Created as part of my MFA thesis
*Spring 2019 updates*
1. This video was included in "Pushing Paper," a juried exhibition at the Indianapolis Art Center. (On view February 8-April 10, 2019)
2: This was also selected for "Odds & Ends," a juried exhibition at the Ann Arbor Art Center! (On view May 10-June 1, 2019)
A Little Called Pauline comes from Gertrude Stein’s 1914 poetry book, Tender Buttons. In this visual portrayal of the poem, I wanted to highlight repetition to reveal logic and cohesiveness in seemingly disjointed language.
This project consisted of a book (to be dissected), a video (of the choreographed dissection), and a site-specific installation of the video using projection and paper scraps.
The book, when cut, reveals every line of A Little Called Pauline, however Stein's language is full of repetition, and here the repetition is often treated as duration (the word remains on-screen longer than its surroundings, becoming part of new phrases) rather than quantity (as in the original poem, where the word appears anew in every phrase).
In the poem, I notice many words connected to printing, typography, and newspapers.
“Come and say what prints all day”: an invitation to examine the media. “A whole few watermelon. There is no pope”: hyperbolic headlines. "If it is absurd then it is leadish”: if an idea is absurd, it is fit for the lead—the opening paragraph of an article. “Little leading.” “Jam it not.” "A tight head." The language of printing and outrageous news headlines continues.
To emphasize this link to print, I took typographical inspiration from news headlines and magazine titles, and played with textures reminiscent of a pile of discarded newspapers.
Today’s media has spread far past “what prints all day,” but in an era of fake news and rampant confirmation bias, Stein’s call for us to be mindful, critical consumers of information is more urgent than ever.
To explore this connection to the present, I combed through a recent copy of the New York Times, looking for connections. This turned out to be surprisingly easy—Stein’s depiction of exaggerated media circa 1914 matched almost seamlessly with today’s news, so I slipped New York Times excerpts between lines of the poem with similar content.
The newspaper excerpts add a layer of little secrets. I placed a shoe advertisement behind “choose wide soles” (say it out loud). I put the weather report and a picture with someone in a rainbow scarf near “blue green white bow” and ripped the pages in an arc. I put financial information and charts near lines about counting or money. There's more, but I'll leave some of it a mystery.
Accessibility and Curiosity
At first glance, Stein's words feel jumbled and inaccessible. Understanding that this (or any) pile of words can be approached as a puzzle—that the more you search, the more you will find—is a step towards making sense of it.
I believe that critically examining the language we consume (headlines, poetry, ads, movies, magazines, tweets, books…) is vital in a world overflowing with polarizing information, and I hope this animation gives viewers a chance to exist in a state of curiosity about language.