Caroline Bergvall

Graphite and ink drawings as well as collages have for a long time been preparatory elements leading to the creation of some of my longer text pieces. Through these I am able to devise some of the compositional aspects of the piece I’m writing and explore analogically some of its syntactical and narrative possibilities. This practice has also enabled me to find a relaxed entry into a piece of work. My books all contain reproductions of such prep pieces as they are an insistent aspect of my process. The tracings explicitly bring a physical, gestural and pulsational rhythm to my work.

“Philomena (working the line)” is based on lines 1106-1107 of Chretien de Troyes’ version of the story: “et commence avec grande application/son ouvrage telle qu’elle l’entend.” The drawings shown here are two out of four of the very first from a project started in 2012. This larger work-in-progress already involves several series of drawings as well as visual and textual notes. It is based on the violent Ovidian story of Philomela in the Metamorphosis. It was a much adapted story in medieval culture and I have been using it mainly it in its Old French Chretien de Troyes version (Philomena) and its Chaucer adaptation. In short her story goes like this:

Highly intelligent and beautiful Athenian princess, voyage across the sea to visit sister, rape by brother-in-law, mutilation and silencing by having tongue cut off, emprisonment, taught how to weave by guardian, from tongue to thread: learns new lines to tell her story, sends tapestry to sister who frees her, gory revenge banquet (this is where versions vary), transformation into nightingale. My main interest so far has been around her violent excision from language and the development of her survival language, a new physical articulacy manifested through the weaving of a tapestry. I have had it in mind since starting on this project that I want to write an aria, an aria for unvoiced singing, an aria for woven voice.
bernstein 2