Following a run earlier this year as part of MTA’s Poetry in Motion Springfest at Grand Central Terminal, Taiwanese artist Yu-Ting Feng brings Dear Deer her interactive poetry installation to the Dumbo Arts Festival.
Bringing together her work in video and nontraditional interactive storytelling, the project puts you face to face with a smart deer (who might be Truman Capote incognito in a mask after raiding Ernest Hemingway’s bar or Bojack Horseman‘s cousin) seated at a typewriter. Not knowing what to write, he asks you a series of questions, hoping that your answers will provide inspiration. A poem is created from your exchange.
It’s surreal in its arrangement and imagery (I actually imagine that the deer is the one hallucinating the interaction with a human), but it was borne out of Teng’s personal difficulty with writing poetry. She realized that it wasn’t just foreigners, like herself, who faced a language barrier who had trouble. Native English-speakers too sometimes need help. Poetry Everywhere, a collaborative class taught by New York State’s Poet Laureate Marie Howe and video artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Interactive Telecommunications Program, introduced her to simple ways of writing poems and led to this project.
For Teng, whose works find a central theme in trying to bridge communication gaps, this art project was part social research. She explained that it was “interesting to see different people use different words or use same words. You can see how people use language to join a community.” Teng hopes to explore this phenomenon further when she brings the project around the world.
With comic imagery and a casual kitchen table setup, playing Cyrano for this member of the Cervidae family smartly avoids the uncanny valley many artificial intelligence interfaces fall into. Further removing it from the idea that the experience is just an interaction that produces digital ephemera displayed on the screen for a few amusing moments, Dear Deer gives you a copy of your collaboration — a poem to pocket and take away perhaps to give away or rediscover years from now…and also proof that you wrote poetry with a deer.
What’s the great symbolism behind using a deer? Teng simply likes masks.
Dear Deer is on view at the DUMBO Arts Festival at 1 Main Street, Festival Lounge in Brooklyn during the following times:
Friday, September 26, 6 – 9 PM
Saturday, September 27, 12 – 9 PM
Sunday, September 28, 12 – 6 PM
Images courtesy of Yu-Ting Feng