Posts Tagged: Tom Konyves

O by Alejandro Thornton

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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.

Read the rest (and watch the other videos).

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.

Learning about inch worms by Simply Sylvio

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I figured it would only be a matter of time before someone created a viral videopoem on Vine. (This has also been uploaded to YouTube.) The author, Simply Sylvio, is “Vine’s first avant-garde gorilla,” according to Mashable.

Sylvio’s Vine feed is a treasure chest of drama, comedy, animation and abstract art, all in the form of six-second looping videos. He’s taken a cinematic approach on the platform, showcasing his travels and everyday routines for his 300,000 followers.

Sylvio doesn’t speak, but he once wrote to us: “Vine became the perfect way to capture all of the small, quiet moments on the road that would otherwise have been lost.”

Sylvio himself may not claim that this is a videopoem, but I think it fits the classic, Konyvesian definition to a T.

Presented as a multimedia object of a fixed duration, the principal function of a videopoem is to demonstrate the process of thought and the simultaneity of experience, expressed in words — visible and/or audible — whose meaning is blended with, but not illustrated by, the images and the soundtrack.

The playful manipulation of a Google search recalls the screenshot poetry of Google Poetics. The search acquires a certain pathos, the frantic flailing of the eponymous inchworm remaining open to interpretation no matter how often we re-watch it on Vine’s infinite loop. Given that inchworms are also commonly referred to as loopers, there may also be a certain self-reflexivity at work.

I do think it’s better with the sound off, though. That’s just cheesy.

Todos esos momentos se perderan (All these moments will be lost in time) by Dier

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In celebration of World Poetry Day, here’s a video which may not fit some people’s idea of a poem at all — but which, to my way of thinking, represents the purest form of videopoetry. In fact, it was brought to my attention by videopoetry pioneer Tom Konyves (more about that in a minute). It’s the work of the Madrid-based filmmaker and graffiti artist Dier, and incorporates two kinds of found text: in the soundtrack, a monologue from the movie Blade Runner, and as images on the screen, the erased words of painted-over graffiti. The former is (eventually) translated into Spanish-language graffiti, but it’s the “lost” words that are uniquely able to communicate — or fail to communicate — in all languages, due to the universality of silence. This struck me as especially suggestive today, given the emphasis of World Poetry Day on endangered languages and censored or silenced poets, as well as on dialogue between poetry and the other arts. To quote from the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova’s message,

Today, contemporary forms of poetry, from graffiti to slam, enable young people to become engaged in the practice and renew it by opening the door to a new space for creation. The forms evolve, but the poetic impulse remains intact. […] As a deep expression of the human mind and as a universal art, poetry is a tool for dialogue and rapprochement.

In videopoetry as Konyves conceives of it, the meshing of different media goes well beyond mere dialogue, however. In a review of this video, “Loss, Memory, Spectacle, Redemption: A Hermeneutic Approach to Dier’s Videopoem Todos esos momentos se perderan (All Those Moments Will Be Lost In Time),” he reminds us that, in his view, “the ‘poetry’ in a videopoem is not the privileged ‘text’ — it is the moment of intersection between the text, image and sound.”

In “Todos esos momentos se perderan”, Dier succeeded in discovering the collaborative properties of the elements of text, image and sound. (Not all texts, images and soundtracks can be said to have ‘collaborative properties’; a previous!y published poem, for example, may arrive complete-in-itself.) The text is appropriated and bifurcated so that its relationship to the images (supported by a soundtrack that is itself an appropriation) presents to the viewer a metaphor extended and redrawn through key ‘moments’ in the unfolding of the work. The words of the spoken text are translated to Spanish before they are “enacted”, emphasizing their adaptation and service to the real world.

Due to the difficulty of copying and pasting from the online document, I’ll leave my quoting at that, but do click through and read the rest — an illuminating analysis which, unlike a lot of theorizing, should also be of practical value to any poets or filmmakers working in the field. For credits and Dier’s found-poem text translated from Blade Runner, see the description on Vimeo.