Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Friday, 7 December 2007

silvia on sylvia

"sylvia plath and the art of the visual" was advertised as follows: "In this unique, illustrated event, artist Stella Vine joins playwright Elisabeth Gray and poet Clare Pollard to discuss what Sylvia Plath means to them, her continuing legacy, and their perspectives on Plath in the light of these new discoveries. The event is chaired by Sally Bayley."

ele and i met up in southbank for a light dinner in an airy restaurant overlooking the thames, where we relaxed with a liberating chat accompanied by a glass of wine and a warm soup, before attending the above-mentioned talk.

stella wine, whose name was mentioned in one of my early posts, performed lady lazarus, and was good, but, disappointingly, did not participate to the debate. furthermore, a selection of her work inspired by plath, was, yes, exhibited in the foyer, but as projections rather than originals. the ten pounds ticket i paid started feeling like a waste.

the talk itself did not rescue my initial
negative impressions as it turned out to be a general and generic chat about sylvia's poetic doubleness, which is conveyed through grand and daring metaphors transcending time and place. her mythological imageries, in particular, are devices to map wider archetypes. in synthesis, through the poetic language, she craves a self alteration which is a renewing process rather than a death drive.

"...Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair

And I eat men like air..."

in her eclectic work, she can be as humourous and flippant (nursery rhymes) as self-parodist (lady lazarus) and tragic.

her phenomenological sense of the visual end documentary eye was emphasised more than once, but none of her artworks, projected in the background, were actually analysed. her artwork was defined "abstract", but yet again its sense was not elaborated.

fine - it was not a lecture, but i believe that some of the technical words the speakers used were mis-understood by the audience who, by the sound of the questions posed, tended to confuse her poetic with her autobiographical self. a young lady asked about the meaning of her suicide (was it a triumph or a failure over her search of identity?), while someone else associated her confessional ego with her life.

anyhow, two considerations stimulated my inquisitive mind:

1. elisabeth gray, who won an endinbra fringe award for her play inspired by sylvia's journals, interestingly pointed out that theatricality and forefront humour are more accepted and enjoyed in american culture; whereas dark comedy is more appreciated by an english audience.

2. claire pollard speculated that sylvia is daughter of her american generation, which was so sank into the cold war rhetoric to believe that radioactive powder was like dust - if you wipe it away it is not hurtful. likewise sylvia's poetry draws repeatedly on holocaust imagery to convey the writer's intense emotional suffering; but her loose use of this touchy subject has been accused to be permissive rampages in the history of other people’s sorrows.

"...A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My featureless, fine
Jew linen..."

the proceedings carried on with a lullaby, played by an oxford student, and a contemporary dance fragment which immensely fascinated me. this event quickly revealed itself being a marketing promotion of kathleen connors and sally bayley's book eye rhymes: sylvia plath’s art of the visual, and i could not help but think that i would have fitted so perfectly the role of sally and kathleen's publisher.

~ all the quotes are from lady lazarus (ariel collection) ~

trivia - sylvia and i not only share the same phonetic name, but also a bizarre peculiarity: she always looks different in photos, and so do i. with this, i am not saying that i have her same talent, but perhaps that i am too in constant search of an alter ego... perhaps...

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