Maryrose Larkin read with Bruce Boone earlier this month in Portland, where along with a cross-section from her various books, chaps, and procedural projects, she delivered a live film narration to Carl Dreyer’s 1928 “The Passion of Joan of Arc.” I wrote a little about her piece the first time around; for the reprise, she created a handsome new objet d’arc (ark! ark!) for her and Sarah Mangold’s FLASH+CARD press.
Larkin’s text for Dreyer’s silent mashes language from Joan’s trial transcripts with pre-recorded phrases found on cards made for use with the Language Master, a boxy “mid-tech” speech therapy device designed to help ’80s kids talk more pretty. In performance, Larkin intercuts her spoken script with short robotic phrases produced by the cards, which she feeds through the box—sometimes straight, sometimes tugged to scratch and wobble—in a way that seems to parallel Joan’s fate at the hands of all those Dutch-angled celibate monks. By the end of the piece, Dreyer’s frantic montage of whirling spiked wheels, Larkin’s inexorably sliding word cards, and the flat legalese of the trial text itself form a grammar against which Joan’s only option is to stutter, scratch, and iterate in the hopes of slowing down the process, or even exposing it as process, instead of the Way Things Are.
For DARC, Larkin turns the Scantron-sized Language Master cards into fields for the printed text, which replicates the “Joan vs. received grammar” dynamics of her performance through clashing colors, diverse fonts, and eccentric lineations that play off the straight magnetic “speech” strips affixed to the bottom of each one. Packed in a transparent envelope, the series holds Larkin’s whole redaction of the trial in potentia, a grammar that given the right hardware can happen again and again, like history. There’s a paradox in language so ugly in intention being made so attractive in print, but that’s the dark at the bottom of any poetry. Given current showroom models, I’ll have Larkin’s darkness audible.
12 hours ago