Ruminations on Creating Videopoetry: Unities

Einsenstein criticises Griffith for...having conceived of...unity in a completely extrinsic way as a unity of collection, the gathering together of juxtaposed parts, and not as a unity of production, a cell which produces its own parts by division, differentiation; for having interpreted opposition as an accident and not as the internal motive force by which the divided unity forms a new unity on another level....Eisenstein retains Griffith's idea of an organic composition or assemblage of movement-images: from the general situation [situation d'ensemble] to the transformed situation, through the development and transcendence of the oppositions. But it is true that Griffith did not see the dialectical nature of the organism and its composition. The organic is indeed a great spiral, but the spiral should be conceived of 'scientifically' and not empirically, in terms of a law of genesis, growth and development.

Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1, The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (first published in France in 1983). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986, pp.32-33.
In my exploration of the potential of video in the production of a visual moving-poem, I have surely relied on juxtaposition. The field of film is so vast I didn't know where to begin. I had to teach myself the editing software as I sought ways to present my poetry in an enhanced videopoetic form. With the little footage I shot, I created videopoetry montages of essentially juxtapositions - images, moving or slowed or stilled, layered over each other with various opacities, tracks of the reading of the poetry and sometimes the visual text itself, and music. I hoped that through intelligent juxtapositions I might arrive at a unity of form that disassembled even as it assembled a series of images and thoughts through its duration (meaning in the techniques of layering where there is a new unity that, because you can see the different layers, maintains a separation of the parts that constitute it).

I tried to keep my videopoems short. As I strived for simplicity and enough activity to keep the viewer watching, I perhaps forgot what Deleuze speaks of.

I constructed rather than composed. I layered juxtaposed images rather than creating from a vision that emanates its unity from within.

But this is modern art - collages of images, juxtapositions of ideas, thoughts, various forms of intersplicing the conversations of the culture. It's okay to allow oneself to swim in this field of rich imageries in diverse fields and to take from here and there as one constructs a piece.

When I write a poem, I begin with an image and then allow the images, ideas to develop of their own volition - I never know where the poem is going, or how it will get wherever it might. I do not live my life with teleologies (goals, ends in mind) and nor does my poetry proceed this way. This way of working is also how I compose videopoems. I don't storyboard, or have any preconceived ideas of what images or footage I might go out and videotape to express whatever it is that is emerging.

Rather, my videopoetique is closer to something created out of found art (even if I've shot all the video), or at least that's how I've approached it thus far.

In my profile at YouTube I wrote:

To me, the videopoem turns back the monstration of film, in which narrative develops visually without language. It attempts to marry word and image. The true videopoem, in my view, is not of pictorial scenes illustrating the narratorial sequences of poetry, but of unique and different partners who combine in a new art form. We move beyond the illustrator's art. We are not 'giving a visual' for 'a poetic line.' The two, visual and verbal, connect not as simile, like to like, or allegory, this represents that, but as metaphor, surprising leaps that unfold new possibilities.

And this I still emphatically mean. We are exploring a new art form.

But reading Deleuze's book -Deleuze, where I turn for ideas, for philosophical depth- has caused me to think of ways to express unities by considering opposites like these: construction and composition; found and built; accidental and planned; juxtaposition of found images and organic unity; and so on.

A small collection of my videopoems, beginning with the most recent.


direct link: Interstices

A videopoem. I experiment with my own reflection (if I can see myself then I am a Descartian subject, though interspliced with a Deleusian thought-cast).

In the poem I reflect on our reflections of ourselves and how we can't see ourselves except in our art, which reflects us.

The words of the poem:

In the field of an'other,' reflecting on self-reflection. Who are we in our mirror-image? In a gallery of sculpture, do we become still? Stilled, turned-to-stone, despite time, age, change. Like those fizzures, splits, gaps, places of disintegration in the plaster, stone, metal carved and cast about me that occur in smooth moments of presence. Where our lives buckle, crumble, turn backwards to plunge on.

We are subjects who cannot behold ourselves.

We gaze upon ourselves
in our art.

Video: Brenda Clews (person/voice in clip, editor of video, poet, ya know the etc.):

Sculpture: Theo Willemse's show, 'The Art of Form' at SPAZ I O dell'arte in September in Toronto:

Music: Le Pandorien, 'Spirale noire op 2,' from his album, "Pandora Moon":

A different sort of gallery hop!


Stills from the video, showing a little of the process of making it:

The video is displayed in two screens. Both screens show exactly the same video clip. This is the screen on the right. The Final Cut Express filters are: Swing, Color Offset and RGB Balance.

This is the screen on the right, without any filters. This is what I started with.

This is the screen on the left. The Final Cut Express filters are: Noise Dissolve, Indent, Posterize, Vectorize Color, Band Slide, Swing, and Band Slide - 2. It is cropped tighter than the screen on the right.

This is the screen on the left, without any filters. This is what I started with. It is cropped tighter than the screen on the right.

Click on images for larger sizes - you can also go to Picasa to see them together.

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One Hand Clapping

direct link: One Hand Clapping. Play in HD if you can.
"Often when he collaborated with John Cage, Cunningham would create a dance and Cage would compose the music — separately. Cunningham made no attempt to fit the dancers' movements to the music. Sometimes the performance was the first time they heard the music.

"Given a certain length of time, let’s say 10 minutes, I could make a dance which would take up 10 minutes and John Cage could make a piece of music that occupied the same amount of time, and we could put them together," Cage recalls.

"When Cage would play the piece, there would be moments when in the other way of working, I would have thought there should be a sound, but his sound would come perhaps just after what I had done. And it was like opening your mind again to another possibility. As John Cage said once, 'He does what he does, and I do what I do and for your convenience, we put it together.' I thought that was a remarkable way of thinking about it.""

from "Merce Cunningham: Dance at the Edge," an article by Renee Montagne on NPR.

Two autopoetic systems: my short film, Alphacore's music score, without any reference to each other as we separately created them. Each of our autopoetic systems closed from each other, selectively referring to their own environments.

Mine, abstracted footage of a tree at dusk when the light dims and the camera acts like the retinal cells, the rods, seeing essentially in black and white. Alphacore's a slow, simple, quiet, meditative piano solo with a dim voice in the background whose words we cannot quite hear - or is it yelping dogs or a bird call? To my ear the background chant sounds like 'help me.' The letters falling like rain in my film do, in the slow roll of credits, line up at the end as SOS. An accidental correlation in two separate creations brought together.

I titled our collaboration, without hearing the music, One Hand Clapping, since, I, in Toronto, and Alphacore, in Seattle, each creating our component to an agreed on time span, were like the clapping of one hand - the famous Zen koan meant to sent the logical mind into an impossible spin.

Our final product, the mix, matches in the way all aspects of the universe correlate, by accident. Only this is a designed accident.

And it doesn't match in the way each of us might have originally envisioned.

My video is uncharacteristic of my work thus far - it is abstract rather than figurative; a natural black and white rather than colour; the speed is slowed down to just above frame-by-frame and thus a little jerky while the letters fall so quickly as to be almost in fast-forward; and the letters in One Hand Clapping fall continuously carrying random meanings, unlike my usual work with whole poems or sections of poems.

Alphacore's music is usually the product of computer-generated transformations of text or images into sound - they are sonic landscapes of various sounds and instruments that form unusual experimental and avanteguard abstract soundscapes - in One Hand Clapping he plays the piano meditatively note by note, a scale ascending and partially descending, we hear the touch of fingers. He is more of an embodied musician than his more usual 'Deleuzian machine' music. Deleuze writes, in Anti-Oedipus, "A machine may be defined as a system of interruptions or breaks," and this is how I might describe Alphacore's music on the whole. He creates tracks where there is no subject or object, where the sounds interact with each other in nodes, in a series of interruptions that create a syncopated flow in a minimalist rhythmic space, like the famous metaphor of rhizomes we associate with Deleuzian philosophy.

In the final product of our collaboration, One Hand Clapping, a film with music/music with a film, we have two self-referential autopoetic systems, visual and auditory, interacting. How the viewer perceives this deliberately accidental pairing will refer to yet another autopoetic system whereby the collaboration of two artists becomes one experience.
* A defnition of autopoesis: "The generic term denoting the organization characterizing autopoietic machines / systems. The term "... simply means processes interlaced in the specific form of a network of productions of components which realizing the network that produced them constitute it as a unity." (Maturana and Varela)

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