So…what could lie behind a project with the – at first ‘sight’ – quite featureless sounding title ‘Subject Index’?
Let’s got to Wikipedia for a first factual definition:
Subject indexing is the act of describing or classifying a document by index terms or other symbols in order to indicate what the document is about, to summarize its content or to increase its findability. In other words, it is about identifying and describing the subject of documents.
Emily Dickinson wrote an incredible amount of 1,700 poems during her lifetime. In Iain Morrison’s performance Subject Index he now attempts to read aloud all of Dickinson’s poems over a number of days, wearing a simulacrum of her iconic white dress. He will be seated behind glass in a semi-sealed environment with the audience coming and going as they please, to eavesdrop on the poems.
The title and the theme of Morrison’s project are inspired by the edition and classification of Emily Dickinson’s poems by Thomas H. Johnson in 1955 who tagged and categorized all of Dickinson’s poems in a labyrinthine ‘Subject Index’.
Whilst reading through her work Morrison created his own subjective diagram-map of the poems’ relationships to each other and to Emily Dickinson herself.
Iain Morrison, born 1979 in Edinburgh, is a trained musician. While studying in Bristol he there found a home in the performance scene, collaborating with other musicians, dancers, live artists and whizzkids, before forming his own performance duo The Glamourous with Leiza McLeod. Here his enjoyment of text found centrestage. The Glamourous made a name in live literature with their Arts Council funded ‘Gimme The Beat Girls’, a stageshow about women writers of the Beat Generation, first performed at the 2008 Bristol Poetry Festival.
He has taken part in text and performance workshops with Gob Squad (2012) and Rosie Dennis, and he enjoys finding ways to present writing that don’t sit comfortably with safe definitions of ‘page or stage’. Generally he thinks if text is presented live, it should have had some careful thought given to it about why.