Flicker film, and a review of the world’s first documentary on videopoetry

Two new English-language articles have recently been published in the online version of Poetryfilm Magazine, the bilingual journal embedded in the Weimar-based Poetryfilmkanal website and released annually in a print and PDF version. UK artist and typographer Jane Glennie, a couple of whose videos I’ve shared at Moving Poems, has an essay titled Flicker film and the videopoem:

A ›flicker film‹, as I have made them and understand them thus far, consists not of moving image footage but of a series of still images presented at around 24 or 25 per second. It could be described as an extremely rapid slideshow. Cinema film is also, of course, still images projected at 24 frames per second, but with the intention of transforming frames into seamless movement, whereas a flicker film disrupts the seamless with disparate frames.

Glennie gives a brief history of the technique, which dates back to 1966, then talks about its relevance today, and to her own practice:

Flicker film can also be perceived as reflective upon the broader culture of the online environment where so much time is now spent. Indeed, Parker’s film was derived from her Instagram feed. Image usage, sophistication and relevance continues to grow rapidly. In 2014, two thousand million photos were shared per day across five key social media platforms, rising to over three thousand million in 2015. Upcoming generations are expected to communicate with images even more than at present (happily videopoetry is part of this ever growing online scene). Flicker film can have instant visual impact in a short length and can capture attention in the brief, ephemeral encounters of social media. For instance, my film Being and being empty (2018) was selected for the world’s first Instagram Poetry exhibition at the National Poetry Library in London. But flicker film also offers challenges to the viewer: what can be perceived each time it is viewed? What images or messages might have entered the subconscious? If I continue to view the film – can I perceive more through practice or ›training myself‹ or do I enter a visual fatigue and ›see‹ less and less? A flicker film can be seen as a test of endurance and the brain’s ability to digest images at speed and through the subconscious. If we are to continue to consume images at ever greater volumes and pace, the flicker film begs the question – what are the limits that human cognition can take? Is there a point at which the message and/or the poetic is lost in the frenzy? I am interested in how the fleeting can be imprinted in the mind and create an overall impression through repetition, the subliminal message, and/or the blurring of the distinctions between discrete elements.

Fascinating stuff. Do go read the whole thing.

The other article was my own, published just yesterday: ›Versogramas‹ and the Possibilities for Videopoetry.

Versogramas, the 2017 film directed by Belén Montero, is apparently the world’s first documentary about videopoetry, and as such, it’s likely that viewers may come to it with heightened expectations which will not be fulfilled. Taken on its own terms, however, I found it a delightful romp with a few glaring defects. It has great potential as a teaching aid in the poetry or film classroom—especially if, as I hope, its official web release is accompanied by links to all the videos and videopoets in the film. It’s also available as part of a bookDVD from Editorial Galaxia (which I have not seen).

Quoting oneself is always a bit awkward, but let me skip over the snarky bit and give one more excerpt:

It’s impressive that the producers can focus on just one part of the world—Spain, especially the Galician region—add a handful of filmmakers and videopoets from outside that region, and still end up with a highly varied, complete-feeling snapshot of the state of videopoetry in the 21st century. […] I liked the rootedness of this approach, and I enjoyed getting a sense of how Spanish and Galician poets and artists have been working with videopoesía in recent years.

And for all its playing around with definitions, Versogramas does not end up providing some kind of unified field theory of videopoetry, thank God. (Though it does give Konyves the last word, as is fitting.) What it does, and does very well, is present us with a series of possibilities: this is what videopoetry might be (the narrative sections); this is what a bunch of actual practitioners have found it to be (the interviews).

I had, of course, much more to say than that. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have seen the documentary, and if and when it becomes generally available online, I’ll be sure to share the link here.

Dave Bonta

Dave is the founder of Moving Poems, and posts videos for his own poems (along with lots of other stuff) at Via Negativa. Here's a bio.