William Blake seems all the rage at the moment. The ‘artist/poet/visionary’ thing has a universal appeal and tends to resonate throughout the generations. I shan’t go into details of his biography, I’ll leave that to my friend John Higgs, who has just written a magnum opus about him.
(Unfortunately that’s not getting published until next year, so in the meantime, I recommend his “short, breezy book of 15,000 words” from last year, William Blake Now )
Earlier this year, filmmaker Nick Driftwood put out a call for people to read Blake poems for a project he is developing. I asked John if he knew of any juicy obscure Blake poems I could use, and he said:
If you want to perform that poem where Blake is taking a dump in his garden and spins round to shit-curse some German, then I’ll dig it out for you.
I obviously said yes…
Whilst technically the performance is mine, the faces in the video were in fact generated from the edges of the StyleGAN FFHQ network.
Human, but not quite Human.
The selected static faces were subsequently brought to life, from my performance video, using the first-order-model.
Here’s a clip showing the source FFHQ faces and my reading.
When Klopstock England Defied (c1797)
When Klopstock England defied
Uprose terrible Blake in his pride
For old Nobodaddy aloft
Farted & Belchd & coughd
Then swore a great oath that made heavn quake
And calld aloud to English Blake
Blake was giving his body ease
At Lambeth beneath the poplar trees
From his seat then started he
And turnd himself round three times threet
The Moon at that sight blushd scarlet red
The stars threw down their cups & fled
And all the devils that were in hell
Answered with a ninefold yell
Klopstock felt the intripled turn
And all his bowels began to churn
And his bowels turned round three times three
And lockd in his soul with a ninefold key
That from his body it neer could be parted
Till to the last trumpet it was farted
Then again old nobodaddy swore
He neer had seen such a thing before
Since Noah was shut in the ark
Since Eve first chose her hell fire spark
Since twas the fashion to go naked
Since the old anything was created
And in pity he begd him to turn again
And ease poor Klopstocks nine fold pain
From pity then he redend round
And the ninefold Spell unwound
If Blake could do this when he rose up from shite
What might he not do if he sat down to write