Shane Koyczan and collaborators
To This Day – TED Talk
Reviewed by DJ Fraser
Vancouver resident Shane Koyczan is already a fully fledged Canadian poetry star, and that is no easy stardom to come by. Koyczan appeared at TED this past February, where he performed the now-viral multimedia performance of “To This Day,” with violin accompaniment by Hannah Epperson and animated segments executed with the help of dozens of animators.
The animators who collaborated with Koyczan for this performance are not one-time colleagues–all are collaborators for the To This Day project, a continued effort to prevent childhood and adolescent bullying. This outreach project aims to connect and inspire those willing to stand up to bullying and to “find the beauty” in the world.
At any live TED talk, there are two screens onto which animations, graphs, charts or live feed footage are projected. Koyczan’s performance was augmented with an introduction that is not in the original video for the To This Day project, which exists as a animated video work. Throughout the performance, the rhythm of Koyczan’s words guides the visuals painstakingly through images that break apart, split at the seams and shatter to reveal new scenes of mixed media, from cut-out paper animation to pencil drawings. Breaks in the imagery shift back to the performers and the audience at TEDquarters, their rapt attention turned to Koyczan on stage.
If you view the TED talk from home, the segmented animation often occupies the entire visual space, with Koyczan’s sweet, impossibly fluid then abrupt, hopeful narratives as a sound track. The conscious synthesis of Koyczan’s poetry and the graphic styles of literally dozens of animators remind the viewer of the absence of a monolithic style or predominant medium accompaniment to Koyczan’s poetry.
The combination of this multi-perspectival poem and multimedia presentation (at the live performance as well as in a home viewing) crosses media boundaries: narrative, visual representation, graphic animation and music are cast together. Without any doubt, my favourite aspect of this TED video/performance was Koyczan and collaborators’ clever balance of media with poetry, and how this aspect of the work conveys a multitude of experiences, rather than Koyczan’s singular view. Calling attention to the universality of the bullied child in all of us, Koyczan and his team turn a singular work into a global movement. Different voices speak out, turning words into shields, drawings into livelihood, casting collective hopes with each other. The presentation and intermedia experience offered by Koyczan’s performance reinforces the idea that collective strength, through art and self-expression, enables survival and success. On a bad day, this performance could bring tears of happiness to my eye in spite of the world. On a good day, it could bring tears because of it.
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DJ Fraser is an MA History in Art student at UVic and the online gallery curator for Plenitude Magazine.