Literature beyond the book – Festival Extra!

Badalov textile

Babi Badalov

From the 5th to the 9th September 2018, the Centre Pompidou in Paris held the second edition of its Festival Extra!, looking into what happens ‘when literature leaves the book’. True to the spirit of this Modern Art Museum which holds in its collections some of the most important convention-breaking artists of the twentieth century, the festival offered visitors an insight into the richness of the literary scene outside the better known world of the printed book.

The festival included exhibitions, live performances, a concert, interactive workshops, readings, talks, live radio and roundtable discussions. Among the exhibitions, which displayed works from the intersections between visual and other arts and literature, visitors could explore, often in the presence of the artists themselves,

Radion brouhaha

Radion Brouhaha

the tapestries of Babi Badalov and of Lamberto Pignotti, both mobilizing different languages and modes of expression, a taster from Jean-Yves Jouannais’s long-term project Encyclopédie des Guerres, and the emerging phenomenon of ‘littéraTube’.

Gaëlle Théval of the University of Rouen, Gilles Bonnet of the University of Lyon 3, and myself worked together on presenting the latter, subject of a monograph in progress which we are co-authoring. Three screens of different sizes, a tablet, a desktop PC, and a large television screen showed a selection of the abundant (French) literary life on the video sharing platform. The playlists included video archives, such as interview and performances recordings, but also performances conceived specifically for video and publication on YouTube, booktubers’ reviews and ‘lectubeurs’’ performances, reading extracts of their own or others’ texts to the camera, and, most importantly, creative video writing in the form of vlogs, videopoems, fictions, and other reflections. The three playlists are available on YouTube channel created for the festival.

While the archives and booktubers make an unprecedented amount of texts and paratexts available and the lectubeurs compete with audiobooks, offering a larger selection of often less well known contemporary literature, the most exciting development is now doubt the creative engagement with the medium. Writing in the form of video raises a number of questions for authors, reader-viewers, and literary critics alike: What does it mean to write on a surface that is already an image in movement, potentially with a sound? How do the different channels of communication within the video complement one another, and what is the role of writing in relation to the image and the sound? What distinguishes literature from cinema or video art in this space – or is this distinction useful at all? How far can we push the minimization of the textual element without losing the link to literature? And what does it mean for literature to penetrate a space that is not intended for a literary writing practice in the first place? What does it mean for the readers and users of YouTube, and for the reception of the work, that they are presented in this space? What new modes of interaction does this space enable between authors and reader-viewers? What technology do authors use, and what constraints do the tools impose? In what ways do authors exploit and experiment with the limits and potential of the technology? And what does publishing on YouTube mean for copyright and the authors’ remuneration and livelihoods?


LittéraTube roundtable (with Jean-Max Colard in the foreground, Gilles Bonnet, Erika Fülöp, and Gaëlle Théval)

Some of these questions were addressed in the roundtable discussion that was part of the ‘Soirée LittéraTube’ on the 7th of September. Moderated by the festival curator Jean-Max Colard, Gilles Bonnet, Gaëlle Théval, and myself talked about the uses and limits of the concept of littératube proposed by Gilles Bonnet and presented examples from each category showed in the exhibition. Gilles Bonnet briefly analysed the different modes of reading offered by François Bon and Gwen Denieul, Gaëlle Théval cited an amateur recording of Michèle Métail’s poetry performance and Charles Pennequin’s low-tech public space performance published directly on YouTube, and I introduced vlogs or video diaries and video writing through four excerpts by Arnaud de la Cotte, Anh Mat, François Bon, and Gracia Bejjani, highlighting how the medium allows authors to question time, space, and the limits and nature of writing. A live recording of the roundtable by Gracia Bejjani is available here.

These introductory remarks were followed by Noémi Lefebvre’s presentation of one of her recent videos with Studio Doitsu, La belle vie, a playful but serious critique of the overly normalised and policed society, accompanied by explanations of the context and the production process. Poet-artist Jérôme Game then offered a performance titled AroundTheWorld3.0, showing a selection of airplane take-off and landing videos while reading with a trans-inducing rhythm and voice a mash-up of video comments and paratexts drawn from YouTube. A very different use of the platform that our selection of littéraTube otherwise focused on, Game’s performance further highlighted the artistic potential of Google’s massive video sharing platform and invited us to continue the reflections about the role of the artist, author, and performer in seeking out new spaces for literature and the imaginative use of those spaces.

Anyone interested in French creative work on YouTube, feel free to follow the Facebook page Vidéo-Écritures, talk to the authors and post further suggestions.

Erika Fülöp



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