Poem by Robert Schultz.
Photography by Rob McNamara.
Sound design and editing by Forrest Marquisee, Forest Floor Studios.
Produced, edited, and directed by Katherine McNamara for Artist’s Proof Editions.
A multi-touch book.
Some years ago, Robert Schultz, a poet, witnessed an exhibition of photographs printed in the flesh of leaves of trees and plants, portraits of war-worn Vietnamese and of Cambodians documented in the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.
These chlorophyll prints, as they were called, were made by Binh Danh, a Vietnamese-born American photographer. About his method, Binh Danh wrote, “This process deals with the idea of elemental transmigration: the decomposition and composition of matter into other forms. The images of war are part of the leaves, and live inside and outside of them. The leaves express the continuum of war. . . As matter is neither created nor destroyed, but only transformed, the remnants of the Vietnam and American War live on forever in the Vietnamese landscape.”
Robert Schultz responded to Binh Danh’s chlorophyll prints with a series of poems, which he composed formally, as if in grief after suffering. He turned back, he said, to the “circular movement of traditional forms (the villanelle, sestina, pantoum) to enact cycles of natural and historical recurrence.”
These poems and those images are present in Ancestral Altars. Here, the reader may encounter them as if in company with the poet and the artist, and yet, in contemplative solitude. In their beauty and dignity is compassion.
In its design, incorporating moving-poems, audio, and a gallery, Ancestral Altars is the response by Artist’s Proof Editions to their poems and images. In this iBook, a reader hears the poems spoken by the poet, carried on his breath as, simultaneously, s/he taps to open and examine the enleafed or daguerreotyped images, digitized, that called them forth.