~ Barbara Kruger ~

The Art of Poetry Film with Cheryl Gross: “Double Life”

Double Life
poem: Cindy St. Onge
concept & editing: Marie Craven (read the process notes)
music: Purple Planet
images: Prelinger Archives

“The sleeping woman is not the dreamer, because the dreamer smokes…”
—Cindy St. Onge

Sitting in front of the TV watching old movies was a huge part of my childhood. I loved the imagery. It didn’t matter what the storyline was; to me the visuals were the most important thing. That being the case, it’s no wonder why I am so enamored with Double Life by Marie Craven.

There is no voiceover, just words and repeated and mirrored images, hence the title. Craven’s clever use of old footage succeeds in establishing a sense of nostalgia. This is total film noir. Her color palette emulates that of artist Barbara Kruger. Kruger’s work also lends itself to a specific moment in time. Her colors are limited to black, white, grey and red, which Kruger made popular (modern 20th century).

This being a video poem, words do play an important role. Craven uses red subtitles, which further complement her choice of colors. The only criticism I have is the typeface. My guess is she used Helvetica but I may be wrong. I would have liked to see something that better fits the mood. Other than that, Double Life is simple and well done. The music by Purple Planet guides us through this journey of smoke and mirrors. I suggest watching Double Life at least two or three times — first to enjoy the visuals, second to read the poem, and third to experience the two elements together.

The Art of Poetry Film with Cheryl Gross: “Talk About the Money”

Talk About the Money
Poem by Wanda Coleman
Directed by Mark Pellington
From the PBS series The United States of Poetry, produced by Bob Holman and Josh Blum, 1995

I found Talk About the Money intriguing. Wanda Coleman recites her poem as a seductress, enticing and luring the viewer into believing her, just like any good sales person. As her presentation becomes more aggressive, she insists that we need to talk money to understand the currency of our time. I take this as a warning that unfortunately has more truth than this reviewer wants to handle. The gap between the haves and the used-to-haves or have-nots is rapidly growing.

The opening image is of one of Barbara Kruger’s works: We’ve exploded because they’ve got Money and God in their pockets. Kruger worked in advertising and her art is politically/feminist based. Her work is very powerful and a good opener to this video poem. The flashing on and off of advertising slogans is a nice touch. It appears pretty chintzy, which is a welcome addition to the message Coleman is very effectively getting across. The fact that it appears to be cheaply made adds to the impact. It reminds me of one of those late-night infomercials (they will even throw in another one if you act now!) for something you don’t really need but are now lured into buying. Then whatever you bought breaks or isn’t what you thought it might be and you’re out $19.95 plus shipping.

Money is a systematic theory that we all need to adhere to, like it or not. I think by collaborating on this video, Wanda Coleman had the foresight to warn us of what is happening economically today—though unfortunately this is a pattern which has been repeating throughout time.

I love the rotating piggy banks. All the imagery is perfect and matches the meaning of the poem. It’s shoddy, ugly and presented in such a way that whoever sees it will never want to watch another infomercial ever again.