“An experimental video based on a Marianne Moore poem,” says Erik Carlson. The voice is that of the poet. I think the video really gets inside the modernist worldview, so to me it’s a good match.
The poem should be public domain now, I believe, so here’s the text:
through black jade.
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash-heaps;
opening and shutting itself like
The barnacles which encrust the side
of the wave, cannot hide
there for the submerged shafts of the
split like spun
glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
into the crevices —
in and out, illuminating
of bodies. The water drives a wedge
of iron throught the iron edge
of the cliff; whereupon the stars,
bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green
lilies, and submarine
toadstools, slide each on the other.
marks of abuse are present on this
defiant edifice —
all the physical features of
cident — lack
of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
hatchet strokes, these things stand
out on it; the chasm-side is
evidence has proved that it can live
on what can not revive
its youth. The sea grows old in it.
This is one of a series of videos from Transborder Immigrant Tool: Mexico/U.S Border Disturbance Art Project, an initiative to give GPS technology to economic refugees from Mexico trying to enter the United States. The video uses imagery from the Virtual Hiker Algorithm, a video game-like GPS application for mobile phones developed by one of the members of the project. As the About page explains:
The border between the U.S. and Mexico has moved between the virtual and the all too real since before the birth of the two nation-states. This has allowed a deep archive of suspect movement across this border to be traced and tagged – specifically anchoredto immigrants bodies moving north, while immigrant bodies moving south much less so. The danger of moving north across this border is not a question of politics, but vertiginous geography. Hundreds of people have died crossing the U.S./Mexico border due to not being able to tell where they are in relation to where they have been and which direction they need to go to reach their destination safely. Now with the rise of multiple distributed geospatial information systems (such as the Google Earth Project for example), GPS (Global Positioning System) and the developing Virtual Hiker Algorithm by artist Brett Stalbaum it is now possible to develop useful Transborder Tools for Immigrants – and allow virtual geography to mark new trails and potentially safer routes across this desert of the real.
An article in MobileActive.org gives additional information on the technical aspects of the project.
For the text of the poem, see the blog post, which also supplies the following context and credits:
Video exhibited in ‘Space is the Place’ exhibition at the Gallery of the National College of Art & Design in Dublin, as part of the program of ISEA 2009 which takes place in Belfast and Dublin Ireland this year. The exhibition will run from the 27th August – 1st September 2009.
Text of poems: Amy Sara Carroll
Video poems design: Ricardo Dominguez, Micha Cárdenas, and Elle Mehrmand
Voices included in the poems: Micha Cárdenas, Amy Sara Carroll, Césaire Carroll-Dominguez, Patrick Carroll, and Ricardo Dominguez
Collaborative inspiration: Brett Stalbaum
Swedish-American poet Rönnog Seaberg and her husband Steve Seaberg invented what they called acrobatic poetry. Rönnog isn’t in this performance, and I’m guessing that’s because it happened after her death in 2007. Steve has posted a number of videos of their acrobatic poems on YouTube and on Vimeo, which houses the nude ones. The acrobats in this performance are Steve Seaberg, Mark Wolfe and Ashkey Winnig. You can find the text of the poem on the Vimeo page.
The Seabergs and their frequent collaborator Mark Wolfe spoke to Art Interview magazine in 2005. Here’s a snippet:
Rönnog Seaberg: […] We have a group now that basically consists of 3 people; Steve, Mark and I and we have an outer circle of people who also appear with us here in Atlanta. We take my poetry, which I recite, and we illustrate it and enhance it with acrobatics to make a visual still life.
Steve Seaberg: It’s like how an illustrator illustrates a poem in a book or how William Blake wrote his own poetry and illustrated it as well. There are all sorts of techniques for doing that. We use 3 dimensional space for our illustration. The poetry, instead of being printed, is actually read by Rönnog so it is a real event and we then perform the illustrations for the poem, which often are acrobatic but not necessarily so. Sometimes we simply pose in positions that seem related to or illustrative of the poem. Her poetry is often divided into verses and each verse we do with different poses. There might be three, four, five, verses to an entire poem. So it’s a series of tableaus. Sometimes it might seem like we are imitating art but we’re not. We’re composing the work ourselves but some of the poses of course are comments on or are taken from or inspired by sculpture going back in the whole history of art. We comment upon things that people do, ways of relating to each other in space. Some are more complicated acrobatically and take quite a bit of training and practice to do. Our goal is to create an image. I guess it is something like talking sculpture. But we have also had people who work with us who do movements. Recently we worked with some dancers.
Rönnog Seaberg: And we also add music quite often with live instruments.
Steve Seaberg: A couple of times we have done this with musicians. They sort of softly improvise while we read the poetry. That is always wonderful, it’s lots of fun to do.
Some poems inspire many YouTube videos, and “My Papa’s Waltz,” by Theodore Roethke, is one of them. This is the only video though that seemed worth sharing here, despite a foreshortened ending. The nicely non-literal mesh of of Roethke’s recording with public-domain footage from archive.org really works for me. Video by epittsburgh.