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Petra Kuppers

Trans Pain:
Across Bodies, Across Spaces, Across Media, in Performance.
What is a poetry of pain? What are images of pain? What happens in the encounter?
Words divided across spaces, fragmenting into questions and lists, short lines of breath, sit in blind windows. In between, images of languid beauty curve in warm colors, reuniting a body out of MRIs.

'Start where you are. If you cannot,
breathe. And start where you are.'

When breath moves across bodies, what transmutations of meanings occur?

Petra Kuppers

A night visit to the exhibition:

Walk on by, and see if you find a way to respond: Du mußt dein Leben ändern.
You have to change your life, Rilke tells ‘us’, in his poem Archaic Torso of Apollo, where a poetic ‘we’, forever too late to be in full presence, is held enthralled by a fragmented torso’s vision, a body-in-pieces. A missing head commands in absentia an archaic response. Those eyes are long gone, but their vision’s power pierces the art work’s witness yet.
Vision and its absence, bodies and their powers, even in fragmentation, industrial ruins and you, the spectator, walking by: these are the materials of this installation. Pain becomes a formal element, emerges in the spaces between words and (their) images.

As you walk by, you might hear the hum of power lines long gone dead, and messages from other spaces, other bodies, fly into windows, send cryptic messages, from the way home. They command you: breathe. Breathe. Try not to. ‘Nothing is more intimate.’

And curving into other window spaces, set back by white borders, drawings of tender spines speak a different language. Warm embraces of muted autumn colors and rich textures reassemble a body.

But poetry keeps the tension alive: questions multiply at the sight of the fragment, words long divided assemble across reflecting glass surfaces. Something ‘sich hält und glänzt’ -- lingers onto itself, and shines – and as in Rilke’s poem, glass glistens here, and cuts across words, obscures them in light. Those words might yet look at you, flaneur, from their side of the window, looking at you walking in the arcade of ruin, and demand a response. Du mußt dein Leben ändern: ‘Then change your mind.’

Jane Elder

There's a wonderful line here about the glass and the edge - there's the immediate physical response to the poetry being incased behind the broken glass, and then the symbolic meaning behind how glass gets broken, evidence of some painful event.
What I really like about the poetry is that it is accessible, and I think it has meaning to anyone. It is not just interior, there is a clarity and an invitation to recognise these experiences. When you read that list, there's a knowing, you know this list, and each and every one's list will be different, but you go 'ahh' when you read this one.

Laura Ferguson

Transcending distance
Jim, I have been feeling sad this weekend that I couldn't be there, to see our work in this amazing setting, to experience the impact of words and images side by side, and to hear your performance this afternoon. Reading the responses posted here is incredible - what beautiful writing your writing and my images have evoked! I love the way the web can create these connections - transporting me in spirit to Wisconsin, and translating the thoughts of viewers into tangible words that I can hear here in New York. In the spirit of Trans, I feel almost as if I were really there.

Jane Elder

On a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being totally bored, and 10 being intrigued but freezing, how did I feel? 10!!! Absolutely!
Thanks for sharing your work with us.
What I appreciate about your poetry is that it is clearly personally valid for you, but it also echoes wider and resonants in unexpected places.

Petra Kuppers

Suddenly, the installation filled with bodies. Cold ones, slightly freezing (but intrigued), woolen scarves and winter coats. And a poet stepped out front and started speaking, softly, hushing our shuffling feet.
He invited us to breathe. To close our eyes, if we wanted to. To feel ourselves into our bodies. To find places of pain or sensation, and work with them, breathe into them, through them.

Through places of pain biographical, poetical, general, medical and comical: this performance played on the trans of trans-cendence, taking a tour through rather than about or above the pain of bodies.

People are in pain here, and there’s discomfort, shame, hiccups of rhythm in the smooth talking.
But there are other rhythms, too, which keep the performance on track and in connection: there is that meditative invitation to explore one’s bodily terrain, repeated three times, and there are other platforms, repetitions, places to recollect, to recognize familiar words. How far can performed words offer structure to the experiences of pain?

I listen as the language of biography becomes trans-versed by the more magnanimous voice of poetry, and the pronouns multiply, I’s, you’s and others appear and knot into one another. Spaces and decisions: where to locate a self, allow a place to breathe -- and change.

What Rises in the Spaces Between the Cells
Jim Ferris

Start where you are. If you cannot
love the body that feels the pain,
love the body that forgets pain,
love the pleasure that tickles up
in the absence of pain, love
the body that carries the not-
pain. Start where you are. If you can’t
love the body that bears the pain,
love the not-pain that surrounds all
pain. Bear the feel of nothing but
pain. Then love the body that holds
your pain, for the pain surrounds all
not-pain, as breath surrounds breathing.
Start where you are. If you cannot
love the body that minds the pain,
just breathe. Start. For pain is the path
to no pain, as pain is the path
to pain. I am told of painkillers,
I am told of the power
of prayer. I am told that pain is
my friend – just try having none.
Ask a paralyzed vet. Ask
a quad. Ask that burn on your stump.
Ask forty days and forty nights,
ask the quiet face of night hell,
ask all futile molecules,
ask the merchants of dismal joy,
ask what rises in the spaces
between the cells. Ask. Then breathe.
Start where you are. If you cannot,
breathe. And start where you are.

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