Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Video: Thoughts on recent projects

Why am I making videos like this now? Why this, why now? Why something that has no plot or narrative, that tells a story of a place and moment but not one you can adequately summarize? Why images in sequences that are half-scripted, mostly improvised on the spot? Why images that are captures from life rather than carefully planned and properly-executed linear narratives?

I'm making the films that I want to see. That no one seems to be making. It's not really about self-expression, it's about wanting to see certain kinds of art that are unfashionable, even taboo, these days. In the Age of Irony, sincerity is taboo. In the Age of Shallow Surfaces, diving deeper into the waters of the self is frowned upon. In the Age of Artifice, spontaneity is suspect.

All of that is wrong.

Murkiness and ambiguity presented in art, because life can be hard to articulate, are not the same things as obscurity and puzzle-box-making for their own sakes. It's not that art has anything to hide, it's that it wants to hide nothing. I want to know. I want to see the story. Even if the story is about stopping all stories, all narratives, and just being still, even for just a moment.

I'm making the kinds of films that I want to see, that I almost never get to see, because of their uncommercial nature, their unfashionable contents, their often less-than-slickly-perfect style. The artlessness of artfulness. Everyone who's ever written a story knows that fiction tells truths that life finds hard to tell; fiction compresses events into drama; it only seems realistic because it's so artfully put together. We want to be fooled. We want to be fooled, by art, into seeing something like a larger truth.

This is poetic cinema, often nonlinear as well as nonverbal. It can be oblique. It can be moody—in fact, driven entirely by mood and sensibility rather than plot. It's easy to compare this to how music works, often nonverbally and obliquely, creating emotion without the use of linear narrative or text. In fact, it's probably no coincidence that the videos I am making are more like music than they are like stories. Even Romantic program music—Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique for example—that has a scenario and story to tell is still more imagistic and nonlinear than prose. More poetic than prosaic. Even a musical program scenario bows to the actual melodies and rhythms and harmonies used to convey the emotion of the momentary experience.

In my experience, music is both abstract and visceral, realistic yet evocative without being literal. This is that much-discussed territory where music and poetry meet: on the lip of silence and the inexplicable. In the same way that poetry can't be summarized in prose, music can't be either.

I am well aware that the videos I am making are poetic in form and structure, in ways very parallel to how I often conceive of my poems, in terms of form and structure, as cinematic. I have often discussed how I view many of poems as sequences-of-images, nonlinear but evocative in the way music is: recreating an experience in the audience, evoking a mood or sequence of images and moods. I often think of my poetry as cinematic and imagistic. It only makes sense to think of the short films I am making as poetic. I think this may be another territory where the arts meet: just as with music and poetry, we touch here on the convergence of cinematic poetry with poetic cinema.

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