I Am Now With You, 2013
Die-cut vinyl lettering
I Am Now With You is a transcript of the first of seven games of Nomic played between the artist and Whitman through the multiple published versions of the poem eventually called “Song of Myself.” Nomic, created by philosopher Peter Suber as a model of democratic systems, centers on changing rules through group consensus, making each game unique. Carlsmith engaged Whitman in the game by manipulating the language of “Song of Myself” into responses in a conversation between herself and the poet, agreeing on rules and awarding points while attempting to stage an earnest personal exchange. Within the plastic landscape of text the two players alternately flirt, rebuff, and collapse into each other, exploring the edges of possibility, identity, and love.
Although the text was composed as a dialogue, it is installed so that the two voices run in opposite directions, with Whitman’s beginning on one side of the hallway and Carlsmith’s on the other. This disruption highlights the temporal and spatial distance between the speakers, a crucial barrier of the work. Because the final words of both participants are the same, the texts at the farthest ends of the installation mirror one other.
I Am Now With You was created for the Deering Library on the occasion of the Sixth International Walt Whitman Seminar and Symposium, held at Northwestern University in the summer of 2013. This installation is supported by the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts at Northwestern University.
I Am Now With You Flickr Page