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Artist fuses video, poetry to inspire psychedelic experience
by Kelsey Hoff
2019-06-23

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Poet, new media and sound artist Sara Naomi Goodman will perform "Deep Dream: An Evening of Poetry and Video Synthesis" followed by a Q&A at Slate Arts and Performance Tuesday, June 25.

The piece combines a live poetry performance with video elements to explore Goodman's own complex relationship to technology. They have previously performed the piece at the Red Rover Reading Series at Outer Space Studio and the Her Environment series at TCC Gallery.

"Each time kind of changes a little bit. ... It's a long poem that I've written but the way I perform it keeps evolving," Goodman said. To create "Deep Dream," they used a neural network artificial-intelligence system created by Google about five years ago that uses Google Images to "paint" or create new images.

Goodman has always been a big fan of science fiction and technology; they grew up reading sci-fi and cyberpunk novels, which has led to their current inspiration by the inundation of modern technology and the preservation of older technology as a resistance to obsolescence. They use vintage mixers from 1980s-'90s with multiple sources and effects processors, but people were experimenting with this kind of video synthesis and feedback technology as early as the 1970s. Some of the hardware Goodman uses is brand new, but inspired by earlier technology.

For their source material, Goodman sometimes remixes footage from old DVDs and VHS tapes until it's unrecognizable, or they film people and things around Chicago. Pure synthesis is another method of generating video through modular synthesis and waveforms that create new shapes and colors.

"I think through technology being used in ways it wasn't built or intended to. That's sort of my interest, when technology goes awry—using those errors to find beautiful images or patterns that are unexpected," said Goodman, noting that glitch art can have an element of queerness in this way. "The poem 'Deep Dream' has elements of that in it, but it's more a long poem about me. ... Having a lot of issues with using tech in my work but also feeling like a prisoner of it, too."

Goodman also aims to create a psychedelic experience for the viewer in "Deep Dream." Slate's event page describes it as "a space where color, texture, and landscape can help the mind to relax and expand with easier access to extra dimensions."

"One of the reasons I fell in love with video feedback and old video mixers and synths and stuff is because I literally feel like I'm being transported when I work with that tech," said Goodman, "and you can find spaces in video feedback that look like portals or wormholes and project them or have them play on multiple screens. When I'm watching that I feel like it has the same effect that a psychedelic drug would have, but I don't have to take a drug to get there. I can actually use technology to get into that kind of expansive headspace."

As tech-heavy as their video synthesis process is, Goodman describes their writing process as more organic. The poems often come first, with video accompaniments created afterward, but sometimes a video clip will inspire poems. Tech terminology from the glitch art world such as "pixels" also crops up in Goodman's poetry. They have an MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago, and they are the author of the chapbook "Universal Texture" published by Dynatox Ministries as well as the full length poetry book "Starfish" from The Lettered Streets Press.

Goodman collaborates with musicians and other artists for live performances and installations; they perform regularly as part of AV duos Interference//, ethereal_interface and Cruising Utopia. They are a co-founder of S H R I N E New Media Collective, described on their webiste as "the idea that technology can be sacred, and that it deserves to be up on a pedestal" and "the celebration of obselete and repurposed technology."

They also teach video art exploration, creative writing and literature classes at Fusion Academy in Lincoln Park.

The performance of "Deep Dream" will take place Tuesday, June 25, 8 p.m. at Slate Arts and Performance, 3203 W. North Ave. Admission is $5-$10; visit www.facebook.com/events/1085498734971612/ or saranaomigoodman.squarespace.com .


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