~ Author-made videopoems ~

Wash/Backwash by Jacqui Malins

Featuring a text that alternates between poetry and essay, Wash/Backwash is an intriguing piece by Australian artist Jacqui Malins. The bio on her website describes her as a “cross-disciplinary artist, whose practice incorporates ceramics, poetry and spoken word, performance, video, drawing and photography”. She was also curator of a videopoetry program for the 2021 Poetic City event in Canberra.

Two voices speak the text in a call and answer manner, one giving the poetry and the other conveying theories about perception and feeling. Malins speaks one part and the other is spoken by Abhishek Gupta. The density of the narration led me to watch the video a few times over for better comprehension.

Dissolving shadow images create the sense of just one single image throughout the video. I find the visual concept to be eloquent and touching, suggesting both the singularity and the continual motion of human experience. The screen is in a portrait ratio that works well in focusing our view on the shadow figure. The visual simplicity provides welcome space for the words to take centre stage.

From the video’s summary at Vimeo:

Waves wash across a shadow. The figure softens, sharpens, nearly disappears, snaps back into focus. Is this how emotion feels?

Up-to-date news on Malins’ work in various media can be found here.

Thru Hell by S’phongo

Thru Hell is a video I found among the finalist films from the 2022 Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition. It is by S’phongo, an artist born in Zimbabwe and now living in Sierra Leone.

A village boy with a dream, S’phongo is a published author and spoken word artist from south-east Zimbabwe. With two slam champion titles three years into his career as an artist, S’phongo has appeared on stages in Zambia, Sierra Leone, Italy, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe. One of his poems has been published on poetrypotion.com (South Africa). He currently works as the Operations Director for VAfrica, a youth media organisation in Sierra Leone and as the senior Technical Officer at LitFest Harare. (source)

S’phongo writes about his poem:

In my life, things weren’t easy, and I believed they weren’t until I adopted a new set of eyes. At that moment, I realized that if my life hadn’t turned out the way it did, I wouldn’t have been able to experience that moment.

Looking around me, I saw birth, growth, and death. Every year we chain the oxen to a plow, take baskets of grains, chasing behind the oxen, dropping them into freshly plowed earth. A week later, life shoots off the ground in hundreds of tiny microgreens. These include growth hindering weeds that will be killed only a few weeks into their lives. Death.

Life continues for the grains while some fade into nutrients for the living. Three months down the line, we witness another birth. The only difference now is it’s in abundance. One grain has become a hundred, then it withers.

This pattern of birth, life, and death can be seen even in man-made objects. It is what it is. We give birth to habits; they live through us and we can kill them at will. I killed some and gave life to some, this being one of the living at the moment. (source)

His synopsis for the video:

Thru Hell explores how all human interaction has the potential of being hell when it is not nurtured from a place of love. It is a reminder that we are all similar, and that hurtful intentions, no matter what their source is, can hurt the same. Most importantly, they can be survived. (source)

More videos from S’phongo can be found here.

HairBrush by Kate Sweeney

A gentle and personal piece reflecting on motherhood, HairBrush is a hand-drawn animation from UK artist, film-maker and writer Kate Sweeney, whose work has featured a number of times before here at Moving Poems. From the synopsis at Vimeo:

After adopting our son during lockdown… I wanted to explore my journey towards becoming a mother.

HairBrush is a meditative reflection upon an everyday activity – a haircut. It documents the laboured process of making a paintbrush out of a golden curl from my son’s head. The brush then being used to paint each frame of the film.

Watercolour, instead of blood or DNA, becomes the metaphor and material for describing how we imagine and manifest our selves through each other.

The film was one of a series of microproject commissions at Star and Shadow Cinema, a co-operative in the north east of the UK.

I’ll Write About It Later by Jessie Jing

I’ll Write About It Later is an author-made piece by Jessie Jing, a Malaysian dance artist, choreographer and writer based in London.

I stumbled upon this interesting and affecting video in one of those happy, random moments of web discovery. Surprisingly, I noticed in drafting this post that it’s the first time a Malaysian artist has featured here at Moving Poems.

The video is personal and intimate, incorporating Jing’s own voice floating above expressive, animated doodles and text. The visual style is strongly influenced by concrete poetry.

The subject of the video seems also to relate to Jing’s mental health advocacy. This includes her debut poetry collection Manuscripts of the Mind, described as “…a series of poetry and prose dedicated to, and inspired by, the fantastical world of the bipolar mind and how one encounters and experiences metamorphosis to their state of being.” The collection is published under the name Jessie J’ng.

Verkeerd Verbonden / Wrong Number by Marc Neys

Verkeerd Verbonden / Wrong Number is an hypnotic, author-made videopoem from renowned Belgian artist, Marc Neys. In slow, hushed tones he narrates his poem in Dutch. The English is given as text-on-screen and visually designed around a divided trio of screen-compartments. These also contain abstract images in flickering motion, with transient glimpses of recognisable people and objects, the whole rendered in unusual and shifting colours.

Marc is a marvelous experimental film-maker and composer. The graphic rhythms of the English text on the screen, and the way they interact with the sound of the voice in Dutch – both contribute to the deep mood, as does his sophisticated ambient sound design. The language of the poem is pared back, with a mysterious allegorical quality. The dramatic simplicity of word and image is strangely moving.

and they whisper softly
stories that are not meant for me

This is a new film from Marc Neys, uploaded only two weeks ago. Moving Poems has featured well over 100 videopoems from him since 2011.

sex & violence #4 : what’s inside a girl? by Kristy Bowen

I’ve featured a few of Chicago-based poet and publisher Kristy Bowen’s video poetry book trailers, but not this one yet, which was made in support of her 2020 collection with Black Lawrence Press, sex & violence. It might be my favorite of hers to date. Nobody knows better that the poet herself what kind of mood she was trying to create, and if she happens to have the graphic design skills and technical know-how to bring that to life in video form, as Bowen does, the results can be wonderful (even if, as here, also super creepy). She resurfaced the video recently on her blog as part of an annual #31daysofhalloween series.

As always, visit her YouTube channel for more. The latest trailers are in support of a collection due out on Halloween called Automagic.

Remnants by Valerie LeBlanc & Daniel Dugas

A few weeks ago I shared a trilogy of videopoems from Canadian film-makers Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel Dugas, made during their time as artists in residence at the historic Deering Estate in Florida. This video, Remnants, is another of several made during their time at the Estate.

From a film-making view, I particularly like in Remnants the simple effectiveness of writing the poem on the spine of books. There is as well a quiet, contemplative quality that often arises in videopoems without voice, just text on screen and sound design from natural ambiences. The twin-screen of this film then calls for attention to two panels of adjacent text, the poem on one side and old book titles on the other.

Most if not all of the videopoems I have seen from Valerie and Daniel are author-made films arising from their long-time collaboration as artists. More from their Deering Estate residency are here.

La Caracola / The Conch by María Papi

This film by Argentinian María Papi had its premiere at the 2015 Berlin Feminist Film Week. The description on Vimeo notes that it

explores the movement of intrinsic relations between two presences that give rise to life: Water and Vulva. By exposing what is hidden, the harmony of femininity is restored.

It is powerful, as well as vulnerable and touching, to see genitalia on screen without pornographic intent. That said, this is probably not content suitable for classroom use in public school.

Papi’s approach seems personal and subjective most of all, with secondary thoughts about female gender and sexuality in general. We particularly liked the starkness of the text, just singular words. Marie felt that this underscores the film’s focus: more on body than intellect. The soundtrack is interesting as well, crafting different textures from the sound of water. These seem to speak to the visuals when they become purely abstract and textural themselves. The rhythm is slow, almost contemplative, possibly reflecting the pleasant feelings experienced while filming herself naked in a river, as described in an interview with Papi about the making of the film in CinéWomen, where it was the International Selection for 2015-2016. (We’d excerpt it, but Scribd doesn’t permit copy-and-paste, so you’ll just have to click through — or, if you read Spanish, check out the translation of the interview on Papi’s blog.)

See Vimeo for the full credits list.

Garden of Reason from Mythistoria by Chris O’Leary

This is the first in a series of five filmpoems, Mythistoria: An Archaeology of Shadows. Chris O’Leary is a fine artist based in Yorkshire, and the video is in my view a masterclass in how to make a filmpoem using still images (without going full kinestasis): the images are striking, utterly lacking in cliche, and are juxtaposed in interesting ways, sometimes illustrating and sometimes contrasting with the text on screen, and the soundtrack—”Erotokritos/Music of Crete” by Ross Daly—pushes the whole thing forward. My only criticism is that some of the longer passages of text fade out a second or two too soon.

Here’s how Chris describes the project on her website:

‘Mythistoria’ is a new body of work in development by Chris O’Leary. It is an Athens based project; Chris is a member of the ‘British School of Archaeology’; an institute for higher academic research and which accommodates post-doctoral and independent research work. ‘Mythistoria’ negotiates ideas of place, myth and history in aspects of classical and contemporary Greek culture. The work addresses the european tradition of women’s travel narratives dating back to the eighteenth century; women who came to Greece and experienced it as travellers, writers,artists and scholars. Such women challenged the prevailing romantic view of the ‘epic Greek journey’ as being a ‘Byronic’ idyll, pursued only by wealthy aristocratic antiquarians. The work, therefore, aims to engage with post-colonial/feminist analysis of Hellenism and Orientalism in relation to both women’s travel writing and the rendering of Greece through the collective imaginary

Disorderlily by Charles Putschkin

Disorderlily is an author-made videopoem by Charles Putschkin, a Swedish-Polish artist living in Bristol, UK.

The piece is written in the form of a letter from a socially isolated man, to a woman who seems to be his support worker. The literal quality of the text and the deadpan vocal delivery are effective and affecting, conveying more than what is said.

Putschkin’s creative work also includes visual poetry, sound poetry and podcasting, all with an experimental bent. More videos from him can be found at his YouTube channel.

Disorderlily was a finalist in the 2021 Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film Competition in Cork Ireland.

The one still bird by Janet Lees

A brief, eloquent video of a three-line poem expressed in a single image, The one still bird is an author-made piece by Janet Lees. Her personal statement about it:

On May Day it snowed, very briefly and in a tightly defined area – just a few hundred square yards. I saw a single starling on top of tree shaped like a child’s drawing of a hill. Later I swam in the sea and cut my leg on a fishing lure. It felt like a day full of omens and the echoes of emergencies.

Moving Poems has previously shared more than ten fine videopoems by Janet Lees.

The Rope by David Ian Bickley

This was the third place winner in the 2021 Deanna Tulley Multimedia Contest. David Ian Bickley is “an award-winning media artist whose body of work spans the primitive technological of the 1970s to the digital cutting edge of today.” We previously shared his film for a poem by Irish poet Paul Casey, Marsh. This time the text is his own, “based on a story told by Gerald O’Brien,” according to the credits.

It’s always interesting seeing how an accomplished filmmaker approaches the problem of creating a lyrical film for a narrative poem. In this case Bickley may well have crafted the poem with specific shots or images in mind. Regardless, it all adds up to a very affecting film.