Conception’ all deal much more with the connectedness we feel (or not) with others in our vicinity; but most of the scenes contain a strong visual element of being ‘enclosed’ (often within a ‘protective’ circle), representing the barrier between me and you, or us and them.

    • Aurelea

      Thank you! In particular, thank you for your creative + intellectual generosity – not to mention your generosity with your time. It has been thrilling to work with three quite different authors in the E-Lit Forum 2009. Your responses are a fantastic bookend to this year’s edition of the project.

      Cheers,
      Aurelea.

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