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Listen, Tell, Draw at Bergamot Station

Another memorable exhibit seen while we were in LA: This one was at Bergamot Station (in Santa Monica) although not inside any of the many galleries at that location. Sponsored by the Santa Monica Museum, the installation featured the art of children responding to Wallace Stevens’ poem, 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird*. “Listen, Tell, Draw” is a project by installation artists Kim Schoenstadt and Rita McBride. They presented Wallace Stevens’ famous poem to classrooms of elementary school students and then asked them to tell the story “telephone” style. The works on the wall are versions of the original poem several iterations removed.

The work is so fresh, so engaging. Each child’s column felt uniquely rendered and non-derivative. Very cool.

Interestingly one of the most common “errors” promulgated somewhere in the listening and the telling was the one geographic place name referred to in the poem (see below). For these California students, Connecticut frequently transmogrified into Kentucky. Face it, when you are a child viewing the country from that western edge, things get bunched up as you look east. (This is like the west coast’s answer to the famous poster from the New Yorker, “The World As Seen From New York’s 9th Avenue.”)


Partner turned art maven Dave in front of “Listen, Tell, Draw”

*I have referenced Stevens’ legendary poem in earlier postings here and here.

The full text:

13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.