Tuesday, October 17, 2006

David Gatten at The Poetry Project

Last night David Gatten joined a cast of readers at St. Mark's Church to give a group reading of Fernando Pessoa's poem, "Maritime Ode". He also showed his recently completed films *What the Water Said* and *Shrimp Boat Log*.

*What the Water Said No.'s 4 & 5* presents a log (of sorts) of film stock as "treated" (i.e. battered, crumpled, and punctured) by the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of the Carolinas. While others have made similar treatments before, Gatten's seems unique in its inclusion of soundtrack--which snaps, crackles, pops and even bangs--as well as his dating of the film as if the film were the Ocean's log-book or diary itself--what the water said being conveyed by the marks left on the soundtrack of the projected film stock.

If *What the Water Said* is a clever literalizing play off one of T.S. Eliot's sub-titles to "The Wasteland," *Shrimp Boat Log* is intriguing for its signalling or blinking form, the intermittances of various footage including shrimp boats crossing the center of the screen and leaving wakes, and brief glances at a log book. Like a less spastic version of Brakhage's lapsing-blinking camera, Gatten's camera and editing technique in *Shrimp Boat Log* give visual rhythm and form to coastal life--a native feeling for signals both perceptive and cultural, organic and technological. As in his nine-part *Secret History of the Dividing Line*, I also find Gatten's *Shrimp Boat Log* compelling in the way it gives particular shape to a viewer's reading experience--where often the viewer has mere seconds, if that, to read from a log, and so reads a few words at each viewing interval.

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