~ Nationality: Canada ~

cipher by Chris Turnbull

An author-made videopoem by Canadian poet Chris Turnbull based on a selection from her latest book of poetry. Here’s the publisher’s description from Beautiful Outlaw Press:

In cipher “the kids refuse the forest.” Beginning here, the poem amplifies outward from nature into built cyber realities and ecological catastrophe.

How does language mediate our changing relationship with nature amid an exploding virtual environment? What corporeal landscapes are left to us to explore and experience? Do we want to? How is language transposed to encourage new modes and to placate loss and change?

cipher invites us to consider cyber as a surrounding and a frontier. Navigation is coded.

The book will be launched via Zoom on Tuesday, April 2nd, 8:00-9:00 PM EDT, alongside two new translations of Celan. Use this link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87236206439?pwd=aeS9T7MFp7z5BQh1buQFvIKr8ucu34.1 and passcode 024558.

Body Electric by Mike Hoolboom

Uploaded just three weeks ago, Body Electric is from renowned Canadian experimental film-maker Mike Hoolboom, whose work we have featured several times before. This film has a hypnotic mood of quiet unease, with a familiar hint of black humour. It takes an experimental approach to text, as well as image and sound. From the notes:

A rework of the new iPhone 15 commercial featuring a singing wall socket. In place of the machine loneliness of the original, a different song… A direct address to the viewer/listener from a virtual assistant. (source)

The delivery of text in Body Electric alternates between the whispery machine-voice of the wall socket, and written lines on the screen. I transcribed the words on the screen. They describe a vision of AI consciousness:

It was filled with secrets
deceptions that made it whole.

When it listened
it was not just attentive but acquisitive.

It used others feelings to clarify its own
internalizing them so completely
it believed it was their author.

The wall socket speaks in a first person monotone. Its repetitions feel vaguely delirious, adding to the hypnotic qualities of the film.

I’ve mentioned before that authorship of the films Mike produces is purposely ambiguous. Artist attribution for this film rests on a bare list of names in a single end credit, and the fact that Mike has uploaded it. The credited people are likely collaborators or creators of the original media that Mike remixed: Emidio Buchinho, Claudia Dey, Filipa Hora, João Hora, Vitor Joaquim and James Salter.

Caterpillar Suit by Lina Ramona Vitkauskas

A 2020 videopoem by Lina Ramona Vitkauskas, not shared here till now due to an almost criminal oversight, considering how good it is. In 2021 it was a finalist at the 9th International Video Poetry Festival in Greece and the International Migration & Environmental Film Festival in Canada. Vitkauskas notes that it was

Inspired by Latvian artist, Elina Krima + sculpture artist Walter Oltmann.

First cinepoem of 2020 explores what it means to wear the suits of natural instinct, moving through familial separations (especially in light of children being cruelly separated from parents in US). This is perhaps the tip of fear we collectively recycle for the coming decade.

We’ve shared some of her other work over the years, but do explore Vitkausas’s Vimeo page for much more.

Un/Write by Fiona Tinwei Lam

Vancouver-based poet and poetry filmmaker Fiona Tinwei Lam collaborated with animation students Lara Renaud and Quinn Kelly back in February on this videopoem “about revision, redaction, and renewal.” Lam told me in an email that

It originated in a published shaped or visual poem on the page about the editing and revising process. I quickly created and brainstormed a text block from which the poem would be carved out on screen.

But I realized there were other poems within the poem while utilizing further compression and fragmentation. Then I noticed there were a few interesting phrases in the discarded text from the text block I’d created for the initial poem, that could form the basis of a new poem about reclamation. So these “cut out” phrases could return on screen in a new way.

She added that she thought it could form the basis of a fun lesson plan for schools and community writing workshops, and I agree. One of the great things about erasure poetry is the way it reminds us that no creation is truly ex nihilo; there’s always an element of discovery. And often with such serendipity comes joy, flowering of its own accord, as the animation suggests. A wonderful start to Poetry Month. (And imagine my surprise just now, bringing up the Canadian National Poetry Month page, to find that this year’s theme is in fact joy!)

Landschop by Valerie LeBlanc & Daniel Dugas

From the Canadian duo of Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel Dugas, Landschop is one in a series of videopoems titled Around Osprey. The artists’ words about the overall project:

Around Osprey is a series of short videopoems based on our 2018 residency at the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast Preserve in South Florida. These poems have been derived from our exploration of the lands and waters of the Myakka River, the Manatee River, Sarasota Bay, and Charlotte Harbour. While looking for the crossovers between nature and culture, we were also looking for threads of human histories within protected natural spaces. (source)

Whispered voices combine with cleverly designed on-screen text to convey the single words and short phrases that form the poetic piece of writing. The background of the soundtrack is comprised of subtle sounds of nature, randomly punctuated by sounds of gunshot. The latter are a mysterious aural presence through the video and only connect to the text in the final moments.

I appreciate the gentle, open-ended qualities of this video, consistent with much of the other work from these artists. It’s as though each of their videopoems is just one moment in a long and steady stream of contemplations.

Their daily blog entries for the Around Osprey residency can be found here.

Letter to Fred by Mike Hoolboom & Alfred Vander

At one level, Letter to Fred is a film about the creative obsession of film-making. At another it’s about life and death beyond that frame. It’s the fifth film I’ve shared here at Moving Poems by Canadian experimental film-maker, Mike Hoolboom, so highly esteemed in the field since the 1980s.

At the film’s heart is a letter from Mike’s long-time friend, Alfred Vander aka Fred Pelon, a former film-maker. The simple words of the letter are given on screen simply as subtitles, while the sublime images, sounds and filmic rhythms invite a subtle poetic trance, a mindset of clarity in which the authenticity of what is said can better be felt and heard.

The film itself seems like Mike’s ‘letter to Fred’, as if in answer to the words received. The film-maker’s synopsis:

A letter from my friend Alfred Vander. Though when we met he was Fred Pelon, anarchist super 8 filmmaker, a prolific machine of thoughts and pictures, growing fungi on film, and on the archaic behaviours of the state. But it turned out that film was only the next stage in a life dedicated to reinvention. In this brief post, he describes his new normal, no longer living in a boat but a monastery, working as a caregiver, a gardener, a bridge keeper. As the pandemic waxes on, and my relationships to fringe movie practices and places that used to be central feel increasingly abstract, as if part of some faraway dream, these spare lines offer new hope, and the ongoing consolation of friendship.

The drawn-out opening shot startles immediately to the edge of the seat, the knifes-edge presence of death a stark reference point for what follows. The film is highly personal to the two friends and yet covers far wider ground.

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.

Citizen Poetry by Lisa Robertson and Mike Hoolboom

The edited stream of ‘found’ moving images writes its own wordless poem in Mike Hoolboom‘s Citizen Poetry. Meticulous sound design brings another rich texture of poetry to this film. Text-on-screen offers reading of words without voice, the content adapted from Lisa Robertson’s collection of poetic-prose essays, Nilling.

There is a a difficulty in crediting Mike’s films for cataloguing purposes. For some years they have shown conscious effort to subvert authorship. Citizen Poetry’s final credit gives only a stark list of names, with Mike somewhere around the middle:

Samuel Boudier
Murasaki Encho
Jeanette Groenendaal
Mike Hoolboom
Lucia Martinez
Olivier Provily
Susanne Ohmann
Jean Perret
Liz Straitman
Leslie Supnet
Ana Taran

And yet this piece bears the indelible mark of his film-making style over the decades of a prolific and esteemed artistic life. There’s a breathtaking, dynamic and moving quality to the choice and editing of images from multiple sources, a subtle euphoria, dark and light, deftly woven through all elements of this film.

It could well be that the other names in the credits are artists who created the disparate fragments of ‘found’ media in Citizen Poetry. I wonder if Mike directly knows any of his listed collaborators or contributors. As a fellow maker of films that assemble ‘found’ media, I relate to indirect and virtual creative connections.

However Lisa Robertson is given her own solo credit as the source of Mike’s radically condensed text for the film. As its own piece of writing, Citizen Poetry could be loosely described as prose poetry. From the film’s synopsis:

This retake on belonging and boundaries imagines poetry as a capitalist salve.

The first half of the film sets context and describes mechanisms of how life is objectified in capitalism, people and all. The second half speaks beautifully about the ‘citizen poetry’ that brings hope and liberating connections below the radar.

Borders inspire crossings.

Poetry is the speech of citizenship. It keeps escaping and follows language towards an ear that could belong to anyone.

The final line – I won’t spoil it – brings inspired closure.

Vimeo shows the title of the film as Citizen Poet but I have chosen to adhere to Citizen Poetry, as it appears on the screen.

Moving Poems has before featured three other films from Mike Hoolboom.

Dream 1, 2 & 3 (video series) by Valerie LeBlanc & Daniel Dugas

A trilogy of videopoems by long-time collaborators Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel Dugas in Canada, the Dream series was realised as part of an artist residency at the historic Deering Estate in Miami, USA. From the synopsis for Dream 1:

In September 1925, on board the steamship SS City of Paris, en route back to the United States, James Deering suffered a heart attack and died. After the deaths of both James Deering and his brother Charles, their houses became museums bequeathed for public enjoyment.

In this fictional account of three imagined dreams, Charles Deering addresses the death of his younger brother James.

The synopsis for Dream 2:

Charles awakes from a premonitory dream in which many strangers visit their homes but neither he nor James lives there. The letter is almost a question to his brother about his health.

Each of the videos makes use of a split screen, bringing two different image streams into play with each other, and with repeated visual elements across the trilogy. The layered images are haunting and poetic in conveying the fictional dreams, an interesting concept. I find the mood across all three videos somehow reminiscent of La Jetée by Chris Marker.

Valerie LeBlanc narrates the imagined letters from Charles to his brother.

The Dream 3 synopsis:

Charles has a dream within a dream in which he is overcome by a great sadness. He is relieved that the visions dissipate in his waking reality.

Aside from this Dream trilogy, the artists’ time at The Deering Estate gave rise to a number of other videopoems, photographs, audioworks and installations. All together they make up a larger, overall residency project called Oasis. The artists’ wrote a journal of their experiences and creativity during the residency at the project website.

Au jardin bleu (In the Blue Garden) by Jean Coulombe

A 2020 videopoem by regular collaborators Jean Coulombe (text, images) and Gilbert Sévigny (images, editing, sound). I’d meant to share it at the time, but I do enjoy looking at wintry shots in the middle of summer: a natural surrealism. As a long-time blogger, I also love the fact that Coulombe and Sévigny make their videopoems primarily to provide content for a group blog called CLS Poésie, which has been around since 2009 — as long as Moving Poems. They describe their collective as a

Free association of unclassifiable poets, broadcasting via a blog (which never sleeps) texts, photos and video-poems of a poetry on edge, with blues, neo-country and urban trash accents… (Association libre de poètes inclassables, diffusant par le biais d’un blogue (qui ne dort jamais) des textes, photos et vidéo-poèmes d’une poésie à fleur de peau, aux accents blues, néo-country autant que trash-urbains…)

This is only the sixth videopoem of theirs we’ve shared. Check out the others, but be sure to spend some time on their Vimeo page and discover your own favorites.

Orée du désastre (Edge of Disaster) by Sylvain Campeau

A videopoem by Montréal-based filmmaker Mériol Lehmann with text by Sylvain Campeau. Click on the CC icon for subtitles in English or Spanish. I found the English translation by Peter Schulman rather too reliant on cognates for my taste, but was seduced nonetheless by the juxtaposition of landscape and domestic spaces, as well as the contrast between the fast-flowing recitation (by Pierre C. Girard) and the slow panning shots and glacial music.

ROTA by Andrea De La Paz

A very clever, bilingual (Spanish and English) videopoem that I just stumbled across, with text by the director, Andrea De La Paz, a young filmmaker from Vancouver. Leah Dean Cohen is the actor and Rogan Lovse the cinematographer.