by a rawlings
I acknowledge the traditional land caretakers throughout Queensland and pay my respects to elders– past, present, and future.
"Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with landsurveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come." ― A Thousand Plateaux, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
Gibber is a transdisciplinary site-specific project created during my 2012 Queensland poetry residency that combines sound, visual, conceptual, and digital poetries with acoustic ecology and counter-mapping. Spawning from an ecopoethics that applies the three environmental R's (reduce, reuse, recycle) to creative process, Gibber surveys interconnection between (ideas and realities of) land, bird, human, signified, signifier—all founded on a gentle interrogation of the language nurtured "here" (here being Queensland, Australia). Gibber includes field audio recordings and photo documentation of biotic and abiotic collaboration, synaesthetic museums of sound, and an archive of a multisource polyphonic exquisite corpse composed live via Twitter by 25 international poets. Today, we'll walk through Gibber as ecopoiesis and an attempt to countermap the literary genre of travel writing.
Signs, we all know, are ordering systems. We accept names as fact. When I arrived in Queensland, I held two questions in mind: "What is the language of here? What is the language nurtured here?" My emphasis on language related directly to witnessing (though not necessarily comprehending) the types of ordered systems present culturally and ecologically. While I understood English as the dominant, colonialist language in Australia— and I had seen detailed maps of Australian aboriginal languages (some existent, some extinct)— I was keen to consider language as an ordering system that may exist outside of human creation as well. It may be conceptually possible for humans to converse with ecosystems and their components, but would take practice to learn an encoded system through which meaning may be transferred. Through what signs does weather communicate? Could an arctic tern be considered a travel writer if her flight patterns are engaged as communicative material?
As Mary Louise Pratt wrote, "the journey and the writing about it are inseparable projects (Pratt 201)." I knew from the outset of my journey to and through Queensland that I would be engaged in a constant stream of dialogue, of linguistic exchange — whether or not I had fluency in the languages. Gibber showcases some of the conversations I had with Australian ecosystems and their biotic and abiotic components. I collaborated with freshwater lakes and with ocean surf; I audio-recorded soundwalks through dense jungle, early-morning island arousal, and a cattle pen. Instead of trying to write about the experience (thereby naming it via description), I opted to classify or categorize based on sensory engagements (eye, ear) through documentation of conversation and the collision of naming practices with the ecosystems and their components. Could an innovative, contemporary travel writing include the undoing of what we think we know— the abandonment of word as we know it to stand with the fear and pleasure entrenched in our imponderabilia?
What this website houses:
Gibber saw its performance debut during the Queensland Poetry Festival, which sampled the work-in-progress through collaborative and spontaneous gestures. A seminal component of this was #gibberese, a Twitter-based exquisite corpse. Twenty-five writers from Australia, Canada, Iceland, and USA live-tweeted their collaboration, riffing on text from "Gibberland" and "Gibberbird." The Twitter feed was ecstatic and chaotic as a figure, and it's presented in its archival finesse in entirety on this website (including robotweets which automagically extended the online text performance by a few days). The performance also included a live soundscape of vocal improvisation, field sound recordings from regional rural Queensland, and speech provided by Maja Jantar (via Skype), Nicholas Powell, Chloë Callistemon, Tamara Lazaroff, and me. The digital poem "Land" was also screened during the performance.
Twitter participants include Ray Hsu (Canada), david stavanger (Australia), Emily XYZ (USA), Kent MacCarter (Australia), Katie Fedosenko (Australia), Julie Beveridge (Australia), Craig Dodman (Canada), Carmel Purkis (Canada), Christine Leclerc (Canada), Angela Szczepaniak (Canada), Angela Hibbs (Canada), Elee KG (Canada), Lainna Lane (Canada), Sarah Gory (Australia), Michael Christopher Holmes (Canada), Sonnet L'Abbe (Canada), Jamie Popowich (Canada), John Back (Australia), Tim Sinclair (Australia), Norma Lundberg (Canada), and Nikki Reimer (Canada).
Gibber has also been documented elsewhere online:
Gibber is dedicated to the memory and influence of Robert Stout Fribley (my przyszywany wujek) — a strong satellite whose commitment to ontological pursuit and environmentalism shone light for me. I see the path illuminated to here, my own starbody starting.
This project is possible due to the generosity of many lovely people and organizations, who supported me through the development process. Thank you to Arts Queensland, Queensland Poetry Festival, Queensland Writers Centre at the State Library, and Brisbane Writers Festival. Thank you especially to Talina McKenzie and Sarah Gory, whose companionship and administration made my long hours of pinning transparencies and hanging branches a delight. My utmost appreciation to folks who viewed and responded to the site-in-progress: Gary Barwin, Kristín Eiríksdóttir, Ragnhildur Jóhannsdóttir, Bill Kennedy, Maria Flawia Litwin, Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir, and Jenny Sampirisi. Especial loving gratitude to Starkaður Barkarson for expert, efficient, calm, adventurous website programming; a handful of photos (such as the audio documentation and bovine images) are also credited to Starkaður Barkarson. As for the fantastic typography, Sachiko Murakami wins all love and gratitude for style and programming.
My gratitude to everyone involved with the Glossa Workshop, who offered moral support while I documented land and sound. Thank you to every #gibbereser, both via Twitter and in performance! Thanks to all who responded to "Gibberbird." Thanks to Graham Nunn and Christine Leclerc for asking me excellent questions during the compositional process. Thanks to Kent MacCarter, Sake van der Wall, and Frank Keizer for publishing excerpts from Gibber. Special thanks to Tamara Lazaroff for the branches, John Wainwright for Moggill Creek, Lee-Anne Davie for enthusiasm, Thomas Day who radiates yes, Eleanor Jackson for generosity in feedback and compassion, Stuart Cooke for finding the best moment to audio-record the rosellas, and Andrew Phillips for pointing at my enthusiasm. Thank you to Julie Beveridge and Thomas for moral support, tea, and cuddles. Thank you to Graham Nunn and Cindy Keong for Mount Gravatt. Thank you to Jason Nelson, Zoe Fraser, Jill Jones, and Craig Ward for exciting conversation and support. All of my heart to Chloë Callistemon, whose will for adventure and whose constant light made the last weeks of Gibber and residency a lifetime thrill; I owe you much for ferrying, Gigantor loan, and knowing the best places to get attacked by sandflies and lorikeets.
The Poet in Residence Program is an initiative of the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.
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Ontario's Algoma Country: Rail Excursions. Algoma Kinniwabi Travel Association, n.d. Web. 13 November 2011.
Pratt, Mary Louise. "Travel Narrative and Imperialist Vision." Understanding Narrative. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1994.
Schafer, R. Murray. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books, 1977.
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Stibbe, Arran. Animals Erased: Discourse, Ecology, and Reconnection with the Natural World. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2012.
Threats to biodiversity. Department of Environment and Resource Management, Queensland Government, 17 December 2010. Web. 7 November 2011.