Rilke’s “primordial tower” (uralten Turm) is given literal shape in this otherwise wonderfully suggestive film of a video installation based on the famous poem from the Book of Hours. The film, directed by the artist Pat van Boeckel, takes a kind of call-and-response approach—which seems highly appropriate, given the subject matter—by having a voiceover of the poem at the very beginning (with the English translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows in subtitles), followed by the installation in a kind of reverse ekphrasis. According to the Vimeo description, the installation was “Made for art project Internationales Waldkunst in Darmstadt.” Max Richter composed the music.
A film by Marc Neys (AKA Swoon) using a poem by the contemporary German poet Steffen Popp. The poet’s recitation and the English translation by Christian Hawkey were sourced from Lyrikline. The choice to have the untranslated audio version first, followed by the translation as text-on-screen, is unusual, but I think it works, echoed as it is by the vertically split screen. It does mean, however, that more than two-thirds of the film is devoted to the slower-moving English version.
When is a sound poem a found poem? When it’s Marie Osmond Explains Dadaism with Auto-Subtitles, one of the latest uploads by UK videopoet Ross Sutherland as past of his 30 Videos/30 Poems project for the Poetry School. He’s been doing some really interesting stuff with remix, swapping in his own voice-overs for existing videos, but in this case all he’s done is share the results of turning on the auto-subtitling function for a YouTube video of Marie Osmund explaining Dada and reciting Hugo Ball‘s “Karawane.” The software’s “misreadings” are at times wonderfully apropos. And then there’s Marie, in her yellow bathrobe and 80s hair… I don’t think I’ve gotten this much joy from a web video since Cat Wearing A Shark Costume Cleans The Kitchen On A Roomba.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, why in the heck was Marie Osmond holding forth on Dada and and sound poetry? It turns out she was a regular host of the TV show Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in its 2nd series, which ran from 1982-86 on the American ABC Network. The TV show derived from a long-running syndicated feature in American newspapers—kind of the original “news of the weird.” According to the Wikipedia article,
Character actor Jack Palance hosted the popular series throughout its run, while three different co-hosts appeared from season to season, including Palance’s daughter, Holly Palance, actress Catherine Shirriff, and singer Marie Osmond. The 1980s series reran on the Sci-fi Channel (UK) and Sci-fi Channel (US) during the 1990s.
Six of the segments hosted by Osmond have been uploaded to YouTube, including another one about a poet, Renée Vivien. I’m not sure who the director was for this particular show (which apparently aired on 29 September 1985), but it didn’t go unnoticed. According to a post at Dangerous Minds,
In 1993, Rough Trade records put out Lipstick Traces, a “soundtrack” to the book by Greil Marcus. It’s one of my favorite CDs of all time, with tracks by The Slits, Essential Logic, The Raincoats, The Mekons, Buzzcocks, The Gang of Four, Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers, Situationist philosopher Guy Debord and others. It’s an amazing collection, but one track in particular stands out from the rest, a recitation by none other than Marie Osmond, of Dada poet Hugo Ball’s nonsensical gibberish piece from 1916, “Karawane.”
The post goes on to quote the liner notes from Lipstick Traces:
As host of a special (Ripley’s Believe It or Not) show on sound poetry, Osmond was asked by the producer to recite only the first line of Ball’s work; incensed at being thought too dumb for art, she memorized the lot and delivered it whole in a rare “glimpse of freedom.”
Great upload and interesting video, but Ripley didn’t appear to get their dada facts quite right…
‘Karawane’ was performed and written by Hugo Ball, and was also performed in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich as the video says. But his costume for that show was a kind of ‘Cubist’ tube-esque costume made from different coloured sheets. It can be easily found in images online.
The ’13’ costume discussed in the video was worn by Theo Van Doesburg, not Hugo Ball, in 1922 when he performed ‘Does At Mid-Lent’ at the Bauhaus.
This info is from the book ‘Dada’ edited by Rudolf Kuenzli. As a product of its time, though, this clip is fascinating.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that this is not quite the strangest video of “Karawane” on the web. That honor belongs to Lucas Battich’s binary code translation. Still, kudos to Ross Sutherland for recognizing the re-Dadaifying potential of YouTube auto-subtitling.
As mentioned in Part 1, for the 2014 ZEBRA festival, filmmakers were challenged to make a film using a text by the young German poet Björn Kuhligk, with an English translation provided by Catherine Hales. The ZEBRA programme committee chose three best films; these are the other two — both animations, conceived and directed by the animators themselves.
Susanne Wiegner says about her film (above),
The film starts with a peaceful, blue sea scenery full of hope and light. The recitation of the poem begins, that describes in a very drastic way the treatment of the boat refugees by the European Union.
The sea scenery becomes dark and hostile and ends up in front of a wall. The ear-deafening noise of helicopters resounds.The camera pans upwards and one realizes that the walls were built by the European emblem and the whole scenery turns into the European flag. The helicopters disappears, the Fortress Europe “was defended successfully” once again.
The heraldic description of the European flag given by The Council of Europe is:
“Against the blue sky of the Western world, the stars represent the peoples of Europe in a circle, a symbol of unity. Their number shall be invariably set at twelve, the symbol of completeness and perfection…Just like the twelve signs of the zodiac represent the whole universe, the twelve gold stars stand for all peoples of Europe – including those who cannot as yet take part.”
Council of Europe. Paris, 7–9 December 1955
Sometimes, we are like marionettes in the hands of those whom we have either consciously or
unconsciously chosen to please.
A visual adaptation of the poem “Die Liebe in den Zeiten der EU” by Björn Kuhligk.
In addition to the nicely oblique relationship between images and text, I thought the interplay of spoken and whispered lines worked brilliantly.
For the 2014 ZEBRA festival, filmmakers were challenged to make a film using a text by the young German poet Björn Kuhligk, with an English translation provided by Catherine Hales. According to the program, “23 film makers from ten countries followed the call. Thirteen of the films have been selected for the festival.”
UK filmmaker Maciej Piatek‘s take on the poem was judged one of three best films of the contest. (I’ll share the other two, by Ebele Okoye and Susanne Wiegner, in Part 2 next week.) It includes a voiceover by Lisa Luxx and music by Dominic Rattray. In the Vimeo description, Piatek writes:
We, Europeans have tendency to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world, the EU is almost like a green island in the ocean of poverty. Sometimes our prosperity makes us blind even though we’re going through financial crisis, economy is only a part of the problem. The biggest challenge for the EU is to face the crisis of values, the same values which founded EU such as: “..respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities … “. This short video poem’s trying to visualize the state of mind of an illegal immigrant on its way to “freedom” through fear and despair.
Belgian filmmaker Swoon (Marc Neys) included Kuhligk’s reading in the soundtrack. One simple, powerful visual concept carries the filmpoem. In addition to the ZEBRA screening, it was also screened at the 5th West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival.
One more film from the screening has been shared on Vimeo, but cannot be shown here due to embedding restrictions. Mexican director Alex Saavedra‘s film is a complex narrative with several twists and turns.