Struggling with insomnia last night, I kept thinking of this film by Christine Hooper—a Royal College of Art graduation film that’s gone on to win a whole raft of awards and screenings (I saw it at ZEBRA). The voice is provided by British comedian and actress Susan Calman, and the sound design is by Tom Lock Griffiths. As Michael Fukushima, the Executive Producer of the National Film Board of Canada, says:
The animation and cinematography are beautifully executed with spontaneity and verve that complements the liveliness of the monologue, and the Hockney-esque composition and playing with time sequencing is such an apt visual metaphor. An exceptional graduate film, showing enormous potential for a successful future.
“Written & filmed by Janet Lees. Edited by Glenn Whorrall.” Thus the Vimeo description. But there’s much more information on the British poet and artist (plus her regular partner in videopoetry collaborations, Terry Rooney) in the new “Swoon’s View” column up at Moving Poems Magazine. Marc Neys describes their films as “short and sharp as a razor … a breath of fresh air in these times of cultural abundance and profusion of advertising.” And Lees provides some background on each of the four films Neys has selected. About this one, she writes:
‘The hours of darkness’ features footage of flamingos that I took in a wildlife park in the middle of winter. I found the sight of the flamingos in this big gloomy shed electrifying – there was something both prehistoric and post-apocalyptic about it. In my mind, I knew there was only one poem for this film – ‘The hours of darkness’, which I’d written about a year before, inspired by the anodyne yet always to my ear potentially sinister messages contained within in-flight announcements and other forms of mass communication. Here, the repeated phrase ‘May we remind you’ assumes an increasingly dark, Orwellian tone.
Go read the rest (and check out the other three films).
The Poetry Film is based on the poem “Elephant” by Sina Seiler and visualizing inner rooms, what the poem is expressing by words metaphorically. “Elephant” expresses an inner transformation of the protagonist caused by the encounter of love. The self as a house, every room representing feelings and moods of subconsciousness.
The protagonist is dancing through inner rooms, illustrating sequences of dream, expressing feelings and moods.
It was screened at ZEBRA last month (among other screenings, listed on the sinasan website) as part of the Dreiklang Dimensionen/Triadic Dimensions program of poetry films that incorporate dance and music, and it fits nicely into the Dance category here. I didn’t get to meet Seiler in person, but her bio is an interesting one:
Sina Seiler studied Media and Journalism with focus on documentary filmmaking & TV at international University of Tuebingen, Germany with a stipend in Film at DAMS / University of the Arts, Theatre and Film at Bologna, Italy. She graduated with a Diploma/Master and a Oral History Documentary about the Saxons in Romania.
She works as a writer, filmmaker, lecturer and artist.
The dancer is Soraya Schulthess.
What planet, era, realm, country are your letters from?
At this point, draw a palm, a house, a planet. Explain.
I’m just back from the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, where I saw many great films including this wonderfully goofy one from Ukrainian poet-filmmaker Anzhela (or Angie) Bogachenko, which with its dancing cosmonauts somehow speaks to my experience over the past week in Berlin (where I also met up with my British partner-in-crime Rachel, with whom I otherwise maintain a long-distance relationship).
You’ll need to watch this at 360p minimum to make out the English subtitles. The text of the poem in the original is here; the translation in the titling is credited to Ksana Kovalenko. The music is a song called “на крыше” (“On the Roof”) by the group VEN, according to a Google translation of the YouTube description. The film was part of a screening called “Triadic Dimensions” featuring films that used music and dance as well as poetry to “convey … the cumulative force of language.”
There’s also a version of the film with Russian subtitles.
“This Valentine was created by running the hard sell of an on-line dating guru through ‘Dictation,'” says the Vimeo description by Laura Mullen, a practitioner of “hybrid poetics” with seven books under her belt. In an interview posted on her blog, afteriwas dead, she answered a question about the making of the video:
LG [Lola Gerber]: The video you showed at your reading at Naropa had both performance and writing in it. Can you tell me more about the process of creating this video? Did you write and then perform the writing? Or do you perform first and then write from that?
LM: Ah, you’re talking about “Him” (a play on Hymn), the Valentine’s day video (up on my Vimeo site, with other movies…). The text is the pitch of a famous dating guru, available on-line, full of promises (including that wonderful: “I will teach you how to speak the secret language of men”!)! I wrote it down, then read it into “Dictation,” which—as far as I can see—speaks “the secret language” of the pitchman, exposing the truth behind those promises made to lonely women. Then I recorded the result as a voice over—and attached it to the film (my friend Marthe Reed helped me make) of me peeing in a giant box of chocolates. But I led up to that with film work (with Afton Wilky) of Valentine’s Day merchandise, and also a Valentine’s Day performance (live) where I read from a journal entry about losing my virginity while smearing my face with Valentine’s day candy (actually, that didn’t work so well—it’s got too much wax in it, doesn’t really melt), while backed up by three brave women who (off-mic) described their loss of virginity experience…
It seemed like an apt follow-up to Monday’s posting of 15th February.
One of a series of “Situation” videos created by Jamaican-American poet Claudia Rankine in collaboration with her husband, the photographer John Lucas, for Rankine’s book Citizen: An American Lyric (2014).
less in terms of genre and just in terms of writing in general. My background, my education, has been in poetry, so I feel that many of the layers in whatever I’m doing are coming out of a world of allusions that are located in poets. So, no matter what I’m working on, I like to call it poetic in some way, because the poets that I’ve read and that I love, their work tends to infuse it.
In a more recent conversation with Lauren Berlant at BOMB Magazine, Rankine discusses her collaboration with Lucas on the Situation videos.
The scripts in chapter six seemed necessary to Citizen because one of the questions I often hear is “How did that happen?” as it relates to mind-numbing moments of injustice—the aftermath of Katrina, for example, or juries letting supremacists off with a slap on the wrist for killing black men. It seems obvious, but I don’t think we connect micro-aggressions that indicate the lack of recognition of the black body as a body to the creation and enforcement of laws. Everyone is cool with seeing micro-aggressions as misunderstandings until the same misunderstood person ends up on a jury or running national response teams after a hurricane.
The decision to exist within the events of the “Situation videos” came about because the use of video manipulation by John Lucas allowed me to slow down and enter the event, in moments, as if I were there in real time rather than as a spectator considering it in retrospect. As a writer working with someone with a different skill set, I was given access to a kind of seeing that is highly developed in the visual artist, and that I don’t rely on as intuitively. My search for meaning—“What do you think that means?”—is often countered with a “Did you see that?” from John. That kind of close looking, the ability to freeze the frame, challenges the language of the script to meet the moment literally second by second—in the Zidane World Cup piece, for example—to know as the moment knows, and not from outside. The indwelling of those Situation pieces becomes a performance of switching your body out with the body in the frame and moving methodically through pathways of thought and positionings.
The photographer Jeff Wall writes about moving into moments of eroding freedoms. He describes racism as “determined by social totality” that “has to come out of an individual body.” In his photographs he brings his lens to existing “unfreedoms.” I am interested in his decision to reenact, to stage moments that happen too fast for the camera to capture. On some level he can’t let what he saw go: “Did you see that?”
The difficult thing about this “immanence” or indwelling is that it holds and prolongs the violence of supremacist spectacle in a body and shuts it down in other participatory ways. The reality, moment, narrative, or photo locks down its players and gets read as a single gesture.
We often, perhaps inevitably, envision history unfolding as a sort of cartoon, and our perceptions of combat these days are liable to be colored by video gaming. This new film-poem by Robert Peake and Valerie Kampmeier turns that on its head, with live-action footage of World War II glimpsed from a present-day machinima world, through the windows of a moving train. See Peake’s blog for the text of the poem. He adds:
Our recent film-poem collaboration “One Stop” was nominated for best music/sound at Liberated Words III in Bristol, where it premiered. The original soundtrack was composed and performed by Valerie Kampmeier. The film commemorates the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. […]
I sourced archival colour footage of WWII, and composited this into an animation that I created using Blender 3D. I recorded journeys on the tube with an X1 Zoom, and mixed this under Valerie’s music and my voice reading the poem.
There’s a decade-long tradition of using machinima in cinepoetry (the term usually preferred by filmmakers in that tradition), but it’s not well represented here at Moving Poems because I don’t often find the results terribly compelling. I’m not sure how much Peake was influenced by that tradition, but his use of machinima here was ingenious, I thought. Kudos also for finding a new twist on the footage-from-a-moving-train motif so prevalent in poetry films.
Incidentally, there’s a lovely interview with Robert Peake at Geosi Reads conducted by Ghanaian blogger Geosi Gyasi. In one exchange, Peake talks about the Transatlantic Poetry on Air series of live video readings he coordinates. Then he reflects on technology and poetry in general:
Geosi Gyasi: As a technology consultant, do you think technology has influenced poets and poetry in any particular way?
Robert Peake: I think it has influenced the audience for poetry by shortening our attention spans, and I think poetry is always influenced by its audiences. That said, technology may also be the saving grace of contemporary poetry, because even as the fan base has dwindled since the advent of rock-n-roll, the ability of poets and poetry-lovers to connect and engage all over the world has expanded. The global audience for poetry today is therefore many times the size of what many poets enjoyed as a regional audience one hundred years ago. I think it is therefore a kind of “Invisible Golden Age” for poetry–with more availability than ever, despite the perception of scarcity.