SALA 2022: The Life We Live…

“The life we live is a series of illusions…”

Our experience of the world is a mental construction in which the observed and the imagined, the remembered and the predicted, merge seamlessly in a continuously changing sensory landscape. Our brains are pre-conditioned to construct narratives from our passage through time and space, no matter how disparate and fragmented the elements may seem. Much of this mental processing takes place below the border of conscious perception. But that border between conscious and subconscious experience is both permeable and unruly. It is an exciting place to inhabit. It is a challenging place to explore. Yet, almost by definition, it is almost impossible to accurately represent.

Of course, none of this matters to those who would control our lives, from those who set the rules and regulations we are obliged to follow as members of civil society, to those who use coercion and emotional blackmail to undermine our personal well-being. Despite, or maybe because of, their inherent ambiguity, images and words alike can be used as agents of control.

This sequence of my recent videos explores the unreliable interactions between visual perception and language. In a world of artificial intelligence, what is real? In a multi-lingual society, whose voices do we hear? When language begins to fragment, where do we find meaningful narrative?

Click on the following links to go directly to each video:

Click here to read more about my approach to video in a recent on-line interview.
Click here to read my recent article about narrative in short poetry videos.
Click here to read more about translation and video poetry.
Click here to see a list of where these videos have been screened around the world.


The Life We Live Is Not Life Itself (2021, 08:45)
with Tasos Sagris (poetry and spoken word) and Whodoes (music).

Tasos Sagris’s poem in Greek, with its haunting soundtrack by Whodoes, offers us an extended exploration of lives lived in parallel, at cross-purposes, in and out of love, around the world, from the innocence of children to the wisdom of elders. There are the good times when summer seems to last forever, and the bad, when persecution and misadventure could land us in prison, with nothing but rain to hear our voice. But what is the reality? What is mere illusion? Can there be more to life than simply living?

The raw footage for this award-winning video was shot mainly in and around the city of Adelaide, its suburbs, the nearby Fleurieu Peninsula and Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, supplemented with images from around Greece. But nothing in the video is quite as it seems. Most scenes have been composited and animated from multiple sources.

Who inhabits these strange places? Whom will we meet there? Look carefully in the malls and side-streets: we can see our fellow walkers, and then, again, again… And in windows of city buildings, in old frames hung on walls of broken brick and cracked concrete, we see the faces of the young and old, the boys and girls, the men and women of our imagination, our desires, our reconstructed memories. As alluring as they seem, none of them is real. Rather, they are the product of artificial intelligence, trained on thousands of our fellow humans, and generated by cold, unfeeling algorithms.

This video was commissioned by +the Institute [for Experimental Arts] based in Athens.


For my SALA 2022 Artist Talk, here is a short video explaining some of the key processes that went into making The Life We Live Is Not Life Itself.


Warranty & Conditions of Use (2020; 05:26)

“WE are free from defects. WE can only be accepted as is… Your co-operation will contribute to the effective utilisation of our natural resources… WE will instruct you… WE will not be blocked…”

What have we signed up for? Who holds the power and responsibility to keep things running in the face of breakdown and decay? Perhaps this is the rule of law. Perhaps it is a disguise for oppression… Perhaps, despite it all, we have the wherewithal to resist…

The video features the body of a Reichert ultramicrotome, used to prepare extraordinarily thin sections of biological tissue for electron microscopy, and components of a non-functioning Epson inkjet printer. The ultra-slow motion effect of the falling parts was achieved via a complex frame blending and morphing algorithm.

The text contains samples of commercial warranty statements from a high-performance sailboard, a video camera, a refrigerator and a digital radio. This version includes English and Spanish text that was prepared for the Fisura Festival Internacional de Cine y Video Experimental edition 2 in Mexico City, March 2022.

Click here to see more of my videos critiquing the politics of division, exclusion and suppression.


The Long Slow Effect of Gravity (2020, 04:51)

“dancing toe to toe, a meeting place… lightning strikes, burns out the talk… the risk of shark attack… and the knees we fall upon… ”

As we age and the inexplicable force of gravity wears us down, we face the inevitable dissolution of much that we know: our bodies, our social networks, our environment. Perhaps we can imagine a world where gravity is reversed, and we gain a second chance…

The raw footage for the video was taken around Adelaide CBD, Belair, Blackwood, Sturt River, Mount Compass and Middleton, all in South Australia, and Athens, Greece, with 3D models used under license from Sketchfab.com. However, nearly every scene has been composited from multiple sources. The soundtrack is in polyrhythmic 6/4 time and contains audio samples of bird calls, rain and various falling objects recorded in Belair, South Australia.


palingenetics (2022, 05:08)

“a quite peculiar place we have been here before… these spaces wreathed among bounteous pleach and twine… forgotten forgotten…”

Palingenesis 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.

How do we negotiate a future that, on one hand, seems so strange and new, on the other, so disturbingly familiar? Against a seductive backdrop of digital synthesis, we count our time, consider our options, using a number system dating back thousands of years. This is the distance between analogue and digital, between past and future, between perception and reality, where renewal can occur…

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 Ernst Haeckel, translated from the 5th Edition by Joseph McCabe, issued for the Rationalist Press Association, Ltd, by Watts & Co, London, 1906.

The chapters from Haeckel were selected and the verses numbered according to the factors of 60, following a Base 60 (sexagesimal) counting system, which probably evolved from counting finger segments (phalanges): 12 finger phalanges on one hand x 5 fingers on the other = 60.

The basal number of digits per hand or foot for extant vertebrates is 5, but some earlier forms had 7 or more. Sometimes people are born with extra fingers or toes, a condition known as polydactyly. (You can read my poem about polydactyly here.)

The main sequence of the backing track is 60 bars long and is in 6/4 time.

The text was originally published in Rabbit 29: Lineages (2019). The video animation was generated originally for UGLY: a NOT fairytale, Adelaide Fringe Festival, 2022.

Click here to see more of my videos critiquing the politics of division, exclusion and suppression.


signature (2020; 06:25)


“so true, so faithful, so sincere… with deep, with much, with all our…
si vrai, si fidèle, si sincère … avec profondeur, avec bien des, avec tous nos…

For much of the European colonial era, French was the language of international politics and trade. signature explores the relations between letter writing, the etiquette of diplomacy, the uncertain space between truth and deception, and their slippages during translation. The words diploma / diplomat / diplomacy come from Greek roots meaning two layers, as in a letter folded over so it cannot be read by a courier.

The text for this video was originally published bilingually in the leading French poetry journal Recours au Poème. The translation from English was done by me with some invaluable help from the editors of the journal. The French version required me to make linguistic decisions that were not required in English…

The drawing box belonged to my father-in-law and probably predates him. Creating the movements of the objects here took very many takes to ensure that they all aligned properly from one scene to the next. The music is in a polyrhythmic 7/4 time with accents sitting off the 2nd and 5th beats.

Click here to read more about translation and video poetry.
Click here to see more of my videos exploring aspects of language.


the white (2022; 03:40)

“At sea-rim, sky-base, afloat somewhere between head (bone-dense) and shoulder, between blink or flinch and occasional shrug: the thick inward draw and effort of gyre, draught, push, pulse, pull…

gar, mako, kraken… under threat of claw, spine, barb… flensed to wind spume, brawn paled to cloud roll…”

Moored at portside, we ponder the uncertainty of what lies ahead. We know there are dangers: the ocean, quiet for now; impenetrable fogs; beasts watching us, lurking in anticipation; perhaps only the monsters of our imagination, the destruction wrought by our greed and disregard for the natural world.

Video and audio were recorded around Port Adelaide, South Australia. Each background scene is composited from several different takes and angles, reanimated to form a continuous slow pan. The biomorphs in the skies were generated algorithmically and composited with the backgrounds along with lighting effects.

Adapted from The White – A Note on the Text originally published in e•ratio 26, 2018, inspired by Herman Melville‘s Moby-Dick, or The Whale.

Click here to see more of my videos about the climate emergency.


withHOLD (2022, 04:00)

“toe hold… strangle hold… host fast… hold on for the ride of your life…”

From the core elements of language, and the rules by which it is constructed, we can find narrative in fragments that float past us. But we need to unlock the doors of preconception, unshutter the windows of expectation…

The video sequence is composited from images taken around Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide, South Australia. The audio is built up entirely from a single sample of me saying “hold”.

A different version of this video was exhibited at HOLD, Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide, Adelaide Fringe Festival, February – March, 2022, curated by Tony Kearney.

Click here to see more of my videos exploring aspects of language.
Click here to see more of my videos made for exhibitions.


Previous screenings

Some of these videos have been screened at festivals and exhibitions around the world. Most entries have links to the festival or event sites.

The Life We Live Is Not Life Itself

• Delluc Avant-Garde Festival Winner, Fotogenia Film Festival 2021, vol. 3 (Mexico City, November, 2021);
• Winner, Best Experimental Film, REELS International Film Festival 2021 (Aurangabad, India, February, 2022);
• Winner, Best Director (Video Poetry), Vesuvius International Film Festival XVI  (Italy, November, 2021);
• finalist, International Video Poetry Award, Bologna In Lettere 2022 (Italy, March / May 2022);
•  official selection, Helios Sun Poetry Film Festival (Mexico City, July, 2022);
•  official selection, Kinam Festival Internacional de Cine Diferente (Mexico City, July 2022);
•  official selection, Bloomsday Film Festival 2022 (Dublin, Ireland, June, 2022);
•  screened with live performance by Tasos Sagris and Whodoes, International Poetry Film Festival of Thuringia 2022 – Focus on Greece (Thuringia, Germany, May, 2022);
•  curated selection and screening, Video Art Projects – Municipal Art Gallery – Thessaloniki (Thessaloniki, Greece, May, 2022);
•  official selection, Venice Experimental Video And Performing Art Festival 2022 | ITSLIQUID (Venice, Italy, April, 2022);
•  official selection, VIII Muestra Internacional de Videonarración A/R/TOGRÁFICA (Granada, Spain, May, 2022);
•  official selection, 6th Zsigmond Vilmos International Film Festival, (Szeged, Hungary, 24-28 May, 2022);
•  official selection, Carmarthen Bay Film Festival (Wales, May, 2022);
•  official selection, Currents New Media Festival 2022: Circuits (Santa Fe, USA, June 2022);
•  official selection, Global Indie Film Fest (USA, June-July, 2022);
•  official selection, FLICKFAIR on demand film festival (Los Angeles, February, 2022);
•  official selection, ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival (Berlin, 25-28 November, 2021);
•  official selection, Puntomov Video Orbits International Video Festival, 2nd edition (Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Toluca, Mexico, 2021);
•  official selection, 18th Annual Another Hole in the Head Film Festival  (San Francisco, December, 2021);
•  official selectionFonland International Festival of Video Art and Performance (Coimbra, Portugal, November, 2021);
•  invited screening, The Wrong Biennale No 5 – Encounters with Incomprehension (November 2021 – March, 2022);
•  official selection, 6th Trujillo International Independent Film Festival (Peru, 23-26 September, 2021);
•  official selection, 2021 International Screening of Experimental Films and Videopoems TRANÅS AT THE FRINGE (Tranås, Sweden, 16-24 October, 2021);
•  official selection, Spanish versionNahui Ollin Film Festival 2021 (Durango, Mexico, August – September, 2021);
•  official selection, 9th International Video Poetry Festival (Athens, June, 2021).

Warranty & Conditions of Use

•  offical selection, Fisura Festival Internacional de Cine y Video Experimental edition 2  (Mexico City, February – March, 2022);
•  invited screening and Top Ten Best of Bologna selection at Bologna in Lettere 2021 – International Multidisciplinary Festival – Arte-fatti Contemporanei (Italy, May 2021);
•  official selection, 7th Bahia Independent Cinema Festival (Bahia, Brazil, November, 2021);
•  official selection, Fotogenia Film Festival 2021, vol. 3 (Mexico City, November, 2021);
•  official selection, 6th Canal de Panama International Film Festival (Panama, August, 2021).

The Long Slow Effect of Gravity

•  selected for Moving Poems (USA, July, 2022);
•  official selection, and Winner, Best Story Writer (Experimental Film), REELS International Film Festival 2021 (Aurangabad, India, February, 2022);
•  offical selection, Fisura Festival Internacional de Cine y Video Experimental edition 2 (Mexico City, February – March, 2022);
•  invited screening, Bologna in Lettere 2021 – International Multidisciplinary Festival – Arte-fatti Contemporanei (Italy, May 2021);
•  official selection and Honourable Mention, Ashoka International Film Festival 2021 (Nawada, India, January, 2022);
•  finalist, Queensland Poetry Festival 2020 Film and Poetry Challenge (November, 2020).

Signature

•  official selection, screened and exhibited at Traverse Video XXV – Capacité (presque) illimitée | (Almost) Unlimited Capacity (Toulouse, France, April, 2022);
•  text published in English and French in Recours Au Poème (France2012).