Published by hhAuthor on 05 Nov 2012 at 01:01 pm
Earthquakes. Hurricanes. End times? Well, I’m high on a ridge, icing a sprained ankle, trying to focus on a post-mortem of this year’s Visible Verse Festival at Pacific Cinémathèque. Fortunately far-flung friends and relatives have all assured me they are safe, so I will proceed.
“The best year yet!” is what I was told repeatedly. Good turnout, a bit of press coverage, and wonderful new staff to work with, the festival is definitely entering a fresh and exciting phase. Era. Changing the date from November to October, immediately following the Vancouver International Film Festival helped raise our profile, and get more bums in the seats. I’ve never understood how filmmakers and cinephiles could not be curious about a fusion of verse and the moving image. Wouldn’t that work to inform one’s own work?
Though I had help from family members, the at-home transferring process was laborious. Brutal. I will have to figure out a way to expedite matters next year and I’m determined to find an intern. Or two. There has been much talk of producing a trailer for promotional purposes but so far, it’s all talk. *sigh* Maybe next year. I’m glad the festival is growing but it’s becoming too much for one person, director. Our grass roots are showing.
I should refine my instructions after receiving all manner of file formats, many so huge they took far too long to download. Getting them onto disk was exacting and time consuming. I went to the theatre several times for run-throughs with a very capable and charming Aussie projectionist. With 38 selections, things can get a bit hairy, but everything looked and sounded fantastic. All the hard work was worth it. I received many compliments on the programming as well, which was gratifying, as it’s the toughest task.
My dear friend and comrade-in-music Julie Vik put us up at the Holiday Inn across the street so I was able to go back and forth to attend to duties, despite several formidable distractions. At 3:30 I helped Alberta artist Phillip Jagger, AKA Satoreye Dreamtime, set up for his Reigning In Chaos: Words Into Video hands-on workshop, demonstrating the Kaos pad, iPod and video jamming software. And demonstrate he did! Wild man Phil performed his work, then shared much useful information about his process in an engaging manner, encouraging participants to come up and try out his gear.
I returned to the hotel to change, got back to the theatre lobby, nervous, happy to greet artists and poets as they arrived. It’s always very exciting to see and hear my selections on the big screen at last. We kicked off year 13 of the festival at 7 PM. With a full program, due to the record number of entries, I kept my introduction brief but took time to thank Jim Sinclair and the rest of the staff and volunteers at Pacific Cinémathèque, proclaiming our pride as North America’s sustaining venue for artistically significant videopoetry and poetry film.
We opened with the big, bombastic and sublimely funny stream of consciousness Profile by R.w. Perkins, tall text of “VIDEOPOEM” immediately running across the screen, echoed by the narrator’s neighbour sporting new sunglasses, jogging with a baby stroller. Next, The Lammas Hireling by Paul Casey, based on an Ian Duhig poem gave me goosebumps throughout; only partly because I’m Irish and the magnificent score by Macarena Ferrer featured a mighty fiddle. Its time-lapsed photography lent much foreboding, its climax truly shocking. Whoever You Are, by the collective Machine Libertine, based on a Natasha Romanova poem, was compelling, hypnotic. I kept trying to get my gamer son to take a gander as it appropriates footage from Final Fantasy. Brilliantly, I might add.
The equally brilliant Song for Elliott Jacques by Tommy Becker’s take on the mid-life crisis was hilarious and had us rolling in the proverbial aisles. Becker dedicated it to “psychologist Elliott Jaques who coined the term “midlife crisis” in his 1965 article “Death and the Midlife Crisis”. Jaques, a psychoanalyst, was initially interested in examining the notion of the midlife crisis as it related to creative genius after discovering that an alarming number of highly creative minds; Mozart, Raphael, Chopin, Rimbaud, Purcell, and Baudelaire encountered tragic deaths between the ages of 35 and 39. It is only through crisis that self-realization can occur. It is only through crisis that we begin to uncover truth and strengthen our relationships to our authentic selves. Crisis brings with it the destruction of self. It opens the door for us to once again be lost, not know, declare our individualism and allow the transcendence of self to begin.” I have to agree, and maybe don’t have to feel so bad about recent crisis’; rather put them perspective as an inherent part of the (artist’s) landscape.
Her way with language! London, UK’s soft spoken word artist Sonority Turner’s Portrait of a Listener relentlessly lured us in despite its setting, a noisy subway tunnel, replete with ominous, deep rumblings. Sky Canoe, a collaboration between Prince George artists Al Rempel, Phil Morrison, Steph St. Laurent and Jeremy Stewart, rolled over us with light, beauty, power and an intriguing score.
For the past few years, I’ve looked forward to receiving a long list of links to the prolific Belgian artist Swoon’s exceptional videopoetry. Marc Neys, a veritable one-man production company, has produced over 60 videopoems and collaborated with many poets and writers in many languages. This year I selected Cioran for the poem by Peter Wullen , voice and concept by Bart Stouten, Odds and Ends for the poem by Joseph Harker and The Road Not Taken, based on the Robert Frost poem, which alluded to its subject via kinetic bright yellow flashes sandwiched between black bars, expertly read by the alluringly-voiced Nic Sebastian. A sound designer as well as a musician, Swoon understands the vital role of voice.
Writer, composer, and performer Gary Barwin’s quirky Inverting the Deer enchanted and amused with its unsettling juxtapositions of nature and machine. The ineluctable beauty of Jing Zhous’s Inner Shrine made the hair on my neck stand on end.
Ian Keteku’s Indie Venture animated Right Side Up delighted with outlandish riddles and a winsome score by ukulele wielding troubadour Brad Morden, featuring backup vocals by Chloe Perrault and Gabrielle Giguere. Who says I don’t like spoken word? I cut my milk teeth on it, as a performer, and believe strongly there is a symbiotic relationship between song and verse, that they evolved simultaneously, rhythm, rhyme and melody providing powerful mnemonic devices, myth preserved in the process.
Song for Disobedient Youth, another selection from San Francisco’s Tommy Becker, presented a warped but strikingly accurate homage to the priorities of youth. “It invites the viewer to momentarily indulge in the fantasy of youthful rebellion, self-discovery, recklessness, love, disregard, dream and contempt that continues to escape us as we are pulled further into the constructs of age and culture,” and in a most visceral way.
Martha Mccollogh’s animated Mr. Lucky’s Jackpot made me laugh, but then I’m often accused of being “dark,” which is rather akin to informing me that my hair is red. As ye old bard said, ”If I laugh, it’s that I do not cry” and one of the major challenges of programming this festival is finding enough humour–black or not–to mix in with the plethora of ponderous death and dying themed videpoems. Mr. Lucky’s Jackpot had the temerity to suggest that we kid ourselves into presuming that our own death will somehow be significant. “Certain that when it comes, your death will make sense.”
Several people made a point of coming up and telling me how much Duriel Harris and Scott Rankin’s Speleology held them spellbound with it’s strategic utilization of silence, like white space on a page. That was followed by the exuberant, raucously funny Dear Pluto directed by the queen of independent indie animation, Joanna Priestly, and performed by spoken word giant Taylor Mali, based on his poem Pizza.
We then enjoyed a brief intermission, smokers popping out for a wet puff in the rain while many of the audience remained in their seats, a good sign. I too was anxious to get back and see the rest of the program.
The second half opened with the aforementioned Machine Libertine’s singular take on John Giorno’s poem/admonition to Just Don’t Not Do It. That was followed by Tim Cumming’s Flowers,” written on a walk from Hampstead Heath station to the Steeles in Belsize Park where he was offered snuff laced with cocaine and heard the story of the Moll King, the good mixer of Georgian London, a famous bawd and the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders. Including footage of witch dolls, amulets and mandrakes from the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle,” Flowers was beautifully fetishistic and profoundly spooky.
The second in a series of twelve tone poems based on a form of Japanese linked poetry, renku, Eve Luckring’s Junicho Video Renku Series-#2 evoked laughter with its absurdist sounds and editing and did indeed, “combine to create a richly layered experience of time and space.”
Powerful. Make Me A Doorway, directed by Jesse Russell Brooks, based on poetry written and performed with a most distinctive delivery by Alexzenia Davis unerringly depicted the courage required in navigating a volatile gender gap.
First Death in Nova Scotia, directed by award winning filmmaker John D. Scott, based on the Elizabeth Bishop poem is “…wonderfully atmospheric, evocative, true to the spirit of the poem and to the actual events on which the poem is based,” according to Bishop scholar Sandra Barry. All I know is that as the young Bishop locked her gaze onto the glassy red eyes of a stuffed loon, and slowly reached out to touch its white breast feathers, I was unequivocally transported back to childhood.
I actually received a whole swack of masterful animations this year, wish I could have screened them all. I selected two by Norway’s Kristian Pedersen; Norandgsdalen and Viva Zombatista, most apropos with Halloween around the corner. Both pieces were astute abstractions, Pedersen another artist who employs sound to great effect.
Which is what I try to do. We premiered my videopoem Whore In The Eddy, or should I say, our videopoem, and my first collaboration with 17-year old son, who has been helping me on the set of videopoem shoots since he was a wee one. A digital native and avid gamer, Junior taught himself to edit video at age ten and set up his own YouTube channel where he posted machinimas. Adapted from an AURAL Heather track with music by Roderick Shoolbraid, we shot it all on our island home in a matter of weeks, with a crappy tripod and limited lenses. As previously stated elsewhere, Junior kicked my butt! We argued over shots. “Hey, I’m not trying to be Steve Spielberg,” I said. “I don’t care, it’s out of focus, you have to do it over.” “Hey, those are deliberate.” But I did do some of them over and he was right. In any case, I was relieved and happy to see it on the big screen. I’d worried it wasn’t good enough but was reassured that we had in fact achieved a “concise, well-directed videopoem with an eerily perfect sense of timing, the photography superior” In the process, Junior and I have set up Visible Verse Productions, ready, willing and able to produce the work of other poets and writers.
In keeping with the theme of women in water, we featured the rousing Saltwater by Glenn-emlyn Richards in collaboration with poet Eleanor Rees, resolutely voiced by Lindsay Rodden. “I need words to wash our wounds.” An industrial landscape, rendered in charcoal observed and influenced by a symbolic wood-engraved figure representing the spirit and voice of radical women.”
With ladders and doors to nowhere, Mia Degner’s Everywhere and Inside made ingenious use of a spartan gallery/performance space. “Helena Diana Mach is playing the part of the poet’s conscious; visualizing the themes of the Anne Louise Fagerlund Mortensen poems presented. Jorgensen writes with intense fragility, and the film aims to capture this poetic universe. Everywhere & Inside is a stylized glimpse into the mind of a desperate young woman trying to deal with the pain of lost love.”
Bonfire became another Halloween appropriate piece with its ravens, tombstones and Daniel Mark Patterson’s unique choice of words.
Directed by Tara Flynn, Dennis E Bolen delivers the insouciant words below in his inimitable, deadpan delivery in Everybody, superbly accompanied by Soressa Gardners’s score and photography by Gabor Gasztonyi.
Everybody knew somebody/ Age of battered pickup Cigarette load ashtray butt/ Everybody knew /Grease coif armpit stain/ Snagglepick match tooth/Beyond the unconscious ethic/ Only the responsibly parented survive/Everybody knew belt free toddler Everybody /Unrestraint seat bench projectile/ To the outskirts of wisdom/Everybody knew somebody dead Of car crash/Undershirt men/Cross-eye sway fatigue/Pace toward a next shift/ To hew and draw and maintain /Skirted metal box with wheels /Rented concrete… Check out this far more comprehensive review of Everybody at Urban Graffiti.
This year we enjoyed the privilege of sharing selections with the VideoBardo Festival in Buenos Aires, including the whimsical Pez by Eduardo Romaguera and Terrorsounds by Jakob Kirchheim & Teresa Delgado, which capably depicts dread, or potential threat underlying the prosaic.
The outstanding little black strap, a most delightful adaptation of legendary Canadian writer and our first poet laureate, George Bowering’s poem, was produced and directed by Pamela Bentley.
The aforementioned visiting artist Phillip A Jagger’s Stazen Of The Lost was up next, with it’s relentless rail rhythms and word play. Next, a lovely animation, directed and produced by the poet, Fiona Tinwei Lam’s quietly moving Omelet was as sublimely executed as its subject.
We have screened Joe Boyce Burgess’s stellar videopoetry in the past but this was her first year as Josie Boyce. At her blog The Josie Pages, she discusses how nervous she was, though excited to see Seldomly Transgender Anymore at the festival. “I made the video, last autumn when I was in the throes of my most self loathing period ever. Dark times. That are over, thankfully. It is the best of the entries that I sent in this year. It was a zen moment, the creation of the video as was the writing of the poem.”
We were happy to host Elliot Hearte, the director of the Jeremy Loveday’s unabashedly romantic videopoem, Evolution of Love. Though from Victoria, Elliot is living and working in Saint John, New Brunswick and we discussed the possibility of taking Visible Verse to the Maritimes.
I’m always grateful to receive work from the hilarious and irreverent Robert Priest. It provides a respite from the previously mentioned doom and gloom and much appreciated comic relief, this year’s Colours of Bullshit being no exception. Chanson d’automme-Autumn Song by Rachel Laine, based on the Paul Verlaine poem provided a short, sweet French-language interlude. Beautifully shot in Islamasbad, Pakistan by Julien Phillipe, My Daddy Loves Me is a (video)poem and loving homage by Habib Asfar.
Whew! All in all, an incredible line-up and indeed, our best year yet!