Art does not seek to describe but to enact. —Charles Olson

Festival XI

July 31–August 6, 2015

+ Jeremy Bamberger + Ramón del Buey + Juan Cristóbal Cerrillo + David Coll + Evelyn Ficarra + Cornelia Franke + Danyel Franke + Heather Gordon + Brian Griffeath-Loeb + John Mark Harris + Cole Heinowitz + Kurt Isaacson + Kristen Mylander + Mercedes Nasta + J.H. Prynne + Élise Roy + Marcia Scott + William Staples + Jeffrey Treviño + Erik Ulman + Ian Winters +

As always, this summary of the festival is no more than a swift overview, and loses the texture of the event, its rich conversations, the beauty of the environs, informal music-making (Satie, Schubert, Wagner…)… As this festival was shorter than usual, the days were exceptionally dense, and I hope I’ve not forgotten or misremembered anything.

July 31
A number of participants arrived on this, our first official day, over the course of afternoon and evening; although Cole, Jeremy, and Erik had already arrived a couple nights early, to bring up gear and take in the place. There was much conversation and catching up…

August 1
…and now we began with officially scheduled events. Cole read a first morning sermon, “A Sun-Bath—Nakedness,” from Whitman’s Specimen Days; and then Kristen led us through a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson. After lunch (and perhaps here I should pay special tribute to Kurt, who prepared, expertly, most of our meals [including fresh-baked bread and blackberry scones, browned-butter pasta with arugula and pine nuts, with sausages, etc. etc.], with the help of Élise and others!), Jeremy H.P. gave a talk summarizing the argument of his recently published essay, Graft and Corruption: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 15. After dinner, Ian presented footage from a video work in progress centering on downtown San Francisco, which provoked much conversation about the city and the political and economic implications of its representation. And then we went down to the barn, where Evelyn had set up an installation of video and objects (especially teacups!) and staged, with Marcia’s help, a musical-theatrical performance within it.

August 2
The morning sermon was various anecdotes and aphorisms selected by Erik from Coleridge’s table talk and Anima Poetae; and a poem from Rilke’s Letters to God (“I believe in all that has never been spoken…”) chosen by Jeff.  Then Jeremy B. presented his work in architecture, concentrating on the projects he developed in school, and in visual art; the conversation picked up themes from Ian’s presentation the night before; and Kristen shared and discussed both actual examples and images of her work in fabric, ranging from quilting to sculptural objects. After lunch, Cole gave a reading of recent poems and of selections from Seeing as I Have No Memory, a collection of dream narratives. After a free remainder of the afternoon, dinner was, in what’s come to be a Poto tradition, barbecue, prepared by Marcia’s parents Cathy and Mark Scott, this time with additional family and friends in tow; after which there was a brief tribute to the memory of Adrian Kissler, who died last year. Along with some remarks from Erik and Jeremy H.P., Élise played a movement from Bach’s solo flute sonata; Jeremy read Frost’s “Mending Wall” and Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat”; and Jeff played Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90 #3; and Adrian’s widow Pam shared some moving words with us. After cleanup and the departure of the barbecue’s extra guests, Mercedes presented three of her recent music videos:  Paricutín, Petit Prince, and Barragán.

August 3
The morning sermon was the first two sections (of six) of Stevens’ “The Comedian as the Letter C,” read by Jeremy H.P. and Cole; they would read the rest of the poem over the succeeding two mornings. Then Juan Cristóbal shared several recent works, arising from collaborations with Pablo Vargas Lugo: the extravagant Music for Future Eclipses and, in progress, The Book of the Quipú. Next Danyel talked about his work and much else, from jazz to the Syrian origins of Venetian glass, with a showing of his video in collaboration with Mosh Dilruby, 8 Töne. After lunch, Heather read her poetic sequence Cleveland, which Erik then read a second time. The afternoon was again free; and after dinner there was music: first, there were live improvisations by the trio of Ramón, Élise, and Kurt; second, Jeff presented recent work, ranging from analysis of performances of Webern’s Piano Variations undertaken with high school students in a project at MIT to a recent orchestral work, How to Build Fences and Gates; and third, Élise then shared her recent compositions involving electronics, coalescing and Emergence. Finally, Cole, who was documenting much of the week on video, showed some videos from the last two years before expunging them from her computer’s memory.

August 4
After the sermon, Jeremy H.P. read and led a discussion of his poem “Morning,” from his most recent sequence Al-Dente. Then Ramón shared a computer realization of his work-in-progress Starlings and discussed his methods. After lunch, and despite a very light sprinkling of rain, came the customary creek reading:  Jeremy read Stevens’ “Sunday Morning”; Will read Wieners’ “A poem for cocksuckers”; Danyel read Hölderlin’s “Lebensalter” and Wilhelm Müller’s “Die Krähe,” from Winterreise; Erik read Wordsworth’s “The Green Linnet” and Olson’s “I live underneath…” from Maximus; Cole read passages from Shelley’s “Alastor”; and, in view of Shelley’s allusions to Wordsworth, we then passed around the Immortality Ode for communal reading. Dinner tonight was Mercedes’ mole (¡Qué rico!); after which Brian presented Chris Marker’s film Sans Soleil and engaged in discussion about it.

August 5
After the sermon, Jeff discussed and performed Chopin’s Fourth Ballade. Next Kurt shared recordings of three recent pieces:  the way of all flesh; as a family of civilian ghosts phase-shifts through the fog lights (String Trio #1); and carnal species. Then after lunch, as the sun had come back out, we took a field trip to the Yuba River and lounged and swam for most of the afternoon. After dinner, David led us again to the barn, where he’d set up an interactive installation of live electronics, video, and suspended frame drums. Back at the house, Will showed images of his work as a painter (and as a curator); and then Erik shared a recording of his piano piece Woodland Glade, as played the previous summer by John Mark; a conversation with John Mark developed, and then John Mark gave Erik’s Roadblock its first performance in 26 years. Finally there was a long conversation late into the night about Poto, its past and future…

August 6
…after which we got up and cleaned the ranch and departures were made, with Marcia, Erik, and Jeremy H.P. staying on to clean further…