“7 Painters is a film composition I made for 7 ekphrastic haiku by Gabriel Rosenstock,” writes Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon, noting that it’s his second collaboration with the poet after Farrera earlier this year. Click through for texts (including the original Irish), stills, audio, and additional process notes.
Making poetry films and videopoems with texts originally sparked by other works of art presents the filmmaker with a bit of a conundrum: whether to suggest or include those art works, and if so, how? Here, Swoon seems to be responding purely to the words. But this works, I think, because the link between text and footage remains oblique enough that we might be watching what the painter, too, saw before taking up the brush.
Double Life in REM State […] has all the dreamlike quality and strange reality that I look for in a poem. […] The poem was perfect for text on screen (and I love the line ‘Dreams are always about the dreamer’)
I started collecting footage for certain lines (insects, animals, nature, movement, and a few haunting ones)
Meanwhile I also began working on a fitting soundtrack;
Once I had all my building blocks, I could start ‘composing’.
Image by image, placing lines, adjusting pace,…
It’s what I call fun.
The postwar Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann‘s voice and words are featured in the latest film from Swoon (Marc Neys). He used a sound recording from Lyrikline together with some footage he shot on his recent trip to Finland and back home in Mechelen, Belgium, according to the process notes on his blog. The English translation in the subtitles is by Monika Zobel, guest-edited by Ilya Kaminsky. There’s a Dutch version of the video with a translation by Paul Beers and Isolde Quadflieg. The music, as usual, is Swoon’s own composition. (And if you liked it, you can support him by buying his music on Bandcamp. He includes “Alle Tage” on his latest album, Timorous Sounds.)
Back in April, I shared Dale Wisely’s video interpretation of this poem from the Poetry Storehouse; here’s Swoon’s version. This is the first I can remember that Swoon (Marc Neys) has put himself in a videopoem as an actor (assuming that’s acting, and not just the way he starts each day). The result makes an extremely effective fit with this unsettling text.
(Update) Marc has posted some process notes to his blog. Here’s a snippet:
I felt like making a small series of videos with myself in front of the camera again (it’s been a while), this being the first one, another for a poem by Yves Bonnefoy coming up later this year. I love working from the safe and confined place that is my home. Setting up the camera, finding the right angle… exploring the possibilities and getting the most out of almost nothing.
I wanted the video to be subtle, almost no movement or action. A silent dialogue between me and a bust of my father (made by my sister). Slightly absurd and somewhat sensitive.
Marc Neys AKA Swoon‘s latest videopoem uses a translation of my own, so it’s entirely possible I’m prejudiced here, but I really like his choice of footage to accompany this century-old poem by the great Nicaraguan innovator of Modernismo. He also made a version in the original Spanish.
We each shared some notes about the poem and the film in a blog post. Quoting oneself is weird, but here’s what Marc wrote, in part:
I probably fell for the poem because of the outspoken naivety in lines like
for there’s no greater pain than the pain of being alive,
no affliction more severe than consciousness.
I wanted to steer away from easy or obvious choices in imagery but I also wanted the footage to be clean and simple (unremarkable almost), yet beautiful in their elusiveness.
In the editing process the starting point was the poem. I put different title blocks along the length of the soundtrack (without the presence of images). Only then I looked for appropriate footage (some of it is mine, others came from archives or videezy, videoblocks and mazwai) and adjusted them (pace and length) to make them fit the title blocks with the lines of the poem. The choice of font and placement of the text on the selected images was the last thing to do.
I still enjoy this way of composing.
Swoon (Marc Neys) has been taking a “‘videopoem journey’ along the Northern countries” this year, with films based on poems from Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway. This one took him to Greenland, as he describes in a recent blog post.
I started with creating a soundscape around her reading; [SoundCloud link]
After that I was driven by the overall atmosphere of the language and the pace of her reading to look for footage by Jan Eerala again.
His images of an abandoned shed, a pink plastic bag in the wind and some shadowy puddles worked well in contrast (split screen) with the blue spooky footage I created earlier this year (playing around with software and public domain material)
This marriage of Greenland, Finland and Belgium works rather well, I think.
Farerra is a selection from a rensaku (“a sequence of haiku or tanka in which the individual stanzas do not function independently,” says AHA) by the prominent Irish poet and haikujin Gabriel Rosenstock. This videopoem version by Swoon (Marc Neys) uses the first eight haiku of the sequence, and combines Rosensack’s reading in Irish Gaelic from Lyrikline with an English translation on the screen. Marc writes:
For the visuals I decided to use stills by Pyanek, who made some brilliant macro photos. He is a photographer who uses the reverse-lense technique to delve deeper into the tiny worlds that make up the world we can see with our naked eye. I thought these images expressed exactly what I was looking for to combine with Gabriel’s observations of the nature around the Catalonian Pyrenees. They both dive into our natural world and surroundings to dig underneath the surface, somehow…
I applied the same visual haiku technique (5/7/5 seconds for each image) as I did earlier and placed the English version as (sober) text on screen with each last image. The only movement is a gentle zooming in and out.
Incidentally, Marc has just launched a low-key crowd-funding campaign to support his work as a filmmaker and composer. His main editing computer just died, and he can’t afford to buy a new one without our help. If you enjoy his videopoems, please consider making a donation. As someone who often has trouble asking for help and believes in open content and open source, I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment:
I strongly believe in art being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread all over the world (real and virtual).
But I also believe that in order for artists to create and produce, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.
I’m basically stretching my comfort zone by getting out of my comfortable hermit existence to connect with you people and hold my hand out, be it virtually.