Snow Q filmpoems!

still_lullaby_03We’re thrilled at Snow Q – our collaborative project re-imagining Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story – to be working with filmmaker Wendy Pye again. For this next version of Snow Q as a live literature production,  we needed to make our collaborative work as portable as possible –  what better way to do this than through the medium of film!  Wendy is working on three short filmpoems which combine Maria Jastrzębska’s poetry, Peter Copley’s music, fine artist Dagmara Rudkin’s work and Wendy’s own ideas and imagery. The three films will run alongside the live literature performances’ February tour. (See also: Snow Q Live Lit Event 2020 TICKETS)

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Here is Wendy’s post about her thoughts and concepts about the creation of the Snow Q  filmpoems. Photos of Wendy setting up projections in the servants hall at The Regency Town House before darkness set in by Dagmara Rudkin.

The combination of poetry and film I have found out has many different names and appears under different guises. Filmpoems, moving poems, film poetry, videopoetry, multimedia poetry and any other terms of this vein is a “genre” or “art form” that I haven’t paid much attention to until recently, when poet Maria Jastrzębska, invited me to make three film/videos in response to her poems inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story.  In this digital age, I can also struggle with how to identify myself: photographer, filmmaker, video artist or visual artist (or all)?  Perhaps in reality, my main mode of identification just varies depending on the particular context.

So for clarification purposes, Maria and I seem to have settled on naming the pieces ‘filmpoems’, and that is the term we shall embrace to proceed. The interesting aspect of creating film poems is the collaborative process and Maria insisted that I was not making an ‘illustration’ of her poem, she was more interested in my response to the melding of word and image which then creates a separate experience.

I’m just finishing the first film poem of the trio titled Lullaby. Lullaby traditionally a soothing song or piece of music that is usually sung to (or played for) children to sooth them to sleep. However it’s interesting that the lyrics of lullabies are more than often not sweet and soothing; they are dark and creepy and sometimes macabre.

So which character is singing the Lullaby in Maria’s poem? Is it the Little Robber Girl’s mother who, according to H C. Andersen had ‘a long, scrubby beard’ ? Or is it the Little Robber Girl herself who wants the frightened Gerda to go to sleep? In the story of ‘The Snow Queen’, the Little Robber Girl took Gerda to a ruined castle filled with captured animals.

In our original R&D installation performance of Snow Q on the Winter Solstice in 2018, within the former servants’ basement of The Regency Town House in Brighton, it was fitting to set the Lullaby installation piece in the disused and creepy Meat Safe room. In our interpretation, visual artist and fellow collaborator Dagmara Rudkin created strange and wonderful, textile bird like sculptural puppets that she originated as a symbol of Gerda and The Robber Girl and their tempestuous relationship. Both are trapped by their circumstances. Gerda has to travel through unwelcoming, foreign lands and Dagmara’s representation of Gerda and her journey are bird creations, with laced and embroidered surfaces. The Little Robber Girl knows only a world governed by violence and is represented by birds with scavenged, torn materials, leather gloves and wire. The audience peeped through the meat safe grills to see the suspended bird-like creatures dangling from hooks, layered with video projections of the wings flapping, sometimes frantically and sometimes gently, recalling acts of romantic courtships and acts of violence; moments of fear and anxiety followed by temporary moments of calmness. Raising the question does this ‘Lullaby’ attempt to sooth what is untamed?

As we were approaching the first anniversary of our Snow Q installation performance, It was an obvious opportunity to revisit the eerie basement at The Regency Town House and use the stark space to film my response to Maria’s Lullaby poem.settinguplullaby_02

This time, I decided to film the entire video in the empty, former old Servant’s Hall.  The room became the contained space for Gerda’s Lullaby and her imagined restless night’s sleep. With the help of friend and photographer James Pike on camera and Dagmara’s creative support, we filmed video projections that I preprepared in response to Maria’s Lullaby poem. The projections included the presence of Dagmara’s flapping birds on the walls and in cupboards, transforming the room into a fairytale landscape – also filled with wolves and scorpions, wintery woods and stormy oceans.

Even though I was working very simply, I had a clear vision that I wanted the filmpoems to bear a visual, humble resemblance to the haunting black-and-white quality of Ingmar Bergman films and another more modern, recent film inspiration; Polish Director Paweł Pawlikowski who directed the films Ida and Cold War. I managed to simply create a harsh, shadowy ambience just using minimal light combined with the projections, to conjure up an unsettling, dream like quality within the room. The film poem is also accompanied by composer Peter Copley’s solo viola piece that was written and performed to accompany Lullaby for the original Snow Q installation. The music perfectly enriches the dark, unsettling nature of the Lullaby film poem.

I am now starting to work on my responses to the other two poems and will look forward to seeing how they all relate to the new touring Snow Q Live Lit events in February.

Stills and featured image  from Lullaby filmpoem by Wendy Pye

 

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“when artists go to work”

Toni Morrison famously reported a conversation with a fellow artist when she was feeling helpless and dejected about the U.S.A and he told her that this was precisely the time when artists go to work. ‘Not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job!’ We are living in scary times when inequality, poverty, the abuse of power and with it the abuse of the planet seem to be growing, not diminishing. All the more reason to make art, to try to connect with each other.

Maria Jastrzębska’s Snow Q poems, originally inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story are about ‘ice in the heart’, disconnection between people, the loss of hope. There are three characters in the live literature performance which the Snow Q team are putting together ready for February 2020: Gerda and Kai, two young people, one of whom Kai goes missing, after disappearing from their home without a word to anyone and the Crow a chorus, story-teller, timeless trickster. More about Crow to follow in another post. Gerda and Kai both identify as non-binary. When asked about these two characters Maria said:

“What does society offer our young people? A world that is falling apart, unemployment and massive debts, a world that still peddles blue/camouflage for boys and pink/flowery for girls. My generation challenged those stereotypes and the next generation is doing it in their own way. I’ve see young people doing amazing things – look at Extinction Rebellion or the anti-fascist marches in Poland or Greece for instance. But struggle doesn’t always mean big public events. Sometimes it’s a struggle just to get through the day. Gerda sets out on her quest to find Kai. But Gerda and Kai are both lost in different ways, in a landscape that is part contemporary, part fairy tale. And these are poems – they are not a literal story. They will be interwoven with sound recordings, with Peter Copley’s incredible music and Wendy Pye’s awesome film work, using some of Dagmara Rudkin’s stunning, original art work. ”

Kai says:

“Snow makes everything quieter.

Plastic, shattered bone – even

rubbish looks beautiful. A trial of prints,

maybe fox? People’s footsteps. Never wanted

to walk in anybody’s. You mustn’t go to sleep

in snow mustn’t lie down.  But it’s all

you want to do in snow…”

Here are performance director Mark Hewitt and Maria trying to figure it all out in one of their café haunts and here below is the composer Peter Copley presenting  Maria with a very ‘hi-tech’ suggestion for blending film and words. Where would we artists be without our scraps of paper?!

 

Snow Q Crow Goes to Lewes Live Literature – Rita

Snow Q is continuing. Snow Q is branching out. Here is Snow Q’s actor Rita Suszek talking about her recent performance of Maria Jastrzębska’s Crow poems. These poems were written for our collaborative project and inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story in which the heroine Gerda meets a Crow on her quest.
On Thursday, 23rd of May I got to board the train from London to Eastbourne after work. I was excited – I was to bring Snow Q’s Crow poems to Lewes Live Literature! The event was part of their Outside Season and created in support of CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably. While suicide – its results, prevention and suffering – was the main theme of the evening, the guiding quote was the one by Munia Khan: “Nothing is unreal as long as you can imagine like a crow”.Untitled
Having arrived and conferred with Mark Hewitt, who had directed Snow Q last December and was one of the organisers, I spiked my hair and put some black lipstick on, the better to emulate the Crow. Crows are strange creatures – scavengers by nature, symbolically guarding the border between life and death, tellers of stories. In the case of Snow Q, the Crow is the one who has the answers, who has lived long enough to tell stories. The poems we chose to perform speak for themselves, evoking the cold snow communist Poland, the border between Polish and English language, the walls between families and their children. They speak of loneliness and connection both, and punctuate every poignant moment with indignant caw-ing, which I was more than happy to demonstrate.
I was honoured to recite alongside the wonderful pieces that were on that night. “This is always the result”, a live narrative over a film piece, written and performed by Gus Watcham, directed by Mark Hewitt with video sequence by Abigail Norris – the piece shows a suicide attempt and its impact on one family’s life in incredible detail, unrelenting, poetic and touching at the same time. There was also poetry performed by Imo Carr and Ellie Long, Arts Award students from Eastbourne College: the poems were diverse and thoughtful, delivered beautifully. Finally, we listened to a series of music tracks by an award-winning songwriter, Elsa Hewitt: they were hypnotic, conveying both a sense of quiet and a frisson of unrest, worry, questioning; some of the songs were also layered over a video, showcasing how mental health problems can creep on us all.
To learn more about the event, take a look at this link: http://www.leweslivelit.co.uk/?location_id=110

Cover image by Dagmara Rudkin

You can read Maria Jastrzębska’s The Subsongs of Crow poems in the current issue of Poetry Wales magazine. 

The Flower Garden in May and June at the Phoenix Brighton

What better time to think about a garden? Even one connected to Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen which was the original starting point for our collaborative Winter Solstice project which is beginning to grow again.

Two Women Who Knew Magic from our Visual Team, Dagmara Rudkin and Wendy Pye will be opening their studios this coming weekend, 18th and 19th of May as a part of Open Studios at the Phoenix Brighton. They will be showing their own work as well as work that either inspired or was directly produced for our Snow Q event. They both have their studios on a third floor so please do come and visit them.

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Gerda’s chandelier and textile installations developed and produced for the Snow Q will also be displayed throughout June in the Phoenix Brighton Window Gallery. Watch out for a new piece which Dagmara will add to the exhibition on the Summer Solstice.

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‘Afterka’ (is Polish for after-party)

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An immense thank you to everybody who came to experience Snow Q our collaborative installation at the Regency Town House Annexe on December 21, 2018!  We were thrilled to share our work with you.  Thank you also for writing your thoughtful and very encouraging feedback on the backs of ‘fish’ – the way that in Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story the old woman of Lapland and the Finnish woman communicate with one another, writing on fish and then, having read the message, add the fish to a stew. We are still processing everything at the moment but hope to share some fish with you before long.

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Is it all over? We certainly hope not! We are delighted to have freelance documentary film-maker Rosie Powell putting together a short film of highlights from the installation which we will be posting soon. Meanwhile Dagmara and Wendy, our visual team extraordinaire, will be giving an artists’ talk about Snow Q at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton on Monday January 14th. All welcome!

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