Cassandra floats and can she.

November 3, 2008

Saw Anne Carson perform an amazing essay on translation called “Cassandra Floatcan” this weekend as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival:

The distinguished poet, translator, MacArthur Fellow, and professor of classics and comparative literature at the University of Michigan will perform her haunted and haunting poem-essay about the problems of prophecy (prescient Cassandra at the threshold of Agamemnon’s home on the eve of his murder) and translation (how to translate her cries of alarm and grief into language that can be understood and acted upon) in a performance flecked with the architectural demolition imagery of Gordon Matta-Clark. Carson’s poetry collections include Decreation, Autobiography of Red, Men in the Off Hours, and The Beauty of the Husband. (description from website).

Please see this if you can: it is a gorgeous presentation. Cassandra/veils/translation/cuts/Gordon Matta-Clark. She had volunteers walk large sheets of paper with prints of Gordon Matta-Clark photos around the room, while her collaborator (I don’t think I ever heard his name) played a slide show of the images (Gordon Matta-Clark systematically made large and small cuts into buildings that were already “slated for demolition,” took pictures of them, then watched as they were destroyed). Really provocative, distracting and distractable; I hope it can be recorded or put onto paper somehow.

In her so-gorgeous-you-are-jealous prose/poetry Carson writes that translation is like Cassandra, with “veils floating upwards;” a prophecy, a telling, yet also a body “slated for destruction.” The sheer brilliance of involving the images of Matta-Clark, such an important, ephemeral artist from the 70s, and his inquiries into demolition as a counterpoint to the discussion was both visually stunning and devastating.


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