R e p o r t s / C l a r k impact of television’s commercial images was an early theme in Wim Wenders’s work. The director is interviewed in the third (2020) issue about how digital technology has taken over where television left off and where that leaves a film-maker who wants to stay thoughtful.
‘Anybody who says digital technology makes everything easier doesn’t know what they’re talking about’, he complains. ‘It’s easier to shoot, but you end up with ten times more material.’ Some film scores ‘already sound as if an algorithm has written them’. Readers of Emotion Pictures will already be aware that Wenders is a writer. He speaks here about how much reading has mattered.
The issues are made up of several sections, artwork announcing each new theme. After Wenders, for example, comes Glenn Gould. The reclusive pianist made a series of ‘contrapuntal documentaries’, experimental films, about the Arctic as an ‘archetype for human solitude’. A transcript of one of them is followed by an aphorism from Pascal. Reflections from environmental writers on the Arctic lead up to Gould’s commencement speech to a group of Canadian students in 1964.
Analog Sea’s editors insist they are not ‘anti-technological’. They use the internet ‘almost daily’. Their dispute is with technology’s ‘promises of endless amusement and togetherness’ and how in practice this ‘digital utopianism continues to pull us deeper into dark waters’. You can, to put it another way, hate car culture and still drive one of the damn things.
The review asks what a ‘society devoid of interiority’ would be like, if that is indeed where this digital dance is leading. About its implications for self-knowledge, it asks Michel de Montaigne. ‘The call to solitude is universal’, wrote Thomas Merton. But where do we find it now? For the meaning of leisure in such a world, it turns to Freiburg-trained philosopher Byung-Chul Han (a discovery I was glad of ). Walter Benjamin once called boredom ‘the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.’. Can that bird survive Instagram?
Analog Sea feels here and there like last-ditch fighting, but maybe that’s how the worthwhile battles always feel. American and British poets are preponderant but that’s just a quibble. In the midst of home-schooling, Brexit and Donald Trump’s attempted putsch, I was profoundly grateful for this view out of a window in Freiburg.
Zoom’s the Ticket
The excitement or willingness with which you might sign up for a Zoom reading surely depends on your personal circumstances. For me, it’s such a rare thing to be able to attend a reading, I’m with the more willing. As I wait to be let into the ‘meeting’ it all comes back to me: the joy of culture in the present moment. No fast-forwarding, no pause button.
Once in, depending on the set-up, you may see the other attendees’ screens flicking on – either as a black space, if they don’t have their video on, or with their faces and backgrounds visible. Carcanet’s readings don’t reveal the other attendees or show their screens, but we are told there’s time at the start to use the ‘chat’ function to ‘say hello’. I stay silent but am interested to see so-and-so’s there. What does it mean to reveal myself here and say hello? I’m overthinking this. I have not developed Zoom social skills yet. I am a hermit in from the cold. I will need to learn how to behave myself. Wow – there are people here from all over the world. Wow – I am seeing faces/names of people who have only ever existed in contents pages. I really should stay silent. In fact, we all stay silent. Good Zoom housekeeping rule no. 1: mute the attendees (or get them to mute themselves, depending on format). Are we viewers, participants or the audience? One reader at a Russian poetry event attempts to formalise the relationship, telling us: you are the voyeur. But theory thuds against the window as we stand to switch the kettle on.
Zoom readings are flourishing now through necessity;
viewer etiquette is developing very fast. Over the past year, Carcanet’s Zoom readings have gradually established a most effective format. Front of house is the welcoming Jazmine Linklater, who explains how Zoom works to newcomers: how to use the chat and Q&A functions, and gives an idea of the reading and interview time. She then hands over to the host (such as the excellent John Clegg) who introduces the poet. We see the host again after the reading to interview the poet and pose selected audience questions. The natural intimacy of a Zoom reading means it’s easy to quickly make friends with the viewers, who are in turn encouraged to join in by sending comments through the chat function (though I wish at times I could stop them popping up during the reading).
It is remarkable that Zoom does not kill the magic of conversation or the sense of community among those interested in the same thing. A bit of spontaneous, realtime banter between the host and poet is a treat – especially in these times. Some readers are of course better at reading their own work than others; some have personalities that come across very well in this potentially intimate format. I like the provision of the page via a screen share where possible. Regarding this, Michael Schmidt comments: ‘[it’s] something on which I insisted because we are book publishers and we are presenting text backed by voice and trying not to foreground “personality”’. It helps the viewer to focus on the poems and gives an immediate sense of what kind of poems these