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Bazzett, Denise. "Review of Debtor's Prison." Newspages.com, (July 18, 2006).
Debtor's Prison is the collaborative work of Lewis Warsh, established writer in poetry, short story, autobiography and novel, and Julie Harrison, award-winning and internationally renowned video/ visual artist.
The layout of the book is simple. Sepia toned stills from Harrison's videos cover the right pages of the text, running from spine to edge, with a white margin top and bottom. The stills are grainy at best, and more often blurred in the action of the moment. While the subject matter in most is recognizable, several are still a mystery to me. There are numerous hospital shots - electronic screens, crisscrossed tubing. Others are close-ups of people: open mouth, eye and forehead, hands in numerous positions, the waddle of old flesh. Some of my favorites range from the stills of the elderly to the naked woman in the bathtub with plastic tubing in one frame, and a body halo of soapsuds in another.
Warsh's writing sits centered on the left pages. First a plain text line begun with a capital but no period, followed by a word or phrase set below in italics.
Next to a still of a hand on cloth Warsh writes:
It's possible to wear the same clothing
as the person who died
dusty carapace / plaintive mourning
. Next to a still of a woman's crossed legs:
Her thoughts are like a series of windows
covered with dust
arable soil / mental picture
. Debtor's Prison is the result of an artists' residency at Visual Studies Workshop, funded by a New Technology Initiative from the New York Council on the Arts. It's evident that Warsh and Harrison have pushed beyond boundaries with this discussion between forms. I find the visual images haunting, and the text thought provoking in the same way I read lines of Tao or Q and search for inherent meaning. Can't say as I always find it, but sometimes the end result isn't the answer, but rather the quest itself.
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