Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Behold, the Great Pretender

Somehow I have become the current Student Writer in Residence at MoDiP and it represents a challenge as well as an honour for me. I am not a published author or poet in the traditional sense of the meaning. I am a Doctoral candidate at the Arts University Bournemouth who is taking a creative writing approach to my thesis. This places writing (and reading) at the heart of what I do. It probably also suggests that writing is somehow embedded in my being, it is an imperative. This is now very true.

As the current Student Writer in Residence, I am charged with producing something creative on a regular basis. This is an exciting task as writing in the real world demands deadlines and outcomes. So I will be presenting three pieces of creative writing over the next year and what that will be is yet to emerge. This is part the enigma of writing, I never quite know where it will come from but when it does, I have to go with it. My Doctoral work is an attempt to uncover some of the mystery of the process of writing creatively.

Why am I drawn to the poetic form?

That is the stuff of a thesis, but in short, it is short, sharp, powerful, and punchy on the one hand but the tendency toward illusion or allusion allows for the writer to play and give license to the reader to tussle with meanings both general and personal. Poetry can be much bigger than the poet. It can capture huge stories in a short space, focusing the macro into a more manageable size. It concentrates and coalesces emotions, messages and our stories.

Behold, the Great Pretender is a poem dedicated to the masquerade of plastics.

I wrote it in response to and as a complement to the current exhibition at MoDiP - an exhibition that celebrates the magic of plastics in contemporary culture and society. Beyond the practical, everyday nature of the material there is an alchemy, an allure which draws me, the creative writer to explore its essence, its being.

MoDiP hands the poet in me, on a plastic plate, naturally, a perfect opportunity to play with a familiar literary device manifested and materialised through the exhibition Is that plastic?

How could I resist a metaphor and for that matter a skeuomorph?

And walking through the exhibition, I found myself mesmerised, fascinated and intrigued by the myriad of ways that plastics have copied other things, other materials that we find in our ordinary existence.

Plastics, and more specifically artists and designers, have stretched the boundaries to recreate art, beauty, truth and even life itself.

This poem attempts to touch the issues that were revealing themselves to me as I wandered through the displays.

My mind was flooded with responses; the mimicry, the pretence, the fax simile, the substitution, the replacement, the guile, the falsehood, the changing, reshaping natural world, the duplicity, the waste, the potential of human inventiveness, our superficiality and ignorance.

It is a criticism, it is a celebration, and it is an observation through my eyes.

Behold, the Great Pretender

Shapeless, shameless, formless, nothingness
Moving toward something, anything, but what?
The magician’s slight of hand brings to life,
To form, anything it desires.
A gifted child who sees the endless possibilities of play,
Unfettered, confined only by the whim of man.

Symbol of our stay.
Mirror to our souls.
Exulted by design.
Lamented in decay.
Are you what you claim to be
Or has reality blurred our vision,
Preventing us from seeing.

The great pretender
Scripted by the creator’s hand,
Whose function has been lost,
Transforms into a symbolic gesture,
Substantiates material existence.

One eye fixed on the past.
The other firmly faces to
The next ‘big thing’.
Standing on the threshold of
Re-defining who we are.

Displacing others to fool the eye.
Aspiring to be, to satisfy the masses.
Drawing us closer to the unreachable.
Faux fur,
Faux life,
False god.

Textured, distressed, familiar yet inferred.
It represents the thing itself and echoes of the past,
Smuggling aristocratic values across the great divide.
And in so doing becomes it
Or so it seems.

Teasing senses with a new integument,
Appearing as a timeless edifice.
Can we trust this child of man?
Or is the fakery ours to own?
The eye may fall for such deceit,
The hands betray its counterfeit.

Providing us with signs to navigate
In new landscapes and temporal crossings.
A comfort in transition toward a new aesthetic.
Replacing loss,
Restoring equilibrium.
Bodies robbed by violence or disease or want.
Minds disrupted with an absence,
Still sensing, needing presence where there is vacancy.
Filling such deep longing to be whole.

The oceans move now with abundant waste,
A toxic symbol of our transient, ever changing desires.
And yet from this primordial soup,
We force, we cast and press,
We reincarnate, re-use,
Creating a new estate, a new us.
Oh brave, brave new world.

Kate Hall (Student Writer in Residence)

Kate Hall is a Doctoral Student at the Arts University Bournemouth. She writes across a range of contexts and publishes her work online. She uses creative writing as her art practice and an anthology of creative writing will be part of her Doctoral output. With support links to the Museum of Design in Plastics, she will draw on objects from the collection to inform her work. The chair made of plastics will feature as the central object around which a literary narrative will be created alongside the critical component of the thesis.

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