21 May, 2010

Architecture and Morality


In high school, I won a prize for poetry/art in something that was called "The Columbia Arts Festival" in Vancouver, Washington. I think a teacher in high school had encouraged me to enter the poem. Perhaps the instructions for entering were vague enough that I thought it required a kind of "exhibit," or I had conveniently conflated the guidelines for entering a work of visual art with that of a poem. I wrote a poem about a moody young man's unrequited love. In the poem it's always raining. I was prone to the kind of self-romance that made John Cusack holding a radio over his head the grandest gesture of courage possible. The speaker of the poem stands in the pouring rain at a fountain (this is my memory of the poem, so I could be totally wrong about all of this). He stands there for hours. Then he sees a homeless man crouched beneath an eave. And he thinks, "Hey, I don't have it so bad" (such is the superficiality of adolescence). Next, I drew an image of the homeless man obscured by falling rain. Then I put a record on by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (yes, OMD). The record was Architecture and Morality (a masterpiece of British New Romanticism) and the song was "Sealand." If you click on the title and watch the video, you get how atmospheric the song is). I recorded the song onto a cassette tape. Then I mounted my drawing and my poem onto posterboard. I remember riding the bus and trying to keep the posterboard from getting wet at the bus stop as it rained. With a boombox, I set up my poem/art posterboard on an easel (except the others here were all painters). We stood with our art waiting for the judges to walk past. It was more like a science fair or poster exhibit than an arts festival. The judges asked questions about inspiration or technique or materials, and I started getting nervous I'd done everything wrong. When they approached me, they saw a boombox on the floor of the gym beneath the easel, but the art and the poem were turned so they couldn't see it. I pushed play on the boombox, and they listened (thoughtfully?) to the song. Finally, at about 5 minutes and 30 seconds (according to the youtube video), I turned over the art and poem to be viewed. I think I thought of this moment in the song as a kind of quickening of heartbeat. I don't remember how they reacted. I probably stared at the floor, hiding my eyes behind bangs.

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