is an audiovisual translation of the 63rd poem of the Roman poet Catullus.
photo: Graham Barnes (Filmpoem, Dunbar 2014)
It was made for live performance in collaboration with Jef Oswald (Codeshift) and Elisa Muliere. Catullus’ original is one of the most powerful and haunting cultural remnants of the ancient world. It tells — in its rare and breathless galliambic metre — of a young man, Attis, who under the spell of the Mother Goddess Cybele leaves his old life behind and joins Her Eastern cult. The initiation ritual for the chief celebrants of the cult — the galli (or gallae as Catullus calls them) — famously involved castration.
The score is bass heavy, so is best experienced with headphones on, or through speakers with a sub.
The original version of the translation a t t i s was first performed in 2010 at a London Poetry Systems event at The Jam Factory, Oxford. Also performing that night were Luke Kennard, Laura Dockrill and The Brandy Alexander Project. The night was hosted by LPS stalwart George Chopping.
Here’s Big Face Art’s video from that event.
a t t i s has been an organic kind of collaboration. It was made on a zero-£ budget. So here are a few words about my brave and generous collaborators:
The artist behind the score, Jef Oswald, and I go back a long way. We successfully disrupted GCSE Maths class together and never quite lost touch. We’ve now worked together on quite a few projects including two plays: Seneca’s Medea and Prometheus Chained (after Aeschylus). Jef’s stubbornness, passion for aphotic electronic bass music, and inclination towards the glitchier side of life has driven him into a semi-hermetic existence in a suburban bunker in Brno, where he makes music, breeds cats and concocts carnage for dance floors worldwide through his agency and record label Methlab.
Elisa Muliere, who made the charcoal sketches for the visuals, is an artist living and working in Bologna. She paints, illustrates, writes, and runs a bar in Via del Pratello — the street that never sleeps. We lived together in Via Filipo Turati for a year in around 2005, and have been close friends and collaborators ever since. Her debut art-book Icaro deve cadere is a defiant and beautiful retelling of the myth of Icarus. A former collaboration of ours resulted in another Catullus-inspired videopoem Carmen 117.
In 2013 the Oxford-based videomaker Adam Pelling-Deeves kindly agreed to recut the visuals after payment of more pints than I can remember and a promise that I’d edit the mind-expanding prose of his experimental and ultimately doomed audio project Isoliterra — a kind of nature documentary of a sonic dreamscape. He has also (I think comically) remixed an old poem of mine called The Love of Phlebas for Remix Cinema, Oxford 2011.
Performances of a t t i s
- The Jam Factory, Oxford — LPS, 10.04.2010
(also billed: Luke Kennard, Laura Dockrill, The Brandy Alexander Project) — review
- Modern Art Oxford — Remix Cinema, 24.03.2011
(Will Stopha, Zan Lyons)
- Albion Beatnik, Oxford — 14.07.2012
(Humphrey ‘Huck’ Astley, Tamara Parsons-baker)
- Edel Assanti — LPS 16.02.2013 — performed by Henry McGrath
(Alastair Cook, Swoon, Yo Zushi, Candy Says)
- University of Edinburgh –Syndicate #9 20.11.2013
(Holly Pester, Verity Spott)
- Filmpoem Festival, Dunbar — 04.08.2013
(Isobel Dixon, Simon Barraclough, Chris McCabe)
- Modern Art Oxford — Shapeshifters, APGRD, University of Oxford, 02.10.2015