POWERS OF TWO: The Artist
Copyright © 1995 by Barry Truax
As the tape starts, the Seer is seated atop one of the towers on a high platform, accompanied by the male dancer who descends when the Artist enters. The Seer has a computer keyboard.
Artist:(enters and regards the Seer silently but expectantly in awe)
Seer: I cannot walk but still I see,I cannot speak but still I hear.
Artist: Show me, show me the truth, the pathway, the art,Show me heaven or hell, whatever you will,
Just show me my truth, my pathway, my art.
Tape: fragmented syllables as the Seer fumbles with his keyboard trying to communicate. The Artist reacts in frustration at not understanding and turns away.
Seer: I give you images,Images to haunt you, images to live for,
The image of your secret soul,
The mirror of your heart.
I give you images.
Video: Tape One begins. Gradually, a static image appears in the form of a male dancer (representing the classical beauty of Antinous, the favourite of Hadrian), his partly bare back to the screen and one hand visible. The Dancer, using the scarf, and the Artist, by imitating the male dancer's movements, interact with the video image. During the video, only the dancer's torso and head are visible, and the camera follows his hands which caress his skin.
Tape: stretched, resonant version of sung L'homme armé (15th c.)
Seer: L'homme, l'homme, l'homme armé, l'homme armé,L'homme armé doibt on doubter, doibt on doubter.
On a fait partout crier
Que chascun se viengue armer
D'un haubregon de fer.
L'homme, l'homme, l'homme armé, l'homme armé,
L'homme armé doibt on doubter, doibt on doubter.
Tape: The man, the man, the arm-ed man, the arm-ed man,The arm-ed man, is to be feared, is to be feared.
Everywhere it has been proclaimed
That everyone should arm himself,
With an iron coat of mail.
The man, the man, the arm-ed man, the arm-ed man.
The arm-ed man, is to be feared, is to be feared.
Artist: (in reference to the male dancer of the video image)The man, the man, this arm-ed man,
This arm-ed man is to be desired.
Everywhere I shall proclaim
That I alone desire this man
With an iron coat of mail.
The male dancer uses the silk scarf to 'inspire' the Artist to sing a poem he has written.
Artist: I sing, Love, of thy warrior fair, and tellOf all the mortal miseries I knew,
How I was vanquished by a glance and fell
Snared by a curl, a grievous tale but true!
Two lovely eyes were weapons whence I lay
With troubled soul transpierced, and tears did flow
Instead of blood for many and many a day;
Thou, by whose daring prize and praise belong
To my victorious adversary, though
Dost kill the heart, givest life unto the song.
Tape: Io canto, Amor, da questa tua guerrieraquant'ebbi a sostener mortali offese,
come un guardo mi vinse, un crin mi prese
istoria miserabile, ma vera!
Due begli occhi fur l'arme onde trafitta
giacque, e di sangue in vece, amaro pianto
sparse lunga stagion l'anima afflitta.
Tu, per lo cui valor la palma e 'l vanto
ebbe di me la mia nimica invitta,
se desti morte al cor, da vita al canto.Giovambattista Marino (1569-1625)
Artist: (to Seer) You show me what I cannot have,What lies beyond my grasp.
Tape: fragmented syllables (mimed by the Seer on his keyboard) in response to which the Artist is even more frustrated. The Dancer gives the Artist the scarf which he uses to assume a female persona.
Seer: I see the strength in your eyes,I hear the power of your voice,
Your body's fearless stance
And the depth of your soul.
Artist: He does not speak to me,Except in images.
Tape: various female and male voices (opposite to their actual gender): I am a man / I am a woman
Video: Tape Two begins in which a female dancer appears as Clorinda, assuming the male role of a warrior. She and the live dancer enact the story of the battle of Tancredi and Clorinda in which he, not recognizing his love, engages her in battle and kills her. As she dies, the camera moves up her body and 'discovers' her blond hair. The Artist and male dancer also engage in a struggle ending with the Artist 'killing' the dancer.
Tape: stretched, resonant sung version of the opening of Monteverdi's Combattimento:
Seer: Tancredi che Clorinda un'uomo stimavol ne l'armi provarla al paragone.
Artist: Clorinda, who wished Tancredi to be her lover,Seeks forthwith to engage him in mortal combat.
Tape: Tancredi, who believed Clorinda to be a warrior,[Clorinda, who believed Tancredi to be a warrior]
Seeks forthwith to engage her[him] in mortal combat.
Vuol ne l'armi provarla: un uom la stima
degno a cui sua virtù si paragone.
Va girando colei l'alpestre cima
verso altra porta, ove d'entrar dispone.
Segue egli impetuoso, onde assai prima
che giunga, in guisa avien che d'armi suone,
ch'ella si volge e grida: - O tu, che porte,
che corri sì? - Risponde: E guerra e morte.Tasso: Gerusalemme Liberata XII:52
e guerra e morte / war and death (drum)
amore e vita / love and life (bell)
Artist: You, who do breach mine eyes and touch my heart,And start the mind from her brief reveries,
Might pluck my life and agony apart,
Saw you how love assaileth her with sighs,
And lays about him with so brute a might
That all my wounded senses turn to flight.
Tape: Voi, che per gli occhi mi passaste al coreE destaste la mente che dormia,
Guardate a l'angosciosa vita mia
Che sospirando la distrugge Amore.
E' vien tagliando di si gran valore
Ch' e' deboletti spiriti van via.Guido Cavalcanti (1255-1300): Sonnet I
Tape: stretched, resonant version of Monteverdi's Combattimento:
Seer: ella mentre cadea, la voce afflitta movendo disse le parole estreme,parole , parole ch'a lei novo spirto adita.
Tape: She can no more oppose him,her voice will scarce obey her,
Yet faintly she breathes her last words,
Her last words that yet a new spirit infuses.
Ella, mentre cadea, la voce afflitta
movendo, disse le parole estreme;
parole ch'a lei novo un spirto ditta,
spirto di fé, di carità, di speme:
virtù ch'or Dio le infonde, e se rubella
in vita fu, le vuole in morte ancella.Tasso: Gerusalemme Liberata XII:65
Artist: Love, who hath drawn me down through devious ways,Hath from your noble eyes so swiftly come!
'Tis he who hath hurled the dart, wherefrom my pain,
First shot's resultant! And in flanked amaze
See how my affrighted soul recoileth from
That sinister side wherein the heart lies slain.
Tape: Questa vertù d'amor che m'a disfactoDa' vostr' occhi gentil presta si mosse;
Un dardo mi gitto dentro dal fianco.
Si giunse ritto 'l colpo al primo tracto,
Che l'anima tremando si riscosse,
Veggendo morto 'l cor nel lato manco.Guido Cavalcanti: Sonnet I (trans. by Ezra Pound)
Artist: (to the Seer)You have deceived me!
Tape: various male and female voices (in correct gender):I am a man / I am a woman
Artist: (discarding the scarf which is retrieved by the Dancer)And I am still a man
Seer: My sight grows dim and soon will be gone,Yet I do not grieve what has been lost.
I turn within and there I find
The perfect union of the Thou and I.
Artist: He has abandoned me.
Tape: Why, Isolde [Tristan], why this to me?When what I had not grasped before
Was finally made clear to me.
Video: Tape Three begins and shows the male dancer from the first video in female attire, wearing the white fringed scarf that now has disappeared from the stage. This image fades in and out of a slow motion image of the male dancer pulling the scarf down over his face; at the end of the tape, his face (with eyes closed) finally appears. The live Dancer, continuing in a male role, switches to represent Antinous, the god-like youth and favourite of Hadrian.
Tape: stretched, resonant version of Wagner's Liebestod:
Seer: Höre ich nur diese Weise, die so wundervoll und leise.
Artist: Why, Tristan, why this to me?When what I had desired before
Was finally denied to me.
Tape: Do I alone hear this melodyWhich, so wondrous and tender in its blissful lament,
All-revealing, gently pardoning, rises above,
Blessedly echoing and ringing around me?
Höre ich nur diese Weise, die so wundervoll und leise,
Wonne klagend, alles sagend, mild versöhnend aus ihm tönend,
in mich dringet, auf sich schwinget, hold erhallend um mich klinget?
Wie sie schwellen, mich umrauschen, soll ich atmen, soll ich lauschen?Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Act 3
The male dancer again inspires the Artist in the following song.
Artist: But the living all make the mistake of dividing too sharply;Angels (they say) often did not know if they walked
among the living or the dead. The perpetual torrent
... drowns them out in each.
... once when they mourned for Linos
tentative primal music pierced brittle despair;
only when the room felt the shock
of the almost god-like youth's sudden departure forever
the emptiness started to vibrate with that motion
which now uplifts us and comforts us and helps us.
Tape: Aber Lebendige machenalle den Fehler, dass sie zu stark unterscheiden.
Engel (sagt man) wüssten oft nicht, ob sie unter
Lebenden gehn oder Toten. Die ewige Strömung
reisst durch beide Bereiche alle Alter
immer mit sich und übertönt sie in beiden.
Ist die Sage umsonst, dass einst in der Klage um Linos
wagende erste Musik dürre Erstarrung durchdrang;
dass erst im erschrockenen Raum, dem ein beinah götterlicher Jüngling
plötzlich für immer enttrat, das Leere in jene
Schwingung geriet, die uns jetzt hinreisst und tröstet und hilft.R. M. Rilke: Duino Elegies I (trans. by Norbert Ruebsaat)
The Artist gestures upward towards the Seer and fixes his gaze on him in amazement. The dancer takes the long, silk dress scarf, climbs up to the Seer and ties it around his head like a blindfold, then beckons to the Artist.
Seer: My sight dims - but I begin to see!
Tape: stretched, resonant version of the phrase from Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex when the king appears blinded:
Seer: Lux facta est!
Artist: (Starts to unbutton his shirt, using gestures similar to the dancer in the first video. At the fourth gong he is frozen in silhouette in the bright light, then exits along with the male dancer)I begin to hear a melody
Coming from afar.
Could it be an incubus, my lost love,
Or an angel calling me?
Tape: Now is all made clear! Now is all made clear![All is now made clear!] [All is now made clear!]
Seer: (seated in a meditational posture)All is dark and now I see! [you see]
What was hidden is revealed to me, [thee]
My voice comes to me from far,
The resonant sound in which I am one. [we are one]
Tape: gli uomini the women
Seer: Te amabam, te miseror.Miser Oedipus, oculos tuos deploro,
Te amabam, te miseror.
Tape: Farewell Oedipus [Sappho], I loved you, I pity you.Wretched Oedipus [Sappho], I lament the loss of your eyes [voice].
Farewell Oedipus [Sappho], our poor Oedipus [Sappho],
I loved you, Oedipus [Sappho], I bid you farewell.
le donne the men
Farewell Sappho [Oedipus} ....
I bid you farewell.
(stretched, resonant version of the choral ending of Oedipus Rex )Vale, vale Oedipus, miser Oedipus noster,
Te amabam, Oedipus, tibi valedico, Oedipus, tibi valedico.
Artist: (returns wearing a magnificent kimono, and accompanies his song with stylized hand and arm gestures). He is mirrored by the male dancer. Video Tape Four begins, showing a male dancer rotating against an equally magnificent kimono.Welcome, welcome, welcome!
Seer: Vale, vale Oedipus, miser Oedipus
Seer: Va - le - di - co (chant-like)
Artist: Welcome, Oedipus, I love you, I embrace you.Blessed Oedipus, I welcome your new found sight.
Welcome Oedipus, my own dear Oedipus.
I love you, Oedipus, I embrace you in me.
Seer: Di - co (chant-like)
Artist: (turns and approaches the video screen where the video tape is finishing)I embrace you in me. I embrace you in me.
Seer: Pa - ro - le (sung)O - m
The Artist opens his arms and kimono wide to cover the screen and expose the full splendour of his garment. The dancer returns to the platform with the fringed scarf to stand behind the Seer and reach upwards as the Artist finishes his song.