The essays in this video suite ask us to consider what lies at the bottom of uncanny experiences. Why do some things feel both foreign and familiar to us?
“Space tempts me,” admits the dancer in “Territory” as she moves across a landscape made precisely for her image. Next, the word “space” begins to roll down her face and neck. “Territory” is a project by choreographer Kathleen Kelley and poet Sarah Rose Nordgren. The pair, known as “Smart Snow,” began collaborating when they were teenagers. Their first poetry video began as a diorama built with materials intended for miniature war reenactments and later expanded into an installation featuring live dancers and interactive digital texts. Through several feats of engineering, Nordgren and Kelley projected shrunken text and footage of a dancer into their diorama and filmed the two elements moving together. Across this poetry video we notice that the dancer is at once confined by, but also growing out of, this landscape, the way a child might feel inside a fenced yard, or a refrigerator box with holes cut for windows. “Territory” asks us to think about the everyday places where digital and analog rub up against one another, and can produce a type of confinement. It shows us how compressed spaces, like miniatures, ask us to consider their life-sized counterparts more carefully.
Click through for bios of Kelley and Nordgren.
The late, great Etheridge Knight recites his poem in this “archival remix” by Daniel Cantagallo, whose work I stumbled across on Vimeo the other night. Here’s the informative description:
It is hard to make a poem in prison, but Etheridge Knight fashioned many, and grateful he did. Born in Corinth, Mississippi, Knight was a Korean War vet who became a drug addict. Eventually put away for armed robbery, he renounced anger and committed his life to poetry while behind bars. His first volume of “Poems from Prison”, cemented his status in the Black Arts movement, and coincided with his release in 1968.
Reading is from Etheridge Knight and footage from 1966 CBS Report, “Men In Cages.”
The link goes to a lecture on Knight by Terrance Hayes.
I was fortunate enough to attend a reading by Etheridge Knight many years ago in the intimate setting of Penn State’s Rare Books Room, which had an impressive collection of books and chapbooks from the Black Arts Movement. Knight’s reading and commentary was a crash course in the dirty dozens and the African American oral poems known as toasts, and dovetailed with my then-intense interest in the blues. Which is a long-winded way of saying I had a lot of aha moments that afternoon.