ENTANGLED THREADS: A Canadian and an American chart videopoetry throughout their lives

 It’s been a wild ride! Presentation by Kurt Heintz and Heather Haley at the videpoetry symposium as part Tom Konyves’ Poets with a Video Camera exhibit at the Surrey Art Gallery, available to view until Dec 11, 1022.

1973-10 (October) – Kurt
It’s the homecoming game at my high school. I’m lucky enough to have access to a computer. My teacher runs statistics on the teams. I’m there because the computer is open. I wrote a program that is supposed to generate poetry. It does. It sucks. But it works.

1978-08 (August) – Kurt
I get my first computer, an Apple II. I write a paint program for it that ultimately digitizes video. I share the program with my college teacher. She shares it with her boyfriend, who then publishes a top-selling paint program for the Apple II. I question my teacher. She says my work is academic, and therefore outside copyright. Thus begins my adversarial relationship with the academy. The “video output” on my Apple II points me to television production, which I study and love.

1980-01 (January) – Heather
I was a singer/songwriter and front person of one of Vancouver’s first all-female punk bands, the Zellots, when I abandoned everything and moved to Los Angeles with absolutely no doubt of rock stardom. Ah, the hubris of youth.

1980-12 (December) Kurt
My final project in advanced television features a suite of performance art pieces. (albeit, undergraduate caliber) It’s titled “463: a television experiment,” the high point of my college years. The premiere party ends in depression, however, as news breaks during the show that John Lennon was murdered.

1980-1992 – Heather
Along with writing songs and fronting a band, I fully engaged in LA’s diverse and vibrant art and coffee house scenes while working for the LA Weekly and the Woman’s Building, a feminist gallery and mecca. An autodidact, I learned by doing about performing, writing, poetry, publishing, video, installation art, spoken word, performance art and collaboration, inspired by the city’s rampant pollination between genres and disciplines, exposed to and influenced by the likes of Judy Chicago, Jeff Isaak, Branda Miller, Johanna Went, Rachel Rosenthal, the Guerilla Girls, Gronk, Daniel J Martinez and Judy Baca.

1982 and later – Kurt
I’m a bench tech for Western Electric in the Chicago suburbs, but I join the Center for New Television, Chicago, where I attend workshops and video art screenings. I meet video artists such as Steina and Woody Vasulka, and Bill Viola. This is way better than art school. Cheaper, too. Video art is real. But any such video art with a voice resembling poetry is simply called “narrative.”

1982-1987 – Heather
With Peter Haskell, I edited and published the innovative and experimental poetry journal, Rattler, my first attempt at fusing text with image. It featured a parade of LA luminaries such as Linda Giurbino, Georganne Deen, Rocky Schenck, Jonathon Rosen, Kathi Norklun, Mark Mothersbaugh, Henry Rollins, Lydia Lunch, Exene Cervenka and Perry Farrell.

1984 – Heather
I met Doug Knott-Poet and Beyond Baroque/Lhasa Club impresario who would later produce videopoems and a cable show called POETRY TV. (4-DougKnott.png, unless there might be something more appropriate?) Also, the Olympic Arts Festival engendered an explosion of artistic expression. I believe its fallout had a direct impact on the city’s culture along with me and my fellow artists.

1986-01 (January) – Kurt
I discover Butchie’s Get Me High Lounge, Chicago, home to Marc Smith’s first weekly poetry open mic. At the time, we all call this “performance poetry.” Performance first, is our credo. When this gig moves to the Green Mill, I witness the creation of slam poetry and I receive a wild, bar-side education on creative writing. No video and few books, but lots of voice.

1987 – Heather
I bought my first computer, a Macintosh SE to run the office of the Ethical Pool, our recording studio in Silverlake.
What took you so long?-Kurt
I’m not a geek. Neither am I rich. 😉  -Heather

1990-12 (December) – Kurt 
I bought an S-VHS tape editing system the previous year. So I create video and perform poetry for On Division at Wholesome Roc Gallery. It’s about the dark side of gentrification and the rise of HIV. Susen James, a poet and a licensed nurse, draws a sample of my blood, which the audience sees in close-up over multiple monitors. I press the sealed, warm test tube against the cheeks of front-row guests and whisper in their ears, “What do you feel through the glass?”

1991 – Heather
I attended Telepoetry events at the Electronic Café, founded by-Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz-in Santa Monica, witnessed videophone linkups with Boston, New York, Phoenix and Paris.  I met poet and facilitator Merilene Murphy.

1991-06 (June) – Kurt
I am part of the Loofah Method, an ensemble that includes poet cin salach – one of Marc Smith’s circle – and musicians and filmmakers. I add the video component to salach’s live performance poetry. Patricia Smith and I are both fans of the Loofah Method. When we reminisce about them, we sing, “I’m your TV…”

1991-08 (August) – Kurt
I work with Quraysh Ali Lansana and Larry Winfield at the Guild Complex in Chicago to present the Guild’s first Poetry Video Festival. We show videos to an audience at a nightclub called The Hothouse. The audience loves it. Larry made his video with his Radio Shack TRS-80 computer. We’re definitely not “bi-coastal.”

1992-93 – Heather
I was introduced to the Internet, or, the World Wide Web, by friends and associates and learned HTML.

1992-09 (September) – Kurt
The Guild’s Poetry Video Festival features Bob Holman, who has also become part of Marc Smith’s circle (then). This is a lot more curated. Open calls bring us jewels and crap for submissions. Filtering them is a bitch.
Jean Howard, a poetry colleague of Marc Smith, brings me news of the Electronic Café International and Merilene Murphy. For next year’s Festival, we team with the Center for New Television and Merilene hosts a poetry workshop for us by videophone, from Los Angeles.

1992-12 (December) – Kurt
I connect with the San Francisco Poetry Film Festival, and discover a (then) 17-year history of poetry and cinema there. I hold my own, scoring prizes for two of my videos.

1993-94 – Heather (Edgewise ElectroLit Centre)
The Art of Connecting People. Awarded an Explorations grant by the Canada Council for the Arts, I founded the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre in Vancouver with a mandate of employing technology, (the Internet and ‘new media’ to) advance the work of poets and artists.
We procured Netscape, set up a web site and having been raised with television/moving images, working with video came naturally, as I employed a camera to document events, produce Telepoetics linkups and videopoems.
Video’s history of experimentation is a fundamental aspect of the medium and its populist nature appeals to me. Accessibility and affordability are important considerations as well and as Robert Graves said, “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.”
Some participants included: Robert Bringhurst, Evelyn Lau, Sheri-D Wilson, Gregory Scofield, Larissa Lai, Roger Blenman, Adeena Karasick, Lillian Allen, Kate Braid, Wayde Compton, bill bissett, Terrie Hamazaki, Jen Lam, Bud Osborne, Phinder Dulai, Marilyn Dumont, Billeh Nickerson, Patricia Smith and Henry Mah.

1993-01 (January) – Kurt
I make more poetry videos with Lisa Buscani, a member of the Neo-Futurists, and again with cin salach. The Loofah Method performances with salach are now in Live Bait Theater, not some soundstage but a real theater with a real reputation. Theater critic Hedy Weiss refuses to review us, however, since our poetry, “has no conflict and therefore no drama.” Baloney.

1993-08 (August) – Kurt (Merilene Murphy)
The American Film Institute, L.A., awards me a prize for a poetry video that I had to enter in AFI’s music video category for Sony/Visions of US. AFI didn’t recognize poetry video, so music video was the next best category. Merilene Murphy attends the reception. Wow! After so many voice and video calls, I finally meet her in person. By the way, I came in second place to a group of LA rappers dressed as cowboys. They really did music. The late Bob Saget gave out the awards.

1994-08 (August) – Heather (L.A. Times article on Telepoetics)
First Edgewise ElectroLit Centre event; Telepoetics link up with Los Angeles at the Western Front in Vancouver. The EEC spawned three major programs: the Edgewise Café, one of Canada’s first online multimedia magazines, Telepoetics and the Vancouver Videopoem Festival, which evolved into Visible Verse at Pacific Cinematheque.

1995-02 (Feb)– Heather (Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet)
I saw Jean Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet, considered to be a “visual poem.” Made in 1932 I think of Cocteau as the first poet with a camera, at least that I’m aware of. Surely, he melded word and image like no other. Intrigued, I researched and became aware of the works of Maya Deren, George Aquilar, Jill Battson, Herman Berlandt and others.

1995-04 (Apr) – Heather
Verse volley with Kurt Heintz and Chicago’s U-Lab, a crucial facilitator and partner in the Telepoetics network which included far flung sites in Toronto, Calgary, San Francisco, Montreal, San Antonio, Alert Bay and New York. Kurt and I collaborated in virtuality for six or seven years before meeting in person.

1996-09 (September) – Kurt (Quraysh Ali Lansana’s poetry video Passage)
WTTW/Chicago (PBS) gives me the Bob Award, usually reserved for video art, but in my case for a poetry video with Quraysh Ali Lansana, Passage. Poetry video is real at last, in Chicago.

1997-04 (April) – Kurt (Anaïs Nin in Bells of Atlantis)
I attend a conference at SUNY/Buffalo and hear William Wees (McGill Univ.) speak about poetry video. He presents a reel with some ancient clips, one by Anaïs Nin called Bells of Atlantis, which is older than I am. I’m impressed. Jill Battson and I dish this, and I travel back to Toronto with her.

1999-02 (February) – Kurt
In a video link-up from the Neo-Futurarium, I join Heather for “Love and Lust in North America,” on a Valentine’s tangent. Totally breaking the fourth wall, a Vancouver poet flirts with one of the Chicago audience members.

1999-05 (May) – Kurt
I join Heather in a videophone link-up between Vancouver and Chicago poetry students: high school students. My kids are with Young Chicago Authors.
This is in the aftermath of the Columbine School shooting. Chicago kids complain about not being allowed to talk about Columbine in class, and of metal detectors as they enter their school. This leaves the Vancouver kids dumbfounded. Never has the difference between Americans and Canadians been so sharp for me.
(Sadly, the differences appear to be blurring.”-Heather)

1999-11 (November) – Heather  (Vancouver Videopoem Festival, 1999)
See Or Be Seen-launched the Vancouver Videopoem Festival, the first festival of its kind in Canada. From the program: “This hybrid genre has received scant attention despite being a creative field of growing interest for Canadian poets and artists since the 70s. Vancouver’s Edgewise ElectroLit Centre is hosting this inaugural event wherein the most innovative treatments are explored and presented. Work from Canada and beyond will give local audiences a survey of the accomplishments in videopoetry for the past 20 years.”
(Vancouver Videopoem Festival, 2000)
When asked repeatedly to define videopoetry I answered, “A wedding of word and image.” The bottom line is language. We’re language artists and the emphasis in a videopoem is language, not personality. Language in all its guises, including text, voice, image and sound, their integration the greatest challenge. And this is the year I met Tom Konyves, of the Vehicule poets, an innovator who characterized the hybrid genre as “videopoetry.”

2000-03 (March) – Kurt (Radio Free Monterey, Betts, Jess)
I link from Chicago to Barbara Steinberg at Radio Free Monterey (California). Our video contributes to their RealVideo livestream. Chat lines handle Q&A traffic between Monterey and my home, where Tara Betts and Tyehimba Jess are the featured poets. If only we’d patented this. Our network design postulates what has since been used in distance learning. Barbara and I publish our “experiment” in Mantis 1: poetry and community, by Stanford University. (BTW: Jess wins a Pulitzer for poetry, for Olio, in 2017.) As humble as our live stream was, we can say now that our videopoetry has touched the stars.

2001-2012 – Heather (scenes from videopoems by Heather Haley)
Produced a series of videopoems, official selections at dozens of international film festivals. They may be found under mediapoet at VIMEO: https://vimeo.com/mediapoet
2002-2015 – Heather

See The Voice. Curated and hosted Visible Verse at Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver, at one point the longest running videopoetry festival in North America. (Yes, it’s safe to say I have invested significantly in this genre.)

FYI, both the Rattler and Edgewise ElectroLit Centre archives are housed at Simon Fraser Library’s Special Collection in Burnaby and open to the public. (EECArchve@SFULibrary.jpg)

2 thoughts on “ENTANGLED THREADS: A Canadian and an American chart videopoetry throughout their lives

  1. Hello Heather and Kurt, I took some time to read through the blog post of your presentation. It is too bad that we did not have time to present the full versions but – great to see it in print! I see some crossovers and enjoy seeing connections with the histories and technology events. I SOOO wish that we could have had more time as the meetings and discussions have definitely left a taste for more.

    We are planning to post the notes from our talk when we have finished posting the works from our program put together in Osprey, FL during our residency with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast in 2018.

    1. Hello Valerie, lovely to hear from you. The best part of a symposium is meeting like-minded individuals and fellow artists, one’s ‘tribe.’ I agree, we needed more time. Never enough time is there? In any case, it was a privilege and a pleasure meeting you and Daniel. Safe travels and let’s stay in touch.

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