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Sounding Promise in the Present Tense: IICSI Vancouver Colloquium, June 22-24, 2018

This year’s IICSI colloquium—Sounding Promise in the Present Tense: Improvising Through Troubled Times—happens during the opening weekend of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, from Friday June 22 to Sunday June 24, 2018. All of the talks, presentations, and performances, which are free and open to the public, take place in room C420 of UBC Robson Square, the downtown Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia, located underneath the Vancouver Art Gallery. By my count, this is the tenth Vancouver colloquium supported by the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) and by its parent research initiative, Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (ICASP), which have been presented almost annually here since 2007. Rainbow Robert, from Coastal Jazz, and I have curated this year’s colloquium, blending various modalities of and approaches to improvisation. Here is the provocation I put together to suggest some of the potential overarching themes and trajectories for our event:
At this year’s colloquium for the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, presented in collaboration with the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and Coastal Jazz, presentations and performances will address questions around what it means to improvise in a challenging and uncertain present. What roles can the improvising arts play to address cultural and social turbulence? How might improvisation both settle on and unsettle our senses of what matters now? How does improvising confront our enmeshments in a heavily mediated and diverse world? What sorts of connections and resistances does improvisation enact? How might improvisation involve practices of disruption and of reconciliation? Of protest and of healing? Of undoing, of re-mixing, of co-creation? What senses of promise can improvisations sound in a time of unease and displacement?
We have expanded from two to three days of programming, and part of our focus this year involves making space for indigenous performances and community work. On Friday, June 22, we will be presenting Tla’Amin youth activist, singer-songwriter Ta’Kaiya Blaney. We will also be featuring a performance-discussion by Blue Moon Marquee, and a day of workshops and presentations on community engagement through improvisation; some of this latter work has emerged from the influence of Jo-Ann Episkenew, and we have dedicated the day to remembering her legacy.
There will be artist keynotes on Saturday and Sunday from drummer-composer Scott Amendola (titled “Stretch Woven”) and guitarist Nels Cline(“Improvising from the Get Go”). Writer Gillian Jerome will give a poetry reading on Sunday morning, and writers Dina del Bucchia and Jen Sookfong Lee will record a live “Can’t Lit” podcast on Saturday. Percussionist-improvisers Joe Sorbara and Dylan van der Schyffwill discuss their co-creative approaches to improvisation, and British singer-songwriter Gwyneth Herbert will present  her piece “Letters I Haven’t Written.” Guitarist Aram Bajakian and poet-singer Alan Semerdjianwill discuss their collaboration involving musical settings of poetry around the Armenian genocide.
I’ll post expanded blog entries on each of our presenters in the coming days. In the meantime, check out some of the links above. And feel free to come on out any or all of the colloquium presentations: there are going to be some exciting, powerful and compelling moments!

"We Jimmied the Radio": Brad Cran, Gillian Jerome and the Lyric in Public (Audio)

Here is the audio of a conference paper I delivered at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, on September 21, 2012, as part of the Public Poetics conference. It’s called “’We Jimmied the Radio’: Brad Cran, Gillian Jerome and the Lyric in Public.” Although it makes some gestures at what might pass for materialist analysis – as any work that addresses the idea of a public purview, of relevance or of engagement probably needs to do – my approach locates itself pretty firmly in outlining a phenomenology of the lyric, or maybe in describing the collision of the lyric with a phenomenology of commitment, or of community. At the time I wrote this, I was reading Jacques Rancière’s study of Mallarmé– as well as other work by him that seemed to me to be interrogating the intersection of the poetic and the political – so for me some of that matter gets echoed here, though not overtly mentioned. I come near the end of the paper to the founding of CWILA (“Canadian Women in the Literary Arts”) and to what was in the summer of 2012 a controversy around gender and negative reviewing. (I mention Russell Smith at the beginning of the paper, a gesture at some of this debate.) An expanded version of this essay – about double the length – is currently under consideration for publication. (I seem, as well, to have taken a little more than my time on the panel: The talk clocks in at 27 minutes; I thought I was briefer.) One last plug: check out the poetries of Brad Cran and Gillian Jerome. Buy their books.