what is a voice in a chorus of artists

what is a voice in a chorus of artists
what is the purpose of a painting
is it possible to understand a work all on its own
is there a separation between my words and yours
how to understand an image you’ve never seen before
when your words inspire me to try to find my own
do you feel proud humble vulnerable
what responsibilities do you bear when you claim to be an artist
when setting sail do you focus on a narrow course
or travel wherever the wind blows
what is your intention when putting pen to paper

what is a voice in a chorus of artists
can i really claim my voice as my own
isn’t it true that if i stay open and attentive to an underlying current
i can become one with the rhythm of an ancient tide
how do you enter the flowing river
do you dip in a toe
do you cling to a root
do you regret never learning to swim
do you let yourself go and hope for the best
do you find fault in what has no right or wrong
it’s not always easy to honor without getting bent out of shape
how true so often what we honor is not the other or the whole
but some warped view of our own egos
is it better to blend in or to stick out in a crowd


Ekphrasis Film Fest 2016!

join director

Len Borruso

Friday, December 30th, 7pm

The 602 Club, Appleton


John Fleckner (Society of American Archivists) as Moondog

and Joanna Dane (A Wisdom of Wombats) as Tranquility


from the director:

The Ekphrasis coterie invites you to our Film Fest. Please join us as we take a look back on the short films we made in 2016, including from the Tranquility Series: “Zeno Effect”, “S P R I N G”, “discovery”, “The Beast” and “Moondog”. We will also screen “Homage à un Rêve”, our tribute to Surrealism. The coterie wishes to thank our collaborators of whom we begged, borrowed and asked permission of after the fact, especially Dewa Ketut Alit Adnyana, Matt Turner, Elyse-Krista Mische, Loren Dempster, John Fleckner, Therese Joanis, Luke Jacobs, Andrew Dane, Dane Richeson and Rory Olson. 

Note: Total running time of the Film Fest will be approximately 30 minutes. Movies will be screened on the big screen at The 602 Club on December 30th, 2016 at 7:00 pm. 

Seasons Greetings! 
The Ekphrasis Coterie


the devil's truth

tad neuhaus, guitar
loren dempster, cello
joanna dane, vocals

mama don't want to know a thing about you

and the way that you stab her heart

forsaken child of the devil's truth

for shame for shame the devil's truth

oh floozy you can't drive too fast

along the road back home

while mama stands at the gate

while you slip through the door

before you could say how sorry you are

for all the disappointment you've conjured

you didn't grow up like your mama wanted

instead you turned out just like her

forsaken child of the devil's truth

for shame for shame for shame

the devil's truth

the devil's truth


Art School Teacher: Ten Questions for a New Critique

What did you notice while making this work?

What was your intention?

How is it similar to work you've done before?

How is it different?

What surprised you?

What discoveries did you make?

What could you do with this work?

How could you use this work to launch another?

What works have recently inspired you?

What links can you make between your work and the work of others?


a New Critique, what is?

a New Critique:

instead of judging the work of others,
learn how to notice our own

rather than labeling good or bad,
practice discussing what we notice

instead of evaluative judgment,
substantive observation


Art School Teacher: A New Critique

Why do we teach self-expression
as a commodity
with the ultimate goal being
to get money and attention for what we create?

Why are artists like Henry Darger, like Vivian Maier
 who keep their creative practice private
considered somehow deficient
depraved, insane?

Why do we continue to critique self-expression 
in a way that causes so many to quit 
with bitter feelings?

Why not teach self-expression
as a life long practice, a skill
like brushing your teeth,
eating healthful foods,


Art School Teacher: Teacher Lounge Talk - Nihilism

When she suggested to the cinematographer that 

perhaps its alright to let the students make plotless movies,

if that's what they want to make,

he said it was nihilism. 

How will they ever learn the rules

if you don't critique their work?

There are many ways to learn the rules,

if learning the rules is what you are after.

But what if being an explorer is your practice,

then who is to say what your practice should be?


Art School Teacher: On Subbing in Yoga for Rebels

The first girl off the bus strides through the Boys and Girls Club
excited to get to yoga class
until another student stops her to say 
Ms. G won't be teaching, Ms. D will.

The girl slumps, all the energy draining from her body.

I run to catch her and apologize that Ms. G is not here,
and I promise to keep it light and easy, no pressure to participate.

Everyone is disappointed that we aren't going to finish watching the Happy movie,
groaning as they roll out their mats.  

"What's a rebel?" I ask.  
"Someone who doesn't do what she's told," says a girl, lounging by her backpack.

So, if we want to be rebels, we have to learn how to stand tall,
to be at ease in the face of conflict.

We practice mountain pose.

We shift our weight and notice the reactions in the muscles.
We try to find our center, where we are tall and most relaxed.

Then we practice lifting the arms without raising the shoulders.
A boy in the back yells, "Contest!"
I am immediately game, confident of a win.

But as the minutes wear on, I realize there is no possible way for me to win.

Feeling my shoulders starting to cramp, I give in,
and we continue with class, though nearly half choose to chat instead.

Finally in corpse pose, everyone is silent, even the three who are left standing, 
arms held high for nearly 40 minutes now, 
their faces twisting with pain and determination.

The bell rings and the three walk to the bus, arms up
their friends helping with coats and backpacks.

The girl who had been so disappointed 
comes to me to say she's been under a lot of stress
trying to figure out what's the best college for her.

Only on the bike ride home
do I think of what I wish I would have told her:

It's not where you go that matters, but what you do once you get there.

The irony of having fallen so quickly to competition
in a class that practices non-competition
doesn't occur to me until after dinner.


On Attending a Fundraiser for Standing Rock

I feel the pull, the draw of the spectacle, the energy of a movement, the making of an important moment in history, the power in the rising of wronged people, happening right now while I sit here in a warm house, the sun setting on a holiday where we flew and drove and gorged ourselves, we, the “consumers” as we are now known, buying more than our fair share, driving the wheels which churn the oil. 

Still, we want to help.  We want justice.  We want to be absolved of the crimes of our ancestors and our politicians. 


Goodbye to a Deep Listener, Pauline Oliveros

Pauline Oliveros passed away in her sleep last Thursday, a devotee of deep listening who advised "listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening."

I saw her in Appleton a few years back, playing with Stuart Dempster, overtones in the chapel.

Pauline spoke about growing up in the 1930's and being most interested in the sounds between the radio stations and the sounds the chickens made as they pecked about the yard.

When she got her first recorder she hung the microphone out the window and was shocked to hear on the recording so many more noises than she heard while making it.  And that was interesting too.

She was an originator of electronic music.

She played the accordion.

She founded the Deep Listening Institute.

Pauline Oliveros made vibrations that if we listen we will continue to hear for a long long time to come.


Notes on the Mindful Artists Workshop

We arranged objects on paper.  
We arranged dots in the room.

Then we drew.

We showed our drawings 
then stood and noticed
our sense of the floor,
the ceiling,
the walls,
the door.

We noticed our sense of the river,
of our homes,
of our birthplaces.

We arranged ourselves in the room.
We paused for the bell
then rearranged ourselves again.

We wrote and shared.

What did you notice?

A man from across the ocean said he sensed the river running through his hometown.
One woman teared up talking about the energy by the window.
One woman wrote nope all over her paper.
One man sensed an entrance where there was none, 
then discovered there used to be one and sensed a new opening.

What do you arrange?

A life.
Scraps of paper.
A room.
The alphabet.


Reflections in Wire Sculpture

"That's your art?" the first one says, flicking it aside.

"That's your art?" the second one says, as if surprised.

"That's your art?" the third one says, laughing and jolly.


36 Questions for Take Me to the River

What do you hear when you listen to the river?
In the currents can you hear voices from your past?
When the seagulls cry do you hear the ocean?
In a storm, broken hearts?
What sound does the river make in the thick of night?
When your thoughts turn to your deepest concerns?

What do you see where the river meets the sky?
How deep beyond reflections can you see?
What is the opposite of now?
Can a river flow more than one way?
What secrets does the river conceal?
What stories do you read in its waves?

How to reveal the meaning of the river?
Why is our awareness so fleeting?
Can you feel the river in your bones?
How long do you sit by the river before turning to other things?
How to understand that my arm is not mine?
What makes a river what it is?

What is your connection to the river?
What is the song you sing whenever i’m around?
If we walk by the river, will you hold my hand?
Can you imagine a time before this river was born?
When the sky and earth were one?
Can you imagine how a river is always home?

When do you think about the river?
When do you crave its song?
How often do you make your way to the river?
Have you ever been to where the river is born?
Have you ever floated its length?
Have you ever traveled to its end?

Have you considered this river of thought?
This river of vein? This river of sewer?
Can a rock be a river?
Is the sky a river?
What about this moment?

Are you and i a river?


A Few Facts About Me and The River

Sometimes I forget there's a river nearby.
Sometimes I forget to look at the sky.
Sometimes I find myself churning over useless worries.

Sometimes I walk by the river.
Sometimes I look at the sky.
Sometimes I find myself letting go of useless worries.


Tranquility and the Revolution: Moondog

The long anticipated Moondog: A whimsical short film by Len Borruso

With many special thanks to:

Tad Neuhaus for always playing and selecting the perfect accompaniment,

Elyse-Krista Mische who made Moondog's costume on very short notice,

John Fleckner who agreed to play Moondog with even shorter notice,

Len Borruso who agreed to film, direct, and edit the whole thing on the shortest notice of all,

Therese Joanis of Top Spins and Luke Jacobs of Jacobs Meat Market for their willingness to play along,

Dane Richeson for letting us play his beautiful instruments,


Andrew Dane and Rory Olson for always being game.

Moondog from Ekphrasis where you can view all the Tranquility and the Revolution short films and discover where the cassette tape binders came from.



save it for the grottos

what is the experience of now?

what sensations do you feel?

where does the breath begin and end?

how many tears have you shed?

from where does joy emerge?

what does it mean to be free?

how many days until the new year?

how many hours before you’re near? 

from where does sorrow rise?