Artist Michèle Saint-Michel fuses poetry and music with news reportage in her powerful audio piece, The Immortal Charlie Parker. In it, she recounts her experience of reconnecting with a childhood friend during the early stages of the pandemic.
In The Immortal Charlie Parker, artist Michèle Saint-Michel tells an intimate story which, she writes in her email to us, is about ‘safety, trust, and inherent worth’. During the pandemic she reconnected with a childhood friend over the summer and ‘it sorta fell apart by Christmas’. The spliced audio of radio pronouncements and news pieces transports us through her experiences of the pandemic, framing the fear of vulnerability in this tentative connection. It captures the strangeness of our times through a personal prism, one which has at the forefront a question: Are we now only dangerous to each other? The phrase ‘a trauma response’ punctuates the poem repeatedly. Those with PTSD and/or experiences of trauma will know well how the pandemic has intersected with our wounds.
Content warning: this piece briefly mentions child neglect, sexual assault, rape, and PTSD.
Sumaya Kassim, Disembodied Voices Co-editor
The Immortal Charlie Parker*
By Michèle Saint-Michel
*The Immortal Charlie Parker was intended to be experienced as an audio piece; however, a PDF of the transcript is provided below for anyone who is unable to access it:
About Michèle Saint-Michel
Transdisciplinary artist Michèle Saint-Michel grew up along the rolling hills and river bluffs of the Missouri River in America’s heartland. Her work is most often in the mediums of moving image and film, digital design and audio, and art books. Many of her works overlap, blend, and defy genre.
Her first illustrated book, “Grief Is an Origami Swan” (Bookshop) was released in 2020. Her next book – in conversation with and deconstruction of Walt Whitman’s work, his poetic lineage, and the experience of PTSD – is slated for release in 2021.
Her poetry films have been screened at art galleries and film festivals across the US, UK, Canada, Romania, France, and Germany as official selections. Her latest film work is an experimental documentary suite of short films that explore the symptoms of PTSD.
Email Michèle or see more of her work on her website: https://michelesaintmichel.com
This piece was commissioned for Disembodied Voices: Friendship during COVID-19
How we think of friendship, intimacy and closeness has radically altered during this period, perhaps irrevocably. Lockdown and quarantine has left us relishing time with friends and family, or dealing with feelings of isolation, anxiety and abandonment. WhatsApp, Zoom and social media are our new lifelines, changing the tone, register and channels through which we communicate. We’ve reached out to old friends and been turned away by new ones; rekindled old bonds and discarded others. There are friends who inspire and those who infuriate; there are relations we’ve failed and some who’ve come through for us, and shown love in a way we’ve never experienced before.
We want to curate a series of essays, interviews and stories on friendship, experienced during the time of COVID-19. We are keen to hear from marginalised perspectives, underrepresented voices and communities significantly impacted by the virus.
We are also open to submissions and pitches on the representation and concept of friendship more generally. How friendship is represented on television, film, and social media; in books, music and videos, before and during the pandemic, is also important. Are there representations of friendships that have given you hope (such as I May Destroy You or Broad City) or those that have appeared toxic to you (such as that recounted by Natalie Beach about Caroline Calloway). If so, we want to hear from you too.
For the full Call Out and details of how to apply, click here.
Submissions are open until the end of February 2021.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Aysha Abdulrazak and Samaya Kassim, Guest Editors of Disembodied Voices.
Feature image by Michèle Saint-Michel.