Thanks for being patient! We’re thrilled to share with you our third Snow Q filmpoem Crow! Wendy Pye has made a film of an extract from Maria Jastrzębska’s Subsongs of Crow with music by Peter Copley and animations by Dagmara Rudkin. Rita Suszek reads the poem, Ellie Blackshaw plays the viola and Simon Yapp is our sound engineer.
You can watch it here:
And here is Maria asking artist Dagmara about her part the Snow Q project and in Wendy’s films of Lullaby and Crow:
MJ: For the original Snow Q installation you did some work on Crow and birds. Can you tell us what inspires you about the Crow figure and birds and what they mean to you?
DR: In the original installation, I created two bodies of work with images of birds and they occupied different spaces in the Regency Town House where the very first Snow Q event took place, on Winter Solstice 2018.
In the Meat Safe, 3D textile winged forms were suspended from hooks where in the past dead pheasants and meat carcasses were hung. The space was filled with projections created by Wendy Pye. To do that, Wendy filmed my friend the artist, Isobel Smith puppeteering my sculptural forms and created video-mapped footage. This was later used in the ‘Lullaby’ film. This installation symbolised the tempestuous relationship of Gerda and the Little Robber Girl, both trapped by their circumstances, particularly the feral Little Robber Girl who could only express love through violence. I entitled it ‘Hush, my fluttering Heart’.
The second bird-themed installation was combined with images of fish and made out of paper and fragments of maps. This body of work was displayed in the staircase as a metaphor of Gerda’s journey. It also referred to the overall theme of migration and displacement that you explored in your poems. This paper installation included several drawings of a crow which later appeared in the filmpoem, ‘Crow’.
It is interesting how important the Crow figure was for you, Maria. Without you, I would have probably overlooked the Crow’s presence in the story. But that was one of many aspects of the joy of working together – we were all drawn to slightly different themes and different characters in the ‘Snow Queen’ and helped each other to see and respond to them. I really loved that. Through our conversations and particularly after I read your poems, I realised how important the Crow figure was. To me, the Crow figure has many faces and many voices; of a narrator, a guide, a jester, the Unconscious. Crow’s character seems universal and timeless. I thought that our actress, Rita Suszek, played the Crow so well and captured all these qualities. For the Snow Q performance, I made a hat for her by adding a leathery beak to a baseball hat. I wanted Rita/Crow to have this quality of a wise but cheeky street kid but still keep some of the fairy tale’s dark romanticism.
MJ: What are the challenges for you as a visual artist of responding to poetry?
DR: I found poetry and visual arts completely compatible. Although they use different tools, both are about emotional charge created by associations: words/imagery, structures, textures. I felt that for our Snow Q event, we were creating our work parallel to each other as well as in response to each other. The challenge there was not to strictly respond to your poems as much as to make sure that your poems, my work, Peter’s music and Wendy’s moving image had some kind of cohesion when presented together. This balance was obviously changed in the second stage, where the focus was your filmpoems but I really enjoyed being able to have some of my imagery complementing your work. The challenge there was to include visuals that suggest but not overstate your intentions as a poet and leaving the public the emotional and intellectual space to ‘breathe’ and to focus on the text and the voice of the narrator.
MJ:What would you like to tell us about your contribution to the filmpoems – I think you mainly worked on Lullaby and Crow? any delights? any difficult bits?
DR: All three films were obviously created by Wendy and are products of her vision as a cinematographer and your ongoing dialogues with her but I was really glad that you and Wendy asked me to contribute to Lullaby and Crow.
In the Lullaby filmpoem, Wendy projected the imagery of the flapping wings which we originally displayed inside the Meat Safe. I always imagined that your ‘Lullaby’ would have been sung by the Little Robber Girl and Gerda, possibly in turns, to each other. Therefore using the flapping wings from the Meat Safe was an obvious choice. For your filmpoem, Wendy used the projections in a different part of the Basement- and I loved how they were transformed by Wendy who gave them more space and exploited textures of decaying wallpaper in the Servant’s Hall.
You can really see the flapping, restless wings, that makes one think of a fast-beating, trembling heart, or a pair of lungs grasping for breath; frantic and unsettled, slowly becoming soothed by the words of your Lullaby, Rita’s voice and Peter’s music.
For Crow, Wendy and yourself invited me to create an animation of crow drawings created for the paper installation I mentioned earlier. The crow in my animation is quite vulnerable and romantic, sometimes even dove-like and is contrasted with film footages of real crows – inquisitive and confident. I really liked how these hand-drawn birds and film footage were used together as they complemented the overall theme of juxtaposition of concepts, ideas, imagery, language.
MJ: How has it helped develop your own practice as an artist? What difference has it made?
DR: Being involved in the making the filmpoems has furthered my ideas on how my art, both 3D work as well as animation, can be used. It is easy to succumb to external expectations of having to categorise your practice. This experience confirmed my belief that visual arts are transferable and that collaborative practice, particularly with artists who use quite different media, opens possibilities and opportunities that are impossible to imagine when working in the solitude of your self-contained practice.
MJ: Dziekuję za rozmowę! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, (and images!) Dagmara.