Brenda Clews is a multi-media poet, artist and video poet who interweaves
poetry, painting, theory, dance and video in various ways in her work.

Performance Videopoems

Split Mask


A selection of my video poetry. Please check back as some of these are performance versions (#4 & #6 without voiceovers) and will be updated soon.

Split Mask
Dance of the Sarong
Threnody in Clay
A Floral Opera
Colour of Near Death
Ink Ocean

Tidal Fury

Performance videopoems from my book, Tidal Fury (Guernica Editions, 2016).

The Medusa
Featured @Hot-Sauced Words Feb 2017
Guernica Editions Tidal Fury Book Launch

Who knows the reading time? Maybe 3- words

Videopoetry combines poetry with image sequences that unfold through time. A videopoem is not a literal rendition of the poem that inspires it, but a transliteration. Text is translated from one script into another, from page-oriented into cinematic. We get a 'verbal/visual' cluster, a complex, a nexus, a multiplicity composed of vectors that intersect. The videopoem casts moving images of poetry into a film stream in ways that enable it, the video or film, to become an independent visual poem. In this school of videopoetics, the author's words are the wind that sails the ship in a sea of images.

My videos, however, are not transliterations of poems. My pieces are composed of poetry, images, video, a costume with perhaps a mask, paintings or sculpture that form a muted multi-media dance. In my oeuvre, the components of a work arise from a singular creative process that finds expression in multiple approaches - poetic, artistic, filmic, kinetic - to a single unifying subject. Video is where the components of that singular creative process in a work can come together. Split Mask is an example of this, (and
go here to read how the components- the mask, the painting, the performance, the video, arose from one burning image). I am not apologetic for writing the poems, finding, sewing or making the costumes/props, memorizing, choreographing, performing, and editing the video to reflect a performative core. In my style of videopoetic presentation, the visual enactment of the poem nearly always revolves around a figurative axis. For live performances, I remove the voice from the clip and perform the poem from memory and often in costume (mask, snaky wig, gauze sack, kimono, jingly belly dancing belt) while the video plays on a screen behind me. The poet, as it were, like Hermione in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, steps out of the videopoem into life, a breathing counterpart of the figure cast on the screen.

As a figurative artist who admires classical technique, the years of study it takes to master pictorial technique, I find the rise of the critic and the demise of the trained artist troubling. Our cultural aesthetic is still saturated with Conceptualism, where the text that expands on the art takes precedence over the art object. The artistry of the artist of long years of training is often dismissed in favour of simpler, more abstract renditions that either disintegrate form into near incoherence or merge slickly into commercial design. Once the mastery of the artist has been rendered insignificant, their work can be eulogized with critical theory so that the critic, instead, shines. The artist becomes a craftsperson for the critic. While not meaning to, yet being part of a 'Conceptual' framework that, unfortunately, is considered normative, the idea of what constitutes a 'videopoem' falls prey to a similar approach. One of the defining qualities of a videopoem is that it should not be a video of a poet reading or performing their poem. As with the fine arts, I find a videopoetics that advocates a disappearance of the poet from the videopoem denies the heritage and richness of the poet who embodies centuries of literature and wordsmithing in their writing. Let's have a visual poetry that enables and affirms the body of utterance, the gesture of the poet who wrote the words - who gives the poet recognition by including them in the videopoem.

I find the plethora of disembodied videopoems, while interesting filmically, and often quite beautiful in their varied ways, from scenic, figurative to abstractions, highlight the filmmaker at the expense of the poet, who is usually absent in a production that uses their words. Perhaps the author merits a voiceover, perhaps not. Their poems are inspirations for the videographer. Sometimes it is the author who directs the filmpoem and who inexplicably maintains an absence in the final product. While I understand that making a short film or video poem can be an exercise in craft and experiment for a film team who hope to create a moment of visual and poetic art, we must yet glimpse the poet embodying the poem they have written with their voices, gestures, movements, bodies. In this approach, I take cue from music videos, which embrace the appearance of the musician who has either written or enacts the song of another as crucial to the success of the visual production.

I have always loved poetry readings for this reason, hearing the poems read by those who wrote them, and perhaps that is why I incline towards an embodied videopoetics that includes the writer, and the many ways that they 'tell it slant.'*

©Brenda Clews
May, 2017, Toronto
*To refer to Emily Dickinson's famous and often quoted poem, 'Tell all the truth but tell it slant.'

© 2017 Brenda Clews Contact Me

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