Cuando Fui Clandestino – poetry video collaboration with Juan Garrido Salgado

Juan Garrido Salgado immigrated to Australia from Chile in 1990, fleeing the Pinochet regime that burned his poetry, imprisoned him, and tortured him for his political activism. Since then, his poetry has been widely published to acclaim, and includes eight books, anthologies and translations. His readings are renowned for their passion and dedication to social justice. His latest collection, The Dilemma of Writing a Poem, has just been published by Puncher & Wattman.

Some time ago, we decided to make a video of one of his poems. It was a hard choice, but we settled on Cuando Fui Clandestino / When I Was Clandestine from his collection of the same title, published in 2019 by Rochford Press. The poem is strongly autobiographical and refers to time he spent in Moscow as well as living under curfew in Chile.

Making the video was a challenge. It was not possible for me to film in Russia or Chile, and, in any case, the political and social changes have been so great in each country, it was not clear what footage would be appropriate. We could have used archival footage in the public domain, but, in general, I prefer to use … Click here for more.

Topography of an Imaginary Ocean – video poetry collaboration with David King

David King is an award-winning experimental filmmaker, video and photo artist whose works have screened at the Australian National Museum, the Museum of Experimental Art in Mexico City, the BFI Theatre in London, the Nova Cinema in Melbourne, Affero Gallery in USA, and many international film and video festivals. He also curates screenings of experimental films and videos, with works collected from around the world. I’ve been delighted to have some of my videos in his curations.

Earlier this year, David contacted me asking if I’d like to write a poem for a new experimental video he was working on. David’s visual style is very different from mine, so I thought it would be really interesting to collaborate with him on this project. The subject of the video is loosely about the ocean, which is close to the hearts of both of us.

So I wrote a poem called King Tide to fit the video. David liked the text and we decided that I should record it, and make a matching sound design. I wanted to have the audio closely linked to the video, so I used a program, Photosounder, that converts images to audio to generate a base … Click here for more.

The Taken Path: a durational project with Catherine Truman

The Taken Path trailer

Catherine Truman and I have been working together on projects bridging art and science since 2006. Here is a glimpse of our current project, The Taken Path. This is a speculative, durational project that hangs of a poetic idea: what would we notice if we walked the same path, once a month over the course of a year and filmed the journey?

Carrick Hill estate, nestled in the foothills of Adelaide, presents a conundrum of the delicate connections between humans and the greater environment. Here, pure fantasy and the hard reality of both ancient and present life can be encountered at once. It is like a microcosm of the wider world.

Using an iPhone and a video camera, we filmed a defined path that traverses natural and altered landscapes at Carrick Hill, at monthly intervals over a year to bring focus to these constantly shifting interrelationships.

The concept is simple, yet this embodied action, repeated over time, reveals profound shifts of climate and impacts of human industry. There seems to be an innate drive in us to intervene in, alter and reorder the natural environments around us, even if we have no place in them.… Click here for more.

Palingénétique at Traverse Video, 2023

Much of my poetry video is set up to work at different levels. In general, I don’t mind how they are interpreted by others – that is an essential part of the process. But when someone really gets into the multiple layers of a piece, it is incredibly satisfying. I did an English / French version of my video Palingenetics / Palingénétique that was accepted for the 2023 edition Traverse Video Festival in Toulouse, France. Each year they produce an annotated program of the event and this time it includes an article about Palingenetics / Palingénétique by Simone Dompeyre. The original poem is very complex, and refers to evolutionary and developmental biology, ancient number counting systems, discredited social theory, and climate change (!!!!). But as you can see below, Simone Dompeyre gets it as well as the visual / audio aspects… I was quite overwhelmed by her words. Merci beaucoup!

Here is the text in the original French and then my (literal) translation of it. The full video is below that.

Que le numérique soit médium, s’avère, dès le milieu des années 1990, grâce à l’invention d’étranges organismes en formes enroulées se dupliquant, variant dans la reprise d’elles-mêmes en Click here for more.

Dragonflies swarming

For several days in December, 2022, Adelaide and surrounding areas swarmed with large dragonflies, that have bred in the very wet spring we’ve had this year. In this video, I’ve used a frame echo process to track and digitally illuminate the flight paths of the dragonflies as they fly around our garden in Belair, South Australia.

The soundtrack includes some of our native birds that were calling at the time: rainbow lorikeets, eastern shrike-thrush, magpies, red wattlebirds, New Holland honeyeaters, and kookaburras, as well as passing human traffic. The flower in the final sequence is a kangaroo paw, native to Western Australia.

Dragonflies have some of the most accomplished aerial abilities of any animal, with both high speed and high manoeuvrability. Associated with this, they have an advanced visual system, capable of seeing a wide range of colours as well as polarised light with very high resolution. Moreover, the part of the eyes that look up towards the sky have different optical properties compared with areas that look down, as befits the different environments in each visual domain. All this makes them extremely effective predators of other flying insects. Their larvae are fully aquatic and are also fierce predators, living … Click here for more.

Ferrovores: the iron eaters in Antennae

Issue 59 of antennae – the journal of nature in visual culture is now out on the theme Microbial Ecologies. It is an extraordinary collection of multidisciplinary practices, approaches, methodologies, and conceptions to help us see and value the microbial worlds that until recently have remained invisible. As editor Giovanni Aloi says, “It is only by recognizing and engaging with microbial agencies that fuller networks of interconnectedness will enable us to tell the stories we truly need for our time and for the future.”

I’m delighted to have a piece in this edition. Ferrovores: the iron eaters is an extended version of the text of my video The Ferrovores.

Iron is the most common metal on earth. Indeed, it forms much of the molten core of the planet which in turn generates the earth’s magnetic poles. The red soils of the world are due to iron. At a biochemical level, iron is essential for human life, amongst other things, making our blood red. In the societal domain, iron is essential for manufacturing, electricity generation, and much more. Certain bacteria can derive energy for life directly from dissolved iron compounds (“rust”) rather than from oxygen as we do. Perhaps, at … Click here for more.

palingenetics at Fotogenia

My recent video palingenetics has its world-premiere screening at the 2022 edition of Festival Fotogenia – Poetryfilm, Videoart, Experimental Cinema, Avant-garde films run out of Mexico City. This is one of my favourite festivals: it has broad, inclusive remit, and it is incredibly well organised with a strongly supported sense of community. Through participation in previous festivals, I have built a network of friends and colleagues not only in Mexico, but across the world. Along the way, I have been learning to make Spanish text versions of the videos, such as this one (with help from the DeepL AI translator and a good dictionary).

palingenetics is a complex piece. The term “palingenesis” (literally “born again”) can mean

  1. the apparent repetition during embryological development of changes that occurred previously in the evolution of its species; 
  2. the regeneration of magma by the melting of metamorphic rocks; 
  3. spiritual rebirth through the transmigration of the soul; 
  4. the on-going recurrence of historical events, notoriously alluded to by 20th century fascist movements.

The text in italics samples the first line of chapters from The Evolution of Man: A Popular Scientific Study. Volume 1: Human Embryology or Ontogeny; Volume 2: Human Stem-History, or Phylogeny by … Click here for more.