This videopoema by the Argentine artist and writer Alejandro Thornton is — as Tom Konyves puts it in a new essay in Poetryfilmkanal — a “silent, minimalist, prototypical ‘concrete poem'”. Konyves’ description of what’s going on in this video from a viewer’s perspective is the centerpiece of his essay, “A Rumination on Visual Text in Videopoetry,” which also mentions seven other videopoems, all embedded in the post. I’ve never been able to articulate why certain avant-garde videopoems work for me, but I think Tom nails it here: the video depends for its effect on “multiple, ambiguous meanings (the word O, the letter O, the vowel sound of O, an O shape, an expression of an emotion, a graphic representation of some concept like unity, harmony, return, etc.),” and by the video’s end, we should be able “to experience the ambiguous word-image relationship – a static O and a moving landscape – in a spatial context and therefore interpret O as a shape first, and the effect of rotation as a self-referential meaning ascribed to the entire work.”
Finally, there is the juxtaposition of text to image; O, therefore, is a demonstration of a figure-ground relationship in which the letter/shape O is the figure and the ground is – well, the ground (and the cloud-filled sky, and all in motion) of the image. In addition, the ground not only provides the best context for interpreting the meaning of the figure of the text (whose shape it reflects by its rotation) but also demonstrates the contrasted functions: image is from the world, of the world, predetermined and framed just-so or captured by chance from the environment with the function of bringing attention to and expanding the meaning of visual text in such a way that it completes its inherent incompleteness; it functions also as a device of closure, providing the context that leads to a poetic experience of ›greater or lesser value‹, depending on selection, modification, etc.
Nowhere is the juxtapositive function of the image more striking than in videopoems that feature a ›single-take‹; what appears in the frame, the content, automatically provides the context we will need to interpret the displayed text and, by extension, the entire work. My experience of O was enhanced by the recognition that the image element of the work, a found image, captured by chance from the environment, connects the visual text with the external world as the artist perceived it at that spontaneous moment; it is a recorded passage of a particular time in a particular space and, as such, it appropriates a ›slice‹ of the world against which could be written the internal world of thoughts.
This was I think the first English-language essay in Poetryfilmkanal’s current issue on the theme of text in poetry film, but if you don’t know German I recommend using the Google Translate drop-down menu in the sidebar of the site to get the gist of the other recent contributions, each of which adds something to the growing international conversation. Konyves’ essay builds on insights from his manifesto and other, more recent essays. I may not always agree with him, but I admire his capacity for jargon-free original thought, which always gives the impression of being very hard-won, unlike much of the more facile, academic prose one encounters these days.
This filmpoem by Susannah Ramsay is featured in the latest issue of Poetry Film Live along with another of her films and a short essay, “Filmpoetry and Phenomenology.” According to her bio there, Ramsey’s
practice-based research, Experiencing the Filmpoem. A Phenomenological Exploration, argues that phenomenology, both as a philosophy and film theory can undergird our understanding of the filmpoem, a unique composition of artists’ moving image. Through the production and exhibition of her own filmpoetry, her work aims to explore how this medium can provide a sensorial embodied experience within either a site-specific gallery space or a traditional screening context. Susannah’s practice concerns the tradition of filming in close proximity to nature and explores how we can emotionally and philosophically connect to the landscape. As part of her RSPB artist residency she is creating an outdoor audiovisual installation, to be screened in the landscape of Loch Lomond nature reserve.
For more, visit Poetry Film Live.
Poet Erica Goss says about her latest video:
I filmed this video poem at the Edwin Markham House in History Park in San Jose, California, during the spring of 2017. The poem and video evolved during the editing process, so much so that the poem is substantially altered from the original. In this video, the images ended up influencing the poem more than the other way around.
Ian Gibbins calls this “a poem about a train journey, with a video to match.” It was recently featured in the Canberra-based web journal Verity La — go there for the text of the poem, as well as a current bio of the poet-filmmaker.
Channel Swimmer is a short ‘flicker’ film that examines repetitive and ambivalent relationships in matriarchal cycles through the generations from mother to daughter to mother. The film is inspired by two novels – ‘A Proper Marriage’ by Doris Lessing and ‘National Velvet’ by Enid Bagnold, and their main characters. Martha Quest in ‘A Proper Marriage’ is having her own child and questions the relationship between herself and her mother. While Velvet Brown is quietly encouraged by her mother (who is the ‘Channel Swimmer’ of the title – as those who swim the English Channel to France are known) in ‘National Velvet’, the climax of which is when the protagonist wins the famous Grand National steeplechase. The words in the soundtrack are collaged from these two books. The film is made from hundreds of original photographs taken on location on a racecourse and in the studio.
Atticus Review, incidentally, unveiled a spiffy new site design a month or two back, and the editors are always looking for good mixed media submissions. Be sure to bookmark and check the site regularly.
I’m proud to be part of the generation who challenge discriminatory forms of sharing and creating poetry. I’m particularly interested in spaces that augment content and form into novel poetic genres. In my dancepoems, I’ve been experimenting with music, dance and poetry to see if carefully controlled convergence of three arts can give rise to a new poetic experience.
Between 2015 and 2017, I was fortunate to work with three very talented dancers. The theme binding our three dancepoems together is celestial dialogues- conversations between The Sun and The Earth, The Moon and The Sun, and The Earth and The Moon. When thinking about these conversational duets, the search for a ying-yang balance becomes a quest for unity and departure from human-imposed hierarchies.
If the Earth spoke to the Moon, what would she say? And if the Moon talked to the Sun, would they remember the times when they were one? The perennial themes of love and separation somewhat always find their way into a poem…
Psychologist, writer, and animator Ilana Simons describes her conflicted feelings about the seemingly endless creativity of a fellow artist, Noah Saterstrom, in this wonderful, quirky blend of videopoetry and documentary set to an up-tempo track from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
This upload was the April 17 release from the Visible Poetry Project (which, incidentally, just had a screening in Beijing last Thursday — the first U.S. poetry film festival to travel abroad in a number of years). Simons’ own upload of the video is accompanied by a note that “this is a short intro to a longer documentary I’m making about Noah Saterstrom, a painter”. She has previously made documentaries about Haruki Murakami and the literary critic William Empson.