Posts in Category: Miscellaneous

Tom Konyves on the making of a videopoetry manifesto

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Tom’s presentation at Visible Verse Festival 2011, held at the Cinémathèque Pacifique in Vancouver, November 4-5, 2011. Do set aside half an hour to watch this.

We’re living at an amazing point in time as far as this particular genre [videopoetry] is concerned. It is so new. It can make you feel like you’re living in the 1920s, when the great art revolutions were taking place.

As many regular visitors to this site are probably aware, Tom Konyves coined the term “videopoetry” back in the 1970s and has played a strong role in shaping its conception, at least among avant-garde poets. It’s not necessary to have first read his new videopoetry manifesto, but this certainly helps to introduce and contextualize it.

You don’t have to be an avant-garde poet to appreciate Tom’s points about, for example, the subversion of narrative expectations or the importance of poetic juxtaposition in a videopoem. But what’s especially appealing about this talk to me is what it reveals about Tom’s careful and methodical thought process, his essential generosity and his openness to opinions contrary to his own — qualities not normally associated with authors of manifestos, as he acknowledges:

In writing a manifesto, you tend to be very polemic, you tend to say that this is the only way to look at works, but I came across this quote from genre theorist Richard Cole, who wrote: “The phrase ‘tyranny of genre’ is normally taken to signify how generic structures constrain individual creativity. If genre functions as a taxonomic classification system, it could constrain individual creativity.” So I was concerned about that, that what I had to say about videopoetry may have that kind of effect.

Watch the talk, and then check out the manifesto on Issuu. Also, the earlier Poem Film Manifesto by Ian Cottage, which Tom mentions around 12:50 in Part 1 above, may be read at Cottage’s blog.

“Bound is a Boatless Woman”: tribute to Látra-Björg

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Neither a filmpoem nor a bio pic in the conventional sense, this six-minute film by Lisa Castagner, an artist from Northern Ireland, invokes the life and spirit of a fierce, 18th-century Icelandic poet I’d not previously heard about. Google Translate isn’t much help in deciphering the Icelandic Wikipedia page, except to impart the information that her given name was Björg Einarsdóttir, and “Látra-Björg” means something like “Trees, Boulders.” Fortunately, Castager’s description at Vimeo is a bit more helpful:

The title originates from a Viking proverb ‘Bundinn er bátlaus maðu’, meaning ‘Bound is a boatless man’. Likewise, a woman without a boat is a prisoner.

Látra-Björg was an 18th Century outcast fisherwoman who wrote poems believed to cast spells on those who crossed her. Fisherwomen were required to wear their skirts regardless of practicality, so they often defied the law and removed them at sea. Látra-Björg lived and died a beggar in an isolated northern fjord of Iceland during the ‘Mist Famine’ which forced many to emigrate to Canada.

I made the piece as an imaginative interpretation of Látra-Björg’s poetry and story while I stayed in that part of Iceland; her most well-known poem is ‘Fagurt er i Fjörðum’ (‘Tis fair in the fjords), a verse describing the beauty of the fjords when the weather is fair, until the extreme hardships of the winter, ‘when man and beast must die’.

Cloth by Kate Greenstreet

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This video essay on poetics by Kate Greenstreet is itself very poetic in its use of metaphors, intuitive leaps and interesting visual juxtapositions. It features Carrie Lincourt, and credits Max Greenstreet for “second camera and second opinion.” “Cloth” was produced for Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 8: August 2011).

poetry by Laura Theobald

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An homage to the Gray Lady of American poetry magazines.

Death By Water (art installation)

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The artist, identified only by his Vimeo handle miaoniu, explains that the installation is so rigged that when anyone approaches it, the “Death By Water” section of “The Waste Land” is dunked into a tank of water, and slowly rises when the audience departs. “As time passed by the poem will dissolve and disappear finally.”

Call me simple-minded, but I love the literalism here. I only wish the video included a time-lapse segment so we could watch the wasting of “The Waste Land.”

Three Hundred Tang Poems: “water” fragments

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Another video of an interactive video-art installation involving poetry. The artist is Yan Da (see also his Vimeo profile), and the piece is titled Water Poem. To say this is high-concept would be a bit of an understatement. Here’s how Yan describes it:

Water Poem is an interactive video installation. The audiences are encouraged to interact with the projector by simply moving it and project wherever they want. The projected content is texts coming from English website of 300 most famous ancient Chinese poems from Tang dynasty. Water Poem will search any sentence that contains the word “water” and randomly display each sentence based on a pre-designed condition. If the projector is not moved, the text will change in a random interval from 30 to 45 seconds, if it is moved, based on the strength of the motion, when it reach a certain threshold, the text will change immediately. The visual of the text is in a constant fluid status, the more motion applied to the projector, the more fluid the text will appear until it totally become illegible. Once the motion become subtle, the text will gradually turn back into a relatively stable mode that makes itself legible again.

Water Poem tries to express a sense of dislocation. By this dislocation of space, time and meaning, Water Poem tends to reflect the artist’s current experience and feelings, a dislocation of life in a foreign country with different culture and way of understanding. By inviting the audience to control and to transform the text in space, time and meaning, Water Poem also hopes to dislocate the audience into their own floating memory and imagination.

The poetic meaning related to water that the text reflects and the fluidity of the visual are embodied into the space, transforming its concrete character of the space into a constant flux, a liquid skin. Meanwhile, the difference between the meaning of English translation and the original Chinese text, the fragmented phrases from randomly chosen poem all contributes to the dislocation of the meaning, making it ambiguous and fluctuating. Water Poem encourage the audience to control the projection of the text thus to embody the literal and visual content onto anything they want, the de-construction of the meaning might be enhanced. By encountering the thousand years old content of the poem to the modern technology of Internet is another way of dislocating the time.

Read the rest of the description on Vimeo to learn about the technical aspects of the installation.

Three Hundred Tang Poems (Tang Shi San Bai Shou) is one of the most famous and widely read of all Chinese poetry anthologies. See the Classical Chinese Poetry website for English translations of all 300 poems by Innes Herdan, or the Wengu website for translations by Witter Bynner and the Chinese texts supplemented with character-by-character definitions on mouseover that allow one to attempt one’s own translations.

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

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Not a video poem, but a video of an interactive digital installation, a piece called Dinner Party, which involves the animated text of “Jabberwocky.” Artist Hye Yeon Nam explains,

Dinner party provides a space where people meet and interact with Lewis Carroll’s poem, Jabberwocky, inspired creatures hiding in the shadows.

At first glance, the single chair and place set for one, seemingly provides a solitary dinner; rather the interaction offers a communication between oneself and the imaginary creatures. Initially gathered under the shadow cast by the plate, disturbed creatures will nervously scatter attempting to go around any other shadow cast on the table. A period of quiet status will encourage the creatures to reveal themselves.

Zach Lieberman and Jeremy Rotsztain are listed as collaborators. I’m not sure who created the video itself, but I’ll credit Hye Yeon Nam in the filmmaker category, since I don’t have a separate taxonomy for video artists here.