4.05.2009

from Eric Scovel

Preface
This project began as a simple experiment. The chosen text had no particular
significance to me at the time, nor had I even read Heart of Darkness when I
started; I chose it primarily out of its central place in the Western canon. Working
through these early attempts at using the Gnoetry 0.2 program, I found that,
curiously, this text yielded more consistently engaging results than others. Also, as
the series progressed it became increasingly serious and historically aware, turning
from expressions of personal failure in love to postcolonial scenes of violence and
sexual domination.
My choice of a loose sonnet form—fourteen line poems of (usually) between
7 and 11 syllables per line—was due mostly to the discovery that the variety of
regenerated output increased at this syllabic range. I cannot ignore, though, the
influence that such classic sonnet sequences as John Donne’s Holy Sonnets and
Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets had upon the user-side half of this collaboration. I
became more and more pleased with the shapeliness of the form and the sense of
wholeness that it brought to even the most erratically assembled lines.
I do not think that this work has avoided what Slavoj ˇ Ziˇzek has called, referring
to the schizoid extremes ofWestern fantasies of the Other, “the split attitude of the
West itself, combining violent penetration and respectful sacralization.” However,
I hope that it succeeds in capturing and exposing this failure of the Western
imagination rather than merely perpetuating it. The series is at its core intensely
concerned with love, failure to understand and, ultimately, reconciliation—with
how this might happen on the personal level as well between fallen empires, their
former colonies, and those ghosts of the past that still haunt us all.

from Yedda Morrison

This work imagines a wood/world prior to, and free from, imperial intervention.
In the case of the photograph, by physically removing the original image’s “subject;” the hunters, I attempt to
unearth a forest subsumed by the narratives of colonialism. In reading a traditional image or text through this lens,
I’m trying to animate or bring into focus that which has been rendered scenic, passive or ornamental. By refusing to
exist merely as backdrop on which the human performs, “Pre-Colonial Forest in Fog” asserts a certain subjectivity of
its own. The irony is, of course, that the forest in the original image is itself a fabrication, completely constructed by
William Notman and his assistants in studio. Rather than undercutting the presumed authenticity of the image, this
seeming contradiction points to the recurrent essentializing mythology of wilderness itself as a lost purity. My decision
to also remove the First Nation’s guide was a complicated one. But hold your hand up to the original image, block out
all but this man. What is left is his defeated form, isolated, condensed to stereotype, and surely included to reinforce
the authenticity of the white narrative. To my mind he finds greater agency in the private workings of the woods,
complicated and active beyond the cameraman’s gaze.

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