REVERIES ABOUT LANGUAGE
IMAGE SOUND WORD
IMMERSIVE POETRY EXPERIENCE
20 MARCH 2019
QUEEN MARY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
‘Reveries about Language’ was the first in a series of immersive live performances conceived as part of the multilingual poetry project ‘Unbound’. Imagined as a multitude of sonic, visual and textual ‘promenades’ inviting the public to immerse themselves in the multi-sensorial experiences of poetry in English, French and Croatian by Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani Mina Ray, these multimedia poetry performances aim to show how the spoken word, sound and image can interact in an innovative way to create a series of ‘unbound’ or free expressions. They testify to the fact that poetry is, by nature, an interdisciplinary art form opening up new routes of experimentation and exploration of language in the multilingual, multimedia context.
The evening began with a 50 min performance including readings of Jasmina’s poems in English, Croatian and French, interweaved with short animations created by the sound artist Alo Allik including fragments from my photography and her poetic verses set to Alo’s live encoded music performed live. A voice in Arabic set the performance off with the words “Look, my child, that over there is the desert” and an image of a detail of the desert dunes. This “master memory” or “haunting” memory was meant to evoke the poet’s first memory of standing with her grand-father and my mother at the border of the Sahara desert when I was five years old and hearing her grand-father utter those words. The trilingual poem “The Rose of Algiers” / “La rose d’Alger” / “Alžirska ruža” was one of the key poems in the performance exploring the time-space of her Algerian heritage. Other central poems performed experimenting with multilinguality were “Paso Doble”, “from Heart Monologues 3. & 6.” In the title poem “Reveries about language” / “Sanjarenje o jeziku” / “Rêveries author de la langue” were explored different facets of my relationship to language(s).
The performance was followed by the book launch of Jasmina’s new poetry collection Reveries about language containing poems performed on stage and her photography (also featured in the collection) used in Alo Allik’s animations. As Helen Cox very nicely stated in her review of her new poetry collection, “[Jasmina’s poems] can be read as both a love letter and written warning that marks the ways language can propel an individual across the barriers of identity, time and space, and raises a question about how far each of us is at the mercy of words”.The evening closed with a very interesting and engaging discussion between Catherine Boyle, Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani Mina Ray and the rest of the creative team and on the questions of Jasmina’s multilingual poetry and its relation to the image (photography), the “tension” between different languages read on stage, as well as the individual experiences of each of the creative team members of working with different languages in her poetry. It was really interesting to hear and see how each of the creative team members’ own multilingual background and experiences influenced the reading and interpretation of her poetry, and defined their artistic creation. It was particularly refreshing to hear both the team members and the members of the public say how much they enjoyed hearing a language and/ or working in a language they do not understand. This was and still is one of the main goals of Jasmina’s experimentation with multilingual writing; to invite the reader into an exploration of the territory of the unknown (language), to approach the unfamiliar (language) with curiosity, not fear.
Several other questions from the members of the public further opened the discussion on issues of language identity and belonging in the context of Jasmina’s multilingual poetry writing, questions of translation and travelling between languages in Jasmina’s poetry, her experience of language loss and creativity gained from that loss when working in the space of the multilingual, as well as the more general question of the positioning of multilingual writing in today’s contemporary international context (especially in relation to Brexit).
Alo Allik: Sound Artist
Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani Mina Ray: Co-director, Poet; Reader (Croatian, French, English); Voice on pre-recorded poems
Catherine Boyle: Co-director
Pierre Elliott: Reader (French, English)
Emily-Céline Thomson: Reader (French, English)
Jalal Sawalmeh: Voice in Arabic
Robert Šantek: Reader (Croatian, French, English
Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani (pen name: Mina Ray) is a multilingual poet born in Zagreb. She has lived and worked in London since 1995. Her poetry has been published in the UK, Canada, France and Croatia. Jasmina has a doctorate (PhD) in Francophone literary and cultural studies. She has given a number of conference papers in her subject area, both nationally and internationally, and has published several academic articles and reviews in her field. She is the author of the multilingual poetry project ‘Unbound’ across the UK, Croatia, France and Belgium. Twitter: @minabolfek | Fb: minaray/unbound17
Alo Allik is an Estonian sound artist who has performed his live coded electronic music and generative computer graphics throughout the world. His aesthetically and geographically restless lifestyle has enabled him to traverse a diverse range of musical worlds including DJing electronic dance music, live electronic jam sessions, electroacoustic composition, free improvisation and audiovisual performances. Alo is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Digital Music, Queen Mary University of London since 2015.
Catherine Boyle is Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies at King’s College London. She has been published widely on Latin American culture, theatre and performance and women’s writing and gender. She is a translator of Latin American theatre and poetry. Catherine Boyle is the Principal Investigator forLanguage Acts and Worldmakingand the project’s strand lead for Translation Acts.
Pierre Elliott is an actor and a native French speaker based in London. He has recently graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and has worked with BBC4 radio since then.
Robert Šantek is a freelance voice-over artist and radio host at Yammat FM radio, Zagreb, Croatia. Parallel to his voice acting in television, animated movies and commercials he has worked as a translator, interpreter and as screen writer for television gameshows. He grew up bilingual (Croatian and German) and is fluent in French and English. In his free time he sings in the Early Music Consort “Otium”.
Emily-Céline Thomson trained at Guildhall school of Music and Drama on a three-year acting course, and also graduated with distinction and a first class degree in French and Drama from Bristol University. She is half French, but has been brought up and lived in London for most of her life after her family moved here.