Chateau Wichman is a book-length poem focused on a would be-hero as ambitious as he is aimless. Luckily, a mysterious group known as the Sage Editors uses everything from Rilke to The Terminator to turn The Wichman into a mythological celebrity. The Wichman doesn’t mind the transition until he begins to notice how little of himself others see in him. Epic visions, rushed romance, harebrained escapes, and the most sublime chicken cordon bleu recipe—all within one epic saga: Chateau Wichman: Blockbuster in Verse.
(poet/video artist Ben Pease talks about the process of making this video poem):
It took a lot of messing around with several digital formats to be able to put together this video. For a while I used to just play around with collage in MS Paint. At first, I would simply over- and underlay a bunch of images, but then I started using a degraded image quality as part of the aesthetic.
This came to fruition when Paperbag allowed me to include the images I’d made as section divisions for Chateau Wichman.
I realized the images could be worked in with the poetry in a way that added to the entire experience. Just as no one in Chateau Wichman knows exactly who they are, it’s hard to say what kind of figures these dots are supposed to make up, but if you look or think about either for long enough, something definite comes to mind.
More recently, I’ve taken advantage of projectors and PA systems at readings and had a little video play before or during my time on stage. Inspired by my girlfriend Bianca Stone’s thought-provoking interplay of image and text in her poetry comics, I had a lot of fun putting the videos together (and recording the poems brought me back to my college radio days). Finally, I decided to try to combine the two disciplines together for the entire Wichman poem.
The problem with this idea was that I would need to convert every single frame of the movie to the black and white reduction. Listening to upbeat music, I could convert 100 frames in 15 minutes, but the first section (out of 27 sections) had 3,400 frames. This reminded me of people I used to play the now-defunct Star Wars Galaxies with who would use a third-party program to take control of mouse and keyboard functions because the crafting portions of the game were so repetitive or laborious. With this in mind, I figured out how to make my own macro (or as I prefer to call it, a robot) that would convert the images by itself once I had put them all in their own folder and told the robot what to do. The robot’s name is Dan Matrix, and I hope you enjoy our collaboration.
Ben Pease is a poet and visual artist with degrees from Emerson College and Columbia University. He hails from Ludlow, MA, the setting for his next book, Fugitives of Speech. He is an assistant professor at ASA College in New York City.