Filmmaker: Yan Da

Three Hundred Tang Poems: “water” fragments

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Another video of an interactive video-art installation involving poetry. The artist is Yan Da (see also his Vimeo profile), and the piece is titled Water Poem. To say this is high-concept would be a bit of an understatement. Here’s how Yan describes it:

Water Poem is an interactive video installation. The audiences are encouraged to interact with the projector by simply moving it and project wherever they want. The projected content is texts coming from English website of 300 most famous ancient Chinese poems from Tang dynasty. Water Poem will search any sentence that contains the word “water” and randomly display each sentence based on a pre-designed condition. If the projector is not moved, the text will change in a random interval from 30 to 45 seconds, if it is moved, based on the strength of the motion, when it reach a certain threshold, the text will change immediately. The visual of the text is in a constant fluid status, the more motion applied to the projector, the more fluid the text will appear until it totally become illegible. Once the motion become subtle, the text will gradually turn back into a relatively stable mode that makes itself legible again.

Water Poem tries to express a sense of dislocation. By this dislocation of space, time and meaning, Water Poem tends to reflect the artist’s current experience and feelings, a dislocation of life in a foreign country with different culture and way of understanding. By inviting the audience to control and to transform the text in space, time and meaning, Water Poem also hopes to dislocate the audience into their own floating memory and imagination.

The poetic meaning related to water that the text reflects and the fluidity of the visual are embodied into the space, transforming its concrete character of the space into a constant flux, a liquid skin. Meanwhile, the difference between the meaning of English translation and the original Chinese text, the fragmented phrases from randomly chosen poem all contributes to the dislocation of the meaning, making it ambiguous and fluctuating. Water Poem encourage the audience to control the projection of the text thus to embody the literal and visual content onto anything they want, the de-construction of the meaning might be enhanced. By encountering the thousand years old content of the poem to the modern technology of Internet is another way of dislocating the time.

Read the rest of the description on Vimeo to learn about the technical aspects of the installation.

Three Hundred Tang Poems (Tang Shi San Bai Shou) is one of the most famous and widely read of all Chinese poetry anthologies. See the Classical Chinese Poetry website for English translations of all 300 poems by Innes Herdan, or the Wengu website for translations by Witter Bynner and the Chinese texts supplemented with character-by-character definitions on mouseover that allow one to attempt one’s own translations.