CHASED) Art and People Berlin

What´s On in Berlin: Q&A with the ZEBRA poets and filmmakers

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Q&A with ZEBRA poets and filmmakers

 

Birgit Hatlehol, director of the Oslo Poesifestival:

1. How can poetry and film unite?
Right now film and poetry are uniting in many different ways: In traditional poetryfilms which are shown at film festivals, television and websites, in avant-garde digital and visual works that are being exhibited at art-galleries all over the globe, in the music-videos and of course also on twitter, facebook, youtube and other digital places which make it easy for artists to distribute their work. So far most of the best works have been made by professional artists, but new technology makes it easier for none-professionals to share their works.

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
Fortunately there are still many resorts – also outside the artworld. But it might be just as refreshing to see a work by Steven Roggenbuck as to take a short short dip in the snow.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times??
Digital and visual art has a big value because it´s both literary and visual. It´s easier for most people to see a poetry film and get a grip of what the poem is all about than to read the poem itself. The pictures give an extra dimension to the text and makes it to a different piece of art. Also it´s a democratic tool because it gives all people (also children and illiterate grown ups) an easy way to express themselves and participate in the  public debate.
4. Is love still possible in the EU?  ?Love is always possible, but life is getting tougher within the EU. The poverty rate is improving, lots of young people are without jobs, others have to have several jobs to be able to earn a living, many are on welfare.  To live in a state of privation, or a lack of the usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions makes it more difficult to find a partner and to get an opportunity to raise a family. We need poetry films that give us hope – but also digital and visual art that addresses difficult topics and that in the long run can help to change Europe to a better place to live.

 

 

Alastair Cook, artist living in Edinburgh:

1. How can poetry and film unite?
The very first films had text in them, often poetic texts. They have always united, there has always been a marriage between poetry and film, though I have the come to understand it is really a menage-a-trois, that the composer has a place just as valuable and necessary at the top table. So, no one person really invented the genre and the internal world of such a slim but powerful and international genre splinters and divides by formal nomenclature (poetry-film? video-poems?) and nation-based semantics (film? video? moving image?). I feel that largely due to the genre bursting from the very heart of art and film school teaching and into the world of the internet, we artists seek to distinguish our own particular take.

In answer to the question more directly, how they unite is simple. It’s a matter of respect, of taking something which has been nurtured by another and driving it forward, in essence to create something new from it. Why bother? Liz Lochhead questioned me on this – What’s the point, Alastair, when I’ve already finished the poem? She’s right, but the answer is as old as poetry-film itself – the drive of the artist to create something new – a film, a piece of theatre, a painting. It’s the quiet and modern converse of ekphrasis, the driving out of words by a wordsmith from an existing visual artwork. It is beautiful.

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
The world is not increasingly rational. It is a place of abject chaos, of joy and beauty and of pain and suffering, driven forward by the human being’s innate belief that he is a force for good. The world is not a place for self-indulgence and this is art’s greatest fear – irrelevance. We strive to make bigger better, more distinct work and a so the growth of a genre like this is of little surprise, and our love affairs with sharing has done it all the favours it needs to become accepted into the world of art and film. Perhaps it’s always been simpler for it to be accepted into the world of poetry, as without the poem it is nothing. The poem is everything.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times?
Poetry-film is only of value if it brings something of value to the extant work itself. It is of value if it elucidates, teaches, educates, if it becomes part of a process of learning.

4. Is love still possible in the EU?
As I said to Charlie, my 8 year old son, just yesterday, love takes so many different forms. I love him with a value higher than my own life, and i also love film poetry, though a little less. Quiet motto for me: lead with your heart, your head has been keeping you safe for longer than you can remember.

 

 

Dave Bonta, an American writer and curator:

1. How can poetry and film unite?
“Unity” is a tricky word in politics, where it’s often used to suggest uniformity—that all dissenting views should give way to some central authority. When poetry and film come together, I prefer to think of it as a dialogue or a partnership rather than a union. And I think these analogies already suggest an answer to your question: Poetry and film can come together to form a whole larger than the sum of their parts only if each respects and builds upon the other’s contribution. A sort of positive feedback loop is formed.

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
I shouldn’t like to freight it with quite so much significance. It’s a new art-form capable of holding its own against more established art-forms, yes, and art in general is an essential refuge and an incubator of other possible worlds. But I also question your assumption that rationality is the enemy. To me, it’s irrationality that’s the biggest threat: our irrational addition to consumption, our worship of the false gods of power, ego, and the nation-state, and our belief that humans can survive apart from nature.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times?
For me personally, poetry is something akin to a religion — or at least a new sacred text, a “Book of Life” — so I do tend to think that poetry-film, as an adaptation of poetry to an increasingly audio-visual civilization, can play a role in restoring sanity and harmony between peoples and between people and the natural world. The ethnographic literature is full of examples of societies in which poetry has been used to defuse tensions between individuals at the village level — for example in the song-contests of native Greenlanders or the poetry duels of Yemeni tribesmen. I’d like to think that poetry can also promote understanding between people who speak different languages, and if that’s the case, then poetry-film is of great value indeed, because it offers the possibility of hearing all the music of a poem in its original language while reading a translation in subtitles — and with the film-maker’s images and soundtrack as additional bridges or vantage-points. And what is understanding, after all, but the acquiring of multiple perspectives? I can’t think of another art-form that engages so many different parts of our mind at the same time.

4. Is love still possible in the EU?
I’d like to think so. Moving beyond nationalism, with its almost inevitable promotion of bigotry and hatred, is a huge but necessary challenge in the 21st century. The EU —like the 17th- and 18th-century Iroquios Confederacy in what is now the northeastern U.S., or Iceland in the 10th-13th centuries — is a rare and precious example of people riven by centuries of internecine warfare who choose to renounce war and practice peace. And if the other examples I’ve mentioned are any guide, EU citizens will need cultural institutions through which equality and harmony can be regularly celebrated. Perhaps these already exist. But poets and artists have a central role to play in shaping new values, helping people to imagine new futures and move beyond parochialism and fear.

 

Zebra

 

Alice Lyons, author living in North-West Ireland:

1. How can poetry and film unite?
Is unification the goal? I’d hope for a balance of mutual irritation and pleasure! But I do think the borders between these pursuits are porous, and isn’t it perfect that it’s in Berlin that we spend good times breaking down the false wall between them?

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
Let’s just let rationality think it’s ruling our world and then get on with far richer real live.  Rational discourse is a small subset of human language to which poetry has a broader claim.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times?
As much value as confusion, wit, frailty, kissing and other vital things.

4. Is love still possible in the EU?
‘Hold beauty.’ (Anne Carson)

 

 

Marc Neys, a Belgian video poet:

1. How can poetry and film unite?
In many different ways. People have been putting ‘words into images’ for ages. When we read, we see. When we hear, we see. It’s possible to make films based on poetry, with poetry in it,… But  take it further, invite more poets to write for films and video’s. Invite poets to experiment with film themselves while writing. Support collabs between writers and visual artists,…

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
Not our last, I hope. But one of the few.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times?
It’s an art form and like any other form of art it has value and not only a cultural one. It’s a way to express, explain,… show the world a mirror.

4. Is love still possible in the EU?
Yes.

 

 

Cheryl Gross, an American poetry filmmaker:

1. How can poetry and film unite?
Poetry involves soul. It is a pure form of expression. When coupled with technology (which does not have a soul) it becomes multi-layered, thus creating a new form of art. It is the one genre in film where one is still free to experiment and not have to worry about commercialism.

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
I don’t believe we live in a rational world. I do believe poetry-film helps us cope with an ever-changing environment. One finds solace in poetry and for those of us who are more visually oriented, poetry-film reaches a larger audience.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times?
Poetry-film is a very valuable genre because it encapsulates emotion, freedom of expression and involves three of the six senses (vision, hearing and thought.)  For a short period of time we can visit an entire universe and be able to forget whatever has been thrown at us. As in a lot of art forms, it can change lives and redirect opinions.

4. Is love still possible in the EU?
I hope so. As long as people are open and willing to learn and accept personal and cultural differences.

 

 

Michael Roes, a German poet:

1. How can poetry and film unite?
Film is a form, poetry an attribute. Everything can be poetry, even film. Poetry is grace, contradiction, liminality. So should be the poetry-film.

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
An increasingly rational world? Never has the world more irrational as at present. Western Europe (or at least parts of it) is a last small island which holds up its lessons from failed fundamentalisms and irrationality.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times?
Poetry-film doesn’t matter. That’s its chance, its main virtue.

4. Is love still possible in the EU?
Is love possible on Mars or Venus? I believe it’s a question of gravity.

 

 

Stefanie Orphal, a  German poetry film expert

1. How can poetry and film unite?
There are multiple ways in which poetry and film can connect. The most conventional way would be a literary adaptation but it could as well take the form of a rhythmic presentation of a poetry performance, experimental visual poetry set in motion, or the juxtaposition of voiced poem, music and imagery. In my opinion the best poetry film strive for dialogue, contrast and surprise not for a harmonic unit of poem and film.

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
I would not consider poetry a strictly romantic or anti-rational dominion, modern poetry can be extremely rational! The question whether poetry film is a concession to the increasingly mediated world we live in or a way to carry the complexity, disturbances and non-linearity of poetry into this world is to be decided by each new poetry film.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times?
At its best poetry-film does with the audiovisual and the new media what poetry does with language: play with it and expose its means, celebrate its sensuality and rhythmic qualities, present its possibilities beyond conventional ways of storytelling and sense making to create new ways of hearing and seeing.

4. Is love still possible in the EU?
When love is not possible for everyone, everywhere it is not really possible, is it?
(Kuhligk’s poem is a great choice to demonstrate what poetry can speak besides love.)

 

 

Erica Goss, an American poet:

1. How can poetry and film unite?
Poetry and film are complementary art forms. In a well-done poetry film, the written and spoken word unite with images to create an entirely new experience. Poetry is a different sort of narrative than prose: it challenges our thinking and fosters a deep connection with our thoughts, memories and dreams. Film has this power as well. In a sense poetry and film were made for each other, and a poetry film can reach its viewer on multiple levels.

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
Like all art forms, poetry films are another path to understanding. I don’t think of them as a last resort, but as a deeper experience. If a filmmaker respects the words of the poet, then the film is a complement to the writing.  There is a danger of over-explanation, of replacing one’s own imagination with the images seen in a poetry film, but I have not had that problem. No matter how many times I’ve seen poems by Emily Dickinson made into videos, I don’t see the videos when I read her poems. I think that’s due to the fact that poetry is such a rich literary genre.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times?
Poetry films are extremely valuable to us now. They allow us to share beautiful and highly experimental art, furthering poetry in a way that was never possible before. The existence of Zebra is a testament to the value of this art form: more and more people are interested in it, both as viewers, poets and filmmakers. Poetry films are also an excellent art form for young people to explore. The genre permits unlimited exploration, invention and enjoyment for all ages, but offers something special for children and teenagers, who have grown up with technology and feel comfortable with its tools. I believe that poetry films are the perfect blend of art and technology.

4. Is love still possible in the EU?
Of course! Love is not only possible, but necessary. Bjorn Kuhligk’s poem is a sly piece that seems to throw this in doubt, but his title is ironic, not literal. There does seem to be a danger in Europe right now of the continent breaking down into factions, hampered by hostilities and “little stars on its lapels,” but love is not something that can be controlled, legislated, or planned for. No one can defend against love.

 

Zata Kitowski, a British artist and founder of PoetryFilm

1. How can poetry and film unite?
Both poetry and film either describe experiences, or are experiences in themselves, so in that sense they’re already united… there are poetic aspects to most films, and, equally, poetry uses techniques adapted from cinema such as jump-cut editing and montage, etc. The greatest potential in this context lies in using the Poetry Film concept as a point of focus for exploring and amplifying certain aspects.

2. Has poetry film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?
A rational thought process is quite useful when crossing a road! It’s been argued that new languages emerge when there is some form of information overload, and poetry films offer opportunities for creating expressions, and communicating messages and meanings in new ways. We’re not yet in a position to assess whether poetry film is our “last” resort; we will be able to judge this at some point in the future, and maybe poetry film will be shown to have been the beginning of a movement.

3. How can poetry film be of value to us in our modern times?
Poetry films open up new ways of engagement, new audiences, and new means of self-expression, and provide rich potential for exploring the creation and perception of emotion and meaning. This in turn enables us to connect with and communicate with people in hopefully innovative ways.

4. Is love still possible in the EU? 
Yes, of course.

 

Interview: Abraham Meeuwsen

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