Typewriter Project spawns Corpse in Six Parts
By Payne Ray
University of West Florida students and Pensacola residents gathered Friday night for “Exquisite Pensacola: A Corpse in Six Parts,” an event prepared largely by UWF students and faculty.
The Graphic Design Program, the Department of English, and the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities organized the event. It continued, in spirit, the Typewriter Project which came to Pensacola early in the spring semester and drew inspiration from the happenings originated by Allan Kaprow in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
“When you come in, it’s not going to feel like any poetry reading you’ve ever been to,” Robin Blyn of the UWF English department said just a few days before the event. “When you come in, it’s going to feel like a carnival.”
Blyn’s description was accurate as attendees crowded into the space to participate in multiple collaborative artworks and listen to poems and dialogues created in advance by UWF students.
Throughout the event, people were encouraged to write new lines in a new “Exquisite Corpse” poem started on-scene, or to write definitions of unnamed objects or concepts to be added to a surrealist dictionary.
These acts of collaboration and participation took place in the main room of the multicultural center, around tables of food and drinks which stayed open throughout the evening for guests.
The night was punctuated by readings and performances of art made by UWF students, assembled entirely from the scroll of the Typewriter Project as it was written by Pensacola residents at the beginning of the year.
Readings ranged from calm and collected readings by students in suits to evocative, character-driven readings from people dressed in hand-made and outlandish costumes.
The stage was surrounded by a rapt audience which often found itself piling close together against the walls in order to see.
One of the evening’s performers, Matthew Shimon Hanimov, said the audience was larger than he hoped.
“I’m not sure what I expected,” Hanimov said. “It’s not like sardines packed in a room, but it’s comfortable.”
Hanimov’s work in the performance included a poem in the first reading as well as one of the final readings of the night. He also worked with other students to produce some of the other recited works.
“We had to appropriate text from the Typewriter Project and create our own poems,” Hanimov said, detailing the process he and his classmates took to form their poems. He also explained that the dialogues between characters had also been made in a similar way, using only raw text to create a semblance of a conversation between writers.
As the title of the event suggested, the evening happened in six parts, not counting an intermission.
After hearing the poetry, then dialogues, the audience created mad-libs with the performers, which were also pulled from the text of the typewriter scroll.
Student contributors read more poetry while walking on and off stage in rapid succession, and then the surrealist dictionary made its debut to great crowd response.
The new poem made in the “Exquisite Corpse” was read by Blyn and 5 students, passing it back and forth as they read through the lines of shifting meaning and the occasional confused expletive.
At its conclusion, Blyn reminded the audience of the concept which drove the evening. The Typewriter Project was collaborative art that Pensacola residents made together over the course of a month. On Friday, months after the project concluded, Pensacola came together in at least one more expression of that spirit.
“This was an art of assemblage,” Blyn said. “And it goes on and on.”