Sunday 6 May 2018

Videos: 1000 Rubies, Human Resources, St. Umbilicus

In the past couple of months, three collaborative poetry videos have been completed...

1000 Rubies

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'1000 Rubies' is based on a music and poetry piece by Adrian Carter (Sheffield, UK), for which I provided spoken and sung vocals. The music was first released in 2008, on an EP of the same name, still available at the Internet Archive. This track has had a special place in my heart over these years and, revisiting it recently, I found myself beginning to make this video with it. In its final form, the piece is a hybrid of music video and poetry film. The images are from Unsplash, a website for highly creative photography from around the world, all made available for re-use on public domain licence. I selected and juxtaposed the images for their associative resonances with the words, and arranged them in an order to tell a kind of abstract, gestural narrative. I built up a visual motif in this video around the colour red, relating to the rubies of the title. In editing I added movement to the stills through zooms, reversal of framing, and jump cuts on the beats, like heart beats with the music. The one moving image sequence is from royalty-free site, Videoblocks. This was quite a time intensive project to make, mainly because I worked with each of the large number of stills individually. The video forms part of a group with my own sung and/or spoken voice on the soundtrack, including One Dream Opening Into Many, Poem for Rent, 7 March and I Drove to the River.

Human Resources

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'Human Resources' is based on an erasure poem of the same name by Dave Bonta in the USA. Erasure poetry is the process of creating poems by selecting words from pre-existing texts. The original text here is sections of a CIA document from the 1980s, concerning mind control techniques. Dave's piece, original excerpts and erasures both, first appeared in 'The Other Bunny' journal online in March 2018. The video is made up substantially of this text on screen, overlaid on a delirious blend of movie images from the Prelinger Archives. I chose to 'mash up' two different films for this background. The first, and most visually recognisable, is 'Duck and Cover', a famous documentary film from the 1950s containing advice on how to take cover in the event of a nuclear blast. The second film is 'Destination Earth', an anti-communist animation also produced in the 1950s. Both films were 'doubled up', making four superimposed layers, sped up considerably, with some parts appearing in forward motion, others in reverse, and some images rotating so that they appear at odd angles throughout the piece. The rapid melee of images is designed to express the hallucinatory effect of mental confusion engendered by mind control. The music is a psychedelic piece by The Night Programme (aka Dementio13 and aka Paul Foster), another artist I've collaborated musically over the net for about a decade (he's in Wales, I'm in Australia). The track is entitled 'Cxxx2', from his album, 'Backup 010318'. The poem and video seem timely in this era of rampant fake news and unabashed propaganda.

St. Umbilicus

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'St. Umbilicus' is from a poem by Cindy St. Onge, and is one of my shorter video pieces. As well as a poet, Cindy is a maker of videopoems I admire. She also gave her voice to the soundtrack of this video. This is the second video I've made from Cindy's poetry. The first was 'Double Life'. The collaboration was closer on 'St. Umbilicus' and grew out of personal chats we had recently on Facebook and via email. These led to me expressing an interest in collaborating further, to which Cindy agreed. The poem is about the navel and its bodily reminder of our connection to our mother. To express this, I chose a very close, still image of a navel to be a 'frame' for a series of central images featuring mothers and children. The still image, which rotates slightly throughout the piece, was found on creative commons licence at Flickr. The artist is Linnéa Sjögren. The moving images contained within it are from 'Scenes at the Beach Club', a 1927 home movie from the Prelinger Archives. I selected historic images here to emphasise the timelessness of the theme. Music is by Chris Zabriskie, his 'Prelude No. 12' from the 'Preludes' album.

The videos continue to travel to festivals and events, and to find space in online journals. Since my last blog entry, 'Poem for Rent' screened at the Newlyn Film Festival in the UK. 'Solar Therapy' appeared in the final issue of 'Gnarled Oak' journal. Dave Bonta wrote a piece on 'Human Resources' that appeared on his site, 'Via Negativa'. Brisbane-based 'Bareknuckle Poet' journal featured 'Orphanage'. 'Atticus Review' featured three videopoems: 'Poem for Rent', 'Everything sleeps but the night' and 'First Grade Activist'. Very grateful for the interest here in Australia, and internationally.