Gary Barwin

Gary Barwin, with bonfire and Slurpee (not pictured)
Gary Barwin won third place in the VidLit contest with his video "Inverting the Deer". Congratulations!
On a recent trip to Namibia, Gary Barwin spent some time with an indigenous tribe of hunter-gatherers where he attended a trance dancing ceremony. “At the same time they were doing that,” he says “they would be wearing t-shirts that said 'Britney Spears' on them.”
This sort of time jumping/code switching is ubiquitous in Barwin's work. Whether he is working in print, visual art, or composing music for one of his many collaborative projects, he is to some degree dancing around a fire, Slurpee in hand. Case-in-recontextualizing-point: he is currently working on a novel about a 15th century Jewish pirate. (Captain Jack Spiegelmann?)
About “Inverting the Deer”
“I live in Hamilton. All throughout Hamilton are conservation areas and places to walk in the woods. I would be walking my dog at night and all of a sudden realize that this shadow in front of me is a deer, and they don't notice me and I don't notice them until the last minute and then they run away. To me the image of the deer was this numinous other wordly presence or natural presence, yet at the same time prosaically urban... They also eat all the flowers from my mother-in-laws lawn. There is this interplay between numionous otherworld spirit animal and suburban pest. Everything we do sort of like that in terms of animals come into the urban and how that interfaces with human urban culture.”
I have another poem where a shopping cart becomes a deer. So we do the other thing: we mythologize and we turn into spirit animals our manufactured things. Deers occupy this space between a natural or shamanic culture, and our urban, industrial 21st century culture.”
Barwin composed the music for the video to produce this same effect. The synthesizers are very much of today, but the trance-like tones point to something ancient and mysterious, Barwin explains. Furthermore, the technical diagram-like images of deers with teeth for heads, constellations for antlers, or briefcases for bodies overlay on the whole video a sense of whimsy, perhaps absurdity, appropriately creating another dichotomy with Barwin's earnest, quasi-clinical reading of the text.
“The first thing I did when I got my first Atari computer was create a video poem,” Barwin recalls. “I remember thinking 'Oh, this is what computers are for!'” Video poems he says, have the potential to be both a site for marginal creative work, and a medium with mass appeal. “More than half of what we read is on-screen” he explains, “and so it's a natural extension... of how people communicate. To my kids, books are charmingly antique.”
Gary Barwin, at home in the woods of Hamilton.